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Best Places to Retire 2012

10 Great Sunny Places to Retire

If bright skies and warm temperatures are on your must-have list, these cities fit the bill

great sunny places to retire- a riverbend in Grand Junction, Colorado

Red rock country, wending rivers and - yes - dinosaur fossils abound in the sunny expanses around Grand Junction, Colo. — © Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction appears to have so much going for it that it even its tourism promoters don't know where to focus when listing the city's charms: Inspiring landscapes! Charming downtown! Outdoor adventures! Golfing paradise! Wine country!

See also: America's healthiest hometowns.

This is one of those cities that burst on to the scene over the past decade when people started tiring of urban hassles in Denver and Salt Lake City. And the exclamatory claims, for the most part, hold up.

Grand Junction, with a population of 58,444, sits in high desert between two phenomenal natural attractions: Colorado National Monument, west of town, is home to towering monoliths, vast plateaus and canyons. To the east, Grand Mesa, home to over 300 lakes, is one of the largest flat-top mountains in the world. It is part of a contiguous swath of almost 3.2 million acres of public land — the combined grandeur of Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests.

Add to this Grand Junction's location at the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, and the opportunities for outdoor activity could (and do!) fill guidebooks on their own. Hiking, biking, golf, rafting, kayaking, climbing, fishing, ice fishing, skiing — all are here, in abundance.

While at least one travel website has dubbed Grand Junction "a suburb without a city," the downtown area has a mellow Western charm and one of the nation's largest sidewalk sculpture galleries — almost 100 sculptures in all. Among the 189 restaurants are chains, fine-dining establishments, coffee houses and rocking bars and dance clubs. There's even a respectable collection of museums and performing arts venues, including the Avalon Theater (built in 1923), Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and Museum of Western Colorado.

As for the wine, the Grand Valley is the fruit basket of Colorado and growers committed to the grape produce a lot of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, although other varietals are represented as well. The wine-a-palooza peaks every year at the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade, 10 miles east of Grand Junction.

The area has above average air and water quality, and has more physicians per capita than the U.S. average. Crime — violent and property — is above average, perhaps because of elevated drug and alcohol use by youth. Slow season is December through February. Summer can be hot (average July high temperature: 93 degrees) but usually only for a few weeks. Then it's back to all those great things the PR department — and many retirees — keep saying about Grand Junction.

Next Page: Retire on the best beach in the U.S. »

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