The 10 Best College Towns for Retirement

When you hear the words “college town,” what pops into your mind? You probably think of swarms of young people, howling football fans every Saturday, and late-night parties each fall. 

But did you also think of cultural events? Exquisite international dining? First-class museums and regular visits by luminaries of the arts and sciences? 

Because colleges serve as hubs for research and artistic growth, they offer many of the things people want to enjoy later in life. Thus, while college towns may be filled with young people, they are ideal for retirees. 

In addition to their rich cultural options, college towns tend to be relatively small, with a relatively low cost of living, making them perfect for those living on a fixed income. Furthermore, they offer plenty of ways to volunteer in the community, from library organizations to all manner of social action groups. The mix of young and old in college towns means that there’s always someone around who would benefit from the experience of those who have a few years under their belts and someone who can teach a lifetime learner about another country. 

So, if you’re done with your career, but not done learning and living your life, a college town may be your best choice for retirement. Which towns best suit your twilight years lifestyle? Read this list to find out. 


10. La Crosse, WI

La Crosse, WI
Wikideas1, La Crosse Commercial Historic District, CC BY-SA 4.0

For the senior who isn’t done being active, La Crosse, Wisconsin may be the ideal retirement town. Billing itself “Nature’s Place to Play,” La Crosse has everything for the older outdoor person, from bird watching to rock climbing. Bike trails fill the city, and the Mississippi River runs nearby, allowing citizens plenty of opportunity to fish and boat. 

But these outdoor options don’t mean that you have to give up your urban life. Downtown La Crosse offers restaurants of every type, including The Waterfront Tavern and Le Chateau. The Weber Center for Performing Arts has played host to concerts from Viterbo University and plays by the local community theater. And if that’s not enough for you, nearby Minneapolis and Chicago are only a train ride away. 

Finally, La Cross provides comprehensive medical care, with the Gundersen Health System and the Mayo Clinic-La Crosse in town, and the full Mayo Clinic only an hour away.

With all these attributes, it’s no wonder that retirees find a happy home in La Crosse.  


9. Northampton, MA

Northampton, MA
chipmunk_1, First Church, Main Street, Northampton, CC BY-SA 2.0

Dubbed “The Paradise City of America” by no less than opera singer Jenny Lind, Northampton is a hotbed of intellectual activity and culture. Home to Amherst College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Smith College, the Five College Learning in Retirement program provides plenty of adult education opportunities for those looking to expand their minds. Through the program, seniors can learn about postmodern novels, climate change, or Chinese culture. 

If that’s not enough, Northampton regularly hosts cultural events such as the Northampton Independent Film Festival and the Paradise City Arts Festival, as well as regular performances at the Academy of Music and the New Century Theater

For those looking to expand their palettes and their minds, all manner of restaurants can be found in Northampton

All of these options make Northampton the ideal town for anyone who wants to keep learning and experiencing new things. 


8. Manhattan, KS

Manhattan, KS
Kevin Zollman, Riley (Kansas) County Courthouse, CC BY-SA 3.0

Kansas State University brings 2,400 students each year to study and to cheer for the Panthers. But for the retirees who come to Kansas, Manhattan offers just as many ways to enjoy and enrich their golden years. Much smaller than its New York namesake, Manhattan has been ranked the #2 Best Place to Live in the U.S. by Livability.com.

Although it has a lower than average cost of living, Manhattan boasts a richer than average arts scene. KSU’s Landon Lecture series brings in numerous respected speakers, from autism spokesperson Temple Grandin to former President George W. Bush. The Manhattan Arts Center hosts everything from live music to children’s events to regular art classes. 

With a climate that averages no more than 14 inches of snow and 35 inches of rain annually, but 218 sunny days, Manhattan is an attractive place for retirees to live. 


7. New Britain, CT

New Britain, Connecticut
Kenneth C. Zirkel, West Main Street, Downtown New Britain, Connecticut, CC BY-SA 4.0

Retirees who know their way around power tools will be right at home in the college town of New Britain, CT, aka “Hardware City.” A tiny town consisting of forest land and light hills, New Britain is the headquarters of the Stanley Black & Decker Corporation, and also has a rich history of manufacturing. 

In addition to students at Central Connecticut State and Charter Oak State College, New Britain also has a large Polish population, who serve paczkis at Roly Poly Bakery and call their town “New Britski.” Arts aficionados will find lots to love in the performances by CCSU’s New Britain Symphony Orchestra. Likewise, The Repertory Theater not only puts on four plays a year but also serves as the home of cultural events and competitions. 

New Britain features plenty of transportation options for those who still want to see the world (or need the grandkids to visit). Not only does the main expressway connect the town to major highways I-84 and I-91, but the bus rapid transit line CTfastrak has a station in New Britain and Amtrak runs through adjacent town Berlin.  

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