Retirement looks different for everyone. Maybe your dream is lounging by the beach or boating over crystal blue waters. Or maybe it's exploring the great outdoors or taking in museums, live music and theater.
Perhaps you don't plan to "retire" at all, but instead start a new business after your main career ends. No matter what your vision looks like, there’s a place to bring it to life, and our 2021 Best Places to Retire list can help you home in on that location.
We looked at nearly 100 different metrics (for a total of over 150,000 unique data points) to determine the top 10 most desirable places to retire in the U.S. Home prices, weather and access to health care factored in, as did local amenities and facilities. The result is a wide-ranging list of towns that spans all the way from New Hampshire to Texas to Idaho.
We focused on places whose COVID-19 vaccination rates were close to or higher than their state average. And while some of the activities listed below may be modified due to the on-going pandemic, these locations also have abundant outdoor resources.
Need help finding the perfect spot to put down roots and enjoy this exciting life stage? Dig in and enjoy.
Population 50+: 40%
Days of sunshine a year: 187
Median home price: 381,015
Don’t let its picturesque Main Street and affordable housing fool you. Though Carmel may seem like just another quaint suburb of Indianapolis, this year's winner is bustling with activity and culture in its own right.
The town is home to its own orchestra, several art councils and theater troupes, a Center for Performing Arts and a number of museums. The Museum of Minature Houses is a particularly unique one. Featuring over 1,000 to-scale miniature (and historically correct) homes, the museum has welcomed more than 100,000 visitors since its opening nearly 30 years ago. You can even take part in a three-level scavenger hunt while you’re there.
Carmel also plays host to a year-round slate of events, including regular farmers markets, an annual German Christkindlmarkt, and festivals for art, coffee, beer and more.
The city is a pioneer in road safety: It has been replacing traditional intersections with safer roundabout versions for years (there are now 140 and counting), and it's known as the Roundabout Capital of the U.S.
Carmel also boasts plenty of shopping in its Arts & Design District. To keep fit, walk or bike the 25-mile Monon Trail, explore the lush Coxhall Gardens park, or head to the city’s fitness center, which has several pools, group fitness classes, cardio equipment and even a full-scale water park.
Population 50+: 37%
Days of sunshine a year: 208
Median home price:m $564,842
Franklin regularly makes our top 10 Best Places to Live list for all ages, but with 37% of its residents 50 or older, it’s a fine place to retire too. (The town also ranked in last year's retirement roundup.) With several golf clubs, plenty of museums and historical sites, and access to Nashville just 30 minutes away, there’s little to be desired in this central Tennessee town — particularly for those in the post-work stage of life.
The town’s historic district is especially popular, boasting a wide array of boutiques, cafes and taphouses, and the city’s long list of community events is unrivaled. Check out the weekly Franklin Farmers Market, attend one of the many holiday parades and festivals, or carve out time for the “Dickens of a Christmas” celebration, when downtown transforms into Victorian England, complete with live actors and well-known Dickens characters.
Franklin’s got plenty of culture too. The Franklin Theatre plays host to a year-round slate of concerts, movies, plays and dance performances, and if history’s your thing, the city is home to numerous centuries-old buildings (the book store is over 200 years old!), various Civil War sites, and several nationally recognized historic places. You can even go on a Civil War battleground tour or check out war-time artifacts at the Lotz House Museum.
And if you’re itching for some time in the great outdoors, well, Franklin’s got you covered there, too. Over half of the town’s days are sunny, and snow is a rarity. Throw in the state’s low taxes (its individual tax burden ranks at No. 47 in the country, according to the Tax Foundation), and you’ve got a pretty idyllic place to settle down.
Boca Raton, Florida
Population 50+: 51%
Days of sunshine a year: 234
Median home price: $484,276
If days spent by the beach and a sense of camaraderie sound appealing, then it doesn’t get better than Boca. At 141,215 residents, this beachside town is the largest on our list, and more than half of Boca Ratonians are age 50 or older.
It’s almost as exciting as Boca’s weather, which boasts clear skies an impressive 234 days of the year. Throw in the city's 40-plus parks, 1,600 acres of recreational space and five straight miles of beaches, and you’ve got a veritable paradise just waiting to be explored.
Zero state income tax, luxury real estate and top-notch health care facilities also make this town a big draw for retirees. If you’re into travel (or the snowbird lifestyle), Boca’s airport makes it easy. Major airlines like American, United, Delta and Spirit all service the hub. A high-speed train is also coming to town in 2022 and will offer easy access to Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale — no sitting in traffic required.
Boca offers plenty of opportunities for socialization. Head to the town’s weeklong Festival of the Arts, check out the decked-out vessels at the annual Holiday Boat Parade, or stop by the Boca Raton Championship, a storied pro golf tournament at Boca’s Broken Sound Club. Be sure to check out the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex, too, which features several aquariums, a sea turtle rehabilitation facility and guided canoe tours. You can even attend a hatchling release and see baby turtles make their way to the ocean.
Lower Merion, Pennsylvania
Population 50+: 44%
Days of sunshine a year: 205
Median home price: $533,394
Fancy yourself a history buff? Then Lower Merion might be the place to call home.
With three unique historic districts, over a dozen nationally recognized historical landmarks, and two historical societies (one dedicated solely to stopping horse thieves), Lower Merion offers a unique glimpse at America’s past. It’s also just a stone’s throw from Philadelphia, where you’ll find sites like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the famous steps from "Rocky" (i.e., the Philadelphia Museum of Art).
But Lower Merion is more than its historic ties. The township, which also made last year's list of Best Places to Retire, is brimming with culture and outdoor amenities as well. From parks, arboretums and botanic gardens to duck ponds and golf courses, there’s no shortage of outside enjoyment here. You can even participate in the town’s Main Line Bike Race every summer or explore one of the 200 museums and 350 theaters within its 15-mile radius.
If movies are your thing, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute is a must-see. Housed in the historic Seville Theatre near the Bryn Mawr College campus, the nonprofit offers a full schedule of screenings (new, classic and independent films included), as well as film discussions, filmmaking workshops and educational courses.
Lower Merion has you covered on the health front as well. The township’s home to Lankenau Medical Center (the No. 10-ranked hospital in the state), and there’s also PALM — the Center for Positive Aging in Lower Merion, which offers free medical screenings, an on-site nurse and fitness instruction for all residents 55 and up.
Population 50+: 37%
Days of sunshine a year: 216
Median home price: $233,711
Good things come in small packages. At least that’s true for Liberty, Missouri, a Kansas City suburb of just 30,000 residents.
Take home prices, for example. The median sale price in Liberty is a mere $233,711 — a far cry from the nation’s $352,800 average. Even better? That $120,000 in savings goes far in the city. Spend it on an upcoming performance at the Liberty Performing Arts Theater (the Nutcracker costs just $16.50), a $10 trolley tour of historic downtown, or a ticket to some live NCAA sports courtesy of nearby William Jewell College.
Plenty of sunny days (more than half of of Liberty’s days are clear), give you ample time to explore the city’s parks, walking trails and Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, which features 53 acres of native wildlife, birds, plants and more.
Liberty’s unique historical sites are worth a look, too. Stop by the Odd Fellows Home complex, which includes multiple 1900s-era buildings (plus a working winery) and the Jesse James Bank Museum, the site of the country’s first daytime bank robbery.
Community is big here, too. The Liberty Silver Center serves residents 60 and up, offering daily meals, games, fitness classes and even holiday celebrations. The town of Liberty also serves up a host of events and happenings.
Salem, New Hampshire
Population 50+: 46%
Days of sunshine a year: 201
Median home price: $406,600
Salem might be on the smaller side of our list, but nearly half of its just 30,000 residents are 50 and up — making it easy for retirees to find community in this north Boston suburb.
The town’s amenities serve a wide range of interests. Residents can hit the links at one of the area’s three golf courses, ante up at Chasers Poker Room and Casino, or take the grandkids to Canobie State Park, a 1902 amusement park still in operation today.
Love live music? The New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra — known as “The Phil” — is based in Salem. Catch it throughout the year at the Seifert Performing Arts Center. One festive event on the calendar is The Phil’s Holiday Pops concert, which features both classic and modern holiday hits.
For exercise, Salem Town Forest is full of trails to hike and bike. If you have the travel bug but can’t afford an international trip, stop by "America’s Stonehenge," Salem’s 4,000-year-old maze of rocks and stone. Rumor has it the site served as an astronomical calendar many moons ago.
If retail therapy’s more your thing, you’re in luck: New Hampshire is one of the few states with zero sales tax. Take advantage at Salem’s Mall at Rockingham Park (there’s over 1 million square feet of shopping space!), head over to the outlet shops in nearby Merrimack, or make a day of it in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Beantown’s about a 45-minute drive south.
Population 50+: 41%
Days of sunshine a year: 209
Median home price: $544,185
This picturesque Boise suburb is perfect for those looking for an active retirement. Eagle residents enjoy a massive, 545-acre state park, 133 miles of trails and a river for kayaking, fishing and swimming. The city is nestled in the foothills of the Boise Mountains, making for easy hiking and skiing too (Bogus Basin is less than an hour away).
Eagle’s bike park and arboretum are also popular outdoor stops, as is the BanBury Golf Course, which Golf Digest once rated the No. 7 golf course in the state. Even better? With 211 sunny days a year, there’s plenty of time to enjoy it.
The city’s many events are worth mentioning too. Eagle plays host to regular concerts, “yappy” hours for dog owners, Saturday markets and a slew of annual gatherings like the Harvest Festival, Country Christmas and Eagle Fun Days, a two-day celebration featuring fireworks, a car show and a bean-bag throwing tournament in Downtown Eagle.
Speaking of Downtown Eagle, this walkable district gets a lot of use from residents. You can dine, shop or stop by the Heritage Park gazebo for some live music. There’s even a glass-fusing studio if you want to pick up a new hobby.
And if making connections is on your agenda, Eagle’s Senior Center can help. Enjoy free meals, bingo nights, theater performances, pinochle and more. Over the holidays, the group is headed to The Egyptian Theatre in Boise for an acoustic Christmas performance by Suzy Bogguss and T. Graham Brown.
Cedar Park, Texas
Population 50+: 30%
Days of sunshine a year: 229
Median home price: $395,525
If Florida-worthy sunny skies, ample access to parks, lakes and other outdoor amenities sounds like your dream for retirement, Cedar Park, Texas, might be for you. And like the Sunshine State, the Lone Star State levies no income tax on its residents, a big draw for retirees.
Located just 30 minutes north of Austin, Cedar Park’s a bustling suburban community with nearly 77,000 residents — a whopping 44% increase from just a decade ago. It’s no surprise, really: The town is full to the brim with activities, recreational opportunities and culture, and while its close proximity to the state capital is certainly a plus, you don’t have to leave Cedar Park for much.
Yearning to see some art? Stop by the sculpture garden on Main Street. Enjoy live sports? The HEB Center is home to both a professional hockey team (the Texas Stars) and a member of the NBA G League, basketball's minor league (the Austin Spurs). You can even sit in on a live taping of the Price is Right there next spring.
The town’s outdoor amenities are top-notch too. Brushy Creek Lake Park is a local favorite, featuring a 38-acre lake, volleyball courts, natural trails and boat rentals, and if you've got a furry friend, the Bark Park can offer recreation for you both.
While home prices are slightly above the national average in Cedar Park, they pale in comparison to its nearby metro area. The city's median sale price in the first quarter of the year was $395,525, while over in Austin, it hit nearly $600,000.
Teaneck, New Jersey
Population 50+: 39%
Days of sunshine a year: 212
Median home price: $468,093
Want to spend your time taking in the arts? Give Teaneck, New Jersey, a look. Located a mere 16 miles from New York City, Teaneck offers easy access to world-class performances on the daily (hello, Broadway)!
But its prime location near the Big Apple is only part of Teaneck’s cultural appeal. The township of 41,000 is also home to its own band, several theatre groups, art galleries, a music hall and its own international film festival.
And if you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors (it’s sunny there 211 days out of the year), this diverse city can help there too. Check out the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, walk the trails at Teaneck Greenway, or head to one of Teaneck’s 24 parks. They offer everything from pools, exercise stations and bike paths to handball, pickleball and tennis courts.
According to Age-friendly Teaneck, the number of residents 65 and up has surged 22% since just 2000. The city has dedicated a portion of its community center to seniors, offering fitness classes, educational courses, an on-site nurse and a game room with a billiards table, ping pong and more.
At Teaneck’s Cedar Lane, an 125-year-old shopping and dining district, you’ll find clothing boutiques, pizzerias, hair salons, coffee shops and even a few fish markets. There’s also a movie theater and a pottery studio.
Population 50+: 37%
Days of sunshine a year: 213
Median home price: $373,111
Situated just 21 minutes west of Baltimore and a mere 24 from Washington, D.C., Columbia’s a planned community with just under 106,000 residents. Make no mistake, though: This isn’t your typical suburban town, and for a place so small, Columbia actually has a surprising amount to do.
Its Merriweather Post Pavilion plays host to a year-round slate of concerts (Rod Stewart and Cheap Trick are coming soon); there are three lakes, 80 miles of trails and a nature center; and there’s a bustling theater scene too. You can catch dinner and a show at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. (Next up is Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” featuring 17 songs and a full cast of local performers).
Columbia’s also home to several art galleries, its own orchestra and a community garden with over 600 rentable plots. The city — as well as greater Howard County where the town’s situated — is home to numerous community centers (including six for residents 50 and older), plus a long list of year-round events, like regular trivia and bingo nights, weekly markets and an annual restaurant week.
It's also the most diverse city on our list this year and boasts the second-lowest home prices. As of the first quarter of last year, the median home cost is just over $373,000.
To find Money’s Best Places to Retire, we considered cities and towns with populations ranging from 25,000 up to 500,000. We eliminated locations with more than 1.5 the national crime risk, a median income lower than its state’s or significantly less racial diversity than the surrounding state. This gave us about 1,300 places to consider.
We then collected more than 150,000 unique data points to narrow the list. We considered data on each place’s housing market, economic health, cost of living, quality of life, mental and physical health factors, diversity and amenities, all provided by Money's research partner, Witlytic. You can view more information about the data we used here. To pick the retirement destinations noted here, we put the greatest weight on quality of life factors (like weather), cost of living and health and safety amenities. We also focused on places whose COVID-19 vaccination rates were close to or higher than their state average as reported by The New York Times.
Among the statistics called out here, population and percent of population age 50 or above data reflect Synergos Technologies Inc.’s interpretation of U.S. Census and IRS data. Median home sale price reflects the first quarter of 2021 from Attom Data. Count of days of sunshine a year reflects clear day data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.