May 17, 2022 — People pick places to retire for a lot of reasons. How pretty it is, closeness to family, climate, low taxes, having a college, access to recreation or the wilderness, etc. But another really excellent reason is finding one that offers the amenities that match your lifestyle desires. In this article we will explore 11 great places to retire with particularly outstanding amenities. Our apologies in advance to any town we might have overlooked or under-rated, we know there are many additional contenders that should have been included. Please provide your suggestions in the Comments section below!
10 Great Towns for Amenities
Here in no particular order is our list of 10 retirement towns that offer exceptional amenities to their residents. We have tried to provide diversity to the list in terms of geography, size, type of amenity, and whether we have highlighted them before. Our biggest problem – we had too many towns to mention!
Hilton Head, South Carolina. This great town on the South Carolina coast could easily win an “overall” amenity award. It has a 2019 overall Beach and Recreation plan that addresses almost every amenity that a retiree could want. There are great public beaches, parks, mini-parks, the Island Recreation Center with things like community pool and pickleball, sports arena, sports parks, community parks, public docks and launching ramps, and neighborhood parks. Not to mention all of the many golf courses in the area, many of which are in communities that have their own list of impressive amenities.
Pickleball capital – Naples, Florida. With its 64 pickleball courts, the East Naples Community Park puts pickleball on the map! The facility is home to national competitions and is busy all day long with players who come from far away to feast on this growing sport. Of course Naples is no slouch in offering other amenities from community theatre to its unbelievable white sandy beaches. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Recreation Area is one of the most popular parks in southwest Florida. The Naples Players, the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonic Center of Naples, and the Sugden Theater are just some of the cultural attractions here.
Amenities – Cary, North Carolina . (This review was orginally provided as a comment by Artie – thanks!) Cary, often jokingly referred to as standing for Containment Area for Relocated Yankees, is located in the middle of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill Triangle. Cary has a great system of hospitals as well as an abundance of universities and colleges plus Broadway caliber theater. We have some great shopping in all directions and an ever-expanding list of new restaurants and dining experiences. This area has also been referred to as “Trees, Tees and PhD’s.” The reason for this becomes apparent when one lives here or if you are just visiting. We have great recreational amenities in terms of parks, bike and hiking trails and lakes. Living in the center of the “Triangle,” we are about 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Each of those places has its own distinctive character, attractions and appeal.
Parks – Albuquerque, New Mexico. This city in the Sandia Mountains maintains nearly 300 parks. That was enough to place it #3 on a Wallethub survey of the best towns for parks – just behind New York City and New Orleans. There is even a program to help local neighborhoods sponsor small scale events in public parks. Balloon Fiesta Park hosts many events including a very famous international balloon festival.
All Around Amenities. Henderson, Nevada is another town with sensational parks and recreational facilities – it has 54 neighborhood and community parks, 11 aquatic facilities, and seven recreation centers (including a 50+ rec center). The Whitney Ranch Recreation Center looks like another amazing facility.
Arts and the Outdoors. It would be hard not to include a city that bills itself as “A Great City for the Arts and the Outdoors”, Eugene, Oregon. The birthplace of the Nike company, you might expect the outdoor amenities to be good here. Eugene’s miles of bike paths, running trails, and kayak runs through its unusually large park system are the most extensive in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. Bicycling Magazine named Eugene the 5th most bike friendly city in America – many people use its extensive bike trails as their major mode of transportation. Some of Eugene’s parks include Skinner Butte Park, Alton Baker Park, Hendricks Park (with its Rhododendron Garden). The Oregon Bach Festival is a major international festival and just one of the many cultural events in the city. Photo of Hult Center for the Performing Arts, courtesy Cacophony and CC-by SA
Public Transit in a small city – Morgantown, West Virginia. The Mountain Line Transport Authority provides public transportation in Morgantown and the surrounding area as well as bus service for West Virginia University students. There are connections to Pittsburgh and other local towns as well. Morgantown, in addition to WVU, has many attractions including beautiful Cheat Lake.
Golf. When it comes to golf, Tennessee has several contenders, including 2 in opposite ends of the state, Kingsport and Crossville. Kingsport has at least 5 courses in the city, plus at least 17 more within 18 miles. Crossville claims it has 10 major reasons to be Tennessee’s golf capital, all of them well designed and maintained golf courses for players of all abilities. This past year over half-a-million rounds of golf were played in the Crossville area. Outside of Tennessee there are several other towns that could lay claim to Golf Capital USA; Myrtle Beach (SC), and Palm Springs (CA).
A Small City with a Top Hospital. When it comes to having great hospitals and medical resources almost every large city has ample resources. But in smaller cities and towns it can become a challenge to get quality care and have access to top specialists. In this department Billings, Montana is a standout. In 2012 the non-profit Billings Clinic was awarded #1 best hospital out of 1,459 reviewed by Consumer Reports – a pretty significant honor for a town of just over 100,000. Billings has other hospitals as well, plus many other amenities as well, including miles and miles of bicycle and jogging trails. The Alberta Blair Theatre and Babcock Theaters have over 2,100 combined seats in these performing arts theaters. In addition there are museums and parks, a restored historic downtown, plus the campus of Montana State University Billings.
Asheville, NC – Pedestrian Downtown. Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile, 30-station scavenger hunt that gives visitors a glimpse into the city’s past. Biltmore Park Town Square is a high-quality new urbanist development that could be described as an “anti-mall”. Although the development sits at the edge of Asheville in what could be considered a suburban location, it successfully combines retail space, restaurants, offices, a hotel, apartments, townhomes, and condos in a compact, walkable setting.
Best Small Town Library Town – Independence, Kansas. In 2009 the the Independence Public Library was running out of money and afraid it would have to close its doors. But in just 2 years it was been reborn. It has won awards, garnered grants and increased tax millage, and built programs and services that are “packing ’em in”. In 2012 it was named the Best Small Library in America, an award co-sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Library Journal. There are so many other towns made great by their libraries too, like La Jolla (CA), Camden, (ME), and Portland (TX).
We know we have just scratched the surface when it comes to naming towns that have outstanding amenities – there are many others not named here from all regions of the country. Chatham (MA) on Cape Code is a just one example of a small town that has a walkable downtown, interesting shops and restaurants, a great library, and tremendous public beaches. Our main point – before you decide on a town where you are going to retire – check out the amenities using the city reviews in our State Directories. This is your retirement we are talking about – don’t settle for a town that hasn’t invested in facilities that improve your quality of life!
Comments: Do you know of a town or small city that should be recognized for the quality of its amenities? Or a place that should be avoided for what they don’t offer? Please let your fellow members know by posting in the Comments section below.