August 14, 2018 – Although a lot of Americans contemplating retirement might not know their best town for retirement, they probably do have a pretty good idea of the region where that place might be. So this year our 2018 list of America’s best places to retire will take a different tack – we will provide a list of the 20 towns in each of the 5 major U.S. regions that attract the most attention from our Members and visitors. This is the first installment, focusing on the American Southwest, a very popular place to retire, particularly among folks who live close to or west of the Mississippi. The second installment lists the 20 Most Popular Places to Retire in the West (California to Colorado and points north).
The 20 most popular towns in the Southwest are almost all recognizable. Three of them: Green Valley, Prescott, and Flagstaff – all of them in Arizona – are among the top 10 towns on our U.S. list. And Green Valley, a sprawling area south of Tucson near the border with Mexico, is the #1 most population retirement destination at Topretirements, both in the Southwest and the U.S. Green Valley covers a vast area with all kinds of communities and developments – in fact it has 59 different homeowner associations. Retirees like its relatively low cost of living, warm winter climate, the nearby Santa Rita Mountains, and the extensive non-profit Green Valley recreation complex.
In gaining the #1 spot on our list, Green Valley was viewed over 10,000 times in the first seven months of 2018 by Topretirements.com visitors. That is over 3,000 more visits than #2 Prescott, and almost double the number of times #3 Flagstaff’s review was viewed.
Arizona Rules the Southwest
For the record, the huge area of the Southwest comprises the smallest number of states of any U.S. region: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. This semi-arid Steppe region is dry with hot summers, and contains portions of the Rockies, big deserts, and parts of the Colorado and the Rio Grande River complexes. Most of the region has low humidity.
Arizona is the overwhelming favorite state in the Southwest that Topretirements visitors want to explore: it has 14 of the top 20 positions. New Mexico has 3 (Las Cruces, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque) as does Texas (San Antonio, Austin, and Port Isabel). When we asked Topretirements Members what region of the country they are considering for retirement earlier this summer, the Southwest was the #2 choice after the Southeast.
A few surprises on the Southwest list of popular places to retire
Most of the towns making the Top Twenty list are probably familiar names. Some that are probably new to many baby boomers include: Peoria, AZ (northeast Phoenix and home to many developments), Lake Havasu, AZ (western AZ on Colorado River), Port Isabel, TX (on the Gulf of Mexico way down south), Bisbee, AZ (a funky old mining town near Mexican border), Payson, AZ (halfway between and to the East of Phoenix and Flagstaff), and Kingman, AZ (in the more undeveloped northwest corner of the State).
How we choose the winners
Topretirements.com has published lists of the most popular retirement towns annually since 2007. While most “Best Places” lists are either the subjective opinions of the authors or a ranking from various criteria, this list is different. Green Valley made the top spot on this list through a simple process. We counted how many times each city’s review was viewed at Topretirements.com during the first seven months of 2018. We view that count as a gauge of interest in that destination. For example, the Green Valley review was viewed over 10,000 times.
That was more than 10 times as often as Kingman, AZ in the #20 position. It doesn’t mean that people will actually move to any of these destinations, but it does indicate that folks are interested in learning more about them. Note that popularity is affected by other factors, such as whether or not we featured a town in one of our newsletter or Blog articles. Note that we do not include active adult communities in our compilation. See our “2016 Most Popular Active Adult/55+ Communities” for that list. To make sure you don’t miss new lists like this, sign up for our free weekly “Best Places to Retire” newsletter. See also “The Worst States for Retirement – 2018“.
Here are the Top 20 Places to Retire in the Southwest
Based on popularity at Topretirements, here are the 20 best places to retire this year:
1. 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. (visited over 10,000 times)
2. Prescott, AZ. Located at an elevation of 5400 feet in the mountains of north central Arizona, the City of Prescott (population just under 40,000 in 2011), was the original territorial capital of the Arizona Territory. It still celebrates its cowboy heritage. (viewed 7,000 times)
3. Flagstaff, AZ. Centered amidst some of the most enchanting physical landmarks in the world, the San Francisco Peaks and the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff is a top rated community for retirement.
4. Las Cruces, NM. Las Cruces has been listed as a “Best Place to Retire” by several organizations for many reasons: low cost of living, active cultural life with its major university, and unusually beautiful location. Frankly, we were a little surprised that this town, which doesn’t usually have that much word of mouth, was viewed this frequently.
5. 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“.
6. Santa Fe, NM. Santa Fe is one of the top cultural destinations in the world. Known for its art and music, the city was selected by Money Magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live”.
7. Sedona, AZ. The Red Rocks of Sedona are world famous for colors displayed by sunrises and sunsets on the red sandstone rocks. That beauty, combined with the mountains, climate, hiking and the arts have made Sedona a popular retirement community.
8. Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, is set in a unique place near the mountains, and is a vibrant college town, home to the University of New Mexico.
9. San Antonio, TX. San Antonio It is famous for its Paseo del Rio (River Walk), Tejano culture, and as home to SeaWorld and Six Flags theme parks. The Alamo (Battle of 1836) is a shrine and museum located in the heart of downtown.
10. Peoria, AZ. Peoria is a suburban town northeast of Phoenix and Glendale in Arizona. The population grew over 30% in just a few years, currently about 159,000 call Peoria home. It is one of the furthest out communities from Phoenix and is home to many active adult communities because of the availability of land. The Salt River flows through the area.
11. Lake Havasu, Arizona. Lake Havasu City is an isolated desert town in western Arizona, located on the eastern shore of the Colorado River. It is home to the historic London Bridge, which is the state’s second largest tourist attraction, after the Grand Canyon. As history has it, Lake Havasu was formed with the construction of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River in 1938.
12. Phoenix, AZ. The city of Phoenix has long been a popular retirement community for active adults 55+. Retirees come in droves because of its warm winters, ample housing opportunities, and the Arizona lifestyle.
13. Austin, TX. Austin is becoming a very popular retirement community. The University of Texas and its array of cultural and other activities is perhaps the biggest draw for Austin, along with its cosmopolitan and high-tech quirky soul.
14. Port Isabel, TX (New). This beach resort and retirement town of about 5,300 is on a barrier island in extreme southern Texas. Surrounding towns include South Padre Island, Harlingen, and Laguna Vista. Fishing is popular.
15. Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee is an historic mining town of 6,000 people in south central Arizona, almost at the Mexican border. If you are looking for an interesting, off-beat place to retire, Bisbee might be the place. An associate of ours recently visited Bisbee and reported back that he thought the town was a “sleeper”, an up and comer that could be the next hot retirement destination. Time will tell. The town is at 5,500 ft., an elevation that gives it milder temperatures than most places in Arizona.
16. Mesa, Arizona. Mesa is a fast growing southern suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Originally founded by the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), about 10% of the population is Mormon today. This college town (the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University, East and Mesa Community College) of 450,000 is located near the amazing Superstition Mountains.
17. Payson, AZ. As a mountain town, Payson embraces its rural Old West heritage as it was home to many cowboys and rodeos. Author Zane Grey visited the area often and wrote numerous books about it. Payson is still host to oldest continuous rodeo in the world, which started in 1884, but also offers art galleries, antique stores, resturants, outdoor attractions, and a casino nearby.
18. Surprise, AZ. This suburb of Phoenix is home to many large active communities, including Sun City Grand. Two major league teams have spring training here: the Royals and the Rangers.
19. Scottsdale, AZ. Perhaps the most famous suburb of Phoenix, this affluent town in the McDowell Mountains is picture perfect.
20. Kingman, AZ. Kingman, however, is located in the northwestern part of the state, close to California. This town near I 40 and Route 66 of 28,000 grew 37% between 2000 and 2008. There is a community college in town, Mohave Community College. Outdoor sports like hiking are very popular in the nearby mountains. Nearby towns lake Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Butler, Golden Valley, and Boulder City are other alternatives.
For Additional reading:
2019 Best Places to Retire
2015 Best Places to Retire List
100 Best Active Adult or 55+ Communities – 2016
Dueling Retirement States Series (Starts with Arizona vs. Florida)
10 Worst States for Retirement – 2018
What do You Think?
How do you like the idea of dividing up our list of the most popular places to retire by region? Are you considering a western retirement? Where are you thinking about retiring – do you have a preference east or west? Is it a town on this list, or someplace else? Please add your Comments and reactions about what makes for a great place to retire in the Comments section below.