May 24, 2016 — Does the idea of retiring to a small town seem nice, but just a little too confining? Or do the bright city lights get you excited – until you realize the urban pace might be too big, too intense, too congested, too expensive for a retirement lifestyle? If you are torn between the two, perhaps you should consider a small city, where you can experience the best of both worlds – retirement on a smaller, more livable scale, along with plenty of excitement, restaurants, and happenings to enjoy.
To produce this article we searched for smaller cities that are perfect for retirement. We tried to avoid places that get mentioned over and over again, or that are more popular as tourist destinations than as a place to live in retirement. Our criteria were relatively simple:
– City population between 100,000 – 250,000 (our definition, and hard to measure precisely)
– A distinct city center that is bustling day and night
– Advantage given to towns located in the Sunbelt or slightly warmer climates, since most retirees have that preference
– Not prohibitively expensive
11 Great Small Cities for Retirement
Here is what we came up with, using popularity figures at Topretirements (almost all made our Top 100 List for 2016) and research from Livability.com.
1. Greenville, SC. It has a beautiful downtown where you can live in happily as a retiree. It is also home to a number of colleges and is a thriving community for the arts. #3 for livability. The city population is 62,000, but we included it here because the Metro area contains many times that number.
2. Chattanooga, TN. Chattanooga is an affordable and interesting city for retirement. It was the site of the famous critical civil war Battle of Chattanooga due to its strategic location on the Tennessee River. Called the “Scenic City”, it is home to the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga Campus. The population is 170,000.
3. Athens, GA. Athens is a lively university town that is popular with retirees as well. The University of Georgia has helped to create an unusually liberal community with a thriving artistic, musical, and intellectual scene. The population just over 100,000.
4. Knoxville, TN. Knoxville is particularly attractive because it is home to the Vols – the University of Tennessee. It is a vibrant college town with big-time sports and many cultural events. The 2011 population was 179,225.
5. Eugene, OR . Eugene enjoys a national reputation as one of the most livable cities in the country. As a retirement community it offers small town charm combined with big city sparkle. It has a thriving and eclectic arts scene along with unsurpassed natural beauty. The 2010 population was 156,000, making it Oregon’s 2nd largest city.
6. Ft. Collins, CO. Fort Collins was chosen by Money Magazine as the best small city in the U.S. It’s a popular retirement community for its low crime rates, fantastic outdoor life, and popular beer culture. The Downtown Business Association hosts a number of small and large festivals each year in the historic Downtown district, including Bohemian Night. 2014 estimated population of 156,480. Although it doesn’t get high marks for its walkability outside of the downtown, it does do well on biking.
7.Boise City, ID “The city of Trees” is a modern, prosperous, and livable city that offers many recreational activities and a great lifestyle. Livability.com put Boise’s downtown in its Top 10 for 2016. Estimated population in 2013 was 214,237.
8. Greenville, NC. According to Wikipedia, Downtown Greenville has seen a huge resurgence since the recession. The area has been renamed to Uptown Greenville and has become the arts and entertainment hub of the area. Greenville has a large number of bars and nightclubs located downtown, due in large part to the location of East Carolina U’s campus, which is immediately adjacent to downtown The population of the city is just under 100,000, but the Metro area has at least twice than many residents.
9. Gainesville, Florida. Home to the Gators of the University of Florida, Gainesville had a lively population of 127,000 in 2013. The campus is in the very center of town which makes things interesting. The UF Health Shands Hospital is here so the level of medical care is quite high.
If money is not a problem
The 9 small cities listed above all offer a reasonable cost of living. But if your budget can handle it, there are some other great small cities to consider.
Alexandria, VA (Population 140,000) has the #1 downtown in America according to Livability. It’s very old, charming, and busy, and right on a park alongside the Potomac River.
Santa Monica, CA (Population 90,000) is perched above the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles. The downtown area is superb for a well-healed retiree because you can walk or take a bus to most of your daily needs. It has the #2 best downtown.
For Additional reference:
2016 Best Places to Retire List
Best Small Towns for Livability
10 Great Walkable Towns
Great Biking Towns for Retirement
How About a New Urban Style Community
Your Best Place to Retire Might Be in a City
Most Livable Cities (many of which are in the Midwest)
What do You Think?
Please add your Comments and reactions below. We look forward your thoughts about where you are considering for retirement, as well as what small cities you thought should have made this list (or not made it!)