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Surprises Galore: Best Places to Retire in the West for 2018

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

August 28, 2018 – When it comes to the best places to retire the American West, a huge area comprising 9 states, has a lot to offer. From coastal California to the Pacific Northwest to the gorgeous mountain states, there is something for everybody. This installment of our “Best Places to Retire 2018” provides the top 20 most popular retirement towns in the U.S. West. Here is a link to the first, “The Top 20 Places to Retire in the Southwest“.

What States are in the West?
The National Geographic Society includes nine states in the American West, a huge territory. Those are Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. With the exception of the coastal Northwest, most of this region is dry with hot summers. It includes contains portions of the Rockies and other big mountain ranges like the Tetons. Most of the region has low humidity. For more information about what it is like to retire in the West see our “Dueling Retirement States” series: Dueling Retirement States: The Pacific Northwest, and
Dueling Retirement States: The Western Mountain States

Surprises ahead
The 20 most popular towns in the West contain some surprises, including a few not familiar to many. The surprising #1 most popular place to retire on our list, St. George, Utah edged out many more well known towns and cities. Obviously the word is out that the retirement there in the southwestern corner of Utah has many advantages. Viewed over 3,500 visitors viewed our review in the first seven months of 2018 by Topretirements.com visitors, it beat out somewhat unknown #2, Sequim (WA) and #3, Colorado Springs (CO). We were also pleasantly surprised by how many towns in the top 20 were not exactly household names. Our bet is that many people were not aware of St. George (UT), Sequim (WA), Mesquite (NV), Bellingham (WA), and Medford (OR) before they started thinking of a place to retire. We like that boomers are thinking of moving out of the box!

The battle of the states
It was a close race for favorite retirement state in the West. Whereas Arizona was the runaway favorite in the Southwest, here in the West there was a four way race. Although Colorado had 5 cites in the top 20, it was closely followed by Washington and Nevada (4 each), and Oregon (3).

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. St. George 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 St. George review was viewed over 3,500 times. You can debate whether “most popular” is the same as “best”; another way to say it is that these towns certainly spark the most interest.

That was about 3.5 times as often as Coeur D’Alene (ID) 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. 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 West
Based on popularity at Topretirements, here are the 20 best places to retire this year:

St. George

St. George UT downtown area

1. St. George, UT. Saint George has spectacular red rock bluffs overlooking the town, a mild climate in winter, and terrific recreational opportunities. (viewed 3,500 times)
2. Sequim, WA. Sequim is popular both with retirees and with people looking for second homes. The town has has won numerous awards as a great place to live and retire.(visited over 2,900 times)
3. Colorado Springs, CO. Colorado Springs is an extremely popular retirement community due to spectacular scenery, abundant sunshine, and conservative values. The city also offers bike trails, parks, and cultural activities. (viewed 2,800 times)
4. 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 small town ambiance.


5. Grand Junction, CO. Grand Junction, is a college town perched on the border with Utah. It has a nice downtown, and natural beauty and recreation are abundant.
6. Mesquite, NV. Mesquite is an extremely popular retirement town in southeastern Nevada, almost in Arizona and Utah. Casinos arrived here in the 1970’s. The town markets itself as a low key alternative to Las Vegas. (visited over 3,000 times)

7. Bend, OR. Bend offers great scenic beauty, skiing, mountains, golf, fishing, and more. Bend makes just about every list of “best retirement communities”.

Boise City, ID

Boise ID parks

8. Boise City, ID up from #100 “The city of Trees” is a modern, prosperous, and livable city that offers many recreational activities and a great lifestyle.

9. Palm Springs, CA (New, was on the 2015 list). We love this oasis town east of Los Angeles in the Coachella Valley. You can be playing golf in the valley and see snow on nearby mountains.
10. Las Vegas, NV Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing communities in the U.S. Legalized gambling in this desert resort city has created an enormous economy and attracted many new residents, including retirees in active adult communities. The Las Vegas strip is justly famous for its glitz and many attractions.
11. Durango, CO. Durango is one of the most interesting small towns in Colorado. It is world famous for every kind of outdoor recreation including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and golf.
12. Boulder, CO (New). Perhaps the most prestigious and expensive city in Colorado, it is home to the University of Colorado.
13. Henderson, NV. Henderson, second largest city in Nevada, is also one of America’s fastest-growing communities. the city prides itself on its master-planned residential areas, transportation projects, and outstanding recreational opportunities.

Eugene OR

Eugene, OR

14. 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.
15. San Juan Islands, WA. San Juan Islands Located off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia, are both a tourist destination and a retirement community. The setting, the tranquility, and the scenery are world class.
16. Reno, NV.”The Biggest Little City in the World”, is the 4th largest city in Nevada with a population of about 220,000. The nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains and deserts make this a great area for people who like the outdoors. As a college town it has a full supply of cultural and sporting venues.
17. Medford, OR. Located in the Rogue Valley, which tends to be drier and hotter than other regions of Oregon, Medford is famous for its fruit and wines (Harry and David are headquartered here). The city has had an excellent development plan to attract new residents. Downtown Medford is a vital place and features a restored Ginger Rogers Craterian Theatre, many restored buildings, an urban plaza, and an active library.

Bellingham, WA

18. Bellingham, WA. If there was ever a town with momentum it is Bellingham Washington. Kiplinger’s called Bellingham one of the top retirement communities in the U.S. It boasts unbelievable natural scenery from Puget Sound on the west and Mount Baker to the east.
19. Spokane, WA. Spokane is the 2nd largest city in Washington, and one of the largest in the Northwest. It is located on Washington’s eastern border with Idaho, and is the cultural, social, and economic hub of this area.
20. Coeur D’Alene, ID. This beautiful town of 46,000 on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene attracts retirees and tourists. Coeur d’Alene is located near two major ski resorts, Silver Mountain Resort and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. Barbara Walters once called it a “Slice of heaven”.

For Additional reading:
2016 Best Places to Retire
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.



Posted by Admin on August 27th, 2018

31 Comments »

  1. A town might be viewed 3500 times and rejected 3500 times. We considered St. George after a trip out west, but decided no after more research.

    by Daryl — August 28, 2018

  2. I cannot believe there is no mention of AZ. Your own site often refers to AZ as a great place. Scottsdale is rated highly in many polls and reviews as a great place to live. Ca, WA and even NV have recently been rated as the most expensive places to move to by Wall Strret 24. National Geographic needs a geography lesson. How can AZ not been considered a Western State? Colorado is east of AZ. So is Wyoming and a good portion of Montana.

    Editor’s Note: See our definition of the West (Arizona is in the Southwest). See our list of the Top 20 Towns in the Southwest (you are right, AZ got 14 of the Top 20 spots)

    by Thomas Konieczny — August 28, 2018

  3. For most, this web site is what its all about, research. Comments from all of us help promote the narrative. The West is beautiful, if that’s what you want. “Poison for one is a feast to another.”

    by Alan E — August 28, 2018

  4. I moved to Redmond (18 miles N of Bend). Partly because of better home values but primarily because Bend is a major tourist town. Tourist towns have issues that create love hate feelings in many locals for the obvious reasons – they bring in money(and the options/services that go with money)
    but create major headaches. I recommend keeping that in mind when choosing.

    by Tim — August 28, 2018

  5. Bravo to Daryl in comment #1. The article title is wrong! It should be something like the “20 cities people are most curious about for retirement”. I wish the narrative paragraphs were more informative. How about a mention of the number of days per year of precipitation in Bellingham and Eugene; a mention of the Blue Hole in Sequim; and a comment about the extent of the winter in Boise and Bend for example.

    Editor’s comment: Thanks for the comments RonM. We can quibble about what to call the list, but the point is that it is a list of places that a lot of people think are potentially great places to consider for retirement. As far as the narrative paragraphs go, we tried to give a brief summary that might spark more curiosity. With 20 towns on the list, pretty hard to spend much detail without boring everyone. Use the links provided for each place and you will find a lot more. Maybe not everything you want, but enough to get started.

    by ron manuel — August 29, 2018

  6. Medford, Oregon can be 113 degrees in summer, pretty darn hot in my opinion. I like the Oregon coast. No place is perfect though is it????

    by Phyllis Andrews — August 29, 2018

  7. I think future research/discussions about western areas for retirement will likely need to include air quality due to the “fire season” which now lasts most of the year. Having just spent the last 6 weeks in Colorado and Wyoming, I was aghast at times. While not smokey all the time, it certainly was much of the time, if not from local state fires then from the ongoing California burn. As I was heading home and drove across the eastern high plains of Wyoming, I estimate that the visibility was 3 to 5 miles at times, and there were no fires nearby! I suspect this is now the new “norm” out there.

    by Bill L — August 30, 2018

  8. Medford…….is a lot hotter because it’s not on the Oregon coastline. If you want cooler weather you should try Astoria all the way to Brookings. I’m now finding with my research that inland California is pretty comparable in cost of living. I’m talking about Sun City and all the towns near Palm springs too. So we are probably just going to stay here. Even though I’m getting an inheritance my Medicaid expansion policy will get me by until I qualify for Medicare. So if you don’t mind hot summers it’s a pretty good exchange!!

    by Mary11 — August 30, 2018

  9. Daryl, we chose ST George over Az cities and Spokane. What swayed you away from St George?

    by Gary — August 30, 2018

  10. I wish we could find out where the coolest temperature cities are to live. I despise the heat and humidity. I have heard San Diego has wonderful temps but also it is very crowded.

    by Louise — August 30, 2018

  11. Gary, first let me say how much I thoroughly enjoy this website, the articles, and especially viewer comments. Every day someone says something that is eye-opening or amusing. My initial comment was merely about drawing conclusions from data, not to disparage St. George. Our reasons for not choosing St. George are just personal preferences of climate and demographics.

    by Daryl — August 31, 2018

  12. Hi Louise:

    San Diego has great weather and not only is it a bit crowded, it is also expensive for the most part. San Miguel de Allende in Mexico has similar weather and lots of Americans are retiring there for the same weather reasons. No humidity and cheaper to live. We all are looking for a utopia. Good luck to those who have found it.

    by Jennifer Lee — August 31, 2018

  13. Louise, I have lived in NY, Fla, Oregon and California…..needless to say San diego has the best weather with only a few days of 90 degree temperatures ever y summer. We don’t need air conditioning and our utility bills are only $45 monthly. Food prices are lower because we grow most of the food here as well. You can purchase a 2 BR condo 4 mi from the ocean for $230,000, which BTW if anyone is interested that’s what I’m selling ours for at the end of October.
    OF COURSE …..if you need a stick home that’s a different matter of price unless you’re able to live inland where the summers are much warmer. We plan on purchasing a Mtg home in a 55 + park where you own the land and the HOA is only $200, and home prices start at $100,000. So as you can see almost anyone can afford living here if you do your research. Another thing that’s keeping us here is how well the state takes care of you if you do need assistance later on in life…..

    by Mary11 — August 31, 2018

  14. Thanks for the reply Daryl. I always find it interesting to read the varied opinions on different locations. We found St George accidentally 5 years ago and landed here. Why, moderate weather, the beauty of the close by National Parks, and the red rock mountains surrounding the City. There is a large high quality medical center, and airport serviced by 4large carriers, a university, and very reasonably priced housing. No traffic and clean air were extras. The main industry recreational and sporting opportunities. The biggest of all is the Huntsman world wide senior games. I grew up in Spokane and for all its pluses the winter is cooold.

    by Gary — August 31, 2018

  15. Mary 11,
    I see you have found your spot and it sounds reasonable. Where are you going? Tell us about manufactured homes in CA. I have heard that California has good benefits–Medi-Cal being one. How do the taxes affect you? My brother says that many people are moving from CA to Oregon to escape all the taxes. If you stay, will your income be taxed heavily? How about real estate taxes?

    Thanks, Jennifer

    by Jennifer — September 1, 2018

  16. Jennifer,
    Well…We live in Oceanside CA which is a military beach town in San diego county. We are looking into Vista, Escondido and Sun City CA. They’re 20 to 45 minutes inland where homes are more reasonably priced. Property taxes on a Mfg home , where you own the land are approx $70-100 monthly. Plus with Prop 13, we are grandfathered in to not paying more in prop taxes if we purchase a home in CA. We dont have any issues with taxes because we earn less than $25000 per year. When I had to move in with my elderly mother we became qualified for MediCal and that has been a godsend. It covers your medical, dental and vision as well. We will continue our benefits until I turn 65, even though I am coming into an inheritance. So that’s what keeps us here…..at least for the next 2 years. Sure, some people are moving out of CA, but with all the research I’ve done with cost of living comparisons I’m seeing about $100 per month difference in costs. Oregon is beautiful, but some cities don’t offer things you need in retirement , such as grocery delivery or a hospital nearby. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a home. We are downsizing down to a 1000 square ft home with a small yard. We want less maintenance and cost. Not everyone would be happy with a smaller home so then the cost of living costs will be much more. You can’t really rent near the coast, unless you can qualify for low income housing. It hasn’t been an easy decision for us…..do you pay a little more to stay in Cali with the nice weather and an easier move or move to Oregon where they have a very high income tax and where it rains all of the time. We may not stay here forever but that’s fine because my parents retired to Fla and eventually moved to San diego. We don’t have children so it’s an easier decision in where we do move to. I hope I was able to answer some of your questions…..

    by Mary11 — September 2, 2018

  17. Mary 11,

    You have chosen some very good reasons to stay in California. Walkability and grocery delivery are very important to me as well. I have both of those here in Washington, DC , but when I looked in Lincoln City, OR where my brother has a beach home, I felt I might be isolated. I can drive now, but in the future who knows if I will or even would want to. I will want access to Uber as well in that event. So the weather even though cooler and less humid in Oregon probably will not work for me due to the rain and grey sky for prolonged periods of time. I have a hard enough time here in the winters, after the Holidays in January-March when it is dark upon arising and the sun sets early. I have been looking elsewhere like New Hampshire since I like New England, but I have not found my utopia yet. Thanks so much.

    by Jennifer — September 2, 2018

  18. Coolest summer climate is probably Monterey area in California. Year round is very moderate and summer fog from ocean keeps it cool. Salinas supposedly has the ideal climate but still a little rough at the edges.

    by Deb — September 2, 2018

  19. Deb, I assume you’ve checked the real estate and rental prices on the Monterey Peninsula. Outrageous!!! I lived there for 29 years but had to leave when prices shot out the roof. You’re right about the climate. I lived in Carmel Valley because I wanted more sun and heat. There aren’t many places that have a grocery store within walking distance either.

    by Laney Humphrey — September 3, 2018

  20. Speaking of how to find the best place to retire, we strongly recommend this article about how one of our Members, a former Rocket Scientist, went about finding his. https://www.topretirements.com/blog/retirement-planning-2/this-is-rocket-science-how-a-space-engineer-found-his-best-place-to-retire.html/ He ended up in Ocean Shores, WA, and we were a little surprised that town didnt end up on this list. Check it out! Ocean Shores, WA

    by Admin — September 5, 2018

  21. Gary, your inspiring description of St. George makes me want to reconsider. You could find a second calling as a realtor! Is there a specific 55+ community that you really enjoyed visiting?

    by Daryl — September 6, 2018

  22. Daryl,
    There are 2 places to consider. Sun River is large and well established,but the facilities
    are a bit dated. There are thousands of homes in this complex. You must be 55+ .
    The other, Brio, where I live, is only 2 years old and has about 125 finished homes, which will eventually be about 650. The facilities are quite modern and just stunning. However, although nearly everyone who lives here is 55+, it is not age restricted, so a young family could move there if they wished.
    Costs are fairly similar between the 2 communities, with Brio having slightly lesser cost for housing and a much less expensive HOA fee.
    Because of Brio’s newness, there. are not yet the number of clubs and activities there that Sun River has.
    We have lived inSt. G for 2 years now, coming from the Midwest. We had never even heard of the place, and came on the recommendation of a friend. We absolutely love it here and we just had 2 of the hottest summers in Utah history.
    Also, we are not LDS, and have had nothing but the nicest interactions with people of that faith..living here is sort of like stepping back in time, where neighbors looked out for each other, etc..great, relaxed vibe to the city and its residents.

    by Andy — September 6, 2018

  23. Anyone have any information about retiring to Palm Springs CA and the residing towns nearby? We are thinking of retiring there but have some concerns such as the air quality and electric bills….

    by Mary11 — September 6, 2018

  24. Thanks Andy, we will include a visit to both on our trip next summer!

    by Daryl — September 7, 2018

  25. Anyone have any info on Sun City, CA?? I noticed the homes are reasonably priced but the weather can get pretty warm there too – From Mary 11

    by Mary11 — November 16, 2018

  26. About Sun City, CA: It is old in years and population and Hot June-mid Oct. It is no longer an idependant municipality. Nothing physically attractive about it at all. It has been incorporated into Menifee, a fast growing, middle income community in South Riverside County, affordable by southern Calif. housing. Menifee, along with nearby neighbors Murrieta and Temecula, offer every standard chain store and restaurant you expect.

    There are many beautiful vineyards outside Temecula that offer great dining, wedding, and concert venues. The annual hot air balloon festival is a huge, fun event. Old Town Temecula is a nice change of pace once in a while. Downtown beautiful San Diego is 90 mins. south, and you can be on the beach in Oceanside or Carlsbad in about a non-rush-hour hour.

    Depending where you might go in LA, traffic/time of day are more important than miles. You’re about three plus hours from Las Vegas, two hours from Big Bear Lake, and four hours to the beginning of the magnificent eastern Sierra.

    Shelley from North County San Diego

    by Shelley — November 16, 2018

  27. Thanks Shelley…funny I also live in North County!! We just sold our condo and in 4 mo need to decide if we want to move back to Oregon or move inland to Riverside County… So it’s either rain or hot weather to deal with…oh well… Id rather stay closer to the ocean but San diego is too expensive so maybe it’s the Oregon or Washington coast for us!!

    by Mary11 — November 17, 2018

  28. Mary, if you haven’t checked out Sequim, WA, suggest you do. Its on the Olympic Peninsula and in a rain shadow. Meaning, doesn’t get as much rain as those of us in other areas of Puget Sound. Also a lot of retirees there.

    by Sharon Alexander — November 17, 2018

  29. Hi Mary,
    You were inquiring about Sun City. I live in Temecula which is about 17 miles south of Sun City. To travel to Sun City I take the 15 north to the 215 north. The 215 freeway is gridlocked with work traffic coming into Temecula/San Diego very early in the morning. The Temecula area as Shelley mentioned is pretty but you have to plan your appointments and activities around the traffic.

    Best wishes to you:)

    by Diane — November 17, 2018

  30. Diane,
    I wish we could live in Temecula but Menifee is better on the finances…thanks for the info…

    by Mary11 — November 18, 2018

  31. Hi Mary,
    Yes, Menifee has lower home prices. The good news is that Menifee has built new stores and restaurants for its residents. You will need to drive to Temecula to go to an indoor shopping mall for a store like JCPenney. When you drive further south there is a larger mall in Escondido with higher end stores such as Nordstrom.

    Enjoy planning your move:)

    Diane

    by Diane — November 19, 2018

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