For some, it's the stillness of a cool morning while fishing on a lake. For others, it's the feel of warm sand between the toes as the surf rushes in. For still others, it's the hurly-burly of city life with bookstores, restaurants, theaters, and museums.
To help you get started on the process of picking a favorite place, U.S. News put together a list of about 2,000 American places with a population above 15,000. Yes, some people prefer even fewer neighbors, and rural life has its charms. But often those charms come with limited access to top medical care or not enough job options for those retirees who may want or need additional income.
From that first cut of 2,000, we winnowed it down to a little over 1,000 places, using criteria that included cost of living, climate, crime rate, access to healthcare, educational opportunities, and cultural and recreational amenities. To whet your appetite, we selected 10 editors' picks (from Bozeman, Mont., to Venice, Fla.), which you'll find profiled in the following pages. There's a big-city splurge, San Francisco, with world-class culture and dining, breathtaking views, and, yes, housing prices to match. But there are also heartland cities where the cost of living is well under the national average. And we added brief descriptions of 10 more places that we think offer a great array of fine choices. Finally, we included favorites submitted by our readers.
But why settle for other people's picks? Just go to www.usnews.com/retiresearch, and you will find a tool that allows you to customize your personal search for the best place to retire. Plug in the region and climate you like, your preferred recreational activities, how much you want to pay for housing, whether you wish to be close to educational facilities, how much access to healthcare you want, and how important a low crime rate is to you. You'll end up with a list of places ranked by how close they are to your preferred criteria, with detailed information about each place. If you don't like them, adjust your settings and try again.
Go ahead, dream a little. And surf a lot.
Peachtree City, Ga.
By Tim Smart