Forbes screened more than 500 locations in the U.S. for everything from climate change risk to availability of doctors to crime. We then compared those that made the cut for what they offered in the way of leisure pursuits—from the arts, learning and fine dining to hiking, skiing, sailing and golf.
When they were ready to retire, Karen and David Griffiths sold their Spanish-style Los Angeles home and moved 700 miles north to a 134-year-old Eastlake Victorian in Ashland, Ore., with 11-foot ceilings, bay windows, a covered porch and views of the surrounding mountains. Karen, now 69, a neonatal intensive care nurse, and David, 70, an investment banker turned software CEO, turned screenwriter and producer, had long known they wanted to settle in a smaller, scenic locale. What drew them to Ashland was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which stages nine months a year of productions ranging from the Tempest to modern musicals and is located just 300 yards from their home. Thanks to its famed theater complex, the town of 22,000 also punches above its weight when it comes to art galleries and fine dining— a priority for the Griffiths. “It was a good fit for us,’’ says David.
As it turns out, Ashland and the two other finalists in the Griffiths’ search, Santa Fe, N.M., and Boulder, Colo., all earned spots on Forbes’ new list of the 25 Best Places To Enjoy Your Retirement. There are several compelling reasons to make a long distance move in retirement: to be closer to family, to cut costs, to enjoy better weather. Another good one is to pursue your avocational passions. After all, Americans 65 years and older spend an average of about seven hours a day on leisure and sports, compared to the five or fewer hours for those of prime working age.
To that end, Forbes has identified 25 top places to follow seven leisure interests in retirement: arts/culture, fine dining, lifelong learning, volunteering, outdoor activities on water, outdoor activities on land, and a special subset, golf. Our choices span all four continental time zones and 16 states. Most are good for multiple passions, and one—Austin, Tex.—hits all seven. While our flagship annual best retirement places list identifies locales offering good retirement bang for the buck, this list seeks out value for the soul. That means high living costs or taxes aren’t in themselves disqualifiers—though notably, more than a fourth of our picks have housing costs near or below the current national median of $404,000.
We do take into account a variety of quality-of-life metrics, ranging from air quality and availability of doctors to the crime rate and a town’s walkability. One factor we now consider disqualifying is a very high susceptibility to climate change and natural hazards as measured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new National Risk Index, which looks at 18 natural hazard risks, plus communities’ preparation for and ability to cope with them. That’s why a number of otherwise appealing choices, including New York City, didn’t make the cut. You can read more about our data sources and selection methodology and how the Griffiths found their retirement bliss, here.