10 Best Places to Retire


by Kristin Hanes Posted on June 22, 2020

Planning for your retirement years is an exciting endeavor, whether they’re right around the corner or years away. You may be imagining relocating to a warm, desert climate, lazy afternoons spent golfing, or wintery sports like cross-country skiing. Retirement is a great time to try a new city or state, and research backs up that seniors are on the move. Keep reading to discover the top 10 best places to retire!

According to SmartAsset, roughly 930,000 people ages 60 and older moved across state lines in 2018. That’s up 16% when looking at data from five years earlier. Some seniors move for financial reasons, seeking out a cheaper cost of living, while others want a new climate and more opportunities for outdoor activities.

To help you plan where to spend your retirement years, we’ve rounded up the top 10 best places to retire. Smart Asset curated this list based on U.S. Census data, where they tracked the number of people aged 60 and older both moving into and out of a city, and determined the 10 locations with the highest net gain. To learn more about each city, read on, or click the link to jump to that section: 

  1. Mesa, Arizona
  2. Spring Valley, Nevada
  3. Scottsdale, Arizona
  4. Lakeland, Florida
  5. Corpus Christi, Texas
  6. Denver, Colorado
  7. Raleigh, North Carolina
  8. Tucson, Arizona
  9. North Las Vegas, Nevada
  10. Tulsa, Oklahoma

These cities have certain attributes in common: They all have good access to first-rate healthcare facilities and are close enough to major airports to be attractive for retirees who enjoy travel and also want to be convenient for family to visit. 

Only two of the 10 cities get any snow (we’re not counting the Nevada towns near Las Vegas, where it only snowed once in the past decade). Except for Denver, these are all mid-size cities that generally offer better affordability and more tranquil settings than big cities. 

When choosing if or where you’re going to relocate when you retire, it’s important to think about what matters most to you. How large a city is appealing to you? Which types of outdoor activities do you want to participate in? What about cost of living? How much do you want to downsize? Are you comfortable making a cross-country move?

Looking for more advice on relocating for retirement? Recent retirees share their best tips on making a successful move.

Now let’s take a look at the 10 cities attracting -- and keeping -- the largest number of retirees.

Explore MESA...

kayaking in Mesa, Arizona, one of the best places to retire
Kayaking in Mesa, Arizona
(Source: @VisitMesa via Facebook) 

1. Mesa, Arizona

  • Typical Home Value: $267,500 (Zillow)
  • Average Rent: $1,156 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 2.59%-$4.50% (all Social Security income is exempt)
  • Weather: Average Highs: 66-105°F, Average rainfall: 10 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport

Mesa, Arizona is number one on our best places to retire list, with 4,000 seniors moving to this Phoenix suburb in 2018. Located in the Sonoran Desert just west of the Superstition Mountains, this dry and arid city boasts pleasant temperatures in the winter and scorching highs during summer. 

If your ideal retirement includes playing endless rounds of golf in warm weather, Mesa is the place for you. The city is home to several championship golf courses, including the Mesa Country Club, founded in the 1940s.

Is exploring nature more your thing? Head out for a stroll in the Usery Mountain Regional Park and enjoy beautiful displays of Saguaro and Barrel Cacti. Or explore the Tonto National Forest, Theodore Roosevelt Lake, and the Salt River. There’s plenty of bicycling, hiking, fishing, and camping near Mesa, which is considered one of the best warm places to retire.

Art and sports are also popular in Arizona’s third-largest city, where you’ll find the Mesa Arts Center, the largest arts and entertainment park in the Southwest, and pro-baseball spring training.

Explore Spring Valley...

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Summerlin community is nestled against the breathtaking
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
(Source: @summerlinnv via Facebook) 

2. Spring Valley, Nevada

  • Typical Home Value: $293,200 (Zillow)
  • Average Rent: $1,204 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 0%
  • Weather: Average Highs: 56-104°F Average rainfall: 5 inches
  • Nearest Airport: McCarran International Airport (10 miles)

Spring Valley, Nevada is just two miles west of the Las Vegas strip, and attracted a large number of seniors ages 75 and older in 2018. The dry desert climate features short, mild winters with brutal heat in the summer, with highs over 100 in June, July, and August with delightful warm weather in months in between.

This unincorporated town is one of the best cities to retire to, and features mostly single-family homes, quiet neighborhoods, and easy access to grocery stores and cafes. Many retirees are also heading to Summerlin, a master planned community next to Spring Valley.

The main drag through Spring Valley is Spring Mountain Road, a series of strip malls also known as Las Vegas’ Chinatown. You’ll find multi-ethnic restaurants, Asian grocery stores, pho, and dim sum. Chinatown Plaza is growing in popularity, with The Lonely Planet calling it Las Vegas’ best-kept secret. 

Nature lovers will enjoy Spring Valley’s proximity to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just a 20-minute drive away. With its mild fall-spring temperatures and lack of income tax, it’s easy to see why this ranks as one of the best places to retire.

Explore Scottsdale...

golf course living in Scottsdale, Arizona, one of the best places to retire
Golf course living in Scottsdale

3. Scottsdale, Arizona

  • Typical Home Value: $423,700 (Zillow)
  • Average Rent: $1,642 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 2.59%-$4.50% (no tax on social security income)
  • Weather: Average Highs: 67-106°F, Average rainfall: 11 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Scottsdale, Arizona is a northern suburb of Phoenix known for its lavish golf courses and day spas. Like Mesa, its weather is mild in the winter and extremely hot, but dry in summer. Considered the most affluent city in Arizona, Mesa has an upscale vibe. It also has the largest senior population of all 205 cities in Smart Asset’s study on the best places to retire, with 30.5% of the city aged 60 and older.

Aside from its fine dining and resort-like feel, Scottsdale also has a variety of nature activities, including the beautiful Scottsdale-McDowell Sonoran Desert National Preserve. If you like art, take a stroll through the historic old town and browse the galleries in the Art District. Or, visit old town’s Museum of the West or the Museum of Contemporary Art.

With 300 days of sunshine, stellar dining, nature adventures ,and art museums, Scottsdale is considered one of the best warm places to retire.

Explore Lakeland...

4. Lakeland, Florida

  • Typical Home Value: $175,000 (Zillow)
  • Average Rent: $1,049 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 0% 
  • Weather: Average Highs: 71-91°F, Average rainfall: 53 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Tampa International Airport

The only Florida city to make the list, Lakeland’s location between Tampa and Orlando puts it close to some of the world’s finest beaches and theme parks, but less crowded and more affordable than either city. The weather is mostly glorious eight months of the year, but June through September can be hard to take with high humidity to go along with the heat. Of course many Florida retirees deal with that by simply escaping to cooler climates.

Known for its antique shops and early 1900s architecture, Lakeland is home to Florida Southern College, which has the largest on-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world.

Art buffs will love wandering through the Polk Museum of Art, and Hollis Garden features over 100,000 flowers, ornamental shrubs, and native trees amid neoclassical architecture. If you love the beach, both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are under two hours away.

It’s no surprise Lakeland is one of the best cities to retire in Florida, with its low cost of living, mild winters, and southern-style hospitality. 

Explore Corpus Christi...

Beach in Corpus Christi, Texas, one of the best places to retire
Beach along the Gulf of Mexico in Corpus Christi
(Source: @visitcorpuschristi via Facebook)

5. Corpus Christi, Texas

  • Typical Home Value: $210,995 (Zillow)
  • Average Rent: $1,010 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 0%
  • Weather: Average Highs: 62-90°F, Average rainfall: 33 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Corpus Christi International Airport

Corpus Christi, situated right on the Gulf of Mexico, features miles of beautiful sandy beaches and mild temperatures, two of the main reasons it’s on many lists of the best cities to retire to. Padre and Mustang Islands are just a 40-minute drive away, perfect for seniors who enjoy walking the beach, kayaking, fishing, and snorkeling.

History buffs will love visiting the WWII aircraft carrier the USS Lexington and the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. There’s also a burgeoning art scene, jazz concerts, a symphony orchestra, and a playhouse.

Don’t expect a sleepy city in Corpus Christi. This Texan town is home to a bustling port, a branch of Texas A&M University, and a U.S. Navy Airbase. It’s a popular vacation destination and one of the best warm places to retire, with its low costs, sunny weather, and abundance of seafood.

Explore denver...

Highline Canal trail area in Denver Colorado
The view from Sumic Hill Farm along the Highline Canal trail in the Denver area
(Source: @highlinecanal via Instagram)

6. Denver, Colorado

  • Typical Home Value: $442,700 (Zillow) 
  • Average Rent: $1,574 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 4.63%
  • Weather: Average Highs: 47-92°F, Average rainfall: 17 inches, Average snowfall: 60 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Denver International Airport

Otherwise known as the Mile High City, Denver is perched on the edge of the Rocky Mountains and is the perfect jumping-off point for skiing, fishing, hiking, and a myriad of other outdoor activities. Despite getting a good bit of snow and a longer, colder winter than any other city on this list, Denver retirees will also enjoy 300 sunny days per year. 

Denver is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., and housing prices reflect the influx of out-of-staters. Though Colorado does have a state income tax, people age 65 and older can deduct $24,000 a year on all retirement income, and property taxes are among the lowest in the U.S. 

This Colorado city features 5,000 acres of parks, trails, golf courses, and playgrounds. A favorite among seniors and all ages is the Highline Canal trail, which meanders over 71 miles through Denver and surrounding communities. You’ll also find an exciting mix of art, performance, and live music. Like beer? Denver is home to over 100 breweries.

Explore raleigh...

Downtown Raleigh, NC in the evening
Downtown Raleigh from Dorothea Dix Park
(Source: @visitRaleigh via Facebook)

7. Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Typical Home Value: $288,900 (Zillow) 
  • Average Rent: $1,177 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 5.25% (all Social Security income is exempt)
  • Weather: Average Highs: 54-86°F, Average rainfall: 46 inches, Average snowfall: 3-5 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Raleigh-Durham International Airport

This fast-growing North Carolina city is diverse and energetic, with over 200 parks and a 152-mile greenway for hiking and biking. Retirees who still want to experience distinct seasons will appreciate the climate in Raleigh, with winter lows no colder than 30 degrees, and milder summers than places like Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. 

As part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Raleigh is a science and technology hub that’s drawing young professionals and students alike, so retirees can enjoy a multi-generational, intellectual environment with a healthy economy. 

Raleigh is one of the best places to retire for seniors who love a thriving cultural scene, with live music, art galleries, beer gardens, and restaurants. It’s both two hours from the mountains and the beach, which means easy access to a slew of outdoor activities.

People who live in Raleigh are known to love sweet tea and BBQ and have a friendly, welcoming attitude.

Explore tucson...

Downtown Tucson, Arizona
View of downtown Tucson, Arizona
(Source: @rayclevelandphotography via Facebook

8. Tucson, Arizona

  • Typical Home Value: $217,110 (Zillow) 
  • Average Rent: $889
  • State Income Tax: 2.59%-4.50% (all Social Security income is exempt)
  • Weather: Average Highs: 55-100°F Average rainfall: 12 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Tucson International Airport

This affordable and cactus-filled city in Southern Arizona is known for its beautiful desert vistas, colorful sunsets, and thriving culture for seniors. Both retirees and snowbirds alike flock to the Old Pueblo to enjoy low costs of living and an abundance of outdoor activities. 

According to SmartAsset, the cost of living in Tucson is 27% lower than in New York City. To boot, Tucson is right on the edge of Saguaro National Park, which is a great place for hiking, biking, and getting to know the Sonoran Desert.

The newly revitalized downtown core is home to shops, bars, and restaurants and easy to explore on the Sun Link StreetCar. Or, you can visit the Mercado San Augustin annex, with its 38 modified shipping containers housing bars, retail mall, and 500-seat outdoor entertainment venue.

If you love sunny weather, affordability, and a vibrant music and arts culture, Tucson may be the best place to retire.

Explore north las vegas...

Welcome to North Las Vegas sign
(Source: @CityofNorthLasVegas via Facebook)

9. North Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Typical Home Value: $275,800 (Zillow) 
  • Average Rent: $960
  • State Income Tax: 0%
  • Weather: Average Highs: 60-106°F Average rainfall: 5 inches
  • Nearest Airport: McCarran International Airport

While North Las Vegas has the smallest senior population of any city in the Top 10, it may be an emerging hotspot for retirees. In 2018, a total of 1,508 moved to North Las Vegas while only 400 moved out. Like Spring Valley, Nevada, #2 on this list, the climate is pretty great most of the year except during the blazing summer months. 

North Las Vegas is a short drive away from the Strip but offers the peace and quiet of a traditional suburban town. Many people choose to call this city home because of its affordable housing opportunities and expansive desert views.

Retirees who choose North Las Vegas are close to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The nearby Lake Mead and Colorado River provide opportunities for boating and lounging on the beach.

explore tulsa...

Stuart Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Stuart Park, behind Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum
(Source: @cityoftulsa via Facebook)

10. Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • Typical Home Value: $153,900 (Zillow) 
  • Average Rent: $765 (Rent Jungle)
  • State Income Tax: 0.5%-5% (Social Security income is exempt, plus there’s a $10,000 deduction for all other types of retirement income) 
  • Weather: Average Highs: 47-94°F, Average rainfall: 42 inches, Average snowfall: 6 inches
  • Nearest Airport: Tulsa International Airport

Tulsa is a friendly Midwestern town with cowboy and Native American roots. Although cooler than most of the other Top 10, Tulsa hardly gets any snow and even the winter lows aren’t that bad, dipping down to about 27 degrees in January. On the positive side, the summers are much milder than in Arizona and Florida. 

Outdoor lovers will enjoy the 130 parks throughout the Metro area and 50 miles of hiking and biking trails. There are also several outdoor golf courses, live music, and art galleries. If you’re a fan of architecture, a walk through the Deco District offers unique designs by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Residents of Tulsa love going to the annual Oktoberfest celebration as well as the Tulsa Raceway Park for drag racing. The town also boasts distinct neighborhoods with coffee shops, cafes and boutiques.

Retirees looking for affordability, a friendly vibe, live music, and a variety of outdoor activities will find Tulsa one of the best places to retire.

While you’re exploring destinations for your next home, here’s a primer on aging-in-place features to look for that will help make life safer and easier in retirement. And since it’s also never too soon to start planning your move -- especially if you’ve lived in the same home for many years -- here’s a thorough moving checklist to help you keep track and reduce stress along the way to your new life in retirement. 

Kristin Hanes is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in SF Gate, Marie Claire, and Realtor.com, among other publications.

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