Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

AARP Bulletin

Best Places to Retire

10 Great Small Cities for Retirement

Looking for a place where there's lots to do, but you won't get lost in the crowd? Check out our top picks

En español | In thinking about your retirement plans, are you drawn to urban living but deterred by the chaos, crowds and high cost of big-city life?

Lakes and mountains are a summer treat for grandchildren in Burlington-Vermont- a young girl plays in a lake

Lakes and mountains are a summer treat for grandchildren in Burlington, Vermont. — Adam Jeffery/Getty Images

If so, you might find just what you're looking for in a small city — one that combines the energy and excitement of cosmopolitan life with the charm and neighborliness of a small town.

To help you find such a place, we scoured dozens of small cities throughout the United States and selected our 10 favorites.

In making our picks, we focused on cities with a unique sense of place and a manageable size: Each has a population under 100,000 — small enough to easily navigate but large enough to offer a wide array of culture, amenities and services. These are cities with fairly solid economic foundations and low crime rates. Many are home to colleges and universities, as well as museums, concert halls and theaters. 

Take a look at our list and see if you can find the city that feels just right for you.

Burlington, Vermont

What's not to love about a town that offers world-class urban planning, a thriving, artsy economy and easy access to myriad outdoor activities, including excellent skiing and sailing? Ah yes: the cold. OK, Burlington is in northern Vermont, which means winters come early, stay late and mean business. But to many folks, that's a fair trade off.

See also: Where to retire for a good life for less

Burlington, located about 180 miles northwest of Boston and 75 miles south of Montreal, scores high for livability among seniors. In 2008, AARP honored the Winooski Falls neighborhood with a livable community award for its blend of businesses, residences, public transportation and recreational spaces.

The city's centerpiece is Church Street Marketplace, a four-block, partially enclosed pedestrian mall that mixes Victorian and Art Deco buildings with modern structures to create a thriving city center. Casual and fine dining, coffee shops and bars, galleries and shops — it's all here. The site of the first Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, founded in the late 1970s, is now a parking lot but its reincarnation is nearby on Church Street. The marketplace, like much of Burlington, often buzzes with college-town energy from the 11,000 students at the University of Vermont. 

Retirees seeking culture can check out the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, a 1,453-seat Art Deco masterpiece built in 1930, which hosts the local symphony, a musical theater group, touring musicians and, in June, the Discover Jazz Festival. Classical and jazz musicians perform on the UVM campus, and professional and student actors take the stage at the university's Royall Tyler Theatre. And UVM's Robert Hull Fleming Museum has an extensive collection of fine art and ethnographic material, as well as space for traveling exhibits.

The city sits on the shores of Lake Champlain, a great place for sailing, kayaking, fishing and more. Miles of lakefront trails keep walkers, joggers and cyclists in shape, and numerous ski resorts, including Stowe, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen and Jay Peak, are within easy reach.  

Reasons for pause, besides the winters, include high taxes and expensive housing. But the median household income is also way above average, and housing foreclosures are almost unknown. If your retirement daydreams involve a healthy, culturally rich, lakeside town, Burlington may be for you.

Next page: Past and present converge in Athens, Georgia. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Cereal

Members can download and print coupons for cereals from Kellogg's®.

Grocery Coupon Center

Members can print savings coupons at the Grocery Coupon Center powered by Coupons.com.

membership schwanns discount

Members get double Schwan’s rewards on all online orders from Schwan's Home Service™.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points