The 100 most popular retirement towns for 2010 are—no surprise—mostly located in the Sun Belt states, according to TopRetirements.com. In fact, 68 of the 100 top positions were occupied by warm-climate towns. Florida dominated the list, taking 23 of the spots, followed by North Carolina (11) and South Carolina (8).
But there are 25 new towns on the list, according to John Brady, editor of the second edition of 100 Best Retirement Towns. Some of the 25 new cities on the list include Boulder, Colo.; Eugene, Ore.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Portland, Maine; Smyrna, Del.; and Cape Coral, Fla.
According to Brady, the 100 most popular retirement towns list is compiled by calculating the 100 towns with the most online visits of the 450 cities reviewed at Topretirements.com. The list is essentially a popularity contest; it reflects the towns that site visitors are the most interested in for retirement. “One thing is clear,” Brady said of the trends he’s noticed in this year’s list. “The Sun Belt is so dominant because people are interested in retiring to where it’s warm.” In addition, he said, this year’s list is dominated by college towns. People are looking for a place to retire where they have access to intellectually challenging activities.
The towns with the most online visits include:
Asheville is a long-time favorite. Part of its ongoing appeal is its climate (it’s mild year round); its location (it’s in the Blue Ridge Mountains; there’s water everywhere for fishing and boating, and its downtown is walkable and dynamic); its housing stock (there’s a wide range of upscale housing opportunities for seniors). What’s not so special is that Asheville gets crowded in the summer and overdevelopment is coming.
Sarasota is the cultural capital of Florida. Part of its appeal is that is has one of Florida’s best downtowns, a downtown that includes an impressive array of cultural facilities such as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. On the downside, there are a lot of tourists and traffic in winter, and summers are hot. Of note, the Ringling Brothers located the winter quarters of their circus in Sarasota.
An old mining town, retirees choose this location for its warm climate and interesting setting. The town, which borders the Prescott National Forest, features 525 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and Whiskey Row. On the downside, there are a lot of tourists. At an elevation of 5,400 feet, the winters are colder here than the rest of Arizona. Plus, there are watering restrictions, according to TopRetirements.com.
Retirees come to Paris, which is roughly equidistant from Nashville and Memphis, because they like living near one of the largest manmade lakes in the world. “People go there to fish and relax,” Brady said of Paris. (By way of background, the city also claims to have the world’s largest fish fry). Plus Paris has a low cost of living compared with other retirement hot spots. The median sales price of a home here in 2009 was well below $100,000. On the downside, big-city amenities are two hours away.
Austin is becoming a popular retirement community for a variety of reasons, according to TopRetirements.com. The University of Texas and its array of cultural and other activities is perhaps the biggest draw for Austin, its cosmopolitan and high-tech, quirky soul is another reason. Plus it has a relatively low cost of living. On the downside, the summers are hot and humid, and the city might be too big and fast-paced for those seeking peace and quiet.
Green Valley, Ariz.
Green Valley, which is 20 miles south of Tucson, has one of the largest active adult communities in the world. The average age, by the way, is 72. Consider: It has nine golf courses; two recreation centers with over 126,000 square feet of facilities; countless swimming pools and spas; numerous tennis courts, fitness centers and classes; and every type of crafts and clubs. On the downside, it’s a bit remote. In fact, it’s just 40 miles north of the border of Mexico—so close that there have been a few scenes with federales and desperados running through Green Valley, reports TopRetirements.com.
Why Winston-Salem is the seventh most visited place on the TopRetirements.com website is a bit of a mystery to Brady. To be sure, there’s culture (Reynolda Gardens and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art) and a downtown that features the Wachovia Center. And the cost of living is low ($120,000 is the average home price). But on the downside, Brady’s website reports that development is proceeding very quickly, with attendant traffic. Some young professionals say there is not enough to do, and crime is a concern in Winston-Salem.
Beaufort is a terrific place to live, not far from Hilton Head and Savannah. What’s special about this city? It’s a charming old town in the Sea Island. Beaufort has won tons of awards, including Best Small Southern Town, Small Town Arts and Best Fishing Town. It also has plenty of golf courses. The city has 304 acres designated as a National Historic Landmark, and the winters are mild. What’s not so special, according to TopRetirements.com: It can be overrun by tourists in season, and it’s not for people who like a fast-paced lifestyle.
To Brady, San Diego has the most perfect weather in the country. Its scenery, climate (there’s only 10 inches of rain on average per year), and lifestyle (the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Gas Lamp District and Torrey Pines Golf Course) are second to none and appeal to active adults 55 and older, reports TopRetirements.com. On the downside, it’s expensive and the traffic—well, it is California.
Ft. Myers, Fla.
Now that the housing market has crashed, Ft. Myers has become a less expensive place in which to retire. The median selling price at the end of 2009 was $98,000, reports Brady. What else is so special about Ft. Myers? Well, there’s the beach, a charming old downtown area, the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter estates, world-class shopping, golf and fishing. Plus, it’s the spring training home for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. On the downside: Oppressively hot, humid summers; traffic; way too much development, now in a bust cycle; too many strip malls.
According to Brady, there are two other cities/towns that retirees might want to consider from the top 100 list. Those include Portland, Maine, which if you don’t mind winters is an up-and-coming retirement spot, and Smyrna, Del., which is a small, former farming town of about 8,000 between Wilmington and the oceanside community of Lewes. Smyrna, in particular, has plenty of active adult communities, beaches and land and an attractive tax structure.
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