When you’re ready to retire, we’ve got a destination. Whether you prefer beaches, mountains, cities or college towns, there’s a match for you. We looked at small towns with populations up to 100,000 residents that have been touted for their low cost of living, affordable housing, public safety, good-quality healthcare and low tax rates.
We also looked at towns with lots to do for active retirees, including outdoor recreation, historic sites, live music, cultural performances, sporting events and bike trails. Many of these picks are in close proximity to universities and strollable historic districts with shopping, coffee shops and restaurants.
Here are 20 of our favorite small towns all across the country that are worthy of being selected as your retirement destination of choice.
Greenville, South Carolina
Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville offers a captivating mix of natural beauty and Southern charm. The climate is mild, the cost of living is low and there is a lot to do thanks to a thriving food scene and easy access to hiking and biking trails, including those at Paris Mountain State Park. The centerpiece of Greenville is Falls Park on the Reedy, a 26-acre urban oasis that boasts a waterfall, dog-friendly paths and a 345-foot-long pedestrian footbridge. Stop in Spill the Beans for a morning cuppa or afternoon scoop of ice cream.
Iowa City, Iowa
College towns, like Iowa City, make great places to retire thanks to an abundance of sporting events, lectures and artistic performances. There are also on-campus art galleries and museums, like the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. In Iowa City, you’ll find a low crime rate and plenty of good doctors, thanks to the nationally ranked University of Iowa Health System. Cheer at a football game at Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes, or stroll the Literary Walk, which celebrates the works of nearly 50 accomplished writers with ties to Iowa City.
Home to the University of Kansas, Lawrence is a quintessential college town with arts, culture, sports and plenty of open, green spaces. It’s also a great place to retire thanks to affordable home prices and zero estate tax. It’s among the most bike-friendly cities, too. There are miles of bike lanes and bike paths across Lawrence. Stroll across the beautiful historic district, which has plenty of coffee shops, boutiques, pubs and cafés. The Lawrence Farmers’ Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings for locally roasted coffee and organic produce.
In the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke distinguishes itself as a destination of choice for outdoor-loving retirees. Enjoy a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway or hike to the Roanoke Star, the world’s largest man-made star that wows with views across the Roanoke Valley. Downtown, Center in the Square is home to several attractions, including the Harrison Museum of African American Culture and Roanoke Pinball Museum. A move to Roanoke rewards with low median home prices, easy access to top-quality healthcare and, of course, fresh mountain air.
Carmel has a lot to offer those seeking the perfect retirement destination, including arts, culture, shopping and public parks. It’s also a short drive from the state’s capital, Indianapolis. Biking is popular, thanks to the Monon Trail, a paved rails-to-trails path that stretches 20 miles from Carmel to Indianapolis. Eight bike rental stations along the path make biking the trail accessible to anyone. To be sure, Carmel is more than just a suburb of Indianapolis. Carmel has its own symphony orchestra, world-class performing arts center and Carmel Christkindlmarket, a German-style holiday market.
Franklin may be just 30 minutes south of Nashville, but it’s got plenty to offer on its own, including golf courses, historic sites, art galleries and beautiful parks. It’s also a popular home for celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman which affords them easy access to all of the big city amenities of Nashville. Franklin is home to the double-arched Natchez Trace Bridge, which is photo-worthy year-round, but offers sensational views of the surrounding landscape from on top of the bridge in the fall. Stroll the 16-block historic district for quaint boutiques and delicious brunch spots, like Ruby Sunshine. It’s easy to love Franklin’s abundance of sunny days, little snow accumulation, low state taxes and a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities.
The small town of Eagle has a lot that makes this Boise suburb appealing to active retirees, including access to hiking and skiing, a top-ranked golf course, loads of city events, and a walkable downtown district with boutiques, galleries, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s easy to love the laid-back atmosphere and gorgeous mountain scenery. Enjoy a sandy swimming beach in summer at Eagle Island State Park or get in a few hours of skiing in winter at Bogus Basin. Creative types can sign up for a class at Fusions Glass Studio.
Cedar Park, Texas
Set in Texas Hill Country, Cedar Park wows with beautiful green spaces, scenic wine trails, public golf courses, and fashionable boutiques like Honey & Hay, which sells stylish home decor and seasonal gifts. Ample sunshine, plentiful outdoor recreation, professional sports and no state income tax make Cedar Park a dream for retirees. Stroll the Cedar Park Sculpture Garden on Main Street, then take in an ice hockey game at HEB Center and root for the Texas Stars. When you want to go into the city, Austin is an easy 30-minute drive.
The Kansas City suburb of Liberty has so much for active retirees, including low home prices, sporting events, city parks and historic homes. Take in a football or soccer game at William Jewell College. On campus, the Folly Theatre and Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts host live performances for the community. Walk the nature trails at Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, then head into town for a delicious BBQ lunch at Jousting Pigs. To brush up on local history, hit up the Jesse James Birthplace Museum.
Catalina Foothills, Arizona
For warm winters, the fashionable Tucson suburb of Catalina Foothills is a favorite place to retire. It’s also one of the best places to live in the entire Tucson area thanks to multiple golf courses, a flourishing food scene, and numerous hiking trails across Sabino Canyon and Mount Lemmon. Catalina Foothills is also a stone’s throw from Saguaro National Park, which is home to the largest cacti in the United States. There are plenty of amazing restaurants too, including open-air Contigo Latin Kitchen and Fini’s Landing.
There’s a lot to love about Charlottesville, including historic landmarks, world-class wineries, public art, and, of course, the University of Virginia, which means plenty of great music and interesting speakers come through town. Explore Monticello, home to our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Then make stops for reds, whites and rosés along the Monticello Wine Trail. The IX Art Park is a small outdoor park with murals, sculptures and a concert stage. Outdoor-loving retirees will enjoy being in close proximity to Shenandoah National Park, which has more than 500 miles of hiking trails.
Bozeman ranks among the top places to retire thanks to quality healthcare, beautiful mountain scenery, and lots of cultural activities, including the opera, symphony, live concerts and ballet. Of course, outdoor recreation is tops, too. There are two nearby ski resorts – Big Sky and Bridger Bowl – as well as lots of hiking and biking trails. Bozeman is also less than 90 minutes from Yellowstone National Park. Dining options are endless, too. You’ll find everything from fresh sushi to smoked barbecue to elevated ramen, as well as five breweries.
Set on the eastern shore of sprawling Lake Champlain in Vermont, Burlington is a dream for water-loving retirees who are all about the lake life, whether sailing, kayaking or motor boating. On the Adirondacks’ largest lake, you can launch boats of all kinds. Off the water, the pedestrian-friendly Church Street Marketplace draws in visitors and residents alike with eclectic art galleries, food carts, bookstores and outdoor gear shops, even a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. For lifelong learners, Vermont residents aged 65 and up receive free tuition at the University of Vermont.
Set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Easton is a stone’s throw from the Chesapeake Bay, a popular destination for sailing and boating. Stroll the charming tree-lined streets of Easton for antique shops, stylish boutiques, award-winning restaurants and ice cream parlors. A favorite is Storm and Daughters Ice Cream. Take in a performance at the Avalon Theatre, then revel in green spaces like Idlewild Park and Thompson Park. Access to health care is very good thanks to a regional health system affiliated with the University of Maryland.
There’s a lot to do in Cheyenne, especially for those who are all about cowboy and railroad history. Western heritage is huge in Cheyenne, so it’s no surprise that Cheyenne is home to the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. At the Cheyenne Depot Museum, you can learn all about the history of the Union Pacific Railroad, which opened the West up to the masses. There’s also country line dancing, horseback riding, fishing and hiking at Vedauwoo Recreation Area. A real bonus for retirees, Wyoming is among the most tax-friendly states in the US.
Morgantown, West Virginia
Home to West Virginia University, Morgantown is a popular place to retire thanks to a low cost of living, plenty of public parks, and lots of on-campus diversions, like football games, extension classes, a symphony orchestra and an art museum. The university also adds to the abundance of medical services available in this small town. There are plenty of ways to savor the town’s natural beauty too, including hiking Dorsey’s Knob for views across the Appalachian Mountains. Hungry? Grab a bite at Table 9, a modern gastropub, or Iron Horse Tavern, a go-to for great pub grub.
In Washington, look to Richland for sunny days, delicious wine, public parks and easy access to healthcare thanks to its proximity to several large hospital systems. Washington has no state income tax, so retirees can hold onto more of their money. Water activities are popular thanks to a location at the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima Rivers. Located in Washington Wine Country, wine tasting is popular, and there are plenty of choices. More than 200 wineries are within one hour of the Tri-Cities region, which includes Richland, Kennewick and Pasco.
Portland is among the best places to retire for a variety of reasons, including a lower cost of living and relatively affordable housing. Portland also wins over retirees with its small-town feel paired with amenities more commonly found in big cities, like good-quality healthcare and a thriving culinary scene. Retirees love that Portland has its own Arts District, which hosts First Friday Art Walk events at galleries, studios and arts venues across town. In 2018 Portland was named Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appetit. That means you’ll find serious eats here, like Fore Street Restaurant and Duckfat.
Located in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts, Pittsfield is a great place to retire thanks to its natural beauty, historic sites and relative affordability, at least for New England. The Upstreet Cultural District wows with live music, theatre performances and community festivals, while in-town dining features eclectic cafes, a vegan diner, burger joints and coffee lounges. Hike the trails at Pittsfield State Forest, then watch a live performance at Colonial Theatre. Hancock Shaker Village lets you step back in time to the 18th century with artifacts, crafts and gardens. In winter, look to Bosquet Mountain for skiing and snowboarding.
Fayetteville is among the best places to retire thanks to plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities given its location in the Ozark Mountains. Home to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is one more college town that has a lot to offer retirees, including sporting events, cultural museums and theatre performances. As a bonus, residents aged 60 and up can take college classes tuition-free. Downtown, look for tempting restaurants, like Mockingbird Kitchen for contemporary fare and Vetro 1925 for upscale Italian. In winter, the Lights of the Ozarks lights up the historic downtown square.