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Best small towns for retirees in America

Best small towns for retirees in America

While many American retirees are remodeling their homes to help them age in place, others who have bid adieu to the workplace are seeking new locales. With no shortage of choices, how do they decide?

Some ways to narrow down the list include moving closer to grandkids or choosing a vacation spot that has generated wonderful family memories over the years. Folks who get the blues from high taxes and cold weather can find plenty of tax-friendly, warmer settings to establish new roots. Likewise, those with aspirations of spending time on perfectly manicured greens with a club in hand have their pick of communities that cater to golf enthusiasts.

Big cities have advantages, but retirees shouldn’t overlook small towns. Many smaller communities enable residents to live a quiet lifestyle while offering plenty of cultural and recreational activities, restaurants, shops, and other amenities. Some towns offer advantages that appeal to denizens of all generations, like Del Mar, California, while others have been specifically designed for adults, like Cypress Lake, Florida.

To help retirees planning to move, Stacker referenced Niche’s Best Places to Retire study, which lists 50 American small towns that offer the best retirements. A maximum of 10 towns from each state and towns with a population of fewer than 40,000 were considered for the rankings, which Niche calculated according to retiree representation, weather quality, cost and safety, access to healthy living, and a handful of other factors. Niche labels such as “urban” or “dense urban” for area feel were excluded. For each town, Stacker has included the town’s resident population along with figures for median home value, median rent, and median household income.

Read on to see which small towns are among the best spots to retire in America.

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#50: King, Wisconsin

- Population: 1,804
- Median home value: $116,000 (71% own)
- Median rent: $808 (29% rent)
- Median household income: $67,583

This Waupaca County town, which Niche says has the lowest cost of living in Wisconsin, is brimming with outdoor recreation options. Nearby Hartman Creek State Park, for example, is perfect for hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.

#49: Trent Woods, North Carolina

- Population: 4,081
- Median home value: $227,200 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,224 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $86,593

Trent Woods, North Carolina, has a little bit of everything: It's one of the safest towns in the nation and boasts affordable housing, a family vibe, a relatively low cost of living, and the great year-round weather means a plethora of options for outdoor activities. It's no wonder, then, that it's considered one of the best small towns for retirees.

#48: Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan

- Population: 2,860
- Median home value: $477,600 (92% own)
- Median rent: $1,833 (8% rent)
- Median household income: $150,703

This town on the shoreline of Lake St. Clair offers residents beautiful views and bountiful water pursuits, and the all-inclusive Grosse Pointe Yacht Club is the city’s only commercial property. Area cultural institutions include the Grosse Pointe Symphony Orchestra and the Grosse Pointe THeatre. With Detroit about a 20-minute drive away, there is easy access to even more arts and entertainment.

#47: Great Neck Estates, New York

- Population: 2,841
- Median home value: $1,356,100 (90% own)
- Median rent: $1,884 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $148,939

Less than an hour outside of New York City, Great Neck Estates is a small village on Long Island in Nassau County. Kake.com called Nassau County one of the best counties in which to retire in New York, especially for those looking for a bit more "hustle and bustle." The cost of living is on the higher end, but residents are rewarded with trips into New York City, visits to the ports and harbors of the North Shore of Long Island, or playing tennis and other activities at Great Neck Estates Park.

#46: Carefree, Arizona

- Population: 3,749
- Median home value: $721,500 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,264 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $97,773

Carefree, Arizona, is exactly that—a worry-free small town that is one of the best for retirees. Located in Maricopa County, the town is located less than 45 minutes from Phoenix, giving it fantastic connectivity. The town is small, with just under 4,000 people, and is known for its great weather and bountiful outdoor activities like art and cultural festivals, gardens, and al fresco dining.

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#45: Great Neck Gardens, New York

- Population: 1,183
- Median home value: $941,800 (92% own)
- Median rent: National$949 (8% rent)
- Median household income: $218,603

This .2-square-mile hamlet is one of several communities in the Great Neck area. Getting to New York City’s Penn Station takes about 35 minutes by train, but there are plenty of reasons to stay close, including the activities and programs offered by the Great Neck Park District.

#44: Emerald Bay, Texas

- Population: 1,307
- Median home value: $240,900 (98% own)
- Median rent: National$949 (2% rent)
- Median household income: $74,470

Perched on Lake Palestine in eastern Texas, Emerald Bay is a top spot in the state for retirees because of its small population (approximately 1,300 residents), rural feel, and affordable cost of living. The town is home to the Emerald Bay Community, as well, which has an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, and restaurant.

#43: St. Simons, Georgia

- Population: 14,302
- Median home value: $366,100 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,409 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $85,350

St. Simons Island is part of the barrier islands off the coast of Georgia known as the Golden Isles. It's one of the largest of the islands, and one of the most beautiful and quintessentially Southern. Picture Spanish moss hanging from stately oak trees, quaint streets, restaurants, and shops. The median age on St. Simons, according to the World Population Review, is about 54 years old. The island has a higher-than-average cost of living—understandable what with the island's great weather, pristine setting, and wealth of outdoor activities.

#42: Town and Country, Missouri

- Population: 11,066
- Median home value: $726,600 (86% own)
- Median rent: $1,114 (14% rent)
- Median household income: $178,000

This affluent St. Louis suburb is the home of the Bellerive Country Club, which hosted the PGA Championship back in 2018. In 2017, Town and Country began creating a New England-style town square to foster a more tight-knit community.

#41: Pinehurst, North Carolina

- Population: 15,821
- Median home value: $297,100 (85% own)
- Median rent: $1,547 (15% rent)
- Median household income: $80,128

Low crime rates, combined with deliciously warm weather, golf courses (around 40), park space, and gardens makes Pinehurst, North Carolina, a great place to retire. The small town enjoys a great perch from which to access the busier cities, as well: Chapel Hill is an hour-and-a-half away and Charlotte is two hours away.

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#40: Ocean View, Delaware

- Population: 2,198
- Median home value: $336,100 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,346 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $76,734

Ocean View, Delaware, is a small coastal town with just over 2,000 residents known for its suburban, rural feel and its great weather, low crime, and all-around warm family atmosphere. Zacks reports that Delaware is a great place to retire in general for its tax benefits for retirees, but what makes Ocean View so special is its access to 28 miles of beaches, parks, space for bike riding and hiking, and annual festivals, as well as access to major metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.

#39: St. James, North Carolina

- Population: 5,133
- Median home value: $449,400 (96% own)
- Median rent: $1,711 (4% rent)
- Median household income: $101,563

St. James, located on North Carolina’s southeast coast, was incorporated in 1999. Wetlands, open spaces, ponds, and marshlands add to the town’s visual appeal. It also has four and a half golf courses, a community center with various activities, a number of tennis courts and swimming pools, and a marina and beach club along the Oak Island seashore.

#38: Holly Hills, Colorado

- Population: 2,909
- Median home value: $426,500 (93% own)
- Median rent: $2,634 (7% rent)
- Median household income: $136,176

Holly Hills is a small Denver suburb, which gives residents the advantage of being close to the excitement of the city with the ability to go home to a small, friendly community at the end of the day. It’s perfect for those who enjoy winter weather, as it gets an average of 23 inches of snow a year, and its average annual high temperature doesn’t quite hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

#37: Indian Wells, California

- Population: 5,317
- Median home value: $706,800 (85% own)
- Median rent: $861 (15% rent)
- Median household income: $104,522

The self-proclaimed “California desert sanctuary” in the Coachella Valley lives up to its moniker with amazing mountain views, 350 days of sunshine, renowned golf courses, and several r­esidential­ country clubs. The Southern California town also sponsors a number of sporting and cultural events, including the BNP Paribas Open, the world’s fifth-largest tennis tournament.

#36: Isle of Palms, South Carolina

- Population: 4,345
- Median home value: $814,400 (84% own)
- Median rent: $1,976 (16% rent)
- Median household income: $112,287

The Isle of Palms is one of the South Carolina Lowcountry barrier islands, with six miles of sugary beaches, wildlife, resorts, spas, golf, and restaurants. Retirees are drawn to the endless array of outdoor activities, from fishing and tennis to sailing, kayaking, and golf. Plus, it's just 12 miles from bustling Charleston and all the activities and services of a major Southern city.

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#35: Woodbury, New York

- Population: 8,603
- Median home value: $840,000 (87% own)
- Median rent: $2,631 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $168,605

This hamlet within the town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County offers a plethora of recreational activities. They include nearby beaches, the par-70 Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course, and the 400-acre Trail View State Park, a local treasure for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and birdwatchers. Free concerts and movies at local parks and beaches have become a summer tradition for residents.

#34: Manhasset, New York

- Population: 8,138
- Median home value: $1,057,500 (76% own)
- Median rent: $1,426 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $133,456

This Long Island hamlet is home to the luxury shopping center Americana Manhasset. Beaches and golf courses aren’t far, and neither is Manhattan, which is 20 miles away.

#33: Palm Valley, Texas

- Population: 1,706
- Median home value: $169,500 (80% own)
- Median rent: $1,114 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $72,500

When it comes to retiring in Texas, Palm Valley ranks among one of the best small towns because of its low crime, family atmosphere, warm weather, and relatively low cost of living. Palm Valley is a veritable nature lover's paradise, with hiking and biking trails, the Harlingen Country Club, and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. South Texas is a prime spot for birders, as well, and Palm Valley is near nesting grounds of many species of birds that migrate through Hugh Ramsey and Thicket Nature Parks.

#32: Sun Lakes, Arizona

- Population: 14,582
- Median home value: $264,200 (91% own)
- Median rent: $1,390 (9% rent)
- Median household income: $58,894

This master-planned community near Phoenix claims to offer a “resort vacation lifestyle and country club living.” Indeed, Sun Lakes has five adult country club communities represented by three homeowner associations, numerous golf courses, and hundreds of special-interest clubs. The community also has a community college campus that offers lifelong learning opportunities.

#31: Garrett Park, Maryland

- Population: 1,010
- Median home value: $812,000 (90% own)
- Median rent: $1,646 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $179,306

This Washington D.C. suburb has a small population of just over 1,000 people. It offers retirees a suburban vibe with restaurants, coffee shops, and plenty of green space—and the proximity to the nation's capital leaves even more room for culture, arts, and education. Garrett Park retains its historic, small-town charm with potluck town dinners, farmers markets, a swim club, and historic homes and buildings.

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#30: Bingham Farms, Michigan

- Population: 1,101
- Median home value: $395,400 (87% own)
- Median rent: $1,042 (13% rent)
- Median household income: $118,571

This community created its Design Review Board “to preserve, protect, and enhance the ecologically and historically unique environment and aesthetic charm of the village.” Residents are just minutes from Detroit and 30 miles from the Brighton Howell area, which has 123 miles of trails and 20 golf courses.

#29: Olmos Park, Texas

- Population: 1,999
- Median home value: $714,800 (76% own)
- Median rent: $805 (24% rent)
- Median household income: $167,667

Olmos Park is surrounded by San Antonio, offering the community quick access to all the attractions found in the larger city. It also lays claim to year-round warm weather.

#28: Sunset Beach, North Carolina

- Population: 3,826
- Median home value: $273,200 (83% own)
- Median rent: $1,081 (17% rent)
- Median household income: $56,086

Golfers and anglers alike won’t have trouble filling their days in this town that spans the island bearing its name and parts of the coastal mainland. Sunset Beach is also a short walk from Bird Island, the undeveloped barrier island that is home to threatened or endangered species like loggerhead sea turtles.

#27: Sun City, Arizona

- Population: 39,348
- Median home value: $145,800 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,067 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $38,899

Billed as “The Original Fun City,” Sun City is dedicated to creating a fun, relaxing place for active retired adults. Residents can join more than 130 recognized clubs (including political organizations, performing arts groups, and fitness groups), spend their days on the putting green, or attend classes at nearby colleges and senior education centers.

#26: Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina

- Population: 1,368
- Median home value: $372,300 (89% own)
- Median rent: $1,145 (11% rent)
- Median household income: $73,958

This community sits on the 25.4-mile barrier island of Bogue Banks, which is part of an area called the Crystal Coast for its white beaches and clear water. With numerous water trails and a temperate climate, the coast is a paddler's paradise. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores offers a different kind of fun, as well as volunteer opportunities.

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#25: Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

- Population: 9,396
- Median home value: $250,600 (82% own)
- Median rent: $1,143 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $55,735

The MarshWalk is a source of pride in this beach town known as the seafood capital of South Carolina. It’s a half-mile boardwalk along a saltwater estuary where residents can eat, listen to live music, shop, and enjoy recreational water activities. Myrtle Beach is 10 miles away; and Huntington Beach State Park is even closer.

#24: Paradise Valley, Arizona

- Population: 14,215
- Median home value: $1,505,300 (93% own)
- Median rent: $1,862 (7% rent)
- Median household income: $204,145

This Phoenix suburb sits on the edges of both the Phoenix Mountains Preserve and Camelback Mountain and has three golf courses, four medical centers, nine resorts, and 294 sunny days per year. Its stated mission is to provide “high-quality public services to a community which values limited government.”

#23: Hollywood Park, Texas

- Population: 3,342
- Median home value: $326,200 (82% own)
- Median rent: $3,303 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $112,083

Hollywood Park is a San Antonio suburb self-described as “a great, peaceful, and friendly place to live.” The Hollywood Park Community Association works toward that goal by hosting community events and running programs like Neighbors Lifting Neighbors, which pairs people needing assistance with others seeking to help.

#22: South Kensington, Maryland

- Population: 8,769
- Median home value: $736,300 (90% own)
- Median rent: $2,164 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $181,941

Though South Kensington has its share of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, residents also have easy access to the sights, shops, and eateries of Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas. There are also loads of hiking trails throughout Montgomery County.

#21: Bethany Beach, Delaware

- Population: 1,006
- Median home value: $509,400 (97% own)
- Median rent: $1,211 (3% rent)
- Median household income: $79,904

Bethany Beach is among the southern Delaware coastal towns known as the Quiet Resorts. It hosts concerts, movies, and bonfires in the summer when its population swells and is close to the peaceful Assawoman Bay State Wildlife Area.

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#20: Fountain Hills, Arizona

- Population: 24,490
- Median home value: $404,800 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,233 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $81,537

This safe, master-planned community in Maricopa County holds numerous community events throughout the year and is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The town, known for its large fountain, is an International Dark Sky Community, a designation given to places that “promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship.”

#19: Sun City West, Arizona

- Population: 25,444
- Median home value: $201,900 (88% own)
- Median rent: $1,243 (12% rent)
- Median household income: $47,739

This unincorporated community near Phoenix was founded in 1978 by Del Webb. In addition to its seven golf courses, Sun City West offers amenities like adult learning opportunities, organized trips, more than 100 clubs, and four recreation centers.

#18: Sewall's Point, Florida

- Population: 2,102
- Median home value: $719,900 (96% own)
- Median rent: $2,162 (4% rent)
- Median household income: $138,068

Sewall's Point thrives on the water. Surrounded on three sides by the St. Lucie River as well as the Indian River Lagoon, Sewall's Point is known for its stunning natural beauty, wildlife, and green space. It has beautiful year-round weather, parks, and nearby beaches.

#17: West Lake Hills, Texas

- Population: 3,314
- Median home value: $979,200 (79% own)
- Median rent: $1,445 (21% rent)
- Median household income: $165,375

This hilly, four-square-mile patch of Texas is conveniently located near Austin's downtown and two Austin gems Zilker Metropolitan Park and Lady Bird Lake. West Lake Hills received a 2019 Certified Scenic City award, which recognizes cities that demonstrate a “commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and spaces.”

#16: Indian River Shores, Florida

- Population: 4,142
- Median home value: $683,400 (97% own)
- Median rent: $1,119 (3% rent)
- Median household income: $115,478

This small town sits on Indian River County’s barrier island located off the coast of Central Florida. With its fantastic weather, safe community, and direct beach access, it is a wonderful spot for outdoor activities and wellness. It’s very close to the bustling beach community of Vero Beach, which means active retirees will always have something to do.

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#15: High Point, Florida

- Population: 3,704
- Median home value: $70,100 (82% own)
- Median rent: $913 (18% rent)
- Median household income: $36,386

High Point is a community that sits on Florida's Gulf coast, not far from Tampa Bay's pulsing metropolis. Seniors love the warm weather and quaint downtown, plus it’s one of the most affordable places in the nation, with home values far below the national median.

#14: Dutch Island, Georgia

- Population: 1,013
- Median home value: $503,000 (100% own)
- Median rent: National$949 (0% rent)
- Median household income: $123,281

Dutch Island, situated on the outskirts of Savannah, is like stepping into another world. The tight-knit island community was built along 500 acres of pristine natural beauty and prides itself as a perfect place for retirees thanks to its quiet and serene atmosphere. Dutch Islandis small, with just 480 homes, and offers plenty of activities from tennis and beach volleyball to boating, hiking, and a community pool.

#13: Windy Hills, Kentucky

- Population: 2,297
- Median home value: $257,600 (97% own)
- Median rent: $1,542 (3% rent)
- Median household income: $94,145

Home to early pioneer families, Windy Hills has a 3.5-mile paved loop for walking enthusiasts and offers community events throughout the year. Known as a “City of Historic Homes,” visitors can view the exteriors of houses built as early as 1790.

#12: Garden City, South Carolina

- Population: 10,070
- Median home value: $140,200 (77% own)
- Median rent: $975 (23% rent)
- Median household income: $43,920

Garden City is a prime spot for crabbing and fishing because of its access to the Atlantic Ocean and Murrells Inlet. The community’s 668-foot-long fishing pier provides an ideal spot for anglers during the day and acts as a live-music venue during summer evenings. For anyone considering a move to Garden City Beach, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce offers a relocation guide.

#11: Leland Grove, Illinois

- Population: 1,457
- Median home value: $222,300 (96% own)
- Median rent: $950 (4% rent)
- Median household income: $108,750

Leland Grove is just minutes away from Springfield and all the restaurants, attractions, and shopping the state capital has to offer. A 2013 regional planning commission report noted that Leland Grove’s “high-quality residential character represents its greatest strength,” and that its “community spirit is a valuable asset.”

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#10: Green Valley, Arizona

- Population: 21,723
- Median home value: $167,800 (81% own)
- Median rent: $978 (19% rent)
- Median household income: $49,731

Recreation and learning opportunities abound in this retirement community 25 miles south of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. The nonprofit Green Valley Recreation operates 13 recreation centers and offers more than 1,000 classes. Every March, it hosts the Southern Arizona Senior Games in which more than 1,000 participants compete in events that include bicycling, mah-jongg, tennis, and powerlifting.

#9: Englewood, Florida

- Population: 15,252
- Median home value: $162,300 (80% own)
- Median rent: $876 (20% rent)
- Median household income: $48,793

What's not to love about this beachfront town on Florida's southern Gulf coast? Shared by Charlotte and Sarasota counties, Englewood's beaches are wide and uncrowded, making them popular spots for water activities and observing the many bird species that call this part of the state home. The low-key beach town has two state parks, Stump Pass Beach State Park and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.

#8: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

- Population: 1,281
- Median home value: $926,200 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,290 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $97,750

There’s a lot to enjoy within this town’s one square mile, including pristine beaches and a mile-long boardwalk filled with attractions, shops, and restaurants. In the summer, Rehoboth Beach hosts a free concert series.

#7: Timber Pines, Florida

- Population: 5,303
- Median home value: $149,500 (90% own)
- Median rent: $966 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $47,805

The Timber Pines Community Association, which says it’s dedicated to offering premier “country club living for active adults,” calls Timber Pines the “best-kept secret in Florida.” Residents can swim in two geothermally heated pools, golf on four courses, play tennis on eight courts, and join more than 100 clubs, classes, and organizations.

#6: South Sarasota, Florida

- Population: 5,316
- Median home value: $435,800 (70% own)
- Median rent: $965 (30% rent)
- Median household income: $66,214

South Sarasota in Sarasota County is near Roberts Bay, home to Edwards Islands Park, a pair of islands perfect for beach days, boating, and fishing. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Field Club was originally the winter home of Stanley and Sara Carroll Brown Field, of Marshall Field department store fame.

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#5: Jensen Beach, Florida

- Population: 13,477
- Median home value: $212,300 (75% own)
- Median rent: $1,014 (25% rent)
- Median household income: $53,920

Between Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach sits Jensen Beach, a vibrant community known for its major shopping centers, fine dining, and water sports. Jensen Beach has two golf courses and hosts an annual arts and crafts show.

#4: North River Shores, Florida

- Population: 3,663
- Median home value: $203,400 (78% own)
- Median rent: $1,221 (22% rent)
- Median household income: $52,729

North River Shores sits on the banks of the North Fork St. Lucie River in Martin County. Residents can appreciate the four waterfront neighborhood parks and a private boat ramp.

#3: Whiskey Creek, Florida

- Population: 5,030
- Median home value: $222,700 (90% own)
- Median rent: $1,170 (10% rent)
- Median household income: $73,810

Located within the Fort Myers and Cape Coral areas, the Whiskey Creek neighborhood sits near the Caloosahatchee River, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. Community members may join the semi-private Whiskey Creek Country Club for access to an 18-hole golf course and a bar and restaurant, as well as social activities such as bridge and dancing.

#2: Ridge Wood Heights, Florida

- Population: 4,140
- Median home value: $188,200 (68% own)
- Median rent: $999 (32% rent)
- Median household income: $53,235

Located in Sarasota County, which is full of beaches and attractions, Ridge Wood Heights scored particularly high with Niche on health and fitness. The community is only a 15-minute drive to Siesta Key, a Gulf of Mexico barrier island with sandy beaches, tidal pools, and coral reefs.

#1: Lake Success, New York

- Population: 3,102
- Median home value: $1,192,800 (98% own)
- Median rent: $3,501 (2% rent)
- Median household income: $190,500

This New York village offers fitness center memberships as well as planned game and movie nights. There’s plenty of opportunity for golfing at Lake Success Golf Club or the Fresh Meadow Country Club, which has been a destination for celebrities including Babe Ruth.

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