10 Unique Towns To Consider Retiring To

Amanda S. Creasey

One of the most glorious aspects of retirement is the flexibility to choose where you live based on your preferences, interests, and hobbies. There’s no longer a need to settle in a location in order to have access to the best careers or schools. For perhaps the first time in your life, you can ask: Where do I want to live? Here are some ideas that might help you answer that question.

You’re a Dog Lover: Richmond, Virginia

If Virginia is for lovers, its capital city is for dog lovers. The city hosts several dog-friendly events, including:

  • Bark in the Park, a weekly dog-friendly minor league game held during baseball season at The Diamond
  • Woofstock, an annual celebration of the dog put on by the Richmond Animal League, featuring a one-mile dog walk, vendors, music and games
  • The Dominion Riverrock, a festival that features a canine dock jumping competition and a dog-friendly 5K run
  • The Richmond SPCA’s 5K Run and one-mile Dog Jog

Your pup can tag along to many of the dog-friendly farmer’s markets in the area, such as South of the James, which features several vendors geared exclusively to dogs. Don’t leave your dog behind when you head to the mall, either. Most stores at Stony Point Fashion Park welcome them inside. If boutique shopping is more your style, take your pooch to the one-of-a-kind local shops and eateries of Carytown, where many businesses allow dogs inside and almost all shops place water bowls outside their doors.

Finally, take advantage of Richmond SPCA’s impressive indoor training facility, which offers a large variety of classes, from basic training to agility. Or, if you find yourself a little too busy to take classes with your dog, enroll Fido in the SPCA’s School for Dogs, where you can drop your dog off twice a week for a full day of socialization and training.

You’re a Foodie: Indianapolis, Indiana

Although food hot spots like New York City and Los Angeles may come to mind when you think of good eats, Indianapolis ranks right up there with them, without the exorbitant cost of living (45% less expensive than New York City and 30% less expensive than Los Angeles). The city’s unique eateries include:

  • One of celebrity chef Michael Symon’s B Spot Burgers, voted best burger in America for three consecutive years
  • St. Elmo Steak House and Shapiro’s Delicatessen, both of which appeared on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”
  • A plethora of food trucks and other stellar cheap eats, as featured on the Cooking Channel’s “Eat St.” and “Cheap Eats”

There’s also the Devour Indy Event, which happens once in the winter and once in the summer, and features roughly 200 restaurants. To take advantage, you need only visit a participating establishment during the two-week celebration and ask for the Devour menu, which will include a value-priced, three-course meal.

You’re a Beer Drinker: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Home to Hopcat, America’s best brewpub and the world’s third best beer, Grand Rapids ranks fourth on AARP’s list of Top U.S. Cities for Beer Drinkers. The town is known for its beer tourism, and many hotels in the area offer special beer packages, perfect for all the friends and family who will come visit you.

Use the Brewsader Passport to familiarize yourself with your local breweries. There are more than 40 beer brewers around town, and 32 participate in the Brewsader program. Visit eight of them to earn a T-shirt. Visit all 32 to become a card-holding Ultimate Brewsader, a title that earns you a discount card good at several local breweries and entitles you to special offers at many area breweries.

After you’ve experienced all 32 breweries with the Brewsader Passport, embark on the Beer City Ale Trail, a self-guided tour of over 40 local breweries, many of which offer production tours.

You’re a Sun Seeker: Yuma, Arizona

If you love to bask in the warmth of the sun, consider putting down roots in the city that holds the Guinness World Record as the Sunniest City on Earth.

Yuma, Arizona is sunny roughly 90 percent of the year, and even dead-of-winter highs average in the upper 60s. Of course, you’ll have to put up with high temperatures in the summer, which can exceed 100 degrees. With 34 public parks, four public swimming pools, and a riverfront walking and biking path, Yuma offers not only lots of sunshine, but lots of ways to get out and soak it in.

As an added bonus, Arizona doesn’t tax Social Security benefits. One last ray of sunshine? Arizona also doesn’t impose an estate or inheritance tax.

You Love the Sea Air: Manteo, North Carolina

The small town of Manteo sits on an island off the untamed Outer Banks of North Carolina and is home to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a popular tourist spot. Manteo features many waterfront dining and shopping options, as well as plentiful opportunities for fishing, boating, and other water sports.

Fishermen and -women will enjoy competing in the many fishing competitions held every year, including:

  • Two billfish tournaments, one that’s ladies only, in support of the Outer Banks Cancer Support Group, and one that’s open to all
  • A photo catch and release kayak fishing tournament for flounder, red drum and speckled trout
  • The Capital City Four Wheelers Surf Fishing Tournament, a charitable competition that helps support Cape Hatteras non-profits like Meals on Wheels and the local food bank

Even if you don’t catch any fish yourself, you can still enjoy fresh-caught, local seafood year-round at places like Darrell’s, Avenue Waterfront Grille, or 1587. In addition to the everyday seafood dining options, Manteo and the surrounding area are home to several seafood festivals, including Day at the Docks, which features a chowder contest and boat parade, and the Outer Banks Seafood Festival.

Tour the lighthouse or visit the Roanoke Island Maritime Museum, where you can also volunteer by setting up displays and exhibits, restoring watercraft, and helping to build boats. And don’t forget the annual Wooden Boat Show, where you can show off your own watercraft or just appreciate those of others.

You’re a Golfer: St. George, Utah

Though Orlando, Florida sits at the top of every golfer’s list, if you want to golf year-round in your own backyard, then the area sometimes known as “Utah’s Florida” might be a better alternative. In comparison to Orlando, St. George is safer, less crowded, and has lower healthcare costs, as well as some of the best golf courses in the country. The beautiful red rock vistas don’t hurt, either.

The city’s Red Rock Golf Trail includes its 10 local golf courses, all conveniently situated within a ten-mile radius. Several golf tournaments take place in the city throughout the year. Compete with other golf enthusiasts in the St. George Amateur at the St. George Golf Club, and join the St. George City Golf Loyalty Rewards Program to receive reduced fees on tee times, a discount at all St. George golf shops, and a free round of golf after you’ve played 20 rounds. For the avid golfer, St. George is truly a hole-in-one.

You’re a Hiker: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs is an avid hiker’s dream. Various trail systems in the area offer everything from easy to difficult hikes, all of which feature spectacular views. Enjoy exploring 105 miles of urban trails and 160 miles of park trails. And you can spend time on the 15 miles of scenic trails at Garden of the Gods, where you can volunteer as a nature walk guide or help out with trail maintenance.

For the experienced hiker, Manitou Incline may become a regular favorite. Don’t let the short, one-mile length fool you. The trail features a 2,000-foot altitude gain! For a less intense and very scenic hike, tackle the two trails at Seven Falls, so breathtaking it claims a spot on National Geographic’s list of top international waterfalls. Another option is Red Rock Canyon, where the six trails range from one to three miles.

You’re a Ski Bum: Centennial, Wyoming

If you love invigorating mountain air and spending your days on the slopes, consider Wyoming. It’s less expensive than other mountain states, such as Colorado and Utah, less crowded, and considered one of the two tax-friendliest mountain states, as there are no taxes on income, pension, or Social Security.

The tiny town of Centennial, Wyoming, about one hour outside of Cheyenne, sits nestled in the Snowy Range, not far from the Snowy Range Ski Area. Meet new friends by joining the Snowy Range Ski Club, and celebrate the snow and your favorite winter sports at the family-friendly Snow Festival.

Other events throughout the year include a 60+ Ski Clinic, Ski Every Run Day, Warm Sock Appreciation Day, and Bacon Day. Snowy Range Ski Area even hosts an Old Ticket Day near the end of the season, in which they honor the leftover lift tickets you might have in your bag or wallet.

When you need a break from your ski habit, take a camping trip to nearby Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, which features hiking trails, fishing, hunting, picnic areas, boat ramps and, yes, skiing.

You’re a History Buff: San Francisco, California

San Francisco ranks in Travel and Leisure’s top 20 list of “America’s Best Cities for History Buffs” and in similar lists from U.S. News & World Report and USAToday. Although cities like Boston and Philadelphia also made the lists, San Francisco is unique in its year-round comfortable climate, stunning vistas, small-town charm, and cultural diversity. In addition, it boasts some of the best hospitals and healthiest living in the country—and no state tax on your Social Security Benefits.

Opportunities to feed your inner history buff are nearly endless in The Golden City. Start with a walking tour, followed by a visit to Fort Point, the national historic site at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Constructed during the Gold Rush, it is the only structure west of the Mississippi River built in the military’s Third System style, and has been called “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America.”

Two other must-sees are Alcatraz Island and the Cable Car Museum. Another of your favorite places may end up being Mission Dolores. Completed in 1776, it is the oldest standing building in San Francisco and features the only cemetery remaining within the city’s limits, where several notable Californians rest.

Become a regular at Old Ship Saloon, debatably the oldest bar in the city, built on the site where The Arkansas ran aground during the Gold Rush. The wreck was dragged ashore and converted into a bar, but later buried. The saloon sits atop the buried wreckage.

You Love Antiquing: Hazel, Kentucky

Despite a population of less than 500, this old railroad town is home to hundreds of antique dealers located at 12 independent antique shops, covering 40,000 square feet, most along one main strip for easy walkability. Following the remodeling and reopening of the Hazel Antique Mall in 2014, the town has seen a resurgence in antique tourism. The mall hosts 50 vendors hailing from four different states.

In addition to year-round antiquing, every year the small town celebrates its history with Hazel Day, featuring live music, a pancake breakfast, and a classic car show. There’s also a scavenger hunt through the various shops in town, almost all of which offer special sales for the day.

In addition to Hazel Day, the town hosts many other antique-centered events throughout the year, including the Rusty Relic Sidewalk Sale and the Christmas Open House. In fact, with six events scheduled throughout the year, there are always new—well, old—antiques to discover in Hazel. The annual 400-Mile Sale includes Hazel, as well as nearby localities, on its route. If you’re looking for something old in somewhere new, Hazel might be a good fit for you.

Finding the perfect town to retire to isn’t just about finding a place known for your favorite pastime. It’s about finding a place where you’re free to be you. Now that you have more flexibility to live where you want to live, take full advantage of it and enjoy your retirement years.

READ MORE: 10 Unique Towns To Consider For Retirement