Only you can decide which of America’s many cities is your ideal retirement paradise. But it’s a big country, and somebody’s got to do the legwork to help you narrow it down to a few fabulous choices. From there, the one you choose to call home depends on your priorities:
If the Great Outdoors Is Calling
Colorado Springs, Colo. rises a mile above sea level, at the foot of Pike’s Peak. Founded in 1871 as a high-quality resort community, it still attracts outdoorsy types with its magnificent scenery and the many walking trails that wind through it. (For more retirement destination ideas in this state, see Find the Top Retirement Cities in Colorado.)
Lexington, Ky. is a graceful Southern city, founded in 1775. Surrounded by miles of bluegrass, its 400-plus horse farms give it rights to the nickname Horse Capital of the World.
Both Colorado Springs and Lexington made the Forbes.com list of Best Places to Retire in 2015.
The 25 cities on its list ranked high overall on factors including cost of living, taxes, crime rate, weather and air quality, healthcare availability and walkability. That last factor is a priority of many retirees, who have had it up to here with a long commute and want to stay healthy.
And then there’s…
Santa Fe, N.M., which is a fine choice if you crave a mix of outdoors activities and indoors culture. Residents of this sunny little city of 70,000 or so can hike or bike for miles in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, or travel just 35 minutes to ski slopes. In town, there are more than 250 art galleries and 12 museums to enjoy, plus the Santa Fe Opera. Santa Fe was featured on the Kiplinger.com list of Great Places to Retire in 2015.
If You Crave Big-City Life
San Francisco has the world-class arts scene and big-city attractions that urbane seniors crave, combined with a natural setting to die for and friendly locals.
And we must also mention:
New York. Because, well, it’s New York.
Both cities made it onto AARP’s list of great cities for single seniors, who may have more reason than most to flee the suburbs. But whether you’re single or married, these cities share “convivial locals, a solid percentage of AARP-age residents and, of course, a lot of things to do – either solo or with a date.”
Both also are notoriously expensive cities. If your budget won’t stretch that far, consider these other AARP choices:
Philadelphia, which makes the cut for its extraordinary cultural institutions and down-to-earth people.
Cleveland, chosen for its “superb arts and cultural institutions,” not least of them the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For Classic Beach Living
Cape Coral, Fl. was founded in 1957 as a master-planned modern city and a “waterfront wonderland.” Now a sprawling city with a population near 180,000, it boasts 400 miles of canals, more than any other city in the world. Its many amenities got it listed twice on the Forbes list of best cities for retirees.
Tampa, Fl. also on the Gulf Coast, has big-city appeal, with a high-rise downtown flanked by charming neighborhoods like Ybor City, settled by Cuban cigar-makers. It ranked well on BankRateMonitor.com’s ratings of retirement cities for its low cost of living, low crime rate and, of course, good weather.
Rockport, Texas, is right on the Gulf of Mexico at the end of a long spit of land, with Copano Bay to the west and Aransas Bay at the east. Just 45 minutes or so from Corpus Christi, the town boasts a cost of living 9% below the national average. And more than 28% of its population is above age 65. so you’ll have lots of company. This all gained it a place on CBSNews.com’s list of best affordable cities for retirees.
Living on a Tight Budget
Albuquerque, N.M. is a fast-growing metropolis, but its cost of living remains relatively low. Plus, membership at any of its six senior citizen centers costs just $13 a year, as U.S. News & World Report reports in its listing of “Best Places to Retire on Social Security Alone.”
Spokane, Wash. grew from a fur-trading post to a cosmopolitan city, but nothing can alter its spectacular natural setting on the Spokane River, between the Cascades and the Rocky Mountain foothills. It also made the U.S. News & World Report list for lowest-cost retirement cities.
Tulsa, Okla. has big-city amenities at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It also has a cost of living that is 11.6% below the national average. That, plus zero state tax on Social Security income, won it a place on CBSNews.com’s list of most affordable retirement cities.
The Bottom Line
Retirement is your second chance to pick your best place to live, and this time your choice is not driven by a job. It’s driven by your interests and the way you like to live. See also: 5 Things To Consider When Choosing Where To Retire, Finding A Retirement-Friendly State and 10 Things You Must Know Before You Retire.