HGTV Reveals 20 Best Small Towns to Retire

HGTV small town study

Heavy/HGTV HGTV releases small town study

Small town life is a big draw for HGTV viewers, who’ve delivered huge ratings for shows like Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “Fixer Upper” and Erin and Ben Napier’s “Home Town” over the last decade. But neither of the towns where those shows are filmed — Waco, Texas, and Laurel, Mississippi — made HGTV’s list of the top 20 small towns for retirees, according to CNN.

HGTV came up with its list by comparing towns with 100,000 residents or less that “have been touted for their low cost of living, affordable housing, public safety, good-quality healthcare and low tax rates.”

The network says it also looked for towns offering retirees plenty of opportunities for activity, including outdoor recreation, historic sites, live music, cultural performances, sporting events and bike trails. Unsurprisingly, many of the towns that made the list are located in “close proximity to universities and strollable historic districts with shopping, coffee shops and restaurants.”

But while HGTV’s list gives good options for those looking to relocate in retirement, there’s also been research released recently about the worst places to retire. Here’s what you need to know:

HGTV’s Top 20 Small Towns to Retire: Full List

Greenville, South Carolina

Heavy/GettyGreenville, South Carolina

HGTV’s top towns for retirement are scattered across the U.S, with just one located on the west coast. Here are the network’s picks, in no particular order:

Greenville, South Carolina

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, HGTV chose Greenville because its “climate is mild, the cost of living is low and there is a lot to do.” With easy access to hiking and biking trails, including those at Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville is also home to Falls Park on the Reedy, a 26-acre urban park with a waterfall and 345-foot-long pedestrian footbridge.

Roanoke, Virginia

Also nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains, HGTV said Roanoke is especially popular among retirees who love the outdoors with beautiful views from its hiking paths, including the Roanoke Star, the world’s largest man-made star that wows with views across the Roanoke Valley. There are also multiple museums downtown, such as the Harrison Museum of African American Culture and Roanoke Pinball Museum.

Iowa City, Iowa

With a low crime rate and good healthcare system, Iowa City is a college town, home to the University of Iowa, so there are lots of collegiate sports teams, lectures and artistic events to tap into. Iowa City has historically been a big draw for writers, too, so residents and visitors love the Literary Walk, which honors the works of nearly 50 accomplished writers with ties to the small town.

Lawrence, Kansas

Another college town, home to the University of Kansas, Lawrence offers lots of opportunities to explore the arts, cheer on sports teams, and enjoy “plenty of open, green spaces,” HGTV said. It also boasts affordable home prices and zero estate tax. The historic district features charming coffee shops, boutiques, pubs and cafés, and the Lawrence Farmers’ Market is a big draw on Saturday mornings.

Carmel, Indiana

A short drive from Indianapolis, Carmel is particularly popular among biking enthusiasts thanks to the Monon Trail, a paved “rails-to-trails path that stretches 20 miles from Carmel to Indianapolis,” per HGTV, with eight bike rental stations along the path. The town also has its own symphony orchestra and a world-class performing arts center.

Franklin, Tennessee

Located a half hour south of Nashville, Franklin has a The 16-block historic district and also in  golf courses, art galleries, parks and celebrities. Lots of stars have homes in Franklin, including Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, and country star Luke Bryan.

Eagle, Idaho

A suburb of Boise, Eagle is a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts, HGTV said, touting its easy access to hiking and skiing, a top-ranked golf course, and Eagle Island State Park.

Cedar Park, Texas

Located in Texas Hill Country, 30 minutes from Austin, HGTV said Cedar Park “wows with beautiful green spaces, scenic wine trails, public golf courses, and fashionable boutiques” with no state income tax, making it a “dream for retirees.”

Liberty, Missouri

A Kansas City suburb, HGTV said Liberty’s highlights include low home prices, city parks, nature trails and is home to William Jewell College, which has two performing arts centers and sporting events.

Catalina Foothills, Arizona

HGTV said Catalina Foothills in the Tucson area is a popular place for retirees, with multiple golf courses, hiking trails, and “flourishing food scene.” It’s also close to Saguaro National Park, which is home to the largest cacti in the United States.

Charlottesville, Virginia

The second Virginia town to make the list, Charlottesville features “historic landmarks, world-class wineries, public art, and the University of Virginia, which means plenty of great music and interesting speakers come through town,” per HGTV.

Bozeman, Montana

Thanks to “quality healthcare, beautiful mountain scenery, and lots of cultural activities, including the opera, symphony, live concerts and ballet,” Bozeman impressed HGTV, which also mentioned its two nearby ski resorts – Big Sky and Bridger Bowl.

Burlington, Vermont

Set along the shore of Lake Champlain, Burlington is a paradise for lake-loving retirees, HGTV said, with tons of opportunities for boating and a marketplace full of shops, art galleries, and food carts. Plus, Vermont residents ages 65 and up receive free tuition at the University of Vermont.

Easton, Maryland

The seaside town of Easton features charming tree-lined streets with antique shops and award-winning restaurants, per HGTV, which also said the area has a solid reputation for access to good health care thanks to a regional health system affiliated with the University of Maryland.

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Calling all cowboys! According to HGTV, “western heritage is huge” in Cheyenne, home to the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. Retirees can also take in the Cheyenne Depot Museum, devoted to the history of the Union Pacific Railroad, country line dancing, horseback riding, fishing and hiking. Wyoming is also considered one of the most tax-friendly states in the U.S., per HGTV.

Morgantown, West Virginia

Home to West Virginia University, Morgantown‘s highlights include a low cost of living, lots of public parks, and on-campus activities ranging from college football games to a symphony orchestra to an art museum. The school also provides quality medical services for the small town.

Richland, Washington

The only small town along the West Coast to make the list, Richland is known for sunny days, over 200 wineries within an hour’s drive, public parks and several large hospital systems. Washington also boasts no state income tax, which is important to many retirees.

Portland, Maine

The quaint town of Portland boasts small-town feel paired with amenities “more commonly found in big cities, like good-quality healthcare and a thriving culinary scene,” HGTV said, adding that the town was named Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year in 2018. It also features its own Arts District, with galleries, studios and arts venues across town.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Located in western Massachusetts, Pittsfield is an affordable option for those wanting to live in New England, HGTV said, which also highlighted the town’s access to live music, theatre performances and community festivals.

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Located in the Ozark Mountains, HGTV said Fayetteville offers lots of outdoor recreation opportunities and is home to the University of Arkansas, making it another college town with plenty of sporting events, cultural museums and theatre performances to keep retirees busy. In addition, residents aged 60 and up can take college classes tuition-free.

Iowa Named Top State for Retirees

Iowa on map

HeavyIowa on a map

Before retirees make their move to one of HGTV’s top-rated small towns, they may also want to look into Bankrate’s 2023 list of the best and worst states for retirees. The financial company created its list by analyzing five categories across all 50 states: affordability, overall well-being, the cost and quality of healthcare, weather and crime.

Bankrate rated Iowa as the top state for retirees, followed by Delaware, West Virginia, Missouri and Mississippi. Combining Bankrate’s list and HGTV’s list, Iowa City just might be the hottest spot for those looking to retire in a small town.

Meanwhile, affordability and weather landed Alaska in last place on Bankrate’s lists. The bottom five also included New York, California, Washington and Massachusetts.

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