The 10 Best Small Towns in the U.S. for Retirees

Retirees appreciate the simple joys of life in these charming and nostalgic towns.

There's something about small towns that inspires nostalgia and the feeling that past traditions are still thriving. Many retirees look for that atmosphere, whether it recalls their own history or a long-imagined ideal place to settle down. There are also practical reasons to move to a small town upon retirement, including affordability, safety, wellness, culture, and comfort. Although not every town offers the ideal combination of these factors, there are many that meet the needs of retirees seeking a simpler life.

The population of a small town can vary from under 10,000 to several times that. Sometimes, towns are considered "small" based on their appearance, the lifestyle they support, or their sense of community. This list takes into a consideration a variety of qualities — cost of living, crime data, health care availability, senior housing, activities, transportation, attractions, and activities. The "best" is ultimately a matter of taste.

Here are some of America's best small towns to consider for retirement — or perhaps even for a weekend visit.

Greer, South Carolina

Located in upstate South Carolina with a population of about 39,000, Greer has maintained a small-town atmosphere with a revitalized downtown area, easy pedestrian access, and attractive twinkling lights. There's always something going on in this charming town, from the weekly farmers market and Thursday night food trucks to annual festivals and holiday gatherings. Additionally, restaurants, parks, and a variety of recreational activities make it so that Greer residents are never bored.

Served by the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport as well as Amtrak, the city is accessible and convenient to additional amenities in nearby Greenville.

Coolidge, Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Coolidge, Arizona, United States
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This south-central Arizona town — set in the northern area of the Sonoran Desert, about 60 miles from Phoenix — has a population of just over 14,700 residents. Retirees who enjoy desert living for health reasons or personal preference can expect very warm summers, with the hottest month (July) averaging 106 degrees. Winter is moderate, and snowfall is rare.

The cost of living in Coolidge is lower than the national and Arizona average. Natural beauty and a quiet lifestyle are also attractions. Some know the town because it's home to the country's first archaeological reserve, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Additionally, Central Arizona College in Coolidge offers personal enrichment classes, continuing education, and workshops for the community.

Dillsboro, North Carolina

This small town is located on the banks of the Tuckasegee River near the south entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With a population of fewer than 300 residents, Dillsboro maintains its 19th-century railroad town charm. Its walkable downtown consists of century-old stores, restaurants, gift shops, and galleries focused on local creators who have moved to the town. Annual events are centered around arts and crafts.

The cost of living in Dillsboro is comparable to the national average. Retirees seeking true small town life, a historic setting, and year-round outdoor activities might enjoy Dillsboro; and when they need a change of pace, Asheville is less than an hour away.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Public library in Fredericksburg, Texas with limestone veneer
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Located in Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg (population roughly 11,000) was founded in 1846 by German immigrants, and that heritage infuses the town's food, architecture, and culture.

Wine lovers will enjoy living in the midst of more than 100 wineries in the area, and stargazers will appreciate the city's status as a Dark Sky Community, with measures to minimize light pollution. Seasonal changes are significant, with dry, warm summers and cold winters. As a tourist destination with a number of historical landmarks, the city offers a variety of restaurants, hotels, museums, and entertainment.

San Antonio and Austin are the closest major cities, both within 70 miles of Fredericksburg.

Cedar Key, Florida

The Sunshine State is home to many charming small towns, and Cedar Key is one of the smallest and most charming. Retirees in Florida enjoy the financial benefits of having no state income tax, and Cedar Key's cost of living is low to moderate.

Set on the Gulf Coast with fewer than 900 residents, the town is considered quiet and relaxed. Nature lovers will appreciate the proximity of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, nature trails, and unspoiled environment. A tourist destination (especially in winter), the town features excellent seafood, with farm-raised clams and Florida oysters available all year. Residents and visitors enjoy the friendly, low-key atmosphere and a variety of events held in every season.

About an hour's drive southwest of Gainesville, the island's cottages, homes, and aquaculture are accessible by Highway 24, the only road entering the town.

Paso Robles, California

City Center view of the historic town of Paso Robles (Pass of the Oaks), California, USA
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Located roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles is a city of around 31,000 residents. Its walkable downtown features restaurants ranging from casual coffee shops to upscale dining, shops, galleries, breweries, wine tasting rooms, and entertainment. Nearby, wineries are set among picturesque rolling hills, many with outdoor areas for picnics. A weekly farmers' market sells local agricultural products like olive oil, seasonal produce, cheeses, herbs, and flowers.

The summers here are warm, and the coast is just a half hour away with several beaches and seaside towns. Active retirees enjoy nearby camping, golfing, biking, and more outdoor activities along the shore or at nearby lakes.

Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Sunset in the Appalachian Mountains over the small American town Jackson Township, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Poconos region.
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Located in northeastern Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, Stroudsburg has a population of fewer than 6,000. Its walkable downtown combines historical architecture and modern amenities including restaurants, wine bars, museums, galleries, shops, antique stores, and hotels.

Since 1979, the Monroe Farmers Market has been a seasonal fixture in Stroudsburg, with locally grown produce, along with honey, baked goods, coffee, and more. An annual arts and crafts festival takes place each August at the town's Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, a living history museum set on 114 acres that also offers tours, educational workshops, and events throughout the year. As a tourist destination, Stroudsburg offers family activities — ideal for grandchildren's visits — and plenty of accommodation.

Mequon, Wisconsin

With a population of around 25,000, Mequon is about 15 miles north of Milwaukee on the western coast of Lake Michigan. Open space, farms, and homes are spread over the area, and 25 parks and five golf courses offer ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Within Mequon, the urban residential center is the Village of Thiensville, located along the Milwaukee River with a population of around 3,200. Restaurants, shops, and family-friendly events like a Memorial Day parade, Independence Day celebration, Christmas tree lighting, and farmers market add to the small-town community atmosphere. Annual events include a softball tournament, bingo, carnival rides, car show, and a chicken dinner sponsored by the local Lions Club.

Bristol, Vermont

Charming downtown Bristol Main Street
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A quintessential New England small town, Bristol appeals to retirees who appreciate the sleepy atmosphere and beautiful scenery — as long as they're prepared for cold winters.

Located in the foothills of the Green Mountains, Bristol's population is under 4,000 residents. Its old-style walkable downtown — a National Historic District — features restaurants, coffee shops, and stores offering gifts, local arts and crafts, clothing, and more. A summer music festival, street fairs, Harvest Festival in fall, and the Independence Day Outhouse Race are a few of the community events. Summer band concerts in the village green have been a tradition since the Civil War.

For a truly vintage touch, recycling is picked up by horse and wagon.

Hamilton, Montana

A white barn and beautiful fall foliage is reflected in pond at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. This tranquil scene is near Hamilton, Montana.
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Retirees who are independent, active, and enjoy being outdoors would love life in Hamilton, where gorgeous scenery is a constant backdrop. Hamilton is defined by its wide-open spaces and rural small-town feel with a strong community atmosphere, but the convenience and amenities of a bigger city are available in Missoula, about an hour's drive away.

Fewer than 5,000 people live in Hamilton, which is surrounded by small farms, ranches, and orchards. The historic town boasts the Ravalli County Museum, set in the original 1900 county courthouse and now listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Bitterroot College University of Montana is located in town, and the public library was funded by the late steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

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