Ann Arbor, Mich.
Physical exercise in Ann Arbor extends far beyond the top-tier sports squads at the University of Michigan: Ann Arbor was named one of the healthiest cities in America by AARP The Magazine in 2008 because so many of its residents exercise regularly, its health care resources are exceptional and it overflows with large, well-tended public parks.
The city's shady streets rise from the winding Huron River valley to thread their way through gently rolling hills. The university (enrollment 39,000) is the game in town, and the 12-block downtown bustles with collegiate energy, along with vibrant restaurants, bars and shops.
Ann Arbor's cultural calendar is brimful, thanks to campus-based performing arts groups and theaters, as well as the city's museums of art and natural history. The town also supports a symphony, opera, ballet and theater companies.
The University of Michigan Wolverines play in the country's largest college football stadium (capacity: 108,000). When Ohio State, Michigan State or Notre Dame come to town, don't plan on driving anywhere. The UM men's ice hockey team has won nine national championships, and the men's basketball team has made four trips to the NCAA Final Four.
A lot of adults here are under age 35, and not many are over 65. When the Ann Arbor News announced plans to scale back its print edition to twice a week, locals seemed unfazed.
Michigan's unemployment rate — 9.3 percent in December 2011 — is among the 10 highest in the country, and the state's economy likely will take a while to recover. But unemployment in Ann Arbor is only 5.5 percent, thanks (again!) to the university and the jobs it fuels. Among other things, the school is a major center for federally sponsored research and development.
Michigan also is attractive if you live on a pension: Most withdrawals from private pensions are exempt from state income tax, as are all public pensions.
An exerciser's paradise, Ann Arbor is one of the top areas in the U.S. for commuting by foot or bicycle. The city maintains two municipal golf courses, four pools (three outdoor, one indoor) and two ice rinks (one indoor, one outdoor). The programs at its marquee YMCA serve more than 24,000 people, with several swimming pools and weight rooms, an indoor track and a dizzying variety of sports leagues and classes.
Crime is below the national average, and locals enjoy a long life expectancy. The metro area ranks third in the country in the number of doctors per resident, and the huge University of Michigan Medical Center is top-ranked. Ann Arborites have low rates of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and are unlikely to smoke.
Next: Milwaukee. »