Each year, AARP The Magazine scours the country to find the best places to live for Americans 50+. With many readers still navigating tough economic times, this year the magazine’s editors looked for cities that offer not just affordable housing and a low cost of living, but reasonably-priced luxuries: Museums, cultural offerings, hiking and biking trails, and other amenities that enrich life as you age. All for $100 a day, or an annual income of $36,500.
AARP The Magazine’s August/September issue (in homes July 24th) features five of the top ten cities who made the cut for 2012, and the additional five honorees are featured online now at www.aarp.org/magazine. The complete list of the Top Ten Places to Live on $100 A Day includes: Eau Claire, WI; Gainesville, FL; Grand Junction, CO; Las Cruces, NM; Morgantown, WV; Omaha, NE; Pittsburgh, PA; Roanoke, VA; San Antonio, TX; and Spokane, WA.
“Each year we strive to highlight lively, low-cost cities that offer rewarding environments, and that specifically appeal to the 50+ audience,” said Nancy Perry Graham, Editor-in-Chief of AARP The Magazine. “There are quite a few really wonderful cities where $100 a day goes a long way and buys not just a spacious home in a thriving neighborhood, but loads of culture, lively entertainment, and recreational opportunities.”
In determining its list, AARP The Magazine looked first at affordability, in particular housing, cost of living, taxes, and economic stability. Then the editors added some livability criteria: number of sunny days per year, access to parks and recreation, arts and culture, health care, and local flavor, from the coolest scenery to the hottest local restaurants. The result is a diverse list of outstanding cities, perfect for older Americans.
The following is a taste of why each city rose above the rest to make this year’s list:
Eau Claire, Wisc.
- Median home price: $121,100
- Sunny days per year: 200
- Vibe: Family-friendly values with a progressive twist
- Local flavor: Cozy up to the bonfire and munch on Cheese Curds ($7) made from the region’s famed cheddar at the Livery, a converted stable downtown.
- Median home price: $125,500
- Sunny days per year: 205
- Vibe: Funky hippie meets world traveler
- Secret affordability sauce: The country’s sixth largest college—The University of Florida—fuels an economy more durable than most Southern cities.
Grand Junction, Colorado
- Median home price: $159,800
- Sunny days per year: 214
- Vibe: Contemporary arts meet Western charm
- Impress friends and family with: The views of the Grand Mesa, one of the world’s biggest flat-top mountains.
Las Cruces, N.M.
- Median home price: $148,000
- Sunny days per year: 287
- Vibe: A sunny cocktail of Old Mexico, the Wild West and high-desert casual living
- Local flavor: Head to the patio of De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Bar, and nibble on the stuffed green chiles ($9).
- Median home price: $168,900
- Sunny days per year: 185
- Vibe: Small college city combines Appalachian roots with a strong local economy
- Local flavor: Tip back a cold Blue Moon beer ($4.50) at Mario’s Fish Bowl. Originally a candy store, the restaurant has been serving beer in fishbowl-size glasses (yep, made right here) since 1950.
- Median home price: $123,500
- Sunny days per year: 193
- Vibe: Midwestern cozy with a high-tech spark
- Impress friends and family with: The area’s many start-up companies, which earned it the nickname “Silicon Prairie.”
- Median home price: $106,500
- Sunny days per year: 194
- Vibe: Green not grimy, the city’s 88 distinct neighborhoods create a European atmosphere
- Secret affordability sauce: Stable, diverse economy—since 2008, only Austin and Houston have added jobs faster.
- Median home price: $151,500
- Sunny days per year: 217
- Vibe: A bustling small city, amid the magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Local flavor: Grab a $1.25 hot dog at the legendary Texas Tavern, a 24-hour fixture since 1930.
San Antonio, Texas
- Median home price: $135,000
- Sunny days per year: 263
- Vibe: Old West urban flair
- Best daytime lark: El Mercado (which the city claims is the biggest Mexican marketplace outside Mexico) in Old Market Square.
- Median home price: $145,000
- Sunny days per year: 176
- Vibe: Lush green beauty meets smart urban planning
- Impress friends and family with: Its stunning Riverfront Park and its historic downtown.