While small, rural towns in the United States tick all the boxes for some retirees, living in an urban area after wrapping up full-time employment has a lot going for it. Cities offer ways to stay entertained and engaged with performing arts centers, college campuses, museums, and other attractions. Bigger cities typically have multiple hospitals and high-rated healthcare professionals, which is important as medical concerns may increase as you age. Major metropolitan areas also have international airports, which makes plane travel that much more convenient.
If you’re close to retirement age — or just thinking ahead — consider our wide-ranging list of the best cities in the U.S. for retirees, in alphabetical order. Many are in warm-weather locales, but others offer a different appeal, whether it’s affordability or proximity to nature. Have fun browsing and dreaming — one of these cities just might be the spot you’ll decide to spend your golden years.
Staying active is made easy in the capital of Idaho with its Boise River Greenbelt, a 25-mile tree-lined walking, running, and biking pathway that follows the Boise River through the center of the city, passing by Boise State University and multiple city parks. If you’re a birder, head to the Greenbelt with your binoculars to spot up to 150 different bird species. Boise’s volcanic soil and sunny climate are ideal for growing grapes, and there are more than 20 wineries and 1,300 acres of vineyards in the area.
Sure, it’s snowy in the winter months, but personal finance website WalletHub ranked South Burlington and next-door Burlington, Vermont, the best and second-best cities to live in when it comes to healthcare. The University of Vermont Medical Center is located here, offering retirees access to top medical professionals. These northwest Vermont cities border Lake Champlain with fishing, boating, and kayaking in the summer months, and winter brings opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But if outdoor sports aren’t your thing, you can spend your time sampling the many craft breweries and distilleries or taking in a show at The Flynn, Burlington’s downtown performing arts center.
Charleston, South Carolina
This port city known for its southern charm and historic cobblestone streets gives retirees the opportunity to experience four distinct seasons — you might even see snow in December or January. Overall though, Charleston has a mild climate for enjoying outdoor pursuits year-round, including golfing, biking, fishing, and kayaking. To boot, South Carolina (tied with West Virginia) has the sixth-lowest property tax rate in the nation, according to Investopedia.
The midwestern state of Ohio may not pop to mind as a top U.S. retirement destination, but WalletHub ranked Cincinnati third in the country (behind Orlando and Charleston, also on our list) among the best states to live according to affordability, activities, quality of life, and healthcare rankings. It gets especially high marks for its reasonable cost of living. The “Queen City” is also great for beer lovers, with more than 50 breweries in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Surrounded by the striking San Juan Mountains and with the Animas River flowing through the center of the city, Durango in southwest Colorado has a lot to offer active retirees. The ski resort of Purgatory is a half-hour drive north of town, and the sublime Durango Hot Springs is a fine place to soak sore muscles after a day of adventuring. Durango is one of the smaller cities on our list, so if it’s an intimate community you’re looking for and you don’t mind cold (but sunny!) winters, this could be your home for retirement.
Fargo, North Dakota
If you’ve seen the 1996 movie based here, where bone-chilling winter conditions are portrayed throughout the film, you might wonder why we’d recommend this North Dakota city for retirees. Well, it’s the only city that’s made Forbes’ “Best Places to Retire” annual listing for 12 years straight. The magazine notes Fargo’s median home price is 28% below the national average, and the state has no estate tax. Plus, if you’ve ever been interested in learning about the sports of curling, cross-country skiing, ice skating, or ice fishing, this just might be the place to do it.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins always has something happening. This northern Colorado city hosts many annual festivals, including the quirky Tour de Corgi celebrating the cute dog breed. Restaurants are plentiful in historic Old Town, as are craft breweries and wine bars. Horsetooth Reservoir, the Poudre River, and numerous parks, nature trails, and open spaces are popular places to recreate in a city that receives 300 days of sunshine annually.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Florida’s Fort Lauderdale may have a longtime reputation for attracting college-age spring breakers, but it’s equally popular among retirees, namely for the same reason: warm weather and white-sand beaches. Set on the Intracoastal Waterway, Fort Lauderdale has many canals, saltwater rivers, and natural islets; boating is a popular recreational activity, and it’s not unusual to get around to shops and restaurants via water taxi. Also key: Florida has no state income tax (including income from pensions, Social Security, or IRAs), nor does it have any estate or inheritance tax.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Bankrate named Michigan the third best state to retire in (after Florida and Georgia), namely due to its low cost of living. Grand Rapids is a small city with four distinct seasons and lots of options for enjoying the outdoors, including biking, hiking, and canoeing, and Lake Michigan is just a 45-minute drive away. The city’s DeVos Performance Hall hosts Broadway Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Symphony, and Grand Rapids Ballet performances and there are plenty of museums including the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
When it comes to affordability, WalletHub ranks Alabama first in the U.S. With a low cost of living, the state is tax-friendly for retirees, since it doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, and property taxes are low. Huntsville in northern Alabama is known as “Rocket City,” as it’s home to NASA’s Marshall Space Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the country’s largest museum dedicated to space exploration. Though it’s a technology hub, the arts also play a role in Huntsville with the Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville Symphony, and Huntsville Ballet.
Miami does have a higher cost of living than some other Florida cities, but the area also has a vibrant nightlife, a multitude of art museums and galleries, and plenty of multicultural neighborhoods. Miami is known for its legendary South Beach, but there are more than a dozen distinct beaches and public parks where you can swim in the surf and sunbathe on the sand. The Port of Miami is among the busiest cruise ports in the world, so there’s no shortage of ships to feed your wanderlust for sea travel if cruising is your thing.
Dubbed the “City by Nature,” Minneapolis offers retirees not only big-city events and attractions, including art, history, and science museums, plus performing arts centers and the shopping mecca Mall of America (technically in a Minneapolis suburb), but also the ability to enjoy the outdoors (you’re never more than six blocks from an urban park, according to the tourist bureau). Year-round, sports fans can attend major league sporting events, including football, hockey, basketball, and even ultimate disc.
The Naples area is a pricey enclave on Florida’s Gulf Coast, but if you move here in retirement, you’ll be among peers: more than 50 percent of the population is 65 or older. For golfers, this is the place to tee off in warm weather with 90 golf courses in the area. White-sand beaches abound in Naples and on nearby Marco Island, and the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Picayune Strand State Forest are a short drive away.
If living inland isn’t a dealbreaker, Orlando in central Florida may fit the bill with its year-round subtropical climate. That said, summers can be quite hot and humid, so this spot may be more inviting to part-time snowbirds who descend in the winter. With Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando in your backyard, your retirement home will likely be appealing for visits from the grandkids — and residents can access theme-park ticket discounts.
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, combine to form the Research Triangle, so named because it’s a hub for technology companies, but also because it’s home to three major research universities: Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For retirees, that means access to some of the top hospitals and medical specialists in the country, as well as the intellectual and arts activities open to the public on the college campuses.
WalletHub, considering 47 different metrics for affordability, quality of life, and healthcare, ranked Virginia the second-best state in the nation to retire in (behind Florida). The capital city of Richmond has plenty to offer retirees, especially American history buffs. Incorporated in 1742, Richmond played pivotal roles in colonial times and during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Museums and historic sites help tell those stories today. There are also outdoor pursuits to enjoy, including kayaking in and bicycling along the James River.
St. George, Utah
With its dramatic red rock canyon backdrop, St. George (in the southeastern corner of Utah) just might be one of the prettiest places to retire in the U.S. West. Camping, hiking, and biking amid gorgeous desert scenery are options year-round in the city’s mild climate. Zion National Park is just an hour away, and Las Vegas, with its endless entertainment and casinos, is less than a two-hour drive.
Salt Lake City, Utah
If it’s outdoor winter sports you’d like to pursue in your retirement, a home base in Utah’s capital city could be for you. Nine ski resorts are found within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake City. And those mountains turn into summer playgrounds in the warm-weather months, with loads of hiking and biking trails. Culturally, the city has the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Ballet West, and the Tabernacle Choir that hosts organ recitals and choir rehearsals open to the public.
San Diego, California
While San Diego has a high cost of living compared to many other areas of the United States, if it’s quality of life that’s key for you in retirement, “California’s Beach City” might be ideal for you. Retirees have 70 miles of coastline to explore in a climate that’s sunny and relatively temperate year-round. San Diego’s cultural attractions include 17 museums and performing arts centers, plus annual art, film, and culinary festivals.
San Luis Obispo, California
Home to California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo is an expensive place to live — but it’s also got a great mix of urban offerings with a small-town feel and a relaxed pace. Downtown is filled with unique boutiques and farm-to-table restaurants, and its Thursday evening farmer’s market is held year-round. SLO’s Central Coast location means it’s not far from the ocean, specifically pretty Pismo Beach, and there are more than 250 wineries and tasting rooms in the area.
With its lively arts scene, plentiful seaside restaurants, and Siesta Key’s silky white sand, Sarasota topped U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Places to Retire in 2021-2022. It’s one of Florida’s cultural hotspots, with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Sarasota Opera House, the Sarasota Ballet, and the Sarasota Orchestra. Annual events include festivals dedicated to film, opera, fine arts, food and wine, fashion, sand sculpting, and even sharks’ teeth.
Behind Florida, Bankrate says Georgia is the second best state for retirees, with its generally low cost of living. The state doesn’t tax Social Security benefits, and residents 65 and older can exclude $65,000 of taxable income, including income from pensions and IRA distributions. Known for its historic architecture and iconic live oak trees covered in Spanish moss, coastal Savannah draws retirees with its laid-back living, dozens of seafood restaurants, and cultural offerings, including the SCAD Museum of Art and the Telfair Museum.
This Phoenix suburb draws retirees for its sublime winter temperatures and its oodles of golf courses — more than 200 dot the desert landscape. Yes, it gets extremely hot in the summer, when temperatures regularly soar over 100°F, but that’s when you can enjoy outdoor pursuits in the early morning or soak in your 55+ community pool in the afternoon. Sports betting became legal in Arizona in 2021, so air-conditioned casinos with sportsbooks might appeal on those toasty summer days.
This major city on Florida’s Gulf Coast is the site of three major league teams: football’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hockey’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. If spectator sports aren’t your thing, and you’d rather be active yourself, opportunities for boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding abound on Tampa Bay. (Tampa Bay is the name given to the body of water, as well as the Tampa-Clearwater-St. Petersburg area.) The downtown Tampa Riverwalk is a flat, 2.6-mile trail for walking and biking, and the Straz Center brings Broadway shows to its spacious theater.
For folks who like to vacation in Mexico regularly, retiring in Tucson may fit the bill, as it’s an hour’s drive to the border. The University of Arizona’s Centennial Hall is home to Broadway in Tucson, which brings touring shows to campus, and the AVA Amphitheater is a grand outdoor concert venue. There are plenty of great desert hikes to enjoy amid giant saguaro cacti — though those treks might be best to enjoy in Tucson’s mild winters versus the summer months when temperatures can regularly reach 100°F. That’s a great time to visit the city’s many air-conditioned art galleries, museums, or restaurants serving Southwestern specialties.