10 Best Midsized Retirement Places

10 Best Midsized Retirement PlacesAre you a Goldilocks retiree? Are you looking for a place to settle that’s just the right size — not too big and not too small?

If so, the spots below could be worth checking out. These are little cities or large towns, depending on how you look at it — places with more than 50,000 residents but fewer than 100,000. They’re small enough to have a sense of community, but big enough to not feel claustrophobic.

These ten in particular are our favorites in part because of practicality — most have relatively affordable costs of living and low crime rates — and in part because of intangibles like beautiful scenery, delicious food, and good weather.

1. Asheville, NC

Why: Ashville really does seem to have it all. There are gorgeous views, a thriving arts scene fed by the local UNC campus, and a large community of retirees. Outdoor enthusiasts can make the most of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, while culture vultures can find plenty of entertainment at the many galleries, antiques shops, and music venues. There are also hundreds of restaurants serving everything from classic North Carolina barbecue to healthy vegan-friendly fare.

On top of all that, it’s relatively affordable. The median home price in 2012 was less than $200,000 and the cost of living is below the national average. Read more about Asheville, SC

Asheville by the numbers:

  • Population: 83,393
  • Cost of Living Index: 94 (US average = 100)

2. Sarasota, FL

Why: Sarasota has long been a popular retiree destination, and for good reason. It’s got a bustling downtown filled with shops, restaurants and galleries, as well as the famous Ringling Museum of Art. There’s also the abundant Florida sunshine, warm Gulf waters and nearby Siesta Key, often called America’s best beach. One downside: home prices in parts of Sarasota be relatively high. Read more about Sarasota, FL

Sarasota by the numbers:

  • Population: 52,341
  • Cost of Living Index: 96.4 (US average = 100)

3. Portland, ME

Why: If you love nature, art and food, Portland, Maine, could be the spot for you. This small city on the water boasts a cobblestoned historic district, numerous music venues, dozens of exceptional local restaurants and easy access to coastal islands. The nearby colleges also give the town a young, vibrant feel. The negatives? Like most of the Northeast the cost of living is higher than the national average. Also, the winters can be long and snowy, which is great for skiers but may not appeal to sun lovers. Read more about Portland, ME

Portland by the numbers:

  • Population: 66,363
  • Cost of Living Index: 104.7 (US average = 100)

4. Medford, OR

Why: Medford is another good choice for nature lovers. This town in southern Oregon has exceptional hiking, biking, golfing and water activities in summer, and in winter there’s skiing and snowboarding on the nearby slopes. For those who like wine, there’s plenty of vineyards to visit in the surrounding Rogue Valley. It also tends to be sunnier and drier than much of the rest of the state. The downside? A relatively high cost of living. Read more about Medford, OR

Medford by the numbers:

  • Population: 75,501
  • Cost of Living Index: 97.9 (US average = 100)

5. Ames, IA

Why: Ames is a friendly, fun and affordable little city. Home to Iowa State University, it somehow manages to feel like both a vibrant college town and a tight-knit community. There are restaurants, bars and shops galore, plus nearly 40 parks connected by hiking and biking trails. The cost of living is below the national average and home prices are relatively low. However, retirees should be aware of the state’s high income tax. Read more about Ames, IA

Ames by the numbers:

  • Population: 59,042
  • Cost of Living Index: 93.1 (US average = 100)

6. Santa Fe, NM

Why: Santa Fe is another great city with a mix of nature and culture. Sitting at the edge of the desert and at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, it offers easy access to excellent biking, hiking, and skiing. The downtown area, which retains its traditional adobe aesthetic, is easily walkable and is home to hundreds of art galleries. The negatives? A fairly high cost of living and above average home prices. Read more about Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe by the numbers:

  • Population: 67,947
  • Cost of Living Index: 99.8 (US average = 100)

7. Bloomington, IN

Why: Nestled in the hills of southern Indiana and home to the University of Indiana, Bloomington is a fun little college town. It has over a hundred locally owned restaurants and a historic downtown. There’s also great healthcare and plenty of opportunities for lifelong learning. Plus, the cost of living and median home price are relatively low. Read more about Bloomington, IN

Bloomington by the numbers:

  • Population: 81,381
  • Cost of Living Index: 90.4 (US average = 100)

8. Lake Havasu City, AZ

Why: If you love both the desert and the water, you’ll love Lake Havasu City. The town boasts the expected abundant Arizona sunshine with an unexpected addition: Lake Havasu. With the lake come many opportunities for boating, fishing and swimming. There are also numerous courses for golfers. One downside for retirees looking to continue working is the relatively high local unemployment rate. Read more about Lake Havasu, AZ

Lake Havasu by the numbers:

  • Population: 52,935
  • Cost of Living Index: 88.8 (US average = 100)

9. St. George, UT

Why: This fast-growing retirement destination is located in southern Utah, close to the stunning Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks. It offers a good mix of activity options for retirees, and is home to a number of superb golf courses as well as an annual Shakespeare festival. The cost of living is good too. One thing to be aware of is the scorching temperatures in mid-summer. Read more St. George, UT

St. George by the numbers:

  • Population: 74,770
  • Cost of Living Index: 88.9 (US average = 100)

10. Ocala, FL

Why: If you want Florida sunshine but aren’t a beach bum, you may want to consider Ocala.  This town in the north central part of the state is in the middle of horse country, and is surrounded by sand pine forests and clear streams. There are also golfing, dining and shopping options galore. Plus, unlike many popular Florida retiree destinations, it has a cost of living well below the national average. Read more about Ocala, FL

Ocala by the numbers:

  • Population: 56, 517
  • Cost of Living Index: 86.2 (US average = 100)

Photo of Asheville, NC by Kolin Toney via Flickr. All statistics were up to date as of publication. See these sources for the most current data.