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20 Most Captivating Places to Retire for 2022

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

January 12, 2022 — Every year we have fun coming up with a list of the very “Best Places to Retire“. This list is meant to highlight retirement towns that represent exceptionally great places to retire, as measured by Member and visitor interest at Topretirements. As wonderful as these towns might be, the one where you can be happy in retirement is your best place!

To develop our 2022 list we consulted our visitor logs to find out the 20 retirement towns in the U.S. whose reviews were visited the most at Topretirements. Many of the winners were predictable, they get named to the top 10 or 20 every year, but there were several other big surprises. The hope is the list will spark some ideas for you to consider in the quest for your best place to retire. Home prices in many of these towns are above the national median, reflecting their desirability, but a surprising number offer relative bargains. Although 11 states had towns in the top 20, Arizona, Florida, and Tennessee tied for the most cities on the list with 3 each. Congratulations to all these cities and towns!

20 Best of the Best Places to Retire

Popularity on this site, as measured by online visits by our Members, was the most important criteria. On that basis, here are the most captivating places to retire in all of the U.S.

1. Flagstaff, Arizona. This town in northern AZ was a repeat winner from 2021. Its review was the most visited again in 2022. The San Francisco Peaks and its cooler summers are just two of the nicer things about this town on Route 66, which once tried to rival Hollywood as the epicenter of the film world. Flagstaff has had a lot of popularity recently, and that is reflected in home prices (Zillow Home Value Index of $570,000).

Chattanooga

2. Chattanooga, TN . Chattanooga is a low-cost, interesting retirement city in a state considered very tax-friendly (no state income tax). 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. Its Zillow Home Value Index in 2022 at $236,000 compares favorably to the National Index of $320,000.

Las Cruces

3. Las Cruces, NM. Located in the southern part of the state at an elevation of 4,000 ft., Las Cruces has often been listed as a “Best Place to Retire”. With a history going back 8,000 years to the Anasazi people, today it offers lower cost of living, active cultural life with New Mexico State University, and an unusually beautiful location. The Zillow Home Value Index is a low $230,000.

Adobe style home in Santa Fe

4. Santa Fe, NM. Located at 7000 feet in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe offers a unique climate – high enough to be near some good skiing, yet southern enough to have a year-round livable climate. It offers awe-inspiring vistas of mountains, canyons, and gorges. Plus it has a world renowned art scene. On the pricey side, the Zillow Home Value Index is $509,000.

5. Charlottesville, VA.  Home to the stately and picturesque University of Virginia, founded by President Jefferson, this college town offers a tree-lined dignity and charm. Its location at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it easy to see why so many 55+ retirees are planning to retire in Charlottesville. The Home Value Index is $408,000.

6. San Juan Islands, WA. here are actually 450 islands, although only 4 of them have ferry service). Located off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia, the islands are both a tourist destination and a retirement community. The setting, the tranquility, and the scenery are world class. Not for everyone, real estate and everything else is expensive.

Prescott’s cowboy heritage

7. Prescott, AZ. Located at an elevation of 5400 feet in the mountains of north central Arizona, the City of Prescott (population just under 43,000 in 2020), was the original territorial capital of the Arizona Territory. It still celebrates its cowboy heritage. Prescott consistently gets some of the highest online views at Topretirements. The Zillow Home Value Index skyrocketed to $556,000 in 2022.

Robert Lafayette Cooper House

8. Murphy, NC. Located in the southwestern corner of NC, the vibe is relaxed and casual. The downtown is small with tree lined streets and many restored historic buildings restored. The climate is mild and the scenery is breathtaking with mountains, lakes (several large ones like Lake Hiwassee), and streams. The area is popular for second homes and retirees. The Zillow Index is an affordable $199,000.

9. Sarasota, FL. A perennial best of the best places to retire winner, Sarasota has one of Florida’s best walkable downtowns. It has an impressive array of cultural facilities along with restaurants and high-rise, luxury hotels and apartments. The philanthropic legacy of the Ringling Brothers, who used Sarasota as the winter quarters of their circus, helped to make Sarasota a cultural powerhouse. The Zillow Index at the end of 2021 of was $396,000, well above the National Index.

10. Whidbey Island, WA. Located in Puget Sound, the island is connected by a bridge to the mainland of the State of Washington. It is the largest island in the contiguous United States. The major towns in this island of 58,000 include Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Langley, Greenbank, Freeland. It is a relaxing and charming place to retire with a moderate climate.

11. Pensacola, FL. At the end of Florida’s panhandle, Pensacola is more affordable than most of the bigger towns in South Florida. There is water to be enjoyed just about everywhere, and many active communities to choose from. It is very popular with military retirees because of the many bases here. The Home Value Index is $209,000.

12. Mesquite, NV. This popular retirement destination enjoys a warm Nevada climate with several casinos and resort golf courses. The Mesquite Sports and Event Complex is a big deal which will provide additional activities. The town has a recreation complex and several parks. The Zillow Home Value Index was $363,000.

13. Lake Keowee, SC  is a very large reservoir in north-central South Carolina, just west of Greenville. It is not a town but a region. The area is sparsely populated but becoming a hot development spot for active adult/55+ communities, as well as an area for second homes. Home prices vary depending on proximity to the lake, etc.

14. Paris, TN. A small town in northwest Tennessee, it is near the vast Land Between the Lakes recreation area. The mild climate makes this an ideal place to live in retirement. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley provide ample opportunities for boating and fishing. Real estate tends to be inexpensive here; the Zillow Index was $134,000.

Downtown Asheville is cool

15. Asheville, NC Asheville is a prosperous small city of just over 92,000 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. The Zillow Home Value Index was $390,539 in late 2021.

16. Eugene, OR. A newcomer to the list this year, Eugene is a college town and home to the University of Oregon. It has the Cascade Mountain range for unlimited hiking, skiing and outdoor opportunities. And the wild and rugged Pacific coast is just an hour to the west. Home prices are above the national Index.

Beaufort

17. Beaufort, SC. The Old South lives on in the quaint seaside charm of Beaufort, Known as the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands”. Horse-drawn carriages roll along streets in the town’s charming historic district that are overhung with Spanish moss. It is not far from the coast, Hilton Head, and Charleston. There are dozens and dozens of active and 55+ communities to choose from. The Zillow Home Value Index was $289,000 in late 2021.

18. Sequim, WA. Known by pilots as the “Blue Hole” because of its frequent blue skies coming from being in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, the area is very popular with retirees. Outdoor recreation is tops here. The Zillow Home Value Index is $521,000.

19. Lake Ozark, MO. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is the largest state park in Missouri.  Small towns in the area include Lakeland, Lakeview, Lakeside, Osage Beach, Sunrise Beach, and others. There are 70,000 homes on the lake, which is popular for all kinds of water fun.

20. St. Petersburg, FL. St. Pete 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.  Now it is one of the hottest places in Florida for retirees, who come for its restaurants, downtown coastline, and Central Business District. The Zillow Home Value Index is $306,000.

What is your opinion? All 20 of these towns make for great places to retire, each for different reasons. Can you add more detail about them? Are there other towns you think should have made the list? We would love to hear your opinions in the Comments section below.

For further reading:

Posted by Admin on January 11th, 2022

21 Comments »

  1. I look forward to your lists! Fun to read about and although I wouldn’t consider Washington for retirement you have given me three great places to explore in that state and some other interesting places as well to visit. Can’t wait to get traveling again, hopefully we’ll all be able to this summer.

    by Darla — January 13, 2022

  2. Aww, not everyone embraces the horrible southern heat and humidity! Washington and Oregon was the best you could do? I feel compelled to do a little cheerleading for those places farther north (okay, and east). I’ve seen Maine and Michigan come up on some recent lists so don’t discount cooler weather too quickly. (A recent article I read, illustrated how cooler weather was actually much healthier and better for your body!) We landed in Maine, 4 years ago, and LOVE it! Another woman I know just moved to Alaska – maybe a list of “unusual” locations could be done in future.?

    by HEF — January 14, 2022

  3. HEF, how is the 0 degree weather with wind chills down to minus 20 in Southern Maine this January working out for you? It may be healthier for you, but I am staying indoors!

    by RAF — January 15, 2022

  4. RAF, I’m with you. I’m currently in Michigan and its freezing outside. With rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia I’m looking forward to warmer weather. HEF, can you share those articles? Its hard for me to believe that breathing the never changing indoor air, flavored by the constant running furnace is good for me. I would love to see the criteria the author was using. Thank you.

    by Gaz — January 15, 2022

  5. I live in Washington State, just south of Seattle, and love it. Was in Connecticut for 12 years with a job and couldn’t wait to get back here. No place is perfect but people need to pick what works for them. As the world is changing, and getting warmer, even Western Washington isn’t the way it used to be. Most of us never had AC. I finally gave in and put it in my house last year; the summers are much warmer than they used to be. Go where it makes you happy; or stay where you are. What ever floats your boat. By the way, Maine would be my second choice. Can’t stand the heat.

    Sharon

    by Sharon L Alexander — January 15, 2022

  6. Right on, Sharon! You said it well.

    Okay, it was -5 on our own thermometer this morning, with a wind chill. The radiators are heating up, the propane fire is going and the coffee it hot! Not so bad… Later, I’ll put on my boots, coat, gloves and Patriots (so sad) pom-pom hat to re-fill the bird feeders and get some sun.

    If you do a general search for “colder temps are healthier for you” DOZENS of articles come up. Besides that, we have just been able to gradually adapt. Plus, we did replace old windows this past year and it is a lot less drafty! We used to keep the inside temp set at 68 during the day and I would tell myself, if I’m cold, I’m not moving enough! (which was, and still is, pretty much true) I don’t mind bundling up and shoveling a little bit. We have a Plow Guy for the driveway, which leaves the kitchen steps and a couple of short walkways to clear and once in a while, the neighbors just do them for us. If we get ice, we just stay home!

    We installed a mini-split (heat pump?) in the living/family room and use the A/C during the unbearable summer weather, which we get more often now. Ceiling fans help circulate both heat and A/C. But we’d much rather have cooler/colder outside weather than HOT. I couldn’t grow rhubarb in TN – too hot 🙂

    by HEF — January 16, 2022

  7. Sharon: We lived in Gig Harbor for a while. Loved Western Washington.

    by Stephen — January 16, 2022

  8. I also live south of Seattle and put in a heat pump. Glad I did because we had 1 day last year at 108 degrees and the house was nice and cool.
    I grew up here and can’t imagine living any place else.

    by Beebs — January 16, 2022

  9. United Van Lines annual survey is based on people it moves into and out of all 50 states. You can’t get a more accurate picture of the popularity of all the states, although the sample size is relatively small (just the people they move). And the most popular state, based on inflow vs outflow, is…Vermont! Wind chill Saturday was 20 below. Last year’s most popular state was Idaho. It could be the pandemic or other factors, but HEF is onto something. In New England winter cold, you can always add a layer; in Florida summer heat, there is just so much you can take off.

    by Larry — January 17, 2022

  10. I’ve found Chatanooga to be not only hot, but very humid. Murphy, quite warm as well during the warmer times of the year. (I visited in mid-May.) Just a heads up for all you people who, like me, don’t do well with excessive heat.

    by ella — January 17, 2022

  11. I so much like reading these blogs. We grew up in northern Michigan and moved to Chicago fresh out of high school lived in Chicago for many years and moved out to near suburb for the last 17 years. We’re both 64 and looking to retire soon but we’re tired of the cold and the snow. Florida has always been on our list but we think it gets too hot and humid for most of the time. We have been to Asheville fell in love with it however it does seem like it’s getting a lot more crowded as time goes on. We have looked at outlying areas near Asheville those are a possibility as well. We’ve heard some things about Greenville South Carolina and was wondering if anyone had any information on that area. We are looking for a 55+ community preferably in a manufactured home community. If anyone has any information it would be greatly appreciated. Again really like hearing from everyone and their perspective no matter how different they are.

    by John M — January 17, 2022

  12. Hi John
    If you go to the Topretirements.com home page you’ll see the drop down menu, where you’ll find State Guides and the Retirement Ranger listed there. You can look under South Carolina and then Greenville for more information.
    When on the Blog page, If you enter Greenville SC in the site search bar at the top of this page, you’ll find articles and blog topics where Greenville is mentioned.
    There are also some links listed at the bottom of this article.
    Hope this helps
    Flo

    by Moderator Flo — January 18, 2022

  13. Larry am rather surprised to hear Vermont as #1 moving into. From local news do know people moved here because of the low Covid rate & how quickly everyone rally to fight it getting vaccinated saying in placed/masked etc. The downside cost of living, no tax breaks for retirees, property taxes & lack of affordable housing. Upside if you can manage a long Vermont/New England winter, don’t mind that you may not leave your house for almost a week & say it is a heat wave when temp hits 20’s then make your bags & move where you can breath good clean fresh air (except spring when manure is being spread!). Agree with HEF Maine is a beautiful place & who doesn’t love the ocean. Saying is if you can manage a Yankee winter you come from good healthy stock!

    by VTRetiree — January 18, 2022

  14. Sharon – Like you, I can’t stand the heat. I’m in SoCal now, having moved back here after an 18 year absence, and am looking for my next landing spot because it’s just far too hot for me here now that I’m in my 70s. I lived in Redmond, WA for 5 years and was never bothered by the rain or gray skies. So – as I plan my escape from the heat, the Eastside of Lake Washington is back on my list, together with the Bay Area, where I grew up. I’m not going anywhere as long as Covid still makes it risky to get on a plane and check out homes, but I’m planning ahead. The one thing that makes it hard is that there are so few one story houses there – and even when there is a house with one story living, stairs are usually needed to get to the backyard. Fingers crossed that (a) when I’m ready to move I’ll find just the right house, and (b) prices in the area settle down a bit (a 3 bedroom condo recently sold in Bellevue for $1.3 MM after just a day or two on the market. Wow!)

    by JoannC — January 18, 2022

  15. Thanks Flo, still am interested if anyone has any advice. I find that sometimes folks will reply to posts in many different areas/blogs. Thanks again for the info

    by John Mielke — January 18, 2022

  16. JoAnne, I lived in Seattle many years but when I decided to come back it was just too expensive for me now. I am settled in Olympia, the State Capital, which is about 60 miles south of the Seattle. Still close enough to make trips if you want. I am 78 now and don’t do that much driving any more but did when I first moved here. I have now been here 11 years and love it. Where I live is close to getting to the shore if you want. If you want more info, I’d be glad to share what I know. Good luck.

    Sharon

    by Sharon L Alexander — January 18, 2022

  17. Here is an alternate lifestyle for those who want to get away from it all!

    https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/storylines-residential-cruise-ship-concept/index.html. Here is the brochure: https://www.storylines.com/our-brochure

    Editor’s comment: Check out Topretirements’ 2010 luncheon visit and tour of The World, a very high end residential ship. It was in Newport Harbor and well, very eye-opening! It is currently enroute to Honolulu.
    https://www.topretirements.com/blog/travel/retirement-on-a-cruise-ship-combines-adventure-with-convenience.html/

    by Louise — January 19, 2022

  18. All of your posts are informative and fun, Louise. My mind went instantly to the arks built to save a sliver of (rich) mankind in the science fiction (?) movie 2012. Wonder what the pandemic precautions would be since “owners are welcome to invite guests on board, and have the option to rent out their residences when they’re not using them.” Could this become a floating time-share, if so, I hope they make naughty neighbors walk the plank.

    by Daryl — January 20, 2022

  19. Here is another interesting place in no man’s land!

    Click on the video below. Very interesting place!

    https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/the-northernmost-point-of-the-contiguous-u-s-the-nw-angle/

    by Louise — January 20, 2022

  20. Spent several years in St Petersburg, loved the spring and fall, hated the summers. That’s why so many of us have two homes.

    by PJ — January 21, 2022

  21. For those of you thinking of retiring in CA, read this article. Some people are no longer California Dreamin’.

    https://nypost.com/2022/01/22/former-residents-reveal-why-we-left-california-for-good/

    by Louise — January 22, 2022

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