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6 Affordable and Fun Cities for Outdoorsy Retirees

November 6, 2015 | By

Bankrate.com recently published its list of U.S. cities offering senior residents plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature and live affordably.

The list ranks 196 cities in terms of walkability, cost of living, crime rate, health care quality, tax rates, and weather. The ranking also incorporated a specialized wellness score for seniors from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Most cities making the list had an affordable cost of living, “essential to retirees who have to live on a fixed income,” notes Bankrate.com.

Here are Bankrate.com’s six top cities for active retirees:

1. Denver, CO

If your ideal retirement spot involves the slopes and a post-ski pint, there’s really no better spot than the Mile High City.

Residents love the community in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Many locals spend their weekends hiking or skiing. Vail is only a two-hour drive away, they note.

The cost of living in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area is a little high compared with the national average. The median home value in Denver as of Aug. 31, 2015, stood at $322,500, according to Zillow. Denver home values have gone up 17 percent over the past year, and Zillow predicts they will rise by 5 percent within the next year. The median rent price in Denver is $2,095.

But the city has a lot to offer, too. Its crime rate, walkability, and weather all rank favorably compared with other cities around the country. Colorado also places a lower tax burden on residents than the national average, according to the Tax Foundation.

“Also, if you injure yourself skiing on a black diamond trail, never fear: The state has the 13th-best health care system in the country,” notes Bankrate.com.

2. Des Moines, IA

Talk about affordable. As of Aug. 31, 2015, the median home value in Des Moines was listed at $111,800, per Zillow. Plus, Des Moines home values have gone up 2.4 percent over the past year, and Zillow predicts they will rise 2.6 percent within the next year. The median rent price in Des Moines is $995.

Those prices just might make this city at the center of America’s heartland a good option for an active retirement.

Not only is it home to an increasingly vibrant downtown, complete with an excellent farmers market and foodie festivals galore, Des Moines also is a great jumping-off point for outdoor activities, with more than 600 miles of trails. And its 4-mile-long enclosed skywalk connects shops and offices downtown, which is a plus, especially in the winter when temperatures drop.

Iowa also has America’s sixth-best health care system, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

3. Tucson, AZ

If it’s the outdoors you love, look no further than Tucson.

Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges, a variety of flowering deserts, hundreds of miles of trails, and the southernmost ski area in the U.S. There are miles of biking paths around the city, known to locals as “The Loop,” and the city continues to add more bike lanes and routes. Tucson also hosts the twice-yearly Ciclovia event, which opens several miles of public streets to bicycle and pedestrian use, and the world famous 107-mile “El Tour de Tucson” ride in November.

Tucson also ranks high for happiness among residents. Healthways, which scored 105 metro areas in terms of senior well-being, ranks the Tucson area in its top 20.

Southern Arizona’s climate is also postcard perfect. “It’s slightly cooler than Phoenix to the north, and you’ll rarely need to stay inside because of a rainy day,” notes Bankrate.com.

The cost of living is relatively modest, too. The median home value in Tucson as of Aug. 31, 2015, is $135,500, says Zillow. Tucson home values have gone up 1.2 percent over the past year, and Zillow predicts they will rise 4.2 percent within the next year. The median rent price in Tucson is $1,000. Plus, Arizona places a below-average tax burden on residents, according to the Tax Foundation.

4. Prescott, AZ

Prescott, about two hours north of Phoenix, is where many locals visit to escape the sizzling summer heat. Summer visitors can expect average high/low temperatures of 86/49.

According to Prescott.com, there’s literally an outdoor activity for everyone. Prescott National Forest offers visitors more than 450 miles of recreational trails. Prescott gets a fair amount of rain, but winters are mild and the average temperature in August is around 72 degrees.

Much of downtown Prescott can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. Whiskey Row, which was once lined with saloons but now showcases hotels, cafes and bars, is a must-see for anyone passing through, says Bankrate.com.

Healthways gives Prescott high marks for well-being, meaning that residents who are 65 and older are generally happy with their surroundings.

As of Aug. 31, 2015, Zillow says the median home value in Prescott stood at $294,000. Prescott home values have gone up 4.9 percent over the past year, and Zillow predicts they will rise 0.3 percent within the next year. The median rent price in Prescott is $1,425.

5. Arlington, VA

Unlike Phoenix, Virginia does have a winter, but by New England and Midwest standards, it’s pretty mild.

Arlington, just outside of Washington, DC, has more than 100 miles of trails and bike lanes throughout the city, so it’s not surprising that residents here embrace a healthy lifestyle and rank high on the wellness index.

It also has a low crime rate, and locals can get by without a car. Much of the city is walker-friendly, including areas such as Crystal City, Rosslyn, and Ballston. The city has ample public transportation, with a handful of subway stops in the area. Neighboring Alexandria is also friendly to walkers.

Housing costs are higher than the norm for cities on this list. The median home value in Arlington as of August 15 was $620,500, according to Zillow. Arlington home values have gone up 0.5 percent over the past year, and Zillow predicts they will fall -1.3 percent within the next year. The median rent price in Arlington is $2,350.

Northern Virginia also has one of the better health care systems in the country. When compared with the other states, Virginia’s tax rate is more favorable than the national average and falls below its neighbor, Washington, DC, says Bankrate.com.

6. Phoenix, AZ

Arizona’s blazing, bright skies have attracted retirees to the region for generations. The mild winters and dry climate, though, aren’t the only reasons why the Phoenix area made our list. Says Bankrate.com: “When ranking the cities, we also paid attention to well-being surveys of seniors in those communities. Our reason was simple: If we’re going to recommend a place for retirement, we wanted to consider what the locals actually felt about their surroundings. According to Healthways, the Phoenix area ranks among the nation’s best in terms of overall well-being.”

Meanwhile, the cost of living is relatively low, and the Tax Foundation says Arizona has one of the lower overall tax burdens in the country.

According to Zillow, the median home value in Phoenix as of Aug. 31, 2015, stood at $178,500. Phoenix home values have gone up 8.1 percent over the past year, and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.7 percent within the next year. The median rent price in Phoenix is $1,200.

There’s also lots to do: “You can go golfing any day you want. You can watch a game from all four major professional sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB). There’s also NASCAR. You can go hiking, cycling, fishing, rock climbing, or tubing,” says the Phoenix New Times.

Source: “America’s 10 best cities for retirement,” by Betsy Vereckey, published on Bankrate.com.

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