THE RETIRING KIND
"The Golden Girls" didn't sing this city's praises for nothing. Miami was practically built around retirees and, according to pedestrian-friendly guide Walk Score, only about 1 percent of the population lives in car-dependent neighborhoods. The beaches, parks, restaurants, and many other activities for seniors pair well with senior fares on the subway and busway system, while the elevated Metromover gets folks around many of the city's neighborhoods for free.
At the start of the Oregon Trail, Independence is home to the Harry Truman presidential library and a healthy chunk of Mormon history. More importantly, it's right outside Kansas City, one of the least-expensive cities for retirees in the United States.
Though its population has steadily declined since the 1970s, Warren is still Detroit's largest suburb and is home to more than two dozen parks, a large health care system, and a sizable presence of Army veterans and General Motors and Chrysler retirees. Though it's seen its share of tough times, it's still one of the least-expensive places for retirees in the country.
Technically an unincorporated part of Jefferson Parish, Metairie falls within the New Orleans metropolitan area and is considered by Kiplinger to be one of the most affordable places for retirees in the country. Taxes are low, most pensions are tax-free, and retirees get to enjoy gorgeous waterfront parks, the Miami Marlins' Triple-AAA minor-league baseball team, and all New Orleans has to offer.
URBAN HONOLULU, HAWAII
Yes, many things here are more expensive than on the mainland. But you'll be within striking distance of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head every day, and neighbors in the U.S. military have helped ensure you'll have access to at least five medical centers if you stay in Honolulu proper. And with a bit of savvy, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Hawaii on budget.
How does a group of retirement communities become a city with a massive retiree community? By giving the people what they want. Retirees can drive their golf carts on streets where the speed limit is under 35 miles per hour and go to Second Sunday concerts, Cactus League Spring Training games, restaurants, the Uptown Alley bowling and entertainment complex, parks, fishing areas, rose gardens, and more.
About eight miles outside of downtown Miami, Hialeah has Metrorail and Tri-Rail access to West Palm Beach and Miami International Airport, as well as Amtrak service. With an enormous Cuban population and 96 percent of the city speaking Spanish, it's a tight-knit community that older residents don't tend to leave and newcomers tend to love.
Like the idea of Tampa and St. Petersburg, but would prefer a slightly slower pace? Clearwater has a full slate of film, blues, jazz, and arts festivals and a Philadelphia Phillies' spring training facility that doubles as a minor-league ballpark. A nature park, Intracoastal Waterway, and 2.5-mile stretch of beach are the major draws, but the proximity of Morton Plant Hospital and an average high temperature that seldom dips below 71 degrees are why retirees stay.
A big part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Scottsdale has a sprawling arts district with free Thursday Artwalks, the Barrett-Jackson Auto Show, casinos, multiple golf courses (including Troon North), buses, trolleys, and a branch of the Mayo Clinic. Come spring, the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks all hold spring training in town.
PALM BAY, FLORIDA
You're looking at a paradise of 29 parks,10 golf courses, and nine nearby beaches. Nearby Port Canaveral is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, just in case you enjoy the sea life, shows, and all-you-can-eat buffets. Palm Bay Hospital is there if you need it, but just enjoy those 72-degree winters.
HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
Roughly an hour outside of Little Rock, and one of the most affordable cities for retirees in the country, Hot Springs is built on leisure. There's the racetrack at Oaklawn Park, fishing on Lake Catherine and Lake Hamilton, strolls through the Garvan Woodland Gardens, and the ferocious creatures of the Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo. Oh, and there's always Bathhouse Row, which offers a soak in the namesake Hot Springs or just a stroll through the historic district's hotels, restaurants, art galleries, and festivals.
BUFFALO, NEW YORK
Why would you want to retire to a place that gets feet of lake-effect snow each winter? Because it's a gorgeous, thriving city where the cost of living is 16 percent lower than the national average. With Olmsted-designed parks, art museums, a bustling lakefront, major sports teams, and a position within driving range of major U.S. and Canadian cities, Buffalo is a steal despite the state's taxes and even if someone else has to shovel your snow.
OCEAN CITY, NEW JERSEY
This town has two big things going for it: A beach and boardwalk that come alive during the summer months and a dry-town policy that keeps said beach and boardwalk from becoming a spring break mob scene and what most people think of when they hear "Jersey Shore." Though more than 120,000 people call this place home during the summer, only about 12,000 live here year-round. About an hour and a half to Wilmington or Philadelphia, but roughly a half hour to the airport in Atlantic City, Ocean City is about as ideal as the shore gets for retirees.
DELTONA-DAYTONA BEACH-ORMOND BEACH, FLORIDA
There are two ways to look at this: You're either putting up with spring break, bike week, and NASCAR fans, or you're taking it all in. Daytona has its own international airport, the sprawling Halifax Health hospital and health care network, museums, golf courses, boating on the Intracoastal, and, of course, the beach itself. The seniors who make up nearly a quarter of the population here do just fine with the occasional ruckus: And you may, too.
Only about 2 percent of Pittsburgh's population moved to other places within the past decade. With an influx of tech companies and an existing base of parks, museums, hospitals, universities, buses, light rail, and a fun little incline funicular train, it isn't such a bad place to spend retirement. If winters filled with snow and Steelers games don't excite you, however, maybe the low cost of living for seniors will. Even the AARP says so.
PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA
The New York Mets spend spring training here, but the PGA Village golf complex and its 54 playable holes are here year-round. Meanwhile, if a round of golf, a boating trip on the intracoastal, or an afternoon in Jensen Beach Park go awry, Port St. Lucie Hospital, St. Lucie Medical Center, Tradition Medical Center, a VA medical center, and a number of specialists and urgent care facilities are right nearby.
CAPE CORAL-FORT MYERS, FLORIDA
High temperatures hover around 75 degrees, while the average low doesn't dip below 50. The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins spend spring training here, it holds tourist attractions such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's summer homes, and a booming population has brought in shops, restaurants and other attractions. Even better: The area is served by four hospitals (Lee Memorial, Cape Coral, Gulf Coast, and HealthPark) within a 10-mile radius.
LAKE HAVASU-KINGMAN, ARIZONA
Welcome to snowbird territory. Sure, people come to see London Bridge and party on the lake all year long, but cold snaps up north bring a bunch of folks from both the United States and Canada to their second homes. With temperatures regularly reaching into the 100s from June through September, most folks tend to be part-time retirees here. But the area's population has more than doubled since 1990 and more amenities (including restaurants and a casino) have increased its year-round appeal.
Naples is surrounded by about 80 golf courses, which makes it some retirees' dream. It has a downtown filled with theaters, museums, and restaurants, it has huge open-air shopping centers, it has a gorgeous beach with a fishing pier, it has tennis, a half marathon, wildlife preserves, and a botanical garden. Meanwhile, health care options include two NCH Hospitals, two Physicians Regional facilities and more than a dozen Healthcare Network of South Florida facilities for those in need.
With a history dating back to the 1860s and a lovely spot in the shadow of the Bradshaw Mountains in the Granite Creek watershed, Prescott is not the scorching Arizona that retirees both fear and flock to. It gets below freezing from November until about April and has average highs in the upper 80s during summer. A mix of Victorian homes, college flophouses, Whiskey Row bars and restaurants, golf courses, retirement homes and rehab clinics, Prescott takes in just about everyone. With all its festivals, fairs, and overall friendliness, it's little surprise that few people want to leave: Prescott hasn't stopped growing since the 1930s.
Arguably the best place to retire on Cape Cod, if you can afford such a thing. The Kennedys used to summer in the village of Hyannis (and the John F. Kennedy museum is still here), but a bigger draw is the airport and ability to see your family or spend a weekend in Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. Having Cape Cod Hospital right there helps, but having more options in Falmouth and a fast ferry to Boston if you ever need a specialist comes in handy as well.
Beaches and fishing in nearby Sarasota Bay and Baltimore Orioles spring training have made this place a boon for well-off retirees. Five hospitals in Sarasota and another in Bradenton provide the kind of security that retirees have come to expect from communities in the Sunshine State.
Smack in between Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Ocala is more self-contained than most Florida tourist and retirement towns. Its theaters, first-Friday art walk, national forest access, historic districts, and horse farms and events have created a laid back lifestyle that sits well with the nearly 13,000 new residents that flocked here in the previous decade, though many live in pleasant Ocala retirement communities.
SEBASTIAN-VERO BEACH, FLORIDA
The beaches, the Indian River Lagoon, the Intracoastal, the Disney resort, and the Dodgertown baseball complex all make Vero Beach seem like the blueprint for what retirees imagine they'll find when they move to Florida. With a population lower than it's been since the 1980s, the Los Angeles Dodgers out of town, and tourism down to a dull roar, this area is now well-suited to a quiet retirement.
PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA
Devastated by Hurricane Charley back in 2004, Punta Gorda came back strong: Building a 2.4-mile Harborwalk and a marina along Charlotte Harbor, creating a linear park throughout the city, and building pedestrian and bike trails through town. With multiple golf-based retirement communities throughout the area and lots of shopping, restaurants, parks and health care with immediate reach, Punta Gorda has become a retiree's paradise.