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Most Under-Rated Places to Retire

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Picking towns for “best places to retire” lists can get to be a lot like selecting prom dates – the bright lights overshadow the deserving candidates who don’t get asked to the big party. All too often the result is best places to retire myopia – too many lists that share the same old towns and cities – Asheville, Athens, Austin, Beaufort, etc. Don’t miss Part 2 of this series: “Beyond Asheville: More Under-rated Places to Retire“, or Part 3: 5 More Under-Appreciated Places to Retire.

This week we set out to identify 20 best retirement towns that aren’t on that many lists. We looked for towns that we know are terrific, but don’t seem to have the press that their more famous brethren do. Some will be familiar and some will not. Our apologies to all of the other great places to retire whose lights are still hiding under the basket; please give us your nominations in the Comments section below.

Bisbee, Arizona. Bisbee is an historic mining town 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.

Flagstaff, Arizona. At an altitude of 6910 feet the climate is dry and much cooler in the summer than anywhere else in Arizona. Cecil B. DeMille tried but failed to make Flagstaff into an earlier version of Hollywood because of its great scenery, which includes the Grand Canyon and the San Francisco Peaks .

Eureka, California. Eureka’s northern isolation means that it missed much of the post-war redevelopment. As result Eureka is filled with examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture and historic districts. It’s been likened to a west coast Williamsburg, Virginia.

Jackson, California. Jackson is a small town (4,000 people) in the historic gold mining country of California. Jackson is nestled at the 1200 foot level in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Amador County.

Klamath Falls, Oregon. Klamath Falls is a beautiful town for retirement in south central Oregon, east of Medford and Ashland. Nearby are 2 very large and beautiful lakes: Upper Klamath Lake is the largest natural lake in the Pacific Northwest, and Crater Lake.

Maryville, Tennessee. Maryville is blessed with Maryville College, a private liberal arts college of about 850 whose campus is in the center of town. Its 400 acre campus has several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and also has trails and paths for walking and running.

Yakima, Washington. Located in the Yakima Valley midway between Walla Walla and Seattle, this area is one of the best apple growing regions in the world.

Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville is famous for its NASA Marshall Space Flight Center , the Redstone Arsenal, and as a high-tech center. It is a popular destination for retirees from all over the country, based on availability of desirable housing, beautiful parks, and a vibrant cultural infrastructure.

New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven, long downtrodden, is having a resurgence with young adults and retirees. The downtown is packed with restaurants, Yale students, and top-notch theater and music.

Merritt Island, Florida. In Florida the competition for best place to retire is pretty stiff. Melbourne has the beaches and nature, it just doesn’t toot its horn as much.

Warner Robins, Georgia. Warner Robins is a growing town of 61,000 about 15 miles south of Macon, Georgia. Robins Air Force Base, one of the largest employers in the State of Georgia, helps make this a more diversified and cosmopolitan town than others of its size in Georgia.

Valdosta, Georgia. A college town, Valdosta has everything from Valdosta State University to the revitalized downtown venues for dining, shopping and cultural activities.

Columbus Indiana. Columbus has the distinction of being one of America’s top cities for architecture; in fact it is a showcase of modern architecture. Six buildings are designated as National Historic Landmarks. There are 60 other distinguished buildings from the world’s best architects.

St. Francisville, Louisiana. St. Francisville, Louisiana is one of the prettiest and most charming small towns along the Gulf Coast. It is a quaint town on the Mississippi and very popular with both tourists and people in retirement.

Brunswick, Maine. Brunswick is a beautiful small town near the southern coast of Maine. It is home to the elite Bowdoin College as well as the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. There are many homes and places on the list of historic places thanks to Brunswick’s early history and its prosperous sea captains.

Salisbury, Maryland. Salisbury is an interesting town and seaport on the Wicomico River on the Delmarva Peninsula. Its population was about 28,000 in 2008.

Plymouth, Massachusetts. Like the original Pilgrims, active adults are choosing to move to Plymouth. These modern day 55+ pilgrims come for its location on the ocean and quieter lifestyle. There are many waterfront homes in the area as well as charming old homes within the town. Outside of the town there are a large number of active adult communities.

Red Wing, Minnesota. Red Wing had an early heyday as a stop for steamboats on the river as well as for its rich farm land. Blessed with a beautiful downtown, it also has an impressive economic base with several recognizable manufacturers.

Vicksburg, Mississippi. It has old southern charm with squares, tree-lined streets, riverfront casinos, and the Vicksburg National Military Park. The park commemorates General U.S. Grant’s successful siege of Vicksburg in 1863, one of the Civil War’s most decisive battle.

Bartlesville, Oklahoma. One of the world’s top Mozart Festivals, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, an Arts Center, a stunning Community Center, plus 2 college campuses – these are just some of the surprising treasures in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Comments or suggestions for your favorite under-appreciated best place to retire? Use the Comments section below.

For further reference
Beyond Asheville: More Under-rated Places to Retire
Part 3: 5 More Under-Appreciated Places to Retire.
100 Most Popular Places to Retire – 2013

Posted by Admin on January 11th, 2010


  1. […] For further reference: 20 Most Under-Rated Places to Retire […]

    by » Topretirements Announces 25 Best Places to Retire List for 2008 Topretirements — January 13, 2010

  2. Princess Anne Maryland is a quaint historic town with two nearby universities, the U of Maryland Eastern Shore and Salisbury University. 30 minutes to Ocean City and the pristine beaches of Assateague (with the wild horses). 3 hours from Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Williamsburg. Two hours from Annapolis, Wilmington, Cape May and Virginia Beach. Active historic groups, slow pace, no traffic, plenty of shopping etc in nearby Salisbury. Beautiful historic homes going for very low prices. Becoming the place to retire for urbane folks from the big city areas.

    by Edwardian — March 29, 2010

  3. […] 3. The Best Under-Rated Places to Retire After awhile all of the different “Best places to retire” lists start to look the same. The tragedy of that is that there are plenty of relatively undiscovered towns and cities that offer a great retirement. But they don’t get a fair shake because they aren’t on the popular lists. Here is our article on undiscovered places to retire, which included the likes of Bisbee, Arizona and Maryville, Tennessee. Our inclusion of New Haven, CT stirred up a ruckus among some visitors, but after you read its review we hope you will see why we stand by the choice. Most Under-Rated Places to Retire […]

    by » The Best of the Best Places to Retire Topretirements — May 18, 2010

  4. in reference to Warner Robines AFB, GA, how is it one of Florida’s largest state employers when it’s located in Georgia and nowhere even near the border of Florida? sounds like the writer wasn’t paying attention on this one. 😎

    by Joe Kid — July 14, 2010

  5. Good catch, Joe Kid. Don’t know what we were thinking there, but it wasn’t right. Corrected now. Thanks

    by Admin — July 14, 2010

  6. […] weighting. A good place to start is with these lists: 100 Best Places to Retire Best College Towns Most Under-Rated Places to Retire Best Small Towns for Retirement Best Cities for Retirement Making Cities Friendlier Places for […]

    by Best Places to Retire for Livability | Topretirements — July 20, 2010

  7. Milford-Lewes Delaware area right on the Southern Coastal Beaches of Delaware. Quaint towns with upscale dining, wonderful shopping, and of course the beautiful beaches of Cape Henlopen, Lewes and Rehoboth. True Coastal living for those who love harbors and beaches, Boardwalks and nature. So glad we retired here as we still are enjoying the vast amount of things to do from the Chesapeake to the beaches on beautiful DelMarVa! Mild temps, hot summers and LOW TAXES:cool:

    by Coastal Lady — February 3, 2011

  8. I started hearing about Bisbee AZ through word of mouth a couple of years ago. I researched it when it started making the “Best” lists. I stopped when I got to a Google site that proclaimed it had one of the best Gay Pride parades in the country. That site has since been pulled. The town is attractive but one had best be prepared to live in a place where there is a large heterophobic population

    by Just Bob — February 11, 2011

  9. You missed The Roanoke Valley with Smith Mountain Lake!
    Cost of doing business 15% lower than national averages (source)
    – Cost of living 5% lower than national average
    – Ranked in Top 15 Most Affordable Places for Doing Business (source )
    – Virginia’s most diverse economy (source )
    – Within a day’s drive of 2/3 of US population
    – More than 600 miles of trails and 22 miles of Greenways
    – Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s largest Lake with 500 miles of shoreline
    – 120 miles of the Appalachian Trail winds through the Roanoke Region
    – Carvins Cove Nature Reserve is the 2nd largest municipal park in the US
    – Mountain bike trails ranked in TOP 5 (Resort Sports Network TV)
    Need I say more? I have more…btw, I sell real estate too!:wink:

    by REG — September 20, 2011

  10. Please tell me more about Roanoke Virginia- cost of housing, taxes, things to do, medical

    by Maret Sisas — September 21, 2011

  11. What kinds of things are there to do in the Lewes-Delaware area. We are looking for an active area during the winter also.

    by Maret Sisas — September 21, 2011

  12. Maret,
    I don’t know what part of the country you now live in, But I moved to the Roanoke area from TX 4 years ago. Haven’t regreted a moment (except the good friends we made there of course).
    Life in this country-urban area is pretty splendid. I know there’s lots of activities down toward Smith Mtn Lake, but I chose the lower cost area of beautiful mountains and valleys just to the north and west of the city.
    Roanoke (you can google all types of info) is a small to medium size city with amenities befitting the retired/senior population: good theater, art, sports, well-rated hospitals and staff, even a new med school. A car is a must unless you are city-centric, but costs of housing, insurance, food etc., all fall to the low side of things.
    Did I mention it has the beautiful lush forested mountains within a short drive/walk?

    by Carey Mebach — September 22, 2011

  13. I’m from Ga. but I love Columbus Indiana. Thanks for mentioning it.

    by Steven Wynn — October 3, 2011

  14. Oh you forgot Green Valley, AZ. Small community (25,000) with very cheap HOA ($30 monthly) and higher elevation in the mountains near Tucson so no drastic heat like Phoenix, a lot of greenery, inexpensive cost of living, tons of things to do and NO humidity. Like being in a dry sauna all summer. It sure was a hidden treasure when we stumbled on it; been to Arizona for many years and was so taken in by this hidden gem.

    by jimmy — August 28, 2013

  15. I am heterosexual; nonetheless I was treated wonderfully well when I spent time in Bisbee, which is a very beautiful small town filled with very welcoming and lovely people, not all of whom are gay. I cannot think why anyone would remove Bisbee from their lists simply because it has a gay pride parade, unless someone is homophobic. Then, it is true, there is a fair share of gay people in Bisbee. Of course, there is a fair share of gay people just about everywhere.

    by Ginger — August 28, 2013

  16. Where we live now gets so hot in the summer that we would like to move somewhere else. However, how does one handle the situations when ill and someone may have to speak for you? As long as we have each other, it is alright. It’s when there is just one of us. It is the one situation that keeps us moving to an area where do not have family. By the way, I love Virginia.

    by Phyllis — August 28, 2013

  17. […] further reading: Most Under-rated Places to Retire Beyond Asheville: More Under-Rated Places to […]

    by » Will Your Stereotypes Keep You from Discovering Your Best Place to Retire? Topretirements — February 17, 2014

  18. I live in West Virginia and before you “put a label on me”, let me say a few things:

    West Virginia is a separate state, it is NOT part of Virginia and I am always shocked at the number of people who don’t know this.

    We have VERY low property tax. I have a newer 4000 sq ft home, all brick on 2 acres and pay $670. per year. This is going up to $1000. next year with state adjustments.

    My water bill is $16./month and gas/electric are very reasonable too. We don’t lock our doors every time we leave the house (unless we’re going on vacation) and being a good neighbor is just a way of life here.

    Our park system is rated extremely high, with a 2700 acre city park and a 1200 acre city park that are all self sufficient. No taxes for this and they are gorgeous with all amenities. There are larger parks in the nearby area too. Look up Oglebay Resort. Live several miles from it and we, as well as our children, played tennis there daily growing up as well as learning to ski there.

    On the days we need gasoline, we buy our gasoline in the state that has the best price, WV, Ohio or Pa. The same for food and clothing. We are 60 miles from Pittsburgh and 40 miles from one of Pittsburgh’s top malls. We attend concerts, plays, and other events in all 3 states since so our choices are numerous.

    It isn’t perfect though, the weather is cold in the Winter and this year was the worst in a long time. Spring is short and damp. Just throwing this out there for anyone who is interested.

    Hospital ranked one of the top 100 safest hospitals in the country and a leading cardiac center and it is beautiful.

    by Michael — February 18, 2014

  19. Thank you for the information Michael. West Virginia is a state that receives way too much negative stereotyping.

    by Bubbajog — February 19, 2014

  20. Michael – Isn’t West Virginia one of the states that taxes Social Security? I think that’s one of the primary reasons it doesn’t receive as much attention as other states for possible retirement.

    by Sharon — February 19, 2014

  21. Sharon
    You’re right it does tax SS income and at some point this may make us want to relocate. We are 10 min. from the Pennsylvania border and 3 minutes from the Ohio border, and this makes the area very convenient, but SS taxation is not desirable for anyone. Forgot to mention, we are also 3 minutes from our mall, Macy’s is our anchor store, 5 min. from the Highlands shopping plaza with Cabella’s (if you’re an outdoors man/woman
    and 20 minutes from the Tanger Outlets.

    by Michael — February 19, 2014

  22. You’re right WV does receive a lot of stereotyping. We don’t have a southern accent because we are in the Northern Panhandle of the state and when we travel people are always surprised that we were born and raised here, among other comments. Our education system is excellent in the Northern Panhandle and my children both attended superb large universities, in Pa on academic scholarships. So, there it is if you are so inclined to look into WV.

    by Bubbajog — February 19, 2014

  23. Thank you Michael for sharing about West Virginia. I don’t know much about the panhandle, but I’ve been to Beckley and Charleston several times on business and like the state a lot. I agree the state gets a lot of undeserved negative publicity. Just thought I’d comment on taxes. I live in the Chicago metropolitan area where taxes are quite high. You’re property taxes are going from $670 to $1000? I pay $8000 and don’t have two acres and a 4000 sq. foot home. I have a 33 x 100 foot lot and not much of a house on it. Illinois does not tax SS and pensions, though that could change with our state’s poor financial situation. That’s the price we pay for the “privilege” of living in the Chicago Metro area. I just find that taxes are all relative. What one man finds excessive another finds reasonably low. I might not want to move to a state that taxes SS & pensions, but would have to weigh other taxes and livability factors.

    by Leonard — February 19, 2014

  24. Anybody knows about retiring in Henderson, Nevada? Thank you!

    by Jaime — February 20, 2014

  25. HI to All and Michael.
    Thanks for the info about West Virginia. I sounds great me, I would like to know what town or city you live in or near, if you care to share. I am not prying but do love all he photos and beautiful scenery of West Virginia. Is your panhandle the NE little ‘jut out’ of the State that is near the Maryland border. We get an Air Force Retirement Pension, and SS so this could be the answer for us. We live in Upstate NY and love it, but it can get expensive, so if we can find a suitable nearby state, that would be great.
    Thanks for sharing any and all information about WVA that you have. I am quite tired of the winter’s but they may be better than upstate NY~ How about Tornadoes?

    Thanks again, Stay warm everyone!

    Elizabeth in NY~

    by Elizabeth — February 21, 2014

  26. I live in Wheeling, WV. It is the Northern Panhandle by Pittsburgh. The panhandle that is near Maryland and DC is the Eastern Panhandle. Many people from DC have 2nd homes there. The Greenbriar ( a 5 star resort)is a gorgeous resort in WV, where Presidents have stayed and has an underground bunker from WWII where the government was to relocate during war times. Our Winters are definitely more mild than upstate NY, I have family in Albany so I am aware of the length of Winter there. The Eastern panhandle is developing rapidly with the influx of people who work in Va, Md, and DC. Haven’t been over there for several years so I can’t give you any specifics. SS does get taxed in WV but each state’s rates are different. It’s not much here.

    by Michael — February 22, 2014

  27. […] more ideas see: Most Under-Rated Places to Retire – Part 1 Beyond Asheville – More Under-rated Places to Retire – Part 2 10 Affordable Places to […]

    by » 5 Under-Appreciated Towns for Retirement Topretirements — August 12, 2014

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