Do your retirement visions include seaside walks, harbor-side dining and proximity to top-shelf hiking, boating and skiing, all within a hip, green, amenity-rich city?
See also: America's healthiest hometowns.
Consider Portland, Maine. Here, business professionals step over lobster pots on their walk to work downtown. From Commercial Street you can sit on a bench inhaling salty air and watching birds wheel over islands in Casco Bay. The downtown also includes historic brick neighborhoods, a year-round farmer's market and thriving indie businesses like Longfellow Books.
The large Downtown Arts District is home to the Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage Company, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Maine Historical Society and Museum, and many smaller art galleries and studios.
In 2009, Portland was named America's Most Livable City by Forbes magazine for its income growth, cultural scene and lack of crime. It has won accolades as an historic destination, a green city, a top spot for outdoor recreation and a haven for creative people.
Portland's cost of living is quite high but so is the median household income, and there isn't much of a problem here with housing foreclosure. As a regional financial center and large port, Portland offers a robust job market. The abundance of outlet malls coaxes more money from the tourists, which puts more sales tax revenue into local government.
Job training is available at the University of Southern Maine (enrollment 11,000), large community colleges in South Portland and Wells, or the ultra-selective Bowdoin College (1,600). The University of Southern Maine has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. And the Portland Public Library has a large main building downtown and branches across the metro.
Older retirees will have company here: Portland boasts a high percentage of residents over age 65. Portland is ethnically homogenous; it's almost 95 percent white.
Ocean sailing is big here, as is boating on the many fish-filled lakes and rivers of Maine's interior. But you don't need a boat to see nature's local splendors: Portland Trails, a nonprofit group, manages 31 miles of trails that run throughout the metro. The group hopes to grow that to 50 miles by adding a few trail miles every year.
The average winter high temperatures are in the 40s and 50s, with summer highs in the 70s to around 80. Flooding is a risk on the rivers and creeks flowing into Casco Bay, and the winter can bring nasty Nor'Easters and the occasional paralyzing ice storm.