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As the Baby Boomer generation begins to hit retirement age, millions will be searching for places to retire. So what's the best location to settle down? The answer to that question is just as diverse as the needs, desires and expectations of Boomers themselves.
Although certain destinations may be particularly attractive - for reasons ranging from the weather and availability of health care to tax advantages and property values - there's a wide variety of cities and towns consistently considered the top places to retire.
To find out where these places are, AARP Magazineover the years has ranked retirement destinations under a variety of criteria, from "The Best Places to Live a Simple Life," to the "Healthiest Hometowns" and "The Best Places to Reinvent Your Life". From these lists, CNBC.com has focused on a selection of towns and cities recognized as top places to retire, picking the best and most unique locations from AARP Magazine's overall reviews.
So, where are some of the top places for Baby Boomers (and anyone else, for that matter) to retire in America? Click ahead to find out!
By Paul ToscanoPosted 5 Feb 2010
Identified as the #1 "place to reinvent your life" by AARP The Magazine, Loveland Colorado, nicknamed "The Sweetheart City," is a retiree's paradise. Located 45 minutes from Denver, the small city of just under 60,000 has a small town feel, with large areas of single-family homes enjoying the natural shade of abundant trees. The outlying neighborhoods offer spectacular views of the prairie and the front range of the Rocky Mountains, under vast Colorado skies.
The area has close proximity to the Rocky Mountain National Park, with access to skiing, hiking and fishing that led AARP Magazine to describe it as an "outdoor Eden." Colorado State University, located in Fort Collins, gives the town a lively, youthful feel, while Lake Loveland, located only a few blocks from the center of the city, offers sandy shores, a tranquil sculpture garden, museums, miles of bike paths, golf courses and a vibrant art scene. Although housing prices are above the national median, they are lower than you would find in the nearby cities of Denver or Boulder, although the cost of living in the area as a whole is expected to increase in the next decade.
Pictured: Downtown Fort Collins, Colorado
Selected by AARP The Magazine as one of America's "Dream Towns" for seniors, Las Cruces is set at the foot of the Organ Mountains and enjoys a relatively mild climate and picturesque landscape. Although it is New Mexico's second most populous city, residents describe the small-town feel, relaxed pace and affordable prices.
The city has low property taxes, and New Mexico residents 65 and older may exempt up to $16,000 (if married, filing jointly) in taxes from any income source if it's under $51,000. And if you're over 100, you pay no taxes whatsoever in Las Cruces. The town features four golf courses, nearby mountains for hiking and camping and is approximately four hours from Santa Fe, another prime retirement spot. Nearby Mexico State University also offers a range of activities, from symphonies and theatrical performances to sporting events. Las Cruces also boasts an average of 330 sunny days per year.
Pictured: An upscale suburban neighborhood in Las Cruces, New Mexico with the Catalina Mountains in the background.
For people living in the area between Southern New Jersey and Washington DC, a popular weekend and retirement destination lies near the Delaware shore. A three-hour drive from both Philadelphia and Washington DC, the Rehoboth Beach area has been a magnet for retirees over the past several years and Delaware expects the 65+ population to increase by 75 percent over the next 25 years.
The beaches feature dolphins throughout the summer months, a mile-long boardwalk and more than 70 restaurants. Although living in Rehoboth is quite expensive, residents living in nearby communities are only several miles from the beach and can take advantage of Delaware's favorable tax environment: low property taxes, no sales tax on food and entertainment, social security benefits are exempt from income tax and taxpayers aged 60 and older can exclude up to $12,500 of investment and pension income, according the AARP The Magazine.
Pictured: A view of the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware at Wilmington Avenue, looking North.
A major city, Portland is attractive to retirees because of its small town, at times bohemian feel. AARP Magazine describes the lifestyle as "European charm meets environmental nirvana," which offers miles of bike lanes, world-class art museums, waterfront parks and diverse shopping in the city's Pearl District.
Residents enjoy pedestrian access to many attractions in the city and a light rail system called the "MAX" that connects the city and suburbs. The city's blocks are small in length, which adds to the European feel and helps make navigating the city on foot more manageable. For those looking for scenic views, Mount Hood is strikingly visible on clear days, and the city also features an aerial tram that descends to the South Waterfront district.
Pictured: Portland skyline, Mount Hood in background.
For many retirees, relocation means a migration south, to warmer climates, and Greenville, South Carolina is a top destination. Described as having a "family-friendly" vibe, Greenville experiences an average of 220 sunny days per year, in a place where median home values remain below the national average.
The town features a pedestrian-friendly main street, a performing arts center that hosts events such as touring Broadway shows, and an historic west end. Greenville town also boasts the Liberty Bridge, and offers wide sidewalks and walking paths that connect various portions of the city. It was identified by AARP Magazine as one of the best places to "live the simply life," nearby are also the mountain woodlands of Jones Gap State Park, which is only 25 miles outside this pristine South Carolina town.
Pictured: Liberty Bridge at Falls Park on the Reedy, downtown Greenville, South Carolina.
Sarasota is perhaps one of the most popular retirement destinations in the most popular US state for retirees. Located on the Gulf Coast, Sarasota has 35 miles of beaches and offers residents opportunities from golfing to boating and gourmet dining. The town also offers a range of activities, including an opera, symphony, film society and a range of art galleries.
One caveat about this destination is that because of its climate and natural surroundings, it attracts plenty of vacationers in the winter months. The area also finds median home values at $185,200, which is slightly above the national average. Regardless, AARP Magazine has identified Sarasota, a city with the nickname "Paradise," as #4 on its list of "best places to reinvent your life.”
Pictured: Sarasota Marina from Island Park, Sarasota, Florida.
When considering retirement locations, moving northwards shouldn't be discounted, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, identified by AARP The Magazine as the #1 in its list of "Healthiest Hometowns," is a great option. Retirees in the area maintains an active lifestyle, as the city features 150 parks, the 123-acre Nichols Arboretum and miles of shoreline along the Huron River.
The city also offers an affordable bus system, and it is estimated that 86 percent of residents get regular exercise. Ann Arbor is identified as a "healthy hometown" by AARP Magazine, in part, because of the University of Michigan Health Center, one of the largest medical centers in the world, which is a center for medical innovation. The area also boasts 580 physicians per 100,000 people, which is above the US average of 223, according to AARP.
Pictured: A view of Ann Arbor, Michigan at Liberty Street. Includes the Michigan Theater, and several buildings of the University of Michigan.
Selected by AARP The Magazine as one of the best places to "live the simple life," Tuscon, located approximately 60 miles north of the US-Mexico border, is described as a place where "latin culture embraces Native American spirit, cowboy grit and sunbelt growth."
Tucson is characterized by beautiful wilderness, including the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest. Residents of this city describe a unique atmosphere that boasts a bustling southwestern cultural environment, plentiful restaurants, an active arts district and simple pleasures such as hiking and camping in a climate favorable to individuals of retirement age. The median home price in Tucson is $174,000, which is slightly below the national average.
Pictured: Desert Palms Park neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona
The capital city of Vermont, Montpelier is also the smallest state capitol in the country, with a population of just over 8,000 residents. This small town vibe is part of the reason why it was selected by AARP The Magazine as one of the top places to "live the simple life," the feel of community also makes this a top destination, as the biggest "sporting event" in town includes keeping tabs on the workings of the state legislature.
The town's eclectic crowd also fosters a bustling arts scene, routinely hosting music festivals and residents seldom feel like there is a lack of activities to keep them occupied, from yard sales to world-class skiing.
Pictured: Downtown Montpelier, Vermont, with State Capitol in distance.
If you're looking for a good place to retire, why not choose a location in paradise? AARP Magazine selected Honolulu as one of its top retirement destinations for "warm weather and postcard-ready scenery," an environment that encourages people to exercise more frequently, resulting in one of the highest life expectancy rates in the country.
Honolulu also offers a robust health care system, where 95 percent of residents have health insurance, and one resident AARP Magazine interviewed described aging in Hawaii in an unique way: “In island culture, people feel more natural about aging, in general. They have a lot of respect for their elders, and older people have a higher status,” she says. “They don’t see growing older as a negative.” However, it's not cheap to live in paradise, as the median home values are $569,500 in Honolulu, over three times the national average, and may not necessarily be for everyone.
Pictured: Honolulu and Mamala Bay taken from top of Diamond Head.
Selected by AARP The Magazine as one of the healthiest hometowns and one of the best places to reinvent your life, Santa Fe, New Mexico is definitely among the top relocation destinations for retirees.
A melting pot for both Spanish and Native American cultures throughout its history, artists have been flocking to the city to take advantage of the pristine air quality and ambiance that comes with low humidity, clean air and an elevation of 7,000 feet, says AARP Magazine. Activities in the area include hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest, farmers markets, restaurants that emphasize healthy eating and a vibrant music scene that includes a community orchestra and an opera that has gained an international reputation.
Photo: Desert lawn on side of adobe style mansion with salmon color and two stories.
Some retirees looking to preserve a more metropolitan lifestyle may be interested in a place like Atlanta, says AARP The Magazine, listing the city as one of their list of "5 Great Places To Live" and describing it as a "sophisticated metropolis with Southern charm."
The area received a major face-lift after hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics, which transformed Atlanta into a more international city. Projections from the Atlanta Regional Commission estimate that by 2030, one in five residents will be 60 or older, which has also changed the face of the city to be more senior-friendly, with $500 million pledged over the past several years to build "diverse housing types and pedestrian-friendly walkways," says AARP Magazine.
The home values are far below the national average, standing at $129,400, making the city that much more attractive. The city also serves as the global hub for Delta Air Lines, offering easy access to children living in other areas of the country.
Pictured: Atlanta city skyline at dusk.
Listed in AARP The Magazine's selections for "Dream Towns" and the "best places to reinvent your life," Charleston, South Carolina is a great place to retire. Although in the city retirement income is taxed, social security is exempt in the state and an income tax deduction for couples filing jointly that are 65 years or older reaches $30,000.
The city has a bustling historic district and is dotted with a variety of gardens, both publicly and privately maintained. The town has been named "The Holy City" for its large volume of churches and other places of worship and has a history of religious tolerance, dating back even before the founding of the country.
More recently, in 2002, Charleston established the country's first "Livability Court," which has jurisdiction over cases involving non-compliance of local codes and standards concerning housing, environment, noise, traffic and tourism. Charleston is also close to resort towns and other pleasure locations, such as Hilton Head, Kiawah, Seabrook Islands and South Carolina's major seaside golf destination, Myrtle Beach.
A northeastern retirement destination, Northampton Massachusetts is described by AARP The Magazine as a "liberal enclave with rural roots." The town is built around a college environment, but it shouldn't be overlooked as simply a destination for university students. The town is set near the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, and is in close proximity to the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mount Tom State Reservation.
Northampton also hosts the twice-yearly Paradise City Arts Festival, Smith College's art museum and boasts a vibrant music scene, with numerous groups calling the town home. Northampton is also several hours from Boston and New York City, so the lights of a metropolis are never too far away.
Pictured: The main street in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Listed by AARP The Magazine as one of the "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life," the town is known for its laid-back attitude and near-perfect year-round weather. The city houses 15 different museums, a world-class zoo, a range of performing arts, pro sports teams and a range of diverse restaurant spots.
However, even with the recession pushing down the value of California real estate - San Diego has seen its median home price drop by nearly 38% since 2006 - home values in the area are significantly above the national average, although small, more affordable suburban enclaves exist around the city.
Depending on your wants, needs and expectations, the "best" place to retire varies as much as the millions of other Baby Boomers eventually looking to retire. Just as a majority of people choose to remain in their current home in their retirement years, the people who choose to relocate do so for a variety of reasons. Because deciding where and when to move is a complex decision, AARP Magazine,which was integral in the production of this story, developed a 20-item checklist ranging from serious financial items to more quirky needs you may come across. Click here for the checklist.