Sarasota is the New #1 Most Popular Place to Retire: Announcing Our 2016 List

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

June, 2016 – Move over Asheville, there is a newcomer perched atop the Topretirements annual list of most popular places to retire. For the first time since we started publishing this list in 2007, Asheville, NC is not #1 – that honor goes to the vibrant city of Sarasota on Florida’s West Coast. It edged out Asheville and Green Valley (AZ) in a close contest for the top spot.

Sarasota neighborhood

Many people view Sarasota as one of the two cultural capitals of Florida (the other would be Miami). Built through the philanthropy of the Ringling Brothers Circus and other generous souls, Sarasota’s rich cultural institutions make it a vital and interesting city in which to live. There is also the beautiful Sarasota Bay, lovely beaches and barrier islands, and fascinating urban and low key neighborhoods. Sarasota was chosen for the top spot through a simple process. We count how many times each city’s review has been viewed at Topretirements.com, which we view as a gauge of interest in that destination. For example, the Sarasota review was viewed over 10,000 times,
which was 10 times as often as the newcomer in the #100 position, Palm Coast (FL). It doesn’t mean that people will actually move to any of these destinations, but it does indicate interest and popularity.

A Place in the Sun
When it comes to places that Americans might consider for retirement, towns in the Sunbelt and the West are definitely the places to be. Eighty of the cities and towns on our 2016 list of the best places to retire were in the Sunbelt. As always, Florida had the most cities on the list with 24, followed by North and South Carolina. The American northwest and mountain states are also popular for retirement – 17 destinations made the list from California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Idaho. Just as in 2015, only 3 states in the Northeast made the cut: Virginia (Charlottesville, Williamsburg, and Winchester), Delaware (Lewes and Rehoboth Beach), and Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh). The highest ranking non-Sun Belt city on our list was Grand Junction (CO) at #23. The Midwest had no entries on the list.

New Towns Join as Popular Places to Retire
Six new towns moved onto the 2016 list, four less than in 2015. Five of the newcomers were from the Sunbelt: 3 from Florida (Punta Gorda, Jupiter, and Palm Coast); and one each from North Carolina (Hayesville) and South Carolina (Lake Keowee). Idaho’s Coeur D’Alene) was the lone non-Sunbelt newcomer joining the list this year.

Movement on the List
Tucson was able break into the top 10 this year, moving up from the #28 spot to #9, and edging out Myrtle Beach (SC) in the process. St. Simon’s Island (GA) was another retirement town that came into popular favor, climbing to the #35 spot from the #79 position last year. Las Vegas made a big move out in the desert, climbing to #50 from the 84th spot.

Towns Rather Than Active Communities
As always, this list concentrate on towns/cities rather than on active communities, which we excluded because we have a separate annual list for them. If we had included them, several active communities were popular enough to have made the list (The Villages and Fearrington Village would have been in the top 10, and Tellico Village would been somewhere in the middle. See our 2015 list of “The 100 Most Popular Active Adult Communities” for more.

Note: To make sure you don’t miss new lists like this, sign up for our free weekly “Best Places to Retire” newsletter. See also “The Worst States for Retirement – 2014“.

How we came up with this list
Topretirements.com, “Where Baby Boomers Go to Find Their Best Place to Retire”, has published its 100 most popular list annually since 2007. While most of the “Best Places” lists are either the subjective opinions of the authors or a ranking from various criteria, this list is different. Ours is essentially a popularity contest that reflects the interests of the visitors and members who come to Topretirements to find out information about where to retire. We compile it by calculating the 100 towns that received the most online visits from the 1000+ cities reviewed at Topretirements.com during the last 6 months of 2015. Some probably made the list this year because they were featured in one of our weekly newsletters. Note that our definition of Sunbelt includes the states south of (and including) North Carolina and Tennessee, plus the Southwest. Under that definition Virginia (with 3 towns on this list) and Kentucky are not considered Sunbelt states.

These are the 100 most popular places to retire for 2016. But we urge you not to stop there – you can explore the more than 1000 towns and 3100 active adult communities by using the “Find a Community” feature on the top right of all pages at Topretirements. And of course, we look forward to your Comments – last year’s list generated 169 interesting opinions!
(Note: We recently published a very helpful article that compares cost of homes vs. cost of rentals in the Top 10 places to retire on this list).

1. Sarasota, FL. Some consider Sarasota to be the cultural capital of Florida, after Miami. Sarasota has one of Florida’s best downtowns with many interesting neighborhoods. An impressive array of cultural facilities are gathered there, along with high-rise, luxury hotels.
2. Asheville, NC. Asheville is a prosperous small city of just over 75,000 in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina. The downtown is filled with cafes, restaurants, and art deco buildings.
3. Green Valley, AZ. Near near the hiking and birding areas of the Santa Rita Mountains in extreme southern Arizona, Green Valley is an unincorporated retirement community composed of 59 Homeowner Associations.
4. Prescott, AZ. Located at an elevation of 5400 feet in the mountains of north central Arizona, the City of Prescott (population just under 40,000 in 2011), was the original territorial capital of the Arizona Territory.
5. Venice, FL. Originally developed in 1925 by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers as a planned retirement community, Venice is named after the many canals and rivers running through it
6.Beaufort, SC. The Old South lives on in the quaint seaside charm of Beaufort, Known as the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands”. Horse-drawn carriages roll along streets in the town’s charming historic district that are overhung with Spanish moss.
7. Charleston, SC. “The Holy City” is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. as well as being one of its top tourist attractions. Located on the coast of South Carolina, until the mid 1800’s it was one of the 10 largest cities in North America.
8. Ft. Myers, FL. Located on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River on southwest Florida’s coast, its roots go back to 1886. It has the charming Thomas Edison Museum and a beautifully restored downtown along the river. New developments go off in every direction.
9. Tucson, AZ. The area is warm in winter, blessed with sunshine almost 300 days per year, and has beautiful surroundings. At 233 performing arts dates per year, it also has one of the nation’s highest numbers of arts performances.

Sunny Tucson

10. Paris, TN. Paris is a small town of about 10,000 in northwest Tennessee, 15 miles from the vast and popular Land Between the Lakes recreation area.
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11. Myrtle Beach, SC. Myrtle Beach is a favorite beach and golf resort community as it is home to The Grand Strand – one of the world’s longest sections of perfect beach, and boasts over 120 golf courses. It also has a reputation as a hot spot for live family entertainment, music, and celebrity concerts.
12. Las Cruces, NM. Las Cruces has been listed as a “Best Place to Retire” by several organizations for many reasons: low cost of living, active cultural life with its major university, and unusually beautiful location.
13. St. Petersburg, FL. Saint Petersburg has been a classic retirement and tourist destination since the 1920’s because of its winter warmth, great beaches, and ideal location on a peninsula in Tampa Bay.
14. New Bern, NC. This city of over 30,000 grew by 30% from 2000 to 2013. It has a 56 square block tree lined historic district and a charming downtown. New Bern was named a “Certified Retirement Community” by the State of North Carolina in 2015.
15. Pensacola, FL. Pensacola is a popular town for retirement and tourism in the western end of the Florida panhandle.  Its location on the Pensacola Bay gives it access to the emerald green waters and sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
16. Austin, TX. Austin is becoming a very popular retirement community. The University of Texas and its array of cultural and other activities is perhaps the biggest draw for Austin, along with its cosmopolitan and high-tech quirky soul.
17. Naples, FL. Naples represents the gold coast of southwest Florida. Its walkable downtown is as sophisticated as any in the world, but charming too.
18. Brevard, NC. The town of Brevard, surrounded by the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, consistently ranks near the top of popular lists of “best retirement communities” and “best places to live, work, and play”.
19. Charlottesville, VA. Charlottesville, has been ranked as one of the best 100 places to retire. Home to the University of Virginia, this college town offers a tree-lined dignity and charm that makes it easy to see why so many active adults are planning to retire here.
20. Clearwater, FL. Clearwater, part of the Tampa Bay Metro, has a rich cultural infrastructure-due in part because of the The Clearwater Public Art and Design Project. Nearby St. Petersburg and Tampa are also loaded with cultural venues.
21. Chattanooga, TN. Chattanooga is a low-cost, interesting retirement city. It was the site of the famous critical civil war Battle of Chattanooga due to its strategic location on the Tennessee River.  Called the “Scenic City”, it is home to the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.
22. Bluffton, SC. Bluffton, located near Hilton Head Island and the coast, is a charming, walkable, old town on the May River.
23. Grand Junction, CO. Grand Junction, is a college town perched on the border with Utah. It has a nice downtown, and natural beauty and recreation are abundant.
24. Flagstaff, AZ. Centered amidst some of the most enchanting physical landmarks in the world, Flagstaff is a top rated community for retirement.
25. Murphy, NC. Murphy is a great place for retirement particularly if you are interested in a quiet and rural environment. The climate is mild and the scenery is breathtaking with mountains and lakes.
26. Summerville, SC. Summerville, “The Flower Town in the Pines”, has a charming downtown with many restaurants and unusual shops. Tourists flock to the area to see its azaleas in season.
27. St. George, UT. Saint George has spectacular red rock bluffs overlooking the town, a mild climate in winter, and terrific recreational opportunities.
28. Chapel Hill, NC. Chapel Hill is a particularly beautiful college town in the gentle hills of central North Carolina. The University of North Carolina is the centerpiece of this charming small town with a cosmopolitan flair that makes it appealing as a retirement community.
29. Savannah, GA. Savannah is one of the most beautiful cities in America. It is a popular tourist destination as well as an area popular with retirees. Each year almost 7 million tourists visit here.
30. Athens, GA. Athens is an immensely successful university town and popular as a retirement community. The University of Georgia has helped to create an unusually liberal community with a thriving artistic, musical, and intellectual scene.
31. Blue Ridge, GA. Blue Ridge is a very small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. Lake Blue Ridge, the Toccoa River, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Appalachian Trail all draw tourists from all over the United States and abroad.
32. San Diego, CA. San Diego’s scenery, climate, and lifestyle are second to none and appeal to active adults 55+. Its bustling downtown area has a busy convention area and city parks set alongside hundreds of anchored pleasure boats.
33. Sequim, WA. Sequim is popular both with retirees and with people looking for second homes. The town has has won numerous awards as a great place to live and retire.
34. San Antonio, TX. San Antonio It is famous for its Paseo del Rio (River Walk), Tejano culture, and as home to SeaWorld and Six Flags theme parks. The Alamo (Battle of 1836) is a shrine and museum located in the heart of downtown.
35. St. Simons Island, GA (up from #79 last year). Living in St. Simons Island, the southernmost community in Georgia, could be like going to paradise. There are beautiful sandy beaches, luxurious homes, and summer lasts for 7 months.

Coast Guard station in St. Simons (courtesy of Wikipedia and Bubba73)

36. Knoxville, TN. Knoxville is particularly attractive because it is home to the Vols – the University of Tennessee. It is a vibrant college town with big-time sports and many cultural events.
37. Charlotte, NC. Charlotte is a prosperous, very fast growing city. It is so big and diverse that there is probably some part of Charlotte that could appeal to about anyone.
38. Williamsburg, VA. Williamsburg is a very popular retirement community. Colonial Williamsburg is actually a living representation/restoration of the 18th century colonial capital. If you are a history buff and you love antiques, this is the place for you.
39. Maryville, TN. This small college town has all of the things that make Tennessee retirements so appealing – low taxes, low cost of living, and outstanding recreation opportunities in nearby lakes and Great Smoky Mountains.
40. Eugene, OR . Eugene enjoys a national reputation as one of the most livable cities in the country. As a retirement community it offers small town charm combined with big city sparkle. It has a thriving and eclectic arts scene along with unsurpassed natural beauty
41. San Juan Islands, WA. San Juan Islands Located off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia, are both a tourist destination and a retirement community. The setting, the tranquility, and the scenery are world class.
42. St. Augustine, FL. Saint Augustine is the longest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S., which makes it a historic community with a lot to do that is connected with the city’s rich heritage.
43. Rehoboth Beach, DE. Rehoboth Beach is a beach community located on the pastoral Delmarva Peninsula. This hospitable town, billed as “The Nation’s Summer Capital”, was chosen by the AARP as a “Best Places to Retire”. It is increasingly popular as a retirement community because of its small town character, reasonable prices, and fabulous beaches.
44. Port Charlotte, FL. Port Charlotte is a suburban community to the northeast of busy Fort Myers. Thousands of snow birds and retirees come because it is warm in the winter and home prices and rents are low.
45. Portland, OR. Known as “The City of Roses”, Portland attracts active adults who are looking for a bustling and diverse community. Great skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities are all at your doorstep, as are many cultural programs.
46. Bellingham, WA. If there was ever a town with momentum it is Bellingham Washington. Kiplinger’s called Bellingham one of the top retirement communities in the U.S. It boasts unbelievable natural scenery from Puget Sound on the west and Mount Baker to the east.
47. Colorado Springs, CO. Colorado Springs is an extremely popular retirement community due to spectacular scenery, abundant sunshine, and conservative values. The city also offers bike trails, parks, and cultural activities.
48. Beaufort, NC. Beaufort is a charming and friendly small town of 4,200 by the sea. This old seaport has an interesting history and beautiful housing – many homes sport historic plaques.
49. Aiken, SC. This town of almost 30,000 in western South Carolina is known as the “Winter Colony”, and has always been popular with the horsy set for fox hunting, steeplechase, and polo horses.
50. Las Vegas, NV (up from #84) Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing communities in the U.S. Legalized gambling in this desert resort city has created an enormous economy and attracted many new residents, including retirees in active adult communities. The Las Vegas strip is justly famous for its glitz and many attractions.

51. Bend, OR. Bend offers great scenic beauty, skiing, mountains, golf, fishing, and more. Bend makes just about every list of “best retirement communities”.
52. Southport, NC. Southport was an active seaport in colonial times and remains one of the few active fishing villages in North Carolina. Its picturesque location features over 28 miles of sandy beaches and a number of lighthouses. 
53. Crossville, TN. The number one reason why Crossville, Tennessee is desirable as a retirement community is because it is a relative bargain. Dubbed the “Golf Capital of Tennessee”, as the area has 12 golf courses. There is also great beauty in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
54. Clemson, SC. This town of 13,000 is nestled in the extreme Northwestern corner of South Carolina. Clemson University and its 17,000 students have a major impact as the university is the cultural center of the city.
55. Ft. Collins, CO. Fort Collins was chosen by Money Magazine as the best small city in the U.S. It’s a popular retirement community for its low crime rates, fantastic outdoor life, and small town ambiance.
56. Tampa, FL. The city has a spectacular location on Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay, which in turn lead to the Gulf of Mexico, and has every type of cultural resource such as theatres, museums of all kinds, and a vibrant city life.
57. Lewes, DE. Lewes is a small town on the southern coast. It’s considered an ocean resort and a top tourist area because of its beaches, proximity to Cape Henlopen State Park, and shopping malls.
58. Winchester, VA. Winchester is in extreme northern Virginia, not that far from Washington D.C. The nearby mountains and Shenandoah National Park are quite beautiful. The town was listed as one of the most affordable cities by AARP.
59. Sedona, AZ. The Red Rocks of Sedona are world famous for colors displayed by sunrises and sunsets on the red sandstone rocks. That beauty, combined with the mountains, climate, hiking and the arts have made Sedona a popular retirement community.
60. Greenville, SC. Greenville has an interesting downtown and several great neighborhoods. It is also home to a number of colleges and is a thriving community for the arts.
61. Jacksonville, FL. Jacksonville is the most populated city in Florida with 808,000 inhabitants. It is has a mild winter climate and much to offer in terms of culture and recreation.
62. Fairhope, AL. Fairhope, Alabama is one of the most unusual (and nicest) retirement communities anywhere. Fairhope has made some movement from utopian experiment to retirement community… artist’s/intellectual’s colony… boutique resort… some local residents refer to Fairhope as “Carmel-by-the-Bay” alluding to California’s Carmel-by-the-Sea on the Monterey Peninsula.
63. Durango, CO. Durango is one of the most interesting small towns in Colorado. It is world famous for every kind of outdoor recreation including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and golf.
64. Stuart, FL. Stuart is an extremely charming community with a lovely downtown that offers interesting shops and restaurants with a small town feel. There is a very ample coastline thanks to the bays and ocean that surround the town.
65. Port Townsend, WA. Considered one of the prettiest towns anywhere, this town keeps getting named to all of the “best 100 places to retire lists”.  Most of it is preserved as a national historic district, and it has an incomparable setting on the water with views of the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Mountains on its west.
66. Eureka, CA. A port city on the Humboldt Bay of California’s northern coast, makes Eureka an excellent retirement community. It’s filled with examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture and historic districts, and has been likened to a west coast Williamsburg, Virginia.

67. Henderson, NV. Henderson, second largest city in Nevada, is also one of America’s fastest-growing communities. the city prides itself on its master-planned residential areas, transportation projects, and outstanding recreational opportunities.
68. Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, is set in a unique place near the mountains, and is a vibrant college town, home to the University of New Mexico.
69. Hilton Head, SC. Known for its beautiful beaches and fabulous golf courses, the area tends to be quite exclusive and most of it comprised of planned developments.
70. Fernandina Beach, FL up from #99 Fernandina Beach is old Florida. It has a charming downtown with an artsy feel and many quiet neighborhoods featuring Victorian homes.

Pic of Amelia Island, immediately south of Fernandina

71. Reno, NV.”The Biggest Little City in the World”, is the 4th largest city in Nevada with a population of about 220,000. The nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains and deserts make this a great area for people who like the outdoors. As a college town it has a full supply of cultural and sporting venues.
72.Boise City, ID up from #100 “The city of Trees” is a modern, prosperous, and livable city that offers many recreational activities and a great lifestyle.
73. Mt. Airy, NC. Mount Airy has a vital downtown that attracts tourists and retirees. In 2013, it was designated by the State of North Carolina as an official North Carolina Retirement Destination.
74. Delray Beach, FL. Delray Beach is a very popular and upscale retirement community on the east coast of Florida.  A Master Plan developed by the city resulted in an extensive and extremely successful renovation of its charming and walkable downtown area.
75. Santa Fe, NM. Santa Fe is one of the top cultural destinations in the world.  Known for its art and music, the city was selected by Money Magazine as one of the  “Best Places to Live”.

76. Dunedin, FL. Dunedin is an old sailing town of about 36,000, with a spectacular setting on the west coast of Florida that boasts at least a mile of unobstructed views of Gulf beaches. Settled by Scots, it retains many interesting Scottish traditions and festivals.
77. Spokane, WA. Spokane is the 2nd largest city in Washington, and one of the largest in the Northwest. It is located on Washington’s eastern border with Idaho, and is the cultural, social, and economic hub of this area.
78. Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh consistently makes the “Best Places to Live” lists. It has a beautiful setting where two major rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, combine against a backdrop of steep hills to form the Ohio River. Pittsburgh has a solid economy, low cost of living, and growing educational, cultural and medical infrastructures.
79. Gulf Shores, AL. Located on a barrier island in western Alabama, Gulf Shores is an upscale resort and retirement community at the entrance to Mobile Bay. Part of the attraction is the water and coast – many places to explore in your boat, play golf, or enjoy the white sand beaches.
80. Hayesville, NC * Hayesville is a beautiful and friendly, but very small town that combines small-town charm with the beauty of mountains, lakes, rivers and streams. Opportunities for camping, golf, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and water sports are plentiful.

Hayesville, NC

81. Greenville, NC. Greenville was recognized as “Sportstown USA” by Sports Illustrated and the National Parks and Recreation Association. The recognition came for its commitment to providing sporting opportunities for residents.
82. Denver, CO. Denver, the “Mile High City”, boasts an unusually beautiful setting with the Rocky Mountains towering overhead. Outdoor recreation is superb, and there are many cultural things to do.
83. Punta Gorda, FL * Punta Gorda, Florida, is a small community of 17,000 on the Gulf Coast of Florida, between Sarasota and Fort Myers. Many active adults choose this city as their retirement community because of its sub-tropical warmth and its small town feel.
84. Cape Coral, FL. Cape Coral is one the nicer communities for retirement in south Florida. It is surrounded by water on 2 sides and has more than 400 miles of canals.
85. Hendersonville, NC. This southern town is located in what is called the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area of western North Carolina, and has an exceptionally beautifully and revitalized downtown area.
86. Boynton Beach, FL. Boynton Beach includes sections that are on the barrier island and the connecting mainland to the east. Its many public beaches and parks provide a superb entertainment option.
87. Vero Beach, FL. Vero Beach is located in the middle of Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The town is in several parts – a ‘beach” area on the barrier island with a resort feel, and a large downtown across the bay on the mainland.
88. Mesquite, NV. Mesquite is an extremely popular retirement town in southeastern Nevada, almost in Arizona and Utah. Casinos arrived here in the 1970’s. The town markets itself as a low key alternative to Las Vegas.
89. Leesburg, FL. Leesburg is fast growing town in central Florida, the result of retirees choosing it as their retirement town. The many lakes in and around the town are a primary attraction.
90. Port St. Lucie, FL . Port St. Lucie, located on the East Coast of Florida, is one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. according to the 2005 Census Bureau.There are many miles of unspoiled beaches along the ocean, plus many waterways connected to the intercoastal.
91. Key West, FL. Key West, Florida, is an extremely charming community, the southernmost in the U.S. Many active adults choose this city and island 90 miles north of Cuba because of its sub-tropical warmth, its diversity (home to many gays), and its laid-back charm.
92. Gulfport, FL. Located on the southwestern side of St. Petersburg is the small town of Gulfport, home to The Gulfport Casino Ballroom, one of the busiest dance halls in Florida. While it has none of the urban attractions of downtown St. Pete, it does offer a slower pace and less costly alternative that offers easy access to the city.
93. Jupiter, FL * The three Florida villages of Jupiter, Tequesta, and Juno Beach combine rich history, culture, and natural beauty to provide a retirement community with an unsurpassed quality of life. There are more than 100 miles of unspoiled beaches along the ocean, rivers, and the intracoastal waterway.
94. Corpus Christi, TX. Corpus Christi bills itself as “The Sparkling City by the Sea”. There are many local attractions, particularly concerning the waterfront, boating, beaches, and fishing. Golf is also popular here.
95. Coeur D’Alene, ID. Coeur d’Alene is a fast growing town in northern Idaho’s panhandle. This town of 46,000 on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, attracts retirees and tourists because of its outstanding beauty and outdoor recreation.
96. Lake Keowee, SC. *Lake Keowee is a very large reservoir in north-central South Carolina, just west of Greenville. It is not a town, but a beautiful region which is a relatively unspoiled area with plenty of water and parks for recreation.

Lake Keowee

97. San Luis Obispo, CA. San Luis Obispo has much to like as a retirement community. From the spicy Pinot Noir wines made here, to the brown hills and long beaches, this town is the educational, cultural, and commercial center of the region. It has a history and a vital and prosperous downtown.
98. Phoenix, AZ. The city of Phoenix has long been a popular retirement community for active adults 55+. Retirees come in droves because of its warm winters, ample housing opportunities, and the Arizona lifestyle.
99. Seattle, WA. Choosing Seattle as your retirement community has many advantages-you get a walkable downtown with great public transportation, boating, skiing, hiking are all at your doorstep, as are many cultural programs.
100. Palm Coast, FL * Palm Coast is an enormous planned community of more than 77,000. The City grew 136% from 2000 to 2012, and strives to offer exceptional quality of life, diversified housing, and valued natural, recreational, and cultural resources

*New to the List in 2016

Sliding Off the List
As always, some towns lost part of their allure to prospective retirees last year. Six cities dropped off the list from the previous year, and those include Orlando (FL), Winter Park (FL), Santa Barbara (CA), Palm Springs (CA), Gainesville (FL), and Whitefish (MT).

For Additional reference:
2015 Best Places to Retire List
2014 List of Best Places to Retire
Sunbelt Rules: The 2013 List of 100 Best Places to Retire
100 Best Active Adult or 55+ Communities – 2015
Dueling Retirement States Series (Starts with Arizona vs. Florida)
10 Worst States for Retirement – 2014

What do You Think?
Please add your Comments and reactions below. We look forward your thoughts about where you are considering for retirement, as well as what towns you thought should have made this list (or not made it!)




Posted by Admin on February 23rd, 2016

51 Comments »

  1. After seeing Green Valley AZ on one of your lists 4 years ago, I started researching GV and subscribed to the GV newspaper online. The more I read, the more I liked. We came to see what it was really like 2 years ago. By the end of the week, we knew we would be moving to Green Valley. The move finally happened 7 months ago. Our only regret is not doing it sooner. There is so much to do, especially if you belong to Green Valley Recreation. There is also a festival or fair going on nearby almost every weekend. Property taxes and insurance are 1/4 what they were in Texas. Auto insurance is half. Right now is the time to buy as AZ was caught in the real estage plunge of 2008. Prices are amazing. People will come back with “But Arizona has a state income tax”. The state income tax on my income (SS, pension, annuity, and contract labor) was $23 for 6 months!! If it will be $46 or so for a full year in 2016, I will be a happy camper. I am so glad I saw Green Valley on Top Requirements. We have found our Utopia.

    by Joanne Hice — February 24, 2016

  2. I am happy to see my choice NOT on the list. I want to keep it as unspoiled as possible. I am familiar with many of the cities on the list, and the ones I know about are great places to visit and/or live. Thank you for this service, because it also helps with making travel plans for places to see and visit.

    by Elaine C. — February 24, 2016

  3. Why is it I never see any mention of Tyler Texas for a nice place to retire? Tyler offers all types of chain businesses and eateries and has 3 major hospitals along with numerous doctors and dentists alike. It is a small city but offers all you will find in larger ones. Not to mention is has the University of Texas / in Tyler there also for continued education. It has a spectacular historic downtown all of brick streets and a historic residential district.
    Why is this overlooked?

    Rick Vaughan

    by Rick Vaughan — February 24, 2016

  4. Ugh, ugh, ugh! I’ve lived in Sarasota since 2001 and boy has it changed since then! All in 3 ways: Traffic Traffic Traffic! If you like traffic come on down! Especially if you like traffic between October and June! The snowbirds come down in droves. The natives know not to go out to a restaurant as the wait can be hours to get in. I’ve had enough of it and can’t wait to move.

    by Marianne — February 24, 2016

  5. Really, Green Valley ? I live up the road in Sahuarita. Not much to do. You will have to drive into Tucson. The heat is oppressive. I’ve lived in southern AZ for 40+ years and the older I get, the heat is just too much. Outdoor activities in the summer, I think not. It can stay 100 at midnight sometimes. Besides the unbearable heat, this areas politics is “mentally disturbing”. Local government is corrupt and only take care of themselves and their friends.
    I’ll be retiring in a couple years and am wanting to get out of AZ. Looking at the Pacific NW. Can’t wait to move.

    by Don M — February 24, 2016

  6. Venice Florida is on the list. Can anyone suggest areas/communities that are mostly adult? We would like a place where these aren’t a lot of families that can get very loud. We know the deserve to have fun. We have past tthat; and now just want to live in a place that has peace and quiet.

    by Marianne Marienski — February 25, 2016

  7. I find some of the results hard to believe based on your stated criteria. I am not sure how some towns/cities can make the giant moves they have made. (Vegas jumps 34 spots in one year?) Let’s be honest in one years time not that much could have changed. When I see major metro areas like Phoenix, and Seattle I can’t help but think who would live there unless they have family there. The crime, the traffic, the over crowded venues. Really, people in their late 60’s and 70’s want that? Not to mention the cold and rain, high taxes, and high cost of living in the Pacific Northwest, and the extreme heat in the Arizona Desert. At least in my mind it doesn’t add up.

    by Steve Brooks — March 2, 2016

  8. Steve, as the article said in “How we came up with this list”, the rankings are based on the number of times the cities were clicked on here in Top Retirement (or words to the effect, you might want to read it again). In other words, a popularity contest, and it says so in that paragraph. A popularity contest that would be highly influenced by articles posted here in TR and browsed to by the readers here. So if you have 50 articles on Phoenix and only 2 on Tucson, I would hazard a guess that Phx would “win” in popularity in the number of clicks over Tucson at the end of the year, making Phx a more popular place to retire.

    My issue with the article is not that it is based on a click through which shows some interest, even if transient, it is the CONCLUSION reached in the next paragraph. “These are the 100 most popular places to retire for 2016.” NO, they are NOT, and I’d call out Admin for making such a conclusion. They just got a greater number of clicks. If there was an interesting article about Hell that everybody clicked on in 2015, then Hell would be on the Top 100 most popular places to retire for 2016. Granted, it would be warm in winter, but…

    Just sayin’.

    by Art Bonds — March 3, 2016

  9. In my opinion, if you want a more accurate way to judge the most popular places to retire, measure the number of retirees moving into the area and the number moving out. If Area A had 4,000 moving in and 2,000 moving out, would that be more or less popular than the 1,000 that moved to Area B with 200 moving out?

    Now, how to measure the death rate. Did the folks that died in a location count for or against it? Count it as a good thing because the retiree was so happy they stayed until they croaked, or a bad thing because the place killed them off for lack of good medical care, boredom or an oppressive HOA?

    by Art Bonds — March 3, 2016

  10. How do you determine the number of people moving in and the number moving out? Thank

    by Marianne Marienski — March 3, 2016

  11. Art, I totally agree. A click has very little to do with one’s ultimate choices.

    by ella — March 3, 2016

  12. This is reminding me of the “clicks” in middle school!

    Now guess what? We have been invited to Easter Dinner if we are still here. Can you believe this?
    We are thinking about buying a lot and building. Argggg A lot to consider! Pun intended.

    by caps — March 3, 2016

  13. Art — Your remarks are very insightful and right on the mark, but I also think that you’re hilarious!

    by Valerie — March 4, 2016

  14. Caps, you are funny! I was just thinking about your last few comments this morning before reading your post. How did you meet all these generous people you’ve been mentioning? Enjoy!

    by ella — March 4, 2016

  15. Marianne, how to determine the number moving in and out? Well, first, upfront confession. I have no PhD in anything, nor did I sleep at a Best Western last night. Just my thoughts. This is probably too simplistic, but I art a simple man.
    I think I would start with a static world where there are no sales. Nobody trying to sell, nobody trying to buy. Can’t say the town is more or less popular.
    Now somebody wants out, they put the house up for sale. As long as the house remains on the market, count this as a negative against the community (less popular). If somebody buys that house, we are back at static (neither less or more popular). In my opinion the more houses on the market with few buyers, the less popular the community.
    If somebody wants to sell but there are no buyers, and the house is abandoned, count that as least popular. Think Detroit and East St. Louis, where you have to bribe buyers to buy (like offering a house for $10k that would sell for lots more elsewhere).
    If it is reported that buyers are available but no homes are available, count that as a positive for the community (more popular). Competition for any house that pops up should theoretically cause prices to rise.
    If you have no new houses being built (only remodeled), but lots of folks want to live there and relatively few want to sell, I would call that a more popular place and housing prices will rise. Think San Francisco and Manhattan.
    Add new houses with buyers, and there are sellers of existing property, then there is a net gain in population for the community (also more popular).
    And if you have new houses and buyers, but have NO sellers as everybody loves it there, that is the community everybody wants to live in (most popular). Theoretically this is where you are going to find the highest priced homes.
    Zillow can be used to track both houses offered for sale and completed sales. But the only way to track demand is observing the rise or fall in existing property prices. If the trend in prices are up, there must be demand (more popular). If the seller has to lower the price then the demand is not there (less popular)
    Just my opinion.

    by Art Bonds — March 4, 2016

  16. Valerie, regarding humor… probably why I am still married…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mmV5yrIsio

    Otherwise I have no redeeming value. 😉

    by Art Bonds — March 4, 2016

  17. Art, A sense of humor serves us all well, regardless of our circumstances or our marital status 🙂 🙂 🙂 which reminds me of a humorous comment that I overheard an elderly gentleman make one time to a salesman whenever I was shopping at a store a few years ago. He said “You know I never knew what love was like, until I got married (and then he smiled as he took a large pause for effect) — and he uttered the following words “and then it was too late.” — LOL!!!

    by Valerie — March 5, 2016

  18. Hi Valerie, so true about humor, it’s made life a lot easier. And regarding marriage, I have heard a man is not complete until he is married. Then he’s finished.

    by Art Bonds — March 5, 2016

  19. I thought this was supposed to be about the best places to retire…Sarasota now being at the top. I have no idea who or why anyone thinks Sarasota would be the #1 place to live. I recently (November 2015) visited and searched for a place to rent in the area. That said Let me tell you why I would not relocate to Sarasota.
    A- The homeless in downtown is horrific!
    B- there are few and far between rentals
    C- Relaters never return phone calls and many do not even have rental agents.
    C- Homeowners do not take pride in showing there homes to there full potential
    D- Rents are just as high as NY (my current location)
    E- There is not a whole lot to do unless you love the beach, golf or shopping.
    I would love it if we could all stick to the topic and report on the Who, What wear & why you or someone you know loves where they have retired to.

    by Roseann — March 5, 2016

  20. Art, we all enjoy your un-redeemed qualities. Keep it up!

    Sorry Roseann, already off track.

    by ella — March 5, 2016

  21. Ella……I believe it all started when we attended Mass our first weekend to the new area we were considering. We were early for Mass, and the priest was in the vestibule to meet all the people as they entered. He, introduced us to others and the entire situation just snowballed, as they asked us about our goals etc.
    We always attend the Catholic Church nearest to our desired location because it is THAT important to us for our long term lifestyle and volunteer opportunities. We have made efforts to attend their activities and events. Our faith is strong in the caring and kindness of people everywhere. Kindness and openness begets more of the same.

    by caps — March 5, 2016

  22. Caps, So true about what you said about kindness, which is a very positive trait, and very often just a smile from one to person to another can start a friendship

    Roseann, we only visited Sarasota for a day as part of a trip to the Gulf side of Florida several hours ago, and being the true dedicated shopaholic that I am, the only thing that really stood out in my mind was the shopping district at St. Armand’s Circle. Other than that, I was unimpressed.

    And, Art, I continue to appreciate your humor 🙂 🙂 🙂

    by Valerie — March 5, 2016

  23. Sorry, Roseann, I meant to say that we visited Sarasota several “years” ago, not several “hours” ago. Boy, time sure does fly, doesn’t it?

    by Valerie — March 5, 2016

  24. Caps, How very lovely – the introduction and opportunity to connect with those in the church you visited. Although finding the right church is very important to us in our relocation, we gallivant around to the extent that we have not visited any yet (too much time spent getting in those miles). I’ll consider your comment before we take our next trip.
    Sending warm greetings.

    by ella — March 6, 2016

  25. Valerie, St Armand’s Circle is beautiful. I go directly there while visiting my daughter. It has remained unchanged for the most part.

    ella, what do yo mean already off track?

    by Roseann — March 14, 2016

  26. Roseann, You, reasonably, asked that we keep ‘on track,’ and here i went commenting on Art’s sense of humor. Oh, well. Most railroads have several converging tracks, right?

    by ella — March 15, 2016

  27. I wouldn’t listen to much that is said about this list. Go spend time there and research for yourself, the financial costs of everything, from housing to medical to food to every type of insurance you need. I understand people wanting good weather, and entertainment like golfing, beaches, and shopping. Is it really worth it? A vacation would be better than a financial loss from a “wrong” move.

    by John Last — March 27, 2016

  28. John,
    THAT is a hard-learned fact. These sites are showing incorrect information and making everything look wonderful. The raves about downtown Colorado Springs is so off. Our homeless population is massive and homeless people that are under a No”sitting Law”. Downtown has NO safe shopping and almost none because no shops can deal with the beggar. ‘Lots’ of malls? ONE MALL left that is not totally under the crime rule. Empty shops, no work and, yes the mountains are beautiful when you can get to them and the Air is clean!

    I have to stay but people advising Retireds should stop making every place seem like utopia.

    by consta — March 28, 2016

  29. Any “most popular” lists are, by their nature, unreliable. People have a tendency to want to validate their choices of a living situation, as if attracting more people to, say, Colorado Springs, will make the homeless and crime situations go away. Therefore, when asked if they would recommend people live where they live, of course many of them will say “sure,” thinking if it’s good enough for them, others should like it as well. Like most any place, Colorado Springs is not all bad and not all good. I love San Francisco and, if I could afford it, I could see myself living there. But no one denies SF has a big homeless problem. I just returned from a week in New Orleans, parts of which are a bit scary and parts of which are wonderful. Horrible homeless problem. I’d live there too — and spend my time in the wonderful parts.

    by Larry — March 29, 2016

  30. Larry in SF,
    You are correct. I have lived on each Coast, the South, and the middle of our country. Each place had adventures, friends, meaning, experiences, memories and children born on each Coast. I NEVER thought about the end of living so this site is complex in its ‘Top Places to Retire’ (aka: to die) info. For some, moving close to family is a way to spend the remaining life in years. For others, it is a mistake.
    I have been Blessed. Not interested in sitting down,”On the Plains of Hesitation, Bleach the Bones of Countless millions, Who at the dawn of a decision, sat down to wait…and waiting perished.”
    Thank You Larry, I Will take the good with the bad and continue to run around looking… now that I know what I am looking for.

    by Consta — March 29, 2016

  31. I have lived most of my 66 years in Southern California. I believe it is fair to say that this is one of the best climates on the planet. However, Southern California is extremely expensive and crowded. Do I believe Southern California is utopia? Absolutely not!!! However, if one has their roots here; then this is home like so many other places across our vast nation. I personally believe those chasing utopia end up quite disappointed.

    by Bubbajog — March 29, 2016

  32. Yes Bubbajog! So very true! There is NO Utopia – but there may be “better” for the retirement years. We raised our family in Maine, and loved it, even the winter was tolerable when you have children and ski, take them sledding and ice skating etc. But the kids are off – both choosing to leave Maine, as most young folks do – due to low salaries, few good jobs due to lack of corporations and major employers (plenty of lower pay service jobs, esp. In hospitality and tourism), and a ridiculous tax burden that is covered by a small amount of the population – which is already small as compared to the vast size of the state. We developed our wish list, rank ordered our wishes and with milder climate and lower taxes as our priorities, and we headed south! Don’t regret it a bit! Not Utopia – but better for us at this stage of our life.

    by SandyZ — March 30, 2016

  33. Utopia is a perfect paradise that doesn’t exist, but which we all dream of anyway. Nothing wrong with dreaming and planning about retirement choices. A person’s ambition or effort towards life and retirement shows they have a desire to take charge of it. “Less is More” is my Utopia, less cold, less taxes, less traffic, less work.
    I think the above popularity list has a broad range of selections for everyone. BUT a person first has to financially “fit” to the area they choose, before selecting a place based on personal opinions. Just because I like a popular view from a bridge, doesn’t mean I am going to jump if the others do!

    by DeyErmand — March 30, 2016

  34. I remember when I first joined TOPRETIREMENTS blog and saw an older version of this list, I must have “clicked” on at least a third of the list. It was a learning experience along with the rest of the blog…but not necessarily a “vote” for these place. That said I love these lists and this blog can be very educational…just keep a sense of humor and do research that suits YOU.

    by elaine — March 30, 2016

  35. In a very short while we’ll be leaving Connecticut for Florida. In your opinion which area is the better choice to retire to? Is it Venice, Estero, or Bonita Springs? I plan to buy a stand alone villa.

    by Rick — March 30, 2016

  36. My advice is that these are very big areas – many similarities and some differences. You really have to experience them yourself to see which appeals to you the most. Venice probably has the nicest downtown, although many people who live there hardly ever see it. Estero and Bonita Springs are contiguous – Venice is quite a ways away.

    by Editor — March 30, 2016

  37. Rick, I live in CT and own a vacation home on the SC coast. The Editor is right-on about the character of some areas on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Your question about “better choice” is unanswerable since, as in most things, the best is in the eye of the beholder. Once you visit, you will be the one to answer your own questions. The only thing that is the same in these areas is that you can find a home you like in any of them. So the best advice is to concentrate on looking at the downtown and surrounding areas, driving through a few of the communities (if you intend to live inside the gates of one), eat in the local restaurants (and, though impolite, eavesdrop on a few conversations) and just get the feel of the places. Walking through houses for sale on a first visit, unless it is to be your only visit, is a waste of time since you will find one that suits you most anywhere.

    by Larry — March 31, 2016

  38. Rick, Venice, is really nice. My daughter lives there/teaches there. I love there down town,beach.

    by Roseann — March 31, 2016

  39. Where everybody is going, the most popular, may not be the place for you. It boils down to how much steady income you will have and how much cash you can generate by selling your current place. I suspect as the number of people with healthy defined benefit pensions decreases they will need to steer clear of many of the places on the popularity list. Think before you leap, try it out for awhile. Is the place really right for you?

    by David M. Lane — April 1, 2016

  40. We just moved a bunch of comments about Georgia that were made to our Medicare post to this Blog post, where they are a better fit:

    How do you like GA? Are you a transplant there? I have a cousin that lives in Clarkesville, Ga. He previously lived in KY. Do you find the price of housing reasonable there?
    Thanks! Louise —

    Louise,
    We’ve been in Lilburn, GA (Atlanta suburb) for about 23 years. Moved here because of a company transfer from the Chicago suburbs. Overall the cost of living is less than northern Illinois mostly because of housing. Real estate taxes drop significantly when you turn 65. My taxes on a 250K house are dropping from $2600.00 to under a thousand a year.

    We do miss the city of Chicago and all that it offers. In many ways Atlanta just doesn’t compare to Chicago culturally.
    by Jim C —

    Jim,
    With the money you are going to save from lower taxes you can take some trips to Chicago! That is really outstanding! I am not a fan of humidity and hot weather but to save so much in taxes I might be able to suck it up! I live in CT and my house is worth around $250,000 and our house tax is $4,428.00. To buy a same priced house where you live I could save $3,428.00 a year at 65!

    How does it work if one spouse is 65 and the other one is a year or two younger? As long as one owner is 65 do they reduce the taxes when the house is jointly owned?
    by Louise —

    Louise,
    The rule at least here in Gwinnett County states that you have to be 65 on January 1st of that year to receive the deduction. My wife and I both turned 65 in 2015 but after 1/1/15 so 2016 will be the first year we benefit. In a joint ownership scenario at least one would have to meet the requirement.
    by Jim C —

    Louise,
    I believe as long as one of the “owners” is 65 on January 1st you would meet the requirement.
    by Jim C

    Jim,
    That makes sense…One more question. Is the tax reduction, when you turn 65, a State wide tax reduction or is it just certain cities or towns in GA?

    Thanks for your patience!
    Louise —

    This article is 2013, but gives you an idea of Georgia property taxes
    Georgia general
    http://www.redhotatlantahomes.com/many-metro-atlanta-counties-offer-big-tax-breaks-for-seniors/

    Up to date info on Hall County (NE of Atlanta).
    Property tax, etc: Hall County, Georgia
    http://www.hallcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/264 homestead and other tax exemptions
    http://www.hallcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/274 Tax rates and FAQ

    There are good breaks on income tax as well. See Kiplingers for further info on state-wide info
    by elaine — May 11, 2016 | Edit This

    by Admin — May 11, 2016

  41. Louise,
    It is not state wide. The counties seemed to be in the Atlanta metro area and each have different rules. See http://www.redhotatlantahomes.com/tax breaks for further info.

    by Jim C — May 12, 2016

  42. More on Atlanta Metro areas offering senior tax breaks:

    https://a.gfx.ms//docx_57.png

    by Louise — May 12, 2016

  43. Link above doesn’t seem to work These are the metro cities in Georgia for Senior tax breaks:

    Cherokee
    Cobb
    Douglas
    Forsyth
    Fulton
    Gwinnett
    Hall
    DeKalb
    Jackson
    Paulding
    Spalding

    by Louise — May 12, 2016

  44. Louise,
    Here in Gwinnett County where I live the exemption states that your income after all deductions cannot exceed 25K. This would generally be income other than retirement income like pensions, SS and IRA withdrawals.

    by Jim C — May 13, 2016

  45. Jim C,
    Some really good advantages to living in GA!

    I would be interested in hearing what it is like where you live. Have you adapted to the hot humid summers there?

    by Louise — May 13, 2016

  46. Louise,
    The first couple of summers the heat and humidity were difficult to tolerate but you adjust over time. Currently the weather has been perfect here. Low humidity, 50’s at night and highs in the lower 80’s and extremely blue skies.

    by Jim C — May 14, 2016

  47. Jim C,
    We started to get nice weather early April then it went back to chilly weather, including rain, cloudy skies for weeks on end. It’s mid May and so far no real spring weather here. It is typical for it to go from chilly to too hot. No time to acclimate! Today is going to be beautiful then it is going to get cold again for a week! You weather sounds nice, at least for the time being!

    by Louise — May 14, 2016

  48. I’m very interested in Athens, GA. My nephew lives in Hoschton, Ga about 1/2 hour away. I like the idea of Athens because of the OLLI program at U of GA. I’ve been there once and will be going again next month. Any thoughts, opinions, whatever on Athens would be greatly appreciated.

    by Stacey — May 14, 2016

  49. This question came in from Carol. Here is the question and our answer:

    Q: Am retiring soon and am interested in AL and FL. Any suggestions?

    A: That is a lot of territory to cover, but both have lots of good retirement places to choose from.

    Start with our AL and FL State Guides and Directories. Use the navigation tabs at top right to get there.
    http://www.topretirements.com/state/
    http://www.topretirements.com/active_adult_communities/Alabama.html
    http://www.topretirements.com/active_adult_communities/Florida.html

    Check those out and then identify some candidates and then go exploring! You really have to see these places for yourself – then you will know a lot more!

    by Admin — May 16, 2016

  50. Seattle? No way! I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and I can’t wait to retire someplace smaller. Traffic is awful and getting worse every year. Housing prices are high, as is the cost of medical care. Better to head for the other places on the list that are in the Northwest–Port Townsend is lovely, as is anywhere in the San Juans, especially Whidbey Island, which has a vibrant arts community (north island is conservative and north island is liberal).

    by Lea Galanter — May 25, 2016

  51. Sarasota must pay for these lists ever since they were named the meanest city for their treatment of homeless people. (Which can be seen daily on Main Street begging.) Traffic is unbearable. Nice list

    by Mark — June 2, 2016

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