History lovers will find Natchitoches (NACK-uh-tush), Louisiana to be an interesting retirement community. Located on the Cane River Lake, this charming southern town of 18,500 was the picturesque setting for the movie Steel Magnolias, starring Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine. An older movie set here is The Horse Soldiers with William Holden and the Duke, John Wayne. The town was founded in 1714, and is proud to be the oldest permanent settlement within the Louisiana Purchase. Originally a French trading post, wealthy southern planters established cotton plantations with gorgeous mansions along the slow moving river. Their legacy has resulted in a Historic District that goes on for 33 blocks, and which is now a popular tourist destination. Most of the town is quite prosperous, although there are some poorer areas. Living expenses tend to be well below average.
The town offers unusually vivid old-world charm on brick streets with wrought iron decorated buildings, all surrounded by live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Much of the architecture goes back to the mid-1800’s, mixing Queen Anne, Victorian, and Creole styles. Shreveport, 67 miles away, is the closest large city. For a list of profiles on over 800 cities and towns go to reviews of the best retirement communities.