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.