Showcase Listing

Cresswind_Charlotte

Welcome to Cresswind Charlotte!  This nature-rich refuge of inviting streetscapes, manicured landscaping and miles of walking trails...

Image
Showcase Listing

Penn_National_Community

Named one of the "50 Best Master-Planned Retirement Communities in the US" by Where to Retire Magazine!Located just 20 miles from histori...

Image
Showcase Listing

Valencia_Cay_at_Riverland

Valencia Cay at Riverland brings the best of GL Homes’ famous Valencia 55+ lifestyle to Port St. Lucie on Florida’s East Coast. Homeowner...

Image
Showcase Listing

Fearrington_Village

Located near one of America's top college towns - Chapel Hill, NC - Fearrington Village is a planned community of nearly 2000 people, cra...

Image
Showcase Listing

Bon_Ayre

Bon Ayre is a 55+ active adult, manufactured home land lease community located in Smyrna, Delaware, a town which was recently ranked 31st...

Image
Showcase Listing

Millville_By_The_Sea

Just four miles from Bethany Beach, Millville by the Sea strikes the kind of balance you might spend your whole life looking for, a new-h...

Image

10 Best of the Best Places to Retire – 2019

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

January 16, 2018 — Late in 2018 we published a series of Best Places to Retire lists for four U.S. regions. They were based on popularity – the 20 towns and cities in each region that had the most online visits at Topretirements. To kick off the new year we are picking the “2019 best of the best” from those 80 – the 10 retirement towns that we think are the best places to retire. While the original 80 made it because of popularity, these 10 represent our subjective best places selections. Some of the factors we weighed were cultural and recreational opportunities, climate, expense, taxes, the quality of the downtowns, and beauty. Obviously, your personal criteria might make for a different list. (Note that we did not include active adult communities on this list, which meant that places like The Villages did not get included).

Here goes:

1. 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. Because it is in the mountainous part of the state it tends to have 4 seasons. The surrounding area has other towns popular with retirees, along with a huge number of 55+ and active adult communities.

Sarasota
Sarasota on Gulf of Mexico

2. Sarasota, FL. Some consider this thriving city midway down the Gulf Coast to be the cultural capital of Florida, after Miami. Sarasota has a great downtown with many interesting neighborhoods. An impressive array of cultural facilities is available in Sarasota. Barrier islands like Siesta offer great beaches and developments where retirees can put their feet up.

Downtown Tucson

3. 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. To see 70 and more reader comments and an inside look on Tucson retirement, see “Why I Retired to Tucson“.

4. 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. It consistently ranks as the #1 or #2 most popular retirement town on Topretirements.com.

5. 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. The area around it, including Kiawah Island, is very popular with tourists and retirees alike.

St. George has an interesting downtown

6. St. George, UT. Saint George has spectacular red rock bluffs overlooking the town, a mild climate in winter, and amazing recreational opportunities.

7. 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. The area has had a wonderful resurgence in the past 10 years, with the city becoming much more attractive and livable. Prices have gone up but it is still relatively affordable. Gulfport is a funky little town that is part of St. Pete. (Note: After rereading what we wrote about this town in the 1/16 newsletter, we decided to include St. Pete on our top 10 list – it just has too much going for it to be left off!)e

8. 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.

9. Portland (ME)  Maine’s largest city is an ideal retirement community – in fact it is often mentioned as one of America’s most livable small cities. It combines New England history (founded in 1632) with a vital downtown centered on the Old Port District, pristine beaches, and a friendly, small town feel. Portland has many attractions for active adults, and is bursting with good restaurants and interesting stores. In fact, Bon Appetite thinks Portland is the Restaurant City of the Year. It is certainly cold in Portland, but for people who want to be snowbirds its summers are ideal.

10. Pittsburgh (PA)  Pittsburgh consistently makes the “Best Places to Live” lists, and attracts a community of retirees who want to reside in a livable city with many colleges and cultural opportunities. 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.

More Best Places to Retire lists

20 Best Places to Retire in the Southeast
20 Best Places in the Northeast
20 Best Places in the Southwest
20 Best Places in the West

What do you think? Please use the Comments section below to share your opinion about the best places to retire. Do you live or are you considering a town that should have made the list? What in your opinion are the best criteria for selecting a place to retire?

Posted by Admin on January 15th, 2019

27 Comments »

  1. It is hard for me to believe that The Villages, FL is not on this list. There is no place on this earth with more activities than The Villages. No matter your interest you will find it in The Villages. There are the most golf holes in the world (more than twice as many as second place), 80+ swimming pools, 185 pickleball courts (the most in the country), about 35 recreation centers, and over 3000 clubs and activities.

    by Bart — January 16, 2019

  2. Why anyone would ever want to retire to Portland Maine is beyond me. Lived there for 4 years. It’s winter 8 months of the year and if you’re lucky, you get one week of summer. Downtown Portland is nice, but not something you would want to visit on a weekly basis. It’s just plain very cold!

    by Barry — January 16, 2019

  3. Re The Villages.. To each his own. I visited friends there and it would be the last place I would ever want to live for exactly the reasons that Bart stated. As far as the friends were concerned the husband loved it and his wife hated it. After living in Florida for 46 years, I am leaving to become a “halfback” and heading for So. Carolina. Much better weather and much less crowds during snowbird season 6 months of the year.

    by Diane — January 16, 2019

  4. Central Florida and the Villages is too hot most of the year. We chose NE Florida, specifically Palm Coast. If you buy a beachfront home, you always get a cool ocean breeze, much lower chance of a hurricane than the Carolinas, and the beaches are empty of people. Numerous country clubs, lots of golf, just an “old Florida” feeling.

    by Dave M. — January 17, 2019

  5. This is so depressing. I’ve lived in #10 Pittsburgh (south hills) for my entire life, and can’t tolerate the gloom, snow, or pollution anymore. If you need clean air and lots of sunshine, this isn’t the place. We were rated the 4th gloomiest city in America, right up there with a Portland, Seattle and Buffalo. Just yesterday with the wind coming from the SE, the stench from the Clairton Works was overwhelming, and we’re 13 miles away, usually upwind. Luckily most Pittsburgers have lost their sense of smell by retirement age so they don’t notice. Fracking has only exacerbated the air and water pollution. I could start yacking about our warring medical community of two giants holding the rest of us hostage as they battle it out for a monopoly, but enough. Yes, I expect blowback from the “no place is perfect” crowd, but now that we’re retired, family is dead and we’re and free to leave, I’ll check out #1- 9 instead.

    by Daryl — January 18, 2019

  6. I find articles like these puzzling. There should be a better way to find out how to choose a dream retirement place than where other people are looking.

    by Robin Gronsky — January 18, 2019

  7. Ashville is number one? I like visiting Ashville, but there are no adult (over 55) communities even close. And If you’re an outsider forget making friends with the locals. Lots of people make look at Ashville and visit the Biltmore (over rated) but I don’t think many over 55 people move there.

    by Jim Raney — January 18, 2019

  8. Wow! Pittsburgh and Portland in the same list with those others! Someone does not share my definition of desirable. To each their own! Once again quoting Jimmy Buffet, “I wanna go where it’s WARM!”

    by RichPB — January 18, 2019

  9. I laughed out loud when Pittsburgh was on the list. Although I have never been a resident of that city, I did spend 20 years of my career working there, from a few days to weeks at a time. The city itself has changed for the good during the past 30 years. The weather is gloomy a great deal of the time when it’s not snowing. Traffic, like most cities, is a nightmare but it’s much worse in Pittsburgh because of the 3 rivers and all the bridges. If you want any amount of sunshine, Pittsburgh is NOT the place. All the urban development can’t change the weather.

    by Blues traveler — January 18, 2019

  10. Well, I live in Green Valley, near Tucson, and agree that both are great places. Only thing to watch in green Valley is what happens in the next board election. There is a group that wants progress at all cost and would hike dues each year. Hopefully the ones who want to maintain it as the wonderful community it has been will prevail. But this is something that one needs to investigate for any move.

    Other than that this is a great place with much to see and do, almost no crime, and beauty all around you.

    by Pat Reynolds — January 19, 2019

  11. The Villages is very homogeneous in terms of its residents. There are exceptions, of course, but, having visited it on several occasions, it seems like a conservative Stepford Wives for seniors. And though Orlando and Tampa are 60-90 minutes away, I prefer my culture and truly major medical facilities to be considerably closer than that. But, to each his or her own.

    by Clyde — January 19, 2019

  12. Just want to give a shout out for Portland, MAINE. We moved to, just outside, Portland a year ago (from the southeast) and we LOVE it! Hot weather was killing us and, BTW, 2018 summer was HOT in Maine. Snow? Bring it on! The towns keep the roads and parking lots clear. There is so much to do here we haven’t had time to settle in or get bored. If anyone wants more info – my e-mail is: Myquest55@aol.com.

    by HEF — January 19, 2019

  13. I love reading these lists and the comments that follow. Just goes to show that there is not one perfect place to retire where everyone would be happy…..again, to each his own, and you can learn a lot from the follow up comments/opinions. I myself find it interesting that FL and SC are the two most spots of interest in surveys. I have lived on both coasts of Florida over 46 years coming from a town in Westchester County, NY. And have missed the change of seasons, the winding roads, the hills, mountains, waterfalls etc. all that time. Florida is flat, hot and humid 11 months of the year and the lovely little beach town on the Atlantic thatI have lived in for 43 years got discovered by too many people, developers have moved in replacing the citrus groves with cookie cutter mansions and beach condos. Forget about going out to dinner 6 months out of the year unless you want to wait over an hour at least to be seated once the snowbirds hit town. Hurricanes have taken the toll with my homes too many times and insurance rates go up yearly. So, I am heading for the hills! At the tender age of 72 I am heading to a small town in mid state SC that I first read about on this site as a great place to retire. Visited twice, checked it out, love the location, very affordable. Can take quick short day trips to the beautiful mountains in SC and NC,get my fill of leaf peeping in the Fall, and if I ever wanted to see another beach again, a quick short trip in the other direction to SC shore. I can deal with 3 months of hot humid summers as opposed to 11 and winters are very mild. Anyone want to buy a house in FL? LOL ?

    by Diane — January 19, 2019

  14. Diane, would you mind sharing the name of the little town in mid-South Carolina that you are moving to.
    My husband and I live in New England and would like to relocate. Not interested in Florida but having difficulty finding a place in the Carolinas. Thanks for your post it was very helpful.

    by Jane 66 — January 20, 2019

  15. Very interesting list and totally enjoy reading the comments too! So far, the vacations we have enjoyed the best were either in NE or PNW – as in ME, WA, and OR. Visiting these coastal states provided many beautiful scenic experiences from hiking in local parks to wonderful eateries. The extreme humidity / heat of the southern states during summer months does not appeal to us. Likewise, desert landscape in AZ may not work long term either. My guess is we will may end up in a state not far from the coast with four seasons – just not NJ anymore!

    by JoannL — January 20, 2019

  16. Diane,would you want to share the town you are moving to? Are there major hospitals and good medical care nearby? I would like to move out of Florida for the same reasons but have found it much more cost effective to stay here especially when I am so close to the services I need. Enjoy your new home!

    by Virginia — January 20, 2019

  17. Virginia, Aiken SC does have a regional medical facility……Aiken is located just across the Savannah River from Augusta GA and less than an hours drive from the SC state capital, Columbia, and airport. Very nice downtown area, stores, very reasonable home prices……also winter home to many NE thoroughbred horse lovers, and weekend races. Rolling green fields, cotton fields, a definite change of scenery and climate.
    Diane

    by Diane — January 20, 2019

  18. We moved these comments about Pittsburgh from a from a different blog:

    Oh, boy this list is puzzling! Pittsburgh??? I wouldn’t want to spend more than a weekend there. Wow! I have never in my life heard of anyone dreaming about retiring to Pittsburgh! Very strange!
    by Maimi — January 19, 2019

    My hub & I considered the Pittsburgh area but got a bit spooked by comments about traffic. We first retired to Greenville SC (which I liked), then to Summerville SC to be closer to the ocean and to Charleston. Surprise! Traffic is so bad here that we are considering going back to Greenville. Things move very slowly here and “the powers that be” have finally started discussing the traffic & roads situation (it’s SC after all). I also don’t care for being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with limited choices for shopping. Everyone is looking for something different as far as weather, culture, shopping, privacy, etc. and that’s ok. I really agree with what many have said about renting – we did that but apparently it wasn’t close enough to where we are now as far as highway access. Oh well!

    by Fionna — January 20, 2019

    by Jane at Topretirements — January 20, 2019

  19. Diane and Virginia – we loved Aiken – great downtown, fbeautiful area but the air/pollution is bad for respiratory problems. Not sure what causes it but it had a very bad rating.

    by Dian — January 21, 2019

  20. Diane and Dian Thanks for the information about Aiken. It sounds nice and no place is perfect. I’ll need to do more research on it and see where it falls on my “must have” list.

    by Virginia — January 21, 2019

  21. Dian………did you experience poor air quality when you were in Aiken? The only complaint I have heard is in regard to the occasional prescribed control burns in Hitchcock Woods to control underbrush. Other than that the air quality index is about par with US averages and when I visited was fine……

    by Diane — January 21, 2019

  22. Diane – Here’s the info from BestPlaces.net

    Health in Zip 29801 (Aiken, SC)
    Health is ranked on a scale of 1 (worst) to 100 (best).

    Aiken (zip 29801) air quality is 54. (The US average is 58.)
    This is based on new measures of hazardous air pollutants from the EPA, called the National Air Toxics Assessment. This analysis models respiratory illness and cancer risk down to the zip code level, providing better detail and insight than the previous analysis based solely on results from air monitoring stations.

    by Dian — January 22, 2019

  23. In defense of Pittsburgh, I loved my 30 or so years there. It had great, friendly people along with good public transportation. There are two excellent medical systems with hospitals everywhere, including specialty hospitals. Medical care seems to be enhanced by having highly regarded medical, dental and nursing schools in the city. The Pittsburgh area has 2 award winning daily newspapers, all of the usual stores & movie theatres, sports (Steelers, Pirates & Penquins) with relatively affordable tickets, and multiple universities (including Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Robert Morris University, LaRoche University, a huge community college with several campuses, and others). Most of the colleges offer senior programs. The airport was a former US Air hub and has lots of parking. There are multiple state-of-the art movie theatres, a symphony, a casino with free indoor parking, Kennywood Amusement Park, a theatre district that gets Broadway shows & top performers, ballet, museums, a great zoo, science center, large public libraries, and other entertainment offerings. The city and the suburbs offer many free senior programs (including free senior transportation), have good community centers, free concerts, festivals, etc., and there are two large outlet malls within driving distance of the city. There’s no problem finding reasonable and reliable service people like handymen, cleaning services, plow guys, landscapers etc. The malls have walking programs for seniors, sponsored by the health care systems. Pensions and 401k withdrawals as well as Social Security are exempt from the state income tax. Sales tax doesn’t apply to clothing, medicine and most foods, and there is no personal property tax on cars or boats. Pittsburgh is an easy drive for visits to other cities like Columbus, Cleveland, Charleston WV, or even Buffalo/Toronto and Niagra Falls. Yes, there are also negatives. Real estate taxes are very high to support all those amenities. When sites talk about very low housing prices, they are talking about more undesirable neighborhoods or fixer uppers. Finding updated, one-level senior housing (garages tend to be built under homes) is not easy, it’s a Seller’s market and prices are climbing. The weather can be bitterly cold in the winter, even though Pittsburgh may not be subject to hurricanes or tornadoes. The hilly terrain on 3 sides of the downtown (and getting through the tunnels out of the city on two sides) can make for challenging winter driving, although the natives are very used to handling “slippy” roads. There are a lot of older, narrow roads and countless bridges over the three rivers. Natives tend to identify themselves by whether they live on the north, south, west or east of the city because the rivers and hills have created natural barriers. Most Pittsburgh suburbs are low-crime with great public schools. In recent years, a few small 55+ communities have been constructed to accommodate the older population, but they don’t offer the amenities of the large Sun Cities and similar communities of FL, AZ and the Carolinas.

    I spent a few years in the Carolinas (Charlotte area) for work, and found the cost of living was less there primarily due to the real estate tax difference. My annual home & auto insurance and utility costs were similar, and food expenses in SC/NC were slightly higher. I adjusted to the hot summers and shorter winters quickly, and definitely preferred the Carolinas weather. IMO, I thought the quality of medical care was better in Pittsburgh. I considered retiring back to Pittsburgh, but ended up moving elsewhere to be near family. Pittsburgh will always feel like “home” to our family, and I find myself missing many of its wonderful amenities. I also liked that Pittsburgh has a very down-to-earth, comfortable feeling. Want to wear sweat pants to the grocery? No problem. That lady next to you in the produce section may be a multi-millionaire, wearing her own sweat pants. Getting your car worked on? The mechanic will profusely apologize if the cost is high, and offer to try to figure out ways of cutting the bill. Need a ride to a doctor? Neighbors will volunteer to drive, or you can call a senior service for a free ride. Looking for a nursing home? Easy to find a good one near your home. Have a yen for an Italian rum cake, French macaroon or unsmoked, fresh kielbasa? Ethic stores can be found that carry anything your heart desires. Sigh. Great community.

    by Kate — January 22, 2019

  24. One more note about Pittsburgh. When I returned for visits from the Carolinas, Pittsburgh did look kind of drab and beat up compared to all of the new buildings and housing in the Charlotte area. Houses didn’t look as fancy or as cared for. Lots of potholes from the weather lol. A lot of it is due to the age of the cities. Some of it is due to Pittsburgh’s working class history even though the steel mills are gone now. Pittsburgh and its suburbs is very down-to-earth.. As an example, I even encountered Big Ben shopping in our Walmart once. That can be very relaxing, especially when you can afford to head to warmer climates during part of the winter.

    by Kate — January 23, 2019

  25. Your last line says it all, Kate. A lot of us are willing to trade Big Ben and all three rivers full of kielbasa for more sunshine. It all depends on what you need most to feel happy and healthy.

    by Daryl — January 23, 2019

  26. Portland Maine? They are having a refugee problem in Portland Maine. The WSJ recently ran a story about the problems there. Add the lousy weather to the mix and one would think it would be on a list of places you wouldn’t want to retire.

    by Sal — January 30, 2019

  27. We moved from Venice, Fl to Camden, Tn. Everyone says; WHY? The snowbirds come in at the most beautiful time of the year. You can’t enjoy the weather because you will get run over by the 4 or more to 1 increase in population. Med costs are usually higher, due to all of the older people needing more of it. Oh yes, I’m over 70 and look for the best med I can find; and afford. Paris, Tn is only a few miles from us; first class Dr.s and hospital, if needed, Nashville is very close, with top med/hosp & Drs. I’m a motorcyclist and love the beautiful roads and places to go are all over the place! We have all 4 seasons; sometimes a little colder than I like, but doesn’t last long. Homes are very reasonable, taxes are do-able for retirees. My wife and I love it.

    by L. Brann — January 30, 2019

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment