Our Members Speak: A Blue Ridge Mountains Retirement

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

November 22, 2015 — Over the years we have heard from many of our Members who were considering retirement in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We know there are many more who are tempted by the amazing scenery, mild 4 season climate, and outstanding recreational opportunities in this area. So it seems like this might be an ideal time to put together a compilation of comments that we have received from people who have either lived in the area, or explored it for possible retirement. We look forward to hearing from other folks who have an interest or experience in retiring to this area – please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

All about the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a chain of mountains running northeast from Georgia to
southern Pennsylvania. They run parallel but east of the Appalachians. The Wikipedia article on the Blue Ridge Mountains is an interesting read. There you will find facts about the chain like these:
– Its Mt. Mitchell is the tallest mountain in the eastern U.S. at 6,684′
– It has 125 peaks over 5,000′
– The “Blue” comes from its trees, which release isoprene into the atmosphere causing a blue haze
– It has two major national parks: the Shenandoah National Park in the northern section, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the southern section.
– The Blue Ridge also contains the Blue Ridge Parkway, a famous long scenic highway.

People who retire to the Blue Ridge Mountains have the choice of living in one of many states: Georgia, Tennessee, both Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland – and even some more. The mountain altitudes provide a much different climate than the flatter regions of these states. It is colder in winter with a much better chance of snow, and cooler in summer too. The mountains and town there offer a different retirement lifestyle than the typical sunbelt retirement area. Although there are few sizable cities like Asheville and Knoxville, many folks choose to live in smaller towns that tend to be closer to the mountains. Transportation can be difficult with smaller and trickier roads. But because the area is so popular for retirement, there are many housing choices: active adult communities, 55+ communities, and all age planned developments that end up attracting many boomer age residents.

Some of the top Blue Ridge retirement towns
Here are some popular retirement towns we have reviewed at Topretirements.com
Asheville, NC. The perennial #1 most popular retirement spot at Topretirements.com
Charlottesville, VA – Former home of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia
Knoxville, TN – A university town to the west of the main Blue Ridge chain
Blue Ridge, GA. It is at the very top of the state on the border near Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The town has about 1200 residents.
Clemson, SC. Another college town in a great area.
Murphy, NC This little town broke into our Top 100 list in 2015 at the #66 position

Mayberry Police Cruiser

Mt. Airy, NC. TV fans of “Mayberry” will find that Mt. Airy was the model for that idyllic small TV town.
Dahlonega, GA. This charming former gold mining town is hard by the Appalachian Trail.

These towns are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to towns in or near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Use our State Directories to find more.

What our Members say
We are so grateful for the many Comments our Members have made over the years about retirement in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their observations will give you a good flavor for what it is like living in many communities in the area. Here are some of their comments, edited down to be more readable. We have divided up the comments by area – starting with comments that pertain to a wide area of the region.

Blue Ridge in general
Carol: After visiting friends in NC, and driving through north GA several times, I fell in love with the scenery, the climate, and the style of homes up there. I am looking at northeast GA, possibly Blue Ridge, Ellijay, Dahlonega, Toccoa, etc…lots of little mountain style towns up there. There are medical facilities that accept Medicare patients in the towns of Blue Ridge and Ellijay at least. I have not investigated Blairsville, it is way up in the northeast corner of GA…but it too, is not far from Chattanooga or Atlanta.

Brevard, NC
John H: As lifetime CA residents, we retired to NC a couple of years ago. We live in Western North Carolina about half way between Asheville, NC and Greenville, SC (about 45 minutes to an hour each way). We live in Brevard, NC in a community called Connestee Falls. What a wonderful place at about 3000 ft. elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I can’t say enough positive things about all aspects of living here. I love the culture, people are so friendly and we have made so many friends. We love the incredible beauty of the area and the many places that we can hike. So many things to do including fishing, golf and many events to develop relationships with other people. Brevard is a wonderful small town with unlimited things to do so many free events, particularly related to music. There is a wonderful new library and lots of charitable and volunteer opportunities. Brevard meets most of our needs for everyday shopping with all other things available by driving to Asheville, Hendersonville or Greenville, S.C (all less than an hour away by car). We like using the Greenville Airport and also the Asheville Airport for trips. I can’t imagine leaving this area since it fulfills all of our needs and wants for this final happy and active phase of life. One more thing that is refreshing………….God is still alive in the South. Christianity and prayer are looked at as ‘normal’ unlike the restraint in admission or discussion we experienced in CA. We highly recommend Brevard, NC as the ‘Best Place to Retire’!

Blue Ridge Mountains

Asheville, NC
Sonja: Give me where we live, Asheville, NC! Lived the first half of my life in WI – no thanks to those long winters! Climate here is perfect, people friendly, great hospital system, and gorgeous surroundings in the Blue Ridge Mts. Our kids grew up here and stayed, so the most important thing is, our family is nearby!

Cherie: Bicycling is a big part of the lifestyle in Asheville, NC. Many of the city streets have a bike lane and motorists are very conscientious about being aware of bikers and their safety. The city has several yearly events that involve biking such as the Bikes and Brews tour where you can local bicycle between microbreweries and if you have “oversampled” the goods, there is a bike transport enabled bus to provide a designated driver! And for the real biking enthusiast, there’s always the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Waynesville, NC
Ella: I loved the main street area of Waynesville, it is so pretty and appealing with interesting shops, galleries, fairly low-priced restaurants, and the close proximity of medical and fitness centers. I do have a few concerns. It seemed that to do any hiking we’d have to drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway first, and then get onto a hiking trail from there. To much to do! We love walking and hiking and need something closer with more than one or two trails available.

Flat Rock appears too warm in the summer, at least as per Sperlings Best Places webite. We did visit Brevard. Whereas we didn’t like the town as much as Waynesville, i loved the green, foresty areas.

Mt. Airy, NC
Peter L: Mt Airy is a charming and dynamic community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which protect it from severe weather. Its rolling topography combined with low density development, lots of trees and a love for landscaping is a treat to the eyes. It has a walkable downtown filled with interesting stores and two museums. It has a first class medical center type hospital and a very wide variety of specialists and general practitioners. It offers diversified cultural opportunities. A branch of the nearby Surry Community College is located in Mt. Airy. It has an outstanding city government that provides first class services. The Parks and Recreation Department has a very comprehensive recreation program year around, delivered through two large parks, two smaller parks, two (soon to be three) fitness greenways adjacent to streams and a comprehensive fitness and recreation center that includes two olympic sized pools, one indoor and one outdoor. It is the town that Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show was patterned after. It is filled with friendly and caring citizens.

Jasper, GA
spiderwort: My husband and I are in our mid 70’s. We live on a mountaintop in Jasper, GA. We absolutely love it here….the weather is great….we do have some snow in the winter and sometimes we are snowed in but I would guess no more than 10-11 days a year and that is because we are on a mountaintop. The people that live here are wonderful and mostly retirees. We check on one another and there are clubs and classes of all kinds in our little town. There are many waterfalls, hiking trails nearby and we are within 15 min of Amicalola Falls….the largest falls east of the Mississippi! The beauty, wildlife and breathtaking views are unsurpassed! If you prefer gated communities, we have those, too, including Big Canoe, Bent Tree and Georgian Highlands. We are only an hour and a half from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport. Blue Ridge Lake and Lake Lanier are within 45 min away. A beautiful place to live!

Hospital – It’s Piedmont Mountainside Medical Center. This is a fairly new hospital and we have had very good care there and they are quick to transfer you to “Big Piedmont” if needed. The medical care in the community is good. Jasper is not a tourist town as is Ellijay and Blue Ridge. Big Canoe is about half way between Jasper and Dawsonville….there is a grocery store, bakery, a few restaurants, hardware store, etc. nearby but otherwise you are about 20 min from either town. We are not bothered by mosquitos or any bugs for that matter…at least up here on the mountaintop. We do have lots of wildlife including black bears. There are lots of volunteer opportunities here….Habitat for Humanity; CASA; child mentors; Good Samaritan Medical; etc, etc. We don’t have a crime problem here either. If you like the woods, nature, waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife, etc., you would love it here.

Dahlonega, GA
Diane S: While in college in the N. GA mountains (foothills of the Blue Ridge – Dahlonega) I fell I love with the mountains, and a cadet. We were embraced by the community and the years there were some of the happiest in my life.
Georgia is a retirement friendly state – and you don’t need to live in the nether regions of the mountains – say ‘Blue Ridge, etc.’ you will find almost anything you need or want… but medical is a bit of a risk the further you go into the mountains. I don’t know you want to live a secluded life or one in an active 55+ community, but there are plenty of those around, most fairly expensive in the mountains. We are looking at E. Tennessee around Sevierville because of the close proximity to UT Medical Center but we…have some ‘odd’ non-lethal medical problems that make finding a doctor difficult, particularly the specialties I need.
We have looked at Georgia, S.C. and Tennessee and have settled on the latter – and although I would LOVE to live in Dahlonega again (or the near area). Depending on your situation I think you would be happy anywhere in the Blue Ridge or Smokies.

Lake Arrowhead, GA
Ella: I’ve been planning to visit Big Canoe in Marble Hill/Jasper, and had not heard of Lake Arrowhead until (Robert’s) post. Big Canoe seems very expensive, so it’s nice to learn it’s not the only show in town. How do you feel about Waleska? Being so close to Atlanta, does it get overrun with visitors, seeking cooler terrain, in the summer ? How hilly is it there? I guess you’re outside the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Blairsville looks appealing as it is not subject to tornadoes and has good medical facilities. I checked Big Canoe and a tornado did run thru in 2011.

Blue Ridge, GA
Steve: We live very near Blue Ridge in Ellijay, GA and you are right – it is a great community with a lot of nice cabins near water, long range views, etc. It is near North Carolina, not South Carolina. It is also pretty near Atlanta so you have reasonable access to Atlanta for Sports, theater, shopping, etc. Blue Ridge has an active community theater as well. We like the area for hiking (lots of waterfalls nearby), kayaking, great trout fishing, and the great community we live in at Coosawattee River Resort. There is quite a bit of wildlife the area is absolutely beautiful. Lots to do for active retirees.

Lynchburg, VA
KLSopher: I live one mile outside of Lynchburg VA (pop 77,000) in Forest VA. I absolutely love this green, lush area and the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular! They have public bus transportation and taxis should you need one. Hiking opportunities: there is a website called Meetups (Lynchburg) that has a hiking club. Liberty Univ (1 of 5 colleges here) “owns” this town. Most new construction (my observation) is for apts. for college students. Reception here has been kind, people give you “face time” but it pretty much ends there. Very difficult area to break into. Other people that have moved here echo the same feelings. Heavy family and church – mainstay of this area. Can’t tell you how many people asked me what church I go to. It has shopping opportunities the likes of Super WalMart, Target, PetsMart, Ross, Kohl’s, Belks, etc.) Cost of living is reasonable. Don’t know too much about the arts but understand that Liberty puts on plays/shows – that you’d need to check out. Except for lacking in the type of housing I want and the fact I can’t seem to break into this area – I’d stay but it’s not in the cards.

Smith Mountain Lake, VA
Robert L: I would like to make a plug for Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A clear, beautiful lake offering a full complement of aquatic pursuits, and surrounded by a full gamut of housing possibilities. The Lake is within an hour’s driving distance of both Lynchburg and Roanoke, and has become a popular retirement location for folks from both up north and further south.

Charlottesville, VA
Everette: My wife and I are seriously considering retiring to Charlottesville, VA, relatively close to our children in the Washington, D.C. area. Charlottesville has the four seasons without extremes, excellent medical and educational facilities at the University of Virginia, history, and the extraordinary beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While not one of the lowest tax states, Virginia has reasonable taxes.

Greenville, SC
Marsha: Planning on the Greenville, South Carolina area (Upcountry) foothills of the Blue Ridge Mts. We’ve been there and fell in love with the ares. Upbeat, and lots to do. Healthcare is also an issue.

Bottom Line
We hope that this background on the Blue Ridge Mountains and the little snapshots of various towns near them gave you some flavor for what a retirement might be like there. There is of course nothing better than a tour of the area to understand it better, and find out if it might be to your liking. Many folks take the opportunity of driving through on their way to or from a snowbird winter to explore pieces of the region. You can get a head start on the areas you might like by looking in our State Directories.

Comments? Please let us know in the Comments section about your thoughts and experiences about retiring near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Have you lived there, toured the area. What do you think about the lifestyle, the pros and cons, etc. Hearing from people who know the area will be so helpful to many of our Members – thanks!




Posted by Admin on November 21st, 2015

46 Comments »

  1. I love the Ozark Mountains, but I am so glad to learn about those who love sister Blue Ridge Mountains. Thank you for sharing about your wonderful mountain range.

    by Elaine C. — November 22, 2015

  2. Seriously considering a place near Knoxville called Tellico Village. Any comments? We loved that area while on vacation.

    by Debbie Musson — November 25, 2015

  3. We have spent several trips driving through the Blue Ridge montains area. After looking at both active adult communities and communities with “Active” downtowns, we prefer the latter.
    We took a tour of Fairfield Village and Tellico Lakes in Tennessee. They were both very nice areas, yet somewhat remote from a larger town like Knoxville.
    Two years ago, We stayed a couple days in the Hendersonville area and liked it alot. Plenty of restaurants and shopping in the downtown area that has been revitalized.
    Yesterday, on our way to children’s house for the holiday, we drove through Waynesville, after hearing about it from another post. While we did not stop, we drove throught the downtown and were impressed with the vibrant air about it. Plenty of stores and restaurants. I believe I also saw two microbreweries on the main street.

    More investigating needed!!

    by Bill — November 26, 2015

  4. While I appreciate each of the commentaries provided, I wish this site would create a format to be filled out which might organize and identify more specifically some of the thoughts provided. Sometimes a town is mentioned, but not the state it is in. When referring to medical facilities, is it a care center or a hospital and how big — specialties, emergencies, surgeries? Public transportation? Distance to airports with major airlines? Shopping — Walmart or high end? Housing — be specific! Your reasonable might be way out of my price range! I personally do not like gated, planned, restrictive housing settings. So those capable of noting the availability of “affordable” independent housing in safe neighborhoods would be an important factor. Yes — I know there is the search program on this site, but it too does not have a consistent measure of information provided plus personal comments provide more info relating to a location’s personality. Don’t get discouraged or give up — just keep improving on the format please. Barb

    by Barb T — November 26, 2015

  5. Yes, Barb, i can see how that would be a problem. Perhaps it may be best to view former posts presented a second time without all the details in an ‘if i were interested in this, i’d be familiar with it’ context. For example, i’m not interested in Florida; so when i see posts about FL i don’t need to read them (although i often do!) If you read something that piques your curiosity, you can then research it here or on any search engine. Does this help? (Maybe not.)

    by ella — November 27, 2015

  6. We are considering retirement in Eastern TN, and looked at length at Telico Lake. It is an outstanding development! Along with the general comments about the area (four seasons of great weather, mountains nearby, etc.), there are an abundance of activities and ‘clubs’ for residents. It is perfect for golfers and boaters! While you can find housing options there from the low $100,000’s up, you probably should count on $200,000 or so to start being “comfortable”. We found the distance to the airport (45 mins) and Knoxville (close to an hour) a little long. So if the on-site activity options do not suit you, you may feel isolated.
    If the activities and clubs of Telico Lake are not important to you, consider Townsend TN. Mountain View Reserve is a very nice gated community there, at almost ‘reasonable’ prices! 🙂

    by James G — November 28, 2015

  7. I happened to find Brevard, NC on the map while investigating the Asheville area. I love waterfalls and apparently this area is known for them? Is Brevard close enough to Asheville to be a reasonable alternate and still be able to attend activities in Asheville? Is it a less expensive alternate? How does it compare overall? Housing available: looking for condo, land for a ‘tiny house’; not nec. a single family home (for just myself). Also considering a community living situation sharing a large home with other singles. Thanks for any info.

    by Anne — November 28, 2015

  8. James G, Although quite warm in the summer, i am attracted to this area in TN based on it’s close proximity to the GSMP; however i get the feeling the houses at Mountain View Reserve are very close together. I’m looking for some space. Any comments? Thanks!

    by ella — November 29, 2015

  9. Anne….Brevard, Hendersonville and Asheville form a triangle. Hendersonville is about 30 minutes from Asheville, Brevard is about 45 minutes away and an easy drive. It is the land of waterfalls and is very beautiful, being right at the Pisgah National Forest. Hendersonville is larger and has many town homes, Brevard has less but there are some. Glad to hear you’re thinking about a tiny home…we have interest in a small home, 800-1000 sq ft. I think there’s a tiny home community in the broad Asheville area, but not positive. Brevard is less expensive and has a vibrant small downtown with shopping, restaurants and a brewery. If you like the arts, Brevard College offers a wonderful summer series. Check out land options on Realtor.com. We lived in Asheville in the 90s and are looking to go back on the other side of Asheville to Waynesville. Our son is in Black Mountain. Take a visit to Brevard to get the feel of the area. It’s a wonderful retirement location.

    by Nancy — November 29, 2015

  10. Nancy….thanks for the info. I like the idea of my own home, but don’t want the attendant home expenses of outdoor maintenance, etc. I don’t like the idea of HOA’s: paying expensive monthly fees, for what?! and lots of rules and regs. If I’m going to downsize to a townhouse, apt. or condo, the size would be about the same as a large “tiny” house, so why not go that route and get the best of all worlds perhaps? On HGTV, I saw a model I liked for it’s large-feeling, open, modern sense. (Large windows, no cramped feel) The co. was Idea Box, in Salem, OR and they ship their homes all over (don’t have any idea what THAT costs though). I’m looking to place it on a natural-setting piece of land (like I’m just camped out in nature, hopefully with wildlife wandering by): i.e. no landscaping to maintain, no neighborhood HOA, but still hope to have utilities available. Not sure I’ll find it all, esp. at a price I can afford. Still in the early stages though; as I mentioned, I’m also open to sharing a home with other singles. I will check out that tinyhome community you mentioned. Thanks again.

    by Anne — November 30, 2015

  11. We just returned from Asheville NC and I would strongly advise against that area the downtown is extremely hilly. I would say walkability rate to be a 1. Hardly any older folks. Very bohemian environment. Albeit the mountains are pretty; go visit each year. Keep in mind once you get older healthcare is needed. Hard to reach people. NOT a friendly retirement community if you are not top physically fit.

    by Tammy and ken — December 2, 2015

  12. Having lived in Asheville, I need to rely to Tammy. Asheville downtown is tourists and the off-beats. Very few natives except those going to restaurants wander around downtown. So what you see is not indicative of living there. Asheville is a mecca for retirees due to the excellent healthcare. Those who are active in outdoor activities thrive. Yes, it’s very hilly. It’s in the mountains. And it’s very friendly if you get involved. We aren’t part of the artsy crowd and found our neighbor’s, coworkers and church goers very welcoming. For those who aren’t able to manage the hills, Henderdonville and Mills River are close by, both being relatively flat. However, if hills are a problem, anywhere in the mountains of any state may not be the answer. I say give the area and surrounding area a chance if you desire mountain living.

    by Nancy — December 3, 2015

  13. I’ve been researching the coastlines, and large 55+ communities (500+ homes). I thought that large communities would have more amenities, and a greater chance of finding people with similar interests. I’m getting turned off by the population density in those communities though. It seems as if the houses are only an arms-length apart, and that few of the homes offer privacy. In some communities, it appears that “snowbirds” cause traffic and community resources to be strained for months of the year. Is anyone aware of a 55+ community in a peaceful setting, where houses are further apart and the residents get to enjoy views? (I am ok with 4 seasons). I’m looking in the $300K-$350K price range, but would be happy if I could spend less. Right now I’m looking at homes with 2,000+ sq ft. If I can’t get water views, I’d be very happy with mountain views. Tips will be appreciated.

    by Sharon — December 5, 2015

  14. I have done a tremendous amount of research on the Greenville SC area this past year,
    visited twice in march and October . the area in particular Simpsonville warmed our hearts.
    we live in staten island ny now . we also live on soc sec only . the quality and cost of life there
    I found unmatchable . we found everything there we have here Costco, Kohl’s, Walmart etc .
    we would sell our home here and purchase one there for $ 180 M if we wish to buy.
    we are 90% there . but … here is the but. my 2 daughters are giving me big pushback why
    we are going so far away… 12 hr drive or 2 hour flight. they are telling me Delaware can offer the
    same thing 2 hours away . I researched and cannot find a home in a nice area for 180 M . I calculated that between RE taxes, utilities and home ins and the diff in cost of my AARP between here and there I would add another $7000-$8000 a year to my income a year .
    so to wrap this up , I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts or advice on this and did anyone
    experience anything with SC or DE . thank you all . tormented at my age is not healthy .
    p,s, the health care in SC is excellent in case someone was wondering . thanks again .
    happy holidays .

    by john v — December 6, 2015

  15. John V, Greenville is a wonderful choice, as you have deduced; along with Charleston, it is the best city in the state. Delaware also has some nice advantages, including no sales tax, but the weather there will be closer to what you are used to in the North. Compared with Greenville, I think the towns in Delaware are a bit more provincial; decent services, yes, but fewer entertainment options. So it comes down to the family question. My own opinion, without all the details, is that your daughters are being selfish and self-centered. You worked all your life to create a comfortable retirement for yourself, and part of the definition of “comfort” is to live where you want to live. If your daughters want to see you, or when you want/need to see them, the Greenville airport is perfectly serviceable. As you say, they are two hours away in a pinch. (Our drive from CT to Pawleys Island, SC, where we very well may settle, is 14 hours; our kids, in northern VT and Vero Beach, FL, have no problem with us settling down there, and they look forward to visit.) Unless your daughters plan to make up the $8,000 difference in cost of living or rent you a place in the south for three months a year, you should tell them to get over it. They will, if their love for you is the top reason they want you to be close by (not, say, free baby sitting).

    by hotcguy — December 6, 2015

  16. John V. My advice would be to move and enjoy your retirement years living comfortably knowing your financial situation will give you more freedom. I agree with hotcguy that your daughters are being selfish. Now think about this. What if you decided to stay in SI and for employment reasons both of your daughters need to move to other states! This happens all the time with jobs. Employers move and offer jobs to some of their employees but they must relocate to other states. Then you would have missed out on living your dream and the extra money you could have used to feather your retirement nest. I was an only child so I can see how your daughters would miss you and the comfort of being able to see you every day. However, at our ages we only have a certain window of opportunity to move to other states and create a new life. Maybe you could plan a special family gathering at your new SC home and invite your daughters to come. If you can afford it, give them free airline tickets to come out to your home. You never know, they might like it so much they might consider moving to SC too! It sounds as if you have done your research, SC has everything you want and the bonus of saving up to $8k a year. Your daughters will get over it. It isn’t like you are moving to another planet! 2 hours by plane is nothing! Find a realtor, pack your bags and get out of Dodge!

    by Louise — December 7, 2015

  17. dear friends hotcguy & louise,

    thank you very much for your response to my dilemma . I very much appreciated it .
    louise you brought me to tears with your comments because I already have made that offer to
    them about the airfare tickets . and yes I did say to them what if you relocate to CA……. you
    would tell us it’s only a 5-6 hour flight . our hearts just opened when we were down in SC
    like we belong there. it’s not only the economics , it’s the quality of life. strangers say hello to you
    walking by you in the street . people here in the NE think we know it all.
    again thank you both very much for caring enough to respond .

    john v.

    by john v — December 7, 2015

  18. John V. just a couple more thoughts. In today’s world it is so easy to stay connected! We have smart phones with face time, there is skype for your computer, emails, facebook, texting…you can keep in touch with your daughters every day by using one or more of those things. Maybe when you move to SC you could make it a habit to take pictures of things you encounter like waterfalls, parks, buildings, mountains…then download them to your computer and send pictures to your daughters. You could tell them it is a hobby you have taken up but it is another way to stay connected to describe the pictures, when you took them, if there is any history connected to it. It will give you subject matter to talk about to them.Sometimes we run out of things to talk about! I used to talk to my Mom on the phone every day maybe 5 times a day and we only lived 3 miles away! I just liked hearing her voice. Unfortunately, she passed away and I can’t do that any more and I miss talking to her so much. If we weren’t on the phone we were out and about. We were very close. You could also send them little packages in the mail and send a note saying that you are thinking of them. Everyone likes packages and surprises. Could be something small like a Starbucks gift card or a box of candy or something unique you found in SC. It will be hard for them to be separated from you but you can keep connected in so many ways! Good luck and hope you make the move.

    by Louise — December 7, 2015

  19. John V.,

    I wanted so much to write about your dilemma re. moving away from your children to SC. I decided not to because, even though I ended up heartily agreeing with Louise and hotcguy, I’ve never had children so don’t feel it’s my place to give my opinion on a relationship I have no idea about.

    But I WILL say that it’s each person’s responsibility to live your life’s dream and follow your heart. When you wrote that your “hearts opened” up when you were visiting the SC area, that’s a feeling that should not just be shunted aside. This is YOUR time to live the life that fulfills you……… seize the lucky future that has found you! (and let this be an example to your kids, to follow their hearts as well……never too late to teach them a good lesson!)

    All the best to you and your wife!

    by Anne — December 7, 2015

  20. thank you so much Anne for your kind advice . best of happiness to your future .

    by john v — December 8, 2015

  21. I am also torn by the same issue, John. There is a blog just on the question of moving away from kids. Mine are also upset about the possibility that I won’t be nearby. Having gone through the trauma of trying to care for my elderly parents who were hours away when they went through health crisis after crisis (while I was holding down a job, supporting a family and caring for kids), I do understand their concern. My parents thought they would travel to see us frequently, which became unrealistic as they grew older. It becomes increasingly difficult to travel by air through those huge airports. It also becomes increasingly difficult to take long road trips when your vision and reflexes fail…not to mention crculatory issues from sitting in a car for hours. Another factor to consider is that many people report that living near kids eventually becomes less fulfilling than expected, either because their kids have full iives with less time for them than anticipated or because they end up being trapped as babysitters, dog-walkers, their kids’ “banks”, etc.

    Having said that, wherever you go doesn’t have to be permanent! You can easily retire somewhere for a decade, and then reconsider when health starts to fail or kids are clearly established in a particular location. You can give yourself the gift of a 10-year vacation in a destination that you love. (You’re also giving your children the gift of NOT having to worry about visiting a lot, etc., so that they can have freedom tor their own lives during this time.)

    Just a little different perspective, since I’ve been on both sides of the situaton. There is a time for living near kids, and a time where you can live elsewhere. The trick is to see it coming, so you don’t find yourself far from family when an emergency hits and you need them (or they need you). Yes, there’s always a catch.

    by Kate — December 8, 2015

  22. Kate,
    I thank you also for a very neutral perspective on my situation . we are 70 & 72
    and I was amused about your ” 10 year vacation ” . maybe we’ll make it to there if we keep
    taking our Centrum Silver & fish oil . Happy & Healthy Holidays to you .

    by john v — December 8, 2015

  23. Several years ago, we entertained the notion of moving to the Carolina’s or Tennesee. We have one daughter that lived near us, one daughter in Florida, and two sons in South Carolina. At that time we decided not to move as we had good friends and daughter’s family with grandkids here.
    We have been spending three months of winter in Florida, so we do get to see the rest of the family.
    Last year, daughter and SOL moved to Knoxville area for work. So now we are here with family scattered throughout the south. Why don’t we move? We still enjoy the company of friends we see every week. I have a seasonal job working at a golf course and play 3 times a week with the members of the men’s club. So basically, we would give up our current social life to move closer to family. Still struggling to determine if that is enough to keep from moving……

    by Bill — December 8, 2015

  24. thanks Bill. what towns in SC. do your sons live in . are they content .

    by john v — December 8, 2015

  25. Bill and others,
    A wise person posted here about a year ago on the value of relationships that have taken years to develop, flourish, and grow; as well as the development of a lifestyle that is meaningful and enjoyable. He stated that it could take years to re-create such a life. I tend to agree. Don’t minimize what you have now just because you’re ‘used to it.’ Think about what it’s taken to build your current life, and consider its value before you decide to make a move. I certainly don’t mean to tell you what to do, but i thought that post was valuable and i just wanted to share its basic content. Add family to that, and well …

    by ella — December 9, 2015

  26. John V, Both are in the Spartenburg area. They grew up in South Bend and got baseball scholarships to Univ of South Carolina Spartenburg. They liked it there so much they never left. They are now 40 & 37.
    To us an interesting and vibrant downtown is important to us. We stayed in Hendersonville for a couple days and really enjoyed the downtown. We also really enjoy visiting Greenville and it would be a great place to live near.

    by Bill — December 9, 2015

  27. South Carolina is a very retirement friendly state. I recently bought a condo with a beautiful marsh view on Seabrook Island a wonderful beach/golf/tennis/nature preserve. The community on the island is dedicated to keeping the island as natural as possible. The island is a melting pot of people from all over and is only 30 minutes to beautiful Charleston SC ( a great walking city) and a major international airport. I am a divorced professional woman and have found the area is warm and friendly and loaded with things to do for both singles and couples. Other wonderful waterfront communities nearby include Kiawah Island, Daniel Island, Folly Beach and Edisto Island.

    Great healthcare, shopping, wonderful arts community, all matter of waterfront activities, College of charleston offers auditing of classes. Check these places out on the internet.

    by Susan G — December 9, 2015

  28. Susan G
    thank you for your response . happy holidays .

    by john v — December 9, 2015

  29. Jumping into this a little late but I do think I have something to add. My wife is from West Jefferson NC — about 45 north of Boone. We have travelled and lived in various places all over the southern Blue Ridge area for more than 40 years (in her case, her entire life). We know from visitation ALL of the places mentioned in this article and these post and really do agree that any of these options for retirement are good options. BUT every one of these places is different and there are thousands more scattered around VA, NC, SC, GA, and AL (barely mentioned here). I have not difficulty recommending any place in the area as long as you visit first — preferably for at least weeks and at different times of the year. (Although if you are from the North, you will likely find all seasons to be wonderful in comparison.) In the early years (let’s say before 1960 — so going back quite a stretch, transportation and communication were very limited (almost non-existent in some areas) all through the Blue Ridge regions. Places developed very differently and while cultures have merged in the modern era, they all retain some of their past. You can’t judge Asheville by visiting Boone. Or Big Stone Gap by visiting Bristol. And so on… While they may be minutes or a few miles away, they can be dramatically different. Sure the old adage, “You can’t get there from here.” mostly does not apply, you would be surprised how appropriate it is in this part of our country.

    So I urge you to go, drive around. There is so much variation and wonder that it just can’t be fully absorbed. But being there is better than any description.

    For John V. Good luck to you!. I chose to retire quite early when my heart seemed to seize at the moment I accepted a new position — I immediately cancelled that acceptance and have not regretted it even once in the 13 years since. If your “hearts opened”, I suggest you should not ignore that sign. Go back and try again — listen to yourself — your family can forgive you.

    by Rich — December 10, 2015

  30. Rich ,
    thank you for many points well made . you sound very happy.
    which town stole you heart . happy holidays .

    by john v — December 10, 2015

  31. Rich, Being that you have experienced life in the area so many of us are interested in, i expect you’ll be receiving many questions. Here are a few from me. My husband and i are looking for a small town with an interesting downtown, local music (jams), local art/crafts, interesting local events, and the availability of hiking close by; and of course good medical care, etc.
    We visited Waynesville in 2014, and while we loved the downtown area, we were dismayed by how far we had to travel to hike. At this point that’s not a problem, but in 10 years it will be. Also, instead of hills, the houses seemed to be more on mountains.
    We visited several towns in SW VA, SW NC, No. GA, and NE TN in October. On this trip, i was surprised by how busy the traffic was in downtown Abingdon, VA. and Blairsville, GA. We’re looking for an interesting and attractive downtown, but not a busy one. The stores in Hendersonville’s downtown seemed like a mixture of authentic and some real junk. Also a few streets away the area seemed to rapidly degrade rapidly. Franklin, NC seemed like a blue-collar Waynesville; while Hayesville seemed a bit run down. Once in GA, Hiawasee seemed to have no downtown and Jasper seemed run-down as well. On the way back we went thru Dahlonega, GA. Very upscale, but appealing downtown area.
    I love the topography of SW VA most (less closed in than in NC, although those mountains are spectacular!), but more mountainous than No. GE. Still not sure about Galax, VA (which was one of my greatest interests as the annual Fiddler’s convention is there). It’s somewhat run down, but not too bad. I did stick my head in a few places while looking for dinner, and did find what looked like heavy-duty drinking establishments, but i could be wrong. I like that there’s Chestnut School of the Arts there. Also found an outstanding bakery on Main Street! If anyone visits, you must go in for a cup of coffee and some home baked goods. The best i’ve ever had!
    We also checked out the parks in many of those towns (still looking for hiking close by) and found some that were nice, but nothing special.
    Rich, i hope this isn’t TMI. Any suggestions? T H A N K S !

    by ella — December 11, 2015

  32. John V. Thanks for your comment. My wife and I HAVE been happy in retirement largely because of the area we live and the fact that we both always find more to do that we can possibly manage (we are generally self-starters). The area for us is most important — we decided long ago to retire here (Chatham Country NC, Chapel Hill, Research Triangle Park (RTP) cities, NC in general).

    You question is perhaps one of the most difficult you could ask. I’ll start with the places we’ve considered (and may yet move to — retirement is not over, just entering a new stage). Sort of in order, the environs of Asheville and Boone NC, Johnson City and Sevierville TN, Blacksburg VA, Greenville and Clemson SC (none are close together). These are population centers, all have colleges in or nearby, all are mountainous (or foothills) and all have many home options. Then you can throw in all the “small” town or remoter options — frankly any town mentioned above, but Little Switzerland, Penland and Bryson City NC, Big Stone Gap and Roanoke VA, and Maryville TN are unforgettable. !! How could I forget Cullowhee NC — home of Western Carolina University?!!

    ella, you sort of address the situation in this area yourself. You describe Hendersonville as “a mixture of authentic and some real junk” and I would add “new over-growth”. That is largely the character of many of the towns in this part of the world. Remember that most of this was largely dismissed as “Appalachia” only a couple of generations ago (if that long). The transportation and communication problems I mentioned originally are an omnipresent part of these communities despite the facts of modernity (which some deplore). The longer you stay, the more you will discover — it’s not bad, it’s just different. Even the “junk”. (Imagine me in 1969 as a young “cosmopolitan” son of a military man visiting my wife’s family for the first time — their milk was unpasteurized direct from the cows over the hill, the only roads in twisted for hours to get where today highways take you in minutes.)

    My suggestion would be to refine your searches to college/university towns. There are at least 100 of these in that region. You will find more of the modern amenities that you may prefer (you don’t need to live next to campus). I recommend looking specifically in the Great Valley between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains. Access to hiking is fairly quick (can be near instant), transportation and communication has always been easier through that area. For many years, it was my dream to live in these amazing “rolling hills” — the closer to the Blue Ridge the closer to trail/park access. (Shenandoah, Mt. Rogers and Great Smokies parks are all on the SE side.) Keep in mind that some of the towns you mentioned (Galax) are “ridge top” — colder, harsher winters. The Valley side of the Blue Ridge gets the brunt of winter where the eastern slopes are “milder”. If you haven’t looked in the area surrounding Brevard (sort of midway between Charlotte and Asheville NC), you might want to look there.

    So I have to repeat what ella said, TMI. Her last post shows what I mean that only by actually visiting places can you decide if the same place/town is quaint or junk. Until just a couple of years ago, my wife and I had narrowed the possible places we might permanently move on to from here were Arizona and Colorado — we had visited/travelled through both rather extensively over many years. It took only a three week stay in both AZ and in CO for us to decide that they were definitely NOT for us.

    John V. (and everyone), if it calls to your heart, vacation there for at least 3 – 4 weeks. It’s amazing the clarity that can provide.

    by Rich — December 11, 2015

  33. Rich,
    THANKS SO MUCH for showing me the kindness of your lengthy answer. One thing i realized upon writing my post that i didn’t make clear is that i want to be immersed in the mountain culture I have such respect for the music, crafts, and art of the Appalachian areas i’m interested in. I prefer a music jam than a paid concert, and a low-admission dance that i can participate in than going to the ballet. (Don’t get me wrong, i’ll watch the ballet and listen to the orchestra on PBS; just don’t want to dress up and pay the hefty fees involved!). I am so ready for the ‘different’ you describe. At least, i think i am. Your wife’s home in the late 60’s sounds like a dream-come-true to me. The junk i referred to was junk in stores masquerading as mountain culture; definitely not the lifestyle.

    I lived in the Green Mountains of Vermont for two years as a teen-ager, and i will never forget the beauty of that area. Back then Vermont was pure rural and very sparsely populated. I guess that’s what i’m looking for now but with the realization that in order to remain in the place i choose i need amenities that a teen-aged girl doesn’t even think about. Does that change any of your recommendations?

    You state that, ” For many years, it was my dream to live in these amazing rolling hills.” What’s changed? Why aren’t you planning to retire in that area of Virginia?

    Thanks so much about the information about Galax. Do i need a topographical map to know what side of the mountain experiences the milder weather? How do i know which are the Valley side of the Blue Ridge as compared to the eastern slopes? Milder sounds so good! So, are you basically suggesting Virginia between the BR and Allegheny mountains? Also, the internet data suggests VA gets about 20 inches of snow a year. Sound accurate? Not sure if i want that much snow or cold.

    We looked at Brevard our first visit, but didn’t like it as much as Waynesville. Now that we’ve looked some more, i realize that i like it better than any town on this last visit. I am concerned about all the rain, however. Or is that more internet data i should ignore?

    As for the towns you recommended, why Johnson City over Jonesborough? Aren’t Little Switzerland and Sevierville too touristy? And both the latter and Bryson City car-clogged during the warmer months when people visit the GSM Nat. Park? I had seriously considered Maryville, TN; but it gets so hot there in the summer! I hadn’t really thought about going as far west as Big Stone Gap. What is it you like about the area? Also wouldn’t it be much colder and more remote than the other areas you’ve mentioned? Last, i thought Cullowhee would be too small and also not hilly enough (?). Also, why isn’t Waynesville on your list? Roanoke VA and your other top choices may be too big for me; i’ve dreamed of living in a small town all my life. I’ve never heard of Penland, i’ll look into it; but it looks cold up there!

    Rich, you may want to answer my questions in little chunks. OR not at all! I’ve just written all this at one time because you have the experience to answer my many questions and for all i know, you many not return to this site for months! (After my posting, you probably won’t!)

    And LAST, a question i think so many of us on this website are keenly interested in. Is it more expensive to live in NC than Eastern TN, SW VA, or Northern Georgia?

    Rich, i cannot thank you enough. Even if you answer one or two of these questions, i am grateful!

    by ella — December 12, 2015

  34. ella, I’m in a rush right now, but I do want to give some basics. I am NOT recommending VA. No offense to VA meant — I lived there and loved it for 10 years (3 in Gate City while I worked in Big Stone and 7 years in Bealeton while I worked in Manassas). I almost hated to leave, but the chance came to create an opening to return to NC and I did. But you hit the nail on the head — no way I put up with that colder weather (make no mistake — it is colder).

    My preference is the SE flank of the Big Valley. (Waynesville is in that area, but I have only passed thru there on I-40. I have a nephew who lives in and loves Waynesville.) To find the Great Valley, simply get on I-81 in MD and drive to Knoxville — follows the length of the Valley. And YES, you need a relief map — Google Maps/Earth is great! Sevierville is not real touristy like Gatlinburg ( which is nearby). But it does have the greatest view of the north wall of the Great Smokies ridge that exists! I’d love to enjoy that view forever.

    Check around more in the Nantahalas (that’s Murphy to Brevard including Bryson City and Cullowhee) — out of Brevard, probably more what you might like than any other region and one of my favorite areas of the world. One of the best memories I have is the view from Rocky Top (Thunderhead Mountain) south across the Nantahalasa at sunset. And east across Newfound Gap as the sun peaked through the Gap at sunrise. (But that takes some real hiking! I spent a week hiking the length of the AT through the Smokies.)

    Also look up the Penland School. (And a final btw for now — I also lived two years in Northfield VT in early high school — from there my family moved to NC and that is all my history. :<)

    by Rich — December 12, 2015

  35. ella, Feel free to contact me a richbeaudry@yahoo.com (then I can send you my real email). Rich

    by Rich — December 12, 2015

  36. Rich,

    I have visited West Jefferson and liked the area, especially the downtown area.

    What is your opinion of this area as a retirement location.

    Bill

    by Bill — December 13, 2015

  37. Rich,
    We have lived in Creston, NC for 3 1/2 years now. About 25 minutes west of West Jefferson. You can reach me at
    amackinney@aol.com for any and all questions you might have about the area.

    by Anne — December 13, 2015

  38. Bill, West Jefferson and it’s neighboring Jefferson and East Jefferson are excellent examples of what I’ve described as an older, established and rather isolated community that has seen some of the most dramatic change and invigoration from new transportation routes and new industry. It has developed a core of new restaurants and galleries heavily dependent on tourism and the Christmas tree industry all mingled into the older established base. All this doesn’t come without issues, but West Jefferson has continued to come out ahead and continues to grow. Even today new road work to the south into the mountains toward Boone and US421 promises more of the same.

    You may want to inquire of Anne (post just above) as a relative newcomer who understands the area. For me, I was married here long ago and have been adopted into a multi-generation family that has been an ever-present part of the community for almost 200 years. Jefferson is more “home” than the average army brat could ever expect to find.

    by Rich — December 13, 2015

  39. Rich, I’m interested. What didn you see in AZ and Co which convinced you not to retire there?
    Thanks,
    Jim

    by jim — December 16, 2015

  40. Jim, primarily two things about AZ and CO that we really hadn’t anticipated.

    In AZ it was primarily the constant blowing dust we found while staying in the Verde Valley. The dry winds play a part and also the lack of what we in the east consider “green”. We also had sinus issues with the dryness. Many people adjust, but it’s not for us.

    For CO, a little of the same (but it’s truly a very different place). Colorado remains one of my favorite places to be and I hope to visit as often as I can. All the mountain areas of CO are just non-stop beautiful and will always lure me back. But I found that I have a problem with altitude — over 8000 feet becomes an issue for me. Not a quick trip up and down, but staying at that elevation over time. We lived a 9600 feet and I literally had to leave a week earlier than planned. My wife adjusted, I did not. The altitude sickness (primarily breathing and fatigue) just kept getting worse. Yes, we could stay at lower elevations, but then I consider the cold and long winters to be extreme and would still miss the “green” of NC (l have little/no problem with heat and humidity). CO can consider me a permanent vacationer — just not all at once.

    So it’s all very particular to me (and my wife). You could well be different. But as I’ve always said (right after the admins of Top Retirement say it :<), if you want to consider living somewhere new — particularly somewhere quite different that you are used to and particularly as you age, you should spend some significant time there before committing. Spending a week on vacation (which we had done twice before in CO) is just that — a vacation. You can only really learn if a place is right for your by spending time there. Three weeks may not be long enough, but in our case for AZ and CO, the key aspects of our difficulties were identified during that second week with more time laying out ahead of us.

    by Rich — December 17, 2015

  41. ella, returning to your questions:

    At one point you referred to “those amazing rolling hills” as VA — funny thing is, I had TN in mind. Those hills make up all of the Great Valley but in particular the area from Roanoke down to Knoxville. So we’re both right. And as you say, it’s warmer down south. But also keep in mind that the Valley is east of the Blue Ridge and opens out into western TN. Thus it captures the weather patterns and winds from the Plains. When you read about the cold winter winds rolling in from the Plains, you need to be aware that they are rolling in to those rolling hills of the Great Valley. They moderate on the way, but the Blue Ridge is the true great barrier that blocks the worst of this weather coming out of the west. Instead we get hurricanes :<). (Actually, they are rare in the mountains, but Hugo smashed the Blue Ridge over Jefferson — fortunately, that 4000 foot ridge blocked it.)

    You asked a number of specific questions about localities. We almost made the decision to move to Johnson City just about 3 years ago. College town, good medical, great mountain heritage. But I've never been just down the road to Jonesborough! Big Stone Gap is due north (across the Great Valley) of Johnson City, it'ss next to the actual town of Appalachia, VA and over the mountain from Hazard, KY — and, yes, is colder. (You may have been thinking of Cumberland Gap at the extreme western end of VA.) Big Stone is 1 1/2 hours over the mountains to Sheila's home in Jefferson (barring a snow storm)

    Most of the places that I've identified are larger towns or small cities. But all of them also have small towns all around the peripheries that share many of the amenities like education and hospital access, but without the direct convenience of proximity. I live 10 (remote) miles from Chapel Hill, one of the great universities and medical centers of the South. But my home has been called a "God-forsaken place" because you can't get there from here. Small towns in the mountains are mostly like that — not conducive to accommodating emergencies. Is your psyche geared to accepting the "risks" inherent to living there as you become more mature?

    As for costs, I don't think that there is a huge variation in any of these areas or states. Looking at the cost of goods, housing, tax structure, etc., from an OVERALL perspective they are quite similar. It's not like comparing one of these areas to a northeastern city or state.

    One other thing you may want to look at, is the general attitudinal atmosphere of the southeastern mountains. This is after all in the heart of the "Bible Belt". While there are bastions of liberalness all over, we have a friend who was raised in Jefferson with my wife but who has now lived in LA for more than 30 years and wants to soon retire back to NC. She wrote recently that she is appalled by how conservative the state has become. She's correct, but the pendulum swings as it does everywhere.

    We've truly been around the block here. Keep in mind that though I'm familiar with the areas we've discussed and continue to travel to and through them every year, I haven't necessarily visited everywhere in many years. Jefferson, Asheville and Johnson City being the exceptions — we always go to these places. One of my near-term goals is a Blue Ridge driving tour just get re-acquainted — life happens! As you yourself implied, you have to let your own visits and observations be your guide.

    by Rich — December 17, 2015

  42. This question came in from John. Can anyone try to answer?

    I really want to move to the Smokies. In your opinion, will say $ 150,000 go further in buying a nice smallish cabin and some land in Tennessee than North Carolina?
    That is what I have been told, was wondering your opinion…

    by Admin — December 17, 2015

  43. Rich: That was an interesting note about Colorado. I have visited Colorado twice, and both times I ran into a difficulty with altitude. It’s not an option for retirement. (I’m always interested in watching the visiting football teams play in Denver, to see how the players adjust.) I really appreciated all of the info you provided in your answer to Ella. I; going to take another look at my map with your comments in mind!

    by Sharon — December 18, 2015

  44. This comment came in from Glenny and we reposted it here:

    Does anyone live in or near Blue Ridge, Ga. My husband and I are considering retiring there, they have a nice lake. I know it is a growing community and appears to be an artsy one. I like that. Any information would be appreciated!
    Thank you

    by Admin — January 26, 2016

  45. Glenny,

    I, too, am interested in Blue Ridge, GA. My husband and i planned to visit on our trip this past Oct.; however, our path unexpectedly veered us east, causing us to leave out a visit to Blue Ridge. I heard mixed reviews, and generally Blairsville was recommended over any of the towns in the area.

    I am interested in Blue Ridge because of the all the cultural events that are regularly planned. Is the town too touristy? Any comments, anyone?

    by ella — January 27, 2016

  46. Ella, my husband and I actually vacationed in Northern Georgia last year. We managed to stop in Blue Ridge for a couple of days and found it delightful. It’s small, but seems much larger than it is. The people were very welcoming as well. We plan to visit again in May 2016 and check out Blairsville and some other areas, but have a cabin outside of Blue Ridge. We also visited Dahlonega, Ga. and found it charming. In my research I found the cost of living to be higher in Dahlonega than in Blue Ridge, however, Dahlonega has a college and much seemed busier on a level other than tourism. My husband loves craft beer (he brews) and I enjoy the craft scene. I paint, crochet and am a potter. We are also considering SC, and would consider NC, but taxes there seem to be more than we can afford. I would love to check out Greenville and Clemson SC, however, crime seems to be an issue. Anyone living in the area, I would love to hear from you and see if it is a problem. I would love to hear from people living in the Dahlonega and Blue Ridge areas as well to see how they like it.
    by glenny – April 14, 2016

    by glenny — April 14, 2016

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