1. Traverse City, MI
Cost of Living: 14% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $225,000
Top State Income Tax: 4.25%
The small town of Traverse City attracts a mix of retirees who are passionate about the outdoors as well as arts and culture. Traverse City lies alongside Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay and the region is near more than 180 miles of the Great Lake’s shoreline as well as almost 150 large lakes. With all this water, it’s no surprise that Traverse City attracts boaters and anglers. Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore may be the piece de resistance of Traverse City’s outdoor beauty. The park features stunning stretches of beach bordered by bluffs and has become a favorite destination for kayakers and canoers.
Arts and culture play another vital role in Traverse City. Retirees can visit dozens of nearby artists’ galleries, or join locals at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, which produces hundreds of concerts, art exhibits, theater productions and dance performances each year. The town’s historic center is home to eclectic shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Wine lovers should take note: a number of well-regarded wineries are in the region, as well. The town is also near Munson Medical Center, one of the state’s top hospitals.
2. Bloomington, IN
Cost of Living: 9.6% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $147,500
Top State Income Tax: Flat 3.4% income tax rate
As far as college towns go, Bloomington is a true charmer. Tucked into the hills of Southern Indiana, Bloomington’s cobblestone streets, more than 100 locally-owned restaurants — including Thai, Tibetan and Ethiopian — rich theater offerings and nearby wineries, all add to the town’s allure. Bloomington can thank the University of Indiana for much of its cultural diversity. Located in the heart of town, the university’s school of music performs more than 1,000 shows each year, while the theater department puts on well-known productions throughout its season.
Outdoors lovers will also find plenty to do in Bloomington. In close proximity to the town lie a number of small lakes, two state parks, golf courses, two state forests and Hoosier National Forest. Interested in continuing education? The Bloomington Lifelong Learning Coalition promotes senior enrichment at the university.
Retirees also owe the university thanks for the top-notch healthcare in town. The university’s hospital offers a number of well-regarded specialties, including cardiology, diabetes, cancer and stroke treatment.
3. Sioux Falls, SD
Cost of Living: 17% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $169,500
Top State Income Tax: No state income tax
South Dakota’s largest and fastest-growing city offers retirees plenty to consider when relocating for retirement. Set along the banks of the Big Sioux River, the town takes its name from the sprawling falls found along the waterway just north of downtown. It’s here that you’ll find Falls Park, though the city is also home to more than 70 other parks and greenways.
Retirees may be wary of retiring in the Dakotas, worried about winter weather. While winters certainly can be cold, Sioux Falls gets less than 45 inches of snow on average. The town also has a low unemployment rate of 3.7%, making it a good location for people who hope to work during retirement.
As mentioned, outdoors lovers will find plenty to do in the Sioux Fall’s parks. One popular feature of the town’s park system is a 16-mile, paved loop trail used for walking, jogging and bicycling.
Sioux Falls has also experienced a renaissance of sorts in the arts. The town hosts a number of colorful events, including regular “First Fridays,” Sioux Falls Jazzfest and the Festival of Bands marching band competition. The town also has two performing arts centers that host Broadway productions and operas.
4. Ames, IA
Cost of Living: 7% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $163,500
Top State Income Tax: 8.98%
In Ames, retirees won’t be living in solitude in the midst of Iowa’s flat farmland; the town is home to rolling hills, Iowa State University, passionate sports fans and a colorful town center. The university’s presence means residents are privy to its vibrant cultural offerings, including guest speakers, lectures, film screenings and concerts. Additionally, retirees interested in continuing education opportunities will find plenty on offer at the university — from foreign language courses to cooking lessons.
Beyond the university’s campus, Ames lies in the midst of nearly 40 parks, many of which are connected by almost 60 miles of hiking and bicycling trails, as well as a number of golf courses. Retirees who’d like to work in retirement might find themselves in luck in Ames; the town’s unemployment is an extremely low 3.3%, and the university is one of the top employers.
5. Stillwater, OK
Cost of Living: 11.5% lower than national average
Median Home Cost: $145,100
Top State Income Tax: 5.25%
Located in north-central Oklahoma just 60 miles from Oklahoma City, Stillwater offers residents a more low-key environment than the OKC’s sprawling urban center. The hub of the town is Oklahoma State University, which is the town’s largest employer. The university offers retirees opportunities for continuing education classes, and a number of sports, arts, and cultural activities. Stillwater is also home to a great number of retirement and assisted living communities.
Musical heritage plays a strong role in the heart and soul of Stillwater. The town is proud of the artists who got their start here, including Garth Brooks. Music lovers will find a many country music venues touting regular live performances. The town is also home to the Tumbleweed, nominated for a national “Dancehall of the Year” award.
Arts and culture play an important role here. The town hosts a number of festivals, including A Taste of Stillwater, the Oklahoma Special Olympics’ Annual Summer Games and the OK Celtic Music & Heritage Festival.
Stillwater boasts more than 5,000 acres of parkland on which retirees can find the popular Senior Activity Center. The town boasts a number of golf courses, as well as well-stocked lakes for fishing.