Note: This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series. Part 1 covers about competitors in the West, Part 2 discusses alternatives to The Villages in the East.
February 11, 2011 — We frequently get a question just like this one – “We have visited The Villages (TV) and we love it – it is our first choice for retirement. But before we commit, are there any other age-restricted communities that are remotely the same size or offer a similar range of amenities”?
The good news is that, although no other community comes close to the mega-size of The Villages, there are least 7 other active communities with over 10,000 residents, which is a size sufficiently large to provide a comparable range of amenities and clubs to those enjoyed by the 107,000 residents of The Villages. In addition, there is another large group of communities with more than 5,000 homes which also have… the complete package of amenities. This article (Part 2 of a series, see end of article for link to Part 1) will explore these competitors in more detail. The article assumes that you are the kind of person who is interested in a very large community that offers endless amenities and clubs. For other folks who are interested in smaller or medium sized communities because of the greater intimacy and community they might offer – we invite you to explore those in the State Directories at Topretirements.
Before we examine each of these communities, here is a brief recap to explain what all the hubbub is about at The Villages. It has 2 town squares (Spanish Springs and Lake Sumter Landing) that provide shopping, restaurants, and open-air plazas featuring free nightly entertainment. There are 33 golf courses, 8 country clubs where residents automatically become members, along with a large number of separate family and adult recreational areas. The Polo Center and its Pavilion host international polo matches and events like BBQ competitions. There is virtually every kind of activity and athletic resource: archery, one finger painting, pickle ball, quilting, scrap booking, synchronized swimming, taichi, yoga, etc. There are hundreds of clubs for every interest, including one for just about every state in the country. The community is large enough that singles can feel at home here, since there are clubs and activities just for them.
Sun City. The original Sun City in Peoria, Arizona is probably the second largest active adult community after The Villages. Sun City has 48,000 residents. It was founded by Del Webb in 1960, making it the original active community in the world. It boasts every conceivable activity – 7 recreation centers, 11 golf courses, 3 country clubs, 2 bowling centers, Sun Bowl, Viewpoint Lake – plus hundreds of clubs. Like many communities established long ago, at 75 the average age in Sun City is well up there. Sun City West, which is close by the original, has almost as many residents and similar amenities.
More Sun Cities. The Sun City communities developed by Del Webb and Pulte consistently offer some of the largest active adult communities in the world. We already mentioned Sun City and Sun City West. Others include: Sun City Texas (near Georgetown) with 7,500 homes, Sun City Anthem (Las Vegas) with 7,200 homes and an 86,000 sq.ft. clubhouse. Sun City has other locations all over the country, including at least 4 in Nevada alone. On the east coast there is Sun City Hilton Head (near Bluffton), which is another very large community of 8,500 homes. It boasts three impressive amenity centers, an entire sports complex, state-of-the-art fitness centers, the 540 seat Magnolia Hall Performing Arts Center, two social halls and over 100 clubs and resident community groups. Sun City Center in Ruskin (near Tampa, FL) is another very large community. This older community is built out and offers resales only. Residents enjoy Enjoy 8 golf courses, tennis, pickleball, softball, lawn bowling, swimming, fitness exercises, dozens of crafts, cards, dancing, and a library. It has 250 clubs for the residents of its 12,000 homes. The nearby Sun City Tampa is still being developed for its 11,000 residents. Search on Topretirements for “Sun City” to find more – all of them are at least 1,000 homes and some much larger.
Laguna Woods Village(LWV) is a 55+ age-restricted gated community located on 2,100 acres of rolling hillsides just minutes from the Laguna Beach coastline. The community has 12,736 dwellings and is considered to be one of the largest of its type on the West Coast. Laguna Woods Village is home to 18,000 residents. The average age of residents moving into the community is 67 (which means the average age of all residents is higher). Laguna Woods Village offers a wide range of social and recreational activities, including yoga, dances, shuffleboard, lawn bowling, paddle tennis, table tennis, and bridge. Facilities include seven clubhouses, five swimming pools, a performing arts center seating 814, and the community’s “living” amenity, the equestrian center. The community owns several horses available to residents and their guests. There are over 230 clubs and organizations to choose from, and a choice of more than 100 Saddleback College Emeritus courses. Unlike TV, LWV does not have any retail or commercial establishments within the community, although they are nearby.
Hot Springs Village (HSV). This community near the historic town of Hot Springs, Arkansas is open to all ages. HSV is home to 14,000 residents. It has a full range of amenities and clubs including 9 golf courses and 10 lakes with marinas for boating and fishing.
Green Valley, AZ. Located in extreme southern Arizona, Green Valley is home to several developments and about 20,000 residents in over 12,000 homes. Most of its residents are retired. It has 9 golf courses, 13 recreation centers, shopping plazas, dozens of clubs and volunteer organizations, medical facilities, places of worship and recreation centers. Residents share in a cooperative venture, Green Valley Recreation, Inc., which provides recreational opportunities across the many developments in the Green Valley area.
Robson Ranch near Dallas, TX is a large and well-established community of 7,200 homes. It offers the extensive amenities you would expect in such a large community. Robson also has other large communities such as SaddleBrooke Ranch in Tucson. This one has 4,600 homes and includes amenities like 2 semi-private golf courses and a 27 hole private country club. Plus many, many clubs to join.
Sun Lakes, developed originally by Robson back in 1973, has almost 6,700 homes in several neighborhoods, plus all the amenities one would expect, such as 5 clubhouses and 4 golf courses. PebbleCreek (Robson) has over 6,000 homes in Goodyear, AZ.
Rossmoor Walnut Creek (CA). This community in an afflluent area about 25 miles from San Francisco has 6,700 residential units in three cooperatives, 12 condominium and one single-family home developments. It also has its own recreation department.
By no means a complete list
This list of the largest active communities that can compete with The Villages is by no means exhaustive. There are undoubtedly others not mentioned here. But before you search only for the
largest communities, you should decide just how large a community you would be happy living in. TV is in a class by itself – but the truth is that any community over 10,000 residents is going to be large enough to offer plenty to do and many interesting people to meet. Then it boils down to location and what the community is like. For our money, the location of The Villages isn’t that great – there is a reason why the company was able to amass that much land – rural central Florida was never developed because it was too far from the coasts.
You can use the Advanced Search at Topretirements to look for 55+ communities by size and other characteristics, such as amenities, price range, and type of community (however, not all communities have all their attributes in our database yet, so there may even be more than you discover). As always, the best answer to the question of where to live is to sample various communities. Take advantage of “Stay and Play” or “Discovery” packages to see first hand if the community is right for you – before you buy!
What do you think? Is a very large active community for you? Or would you prefer to live in something a bit smaller? Did we miss some obvious very large communities (over 5,000 homes)? Let us know your preferences using the Comments section below.