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 our picks for 10 of the best college towns for retirees.

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.  

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. 

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

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. 

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.  

Fresno, CA

Fresno, CA
Chewbacca2101, Downtown Fresno With Mountains , CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re done with cold weather, but still want the life of a seasoned academic, then Fresno, California is your best bet. Home to California State University – Fresno, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno State University, and many others, the city is filled with opportunities for continued learning. 

Fresno’s cultural institutions include the Artist’s Repertory Theater, the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, the Fresno Grand Opera, and the Fresno Philharmonic. Numerous museums can be found in the area, such as the Forestiere Underground Gardens, the Fresno Art Museum, and the African-American Museum of the San Joaquin Valley.

But if you’d prefer to continue your education outside of the classroom, Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are only 60 miles away, while Sequoia National Park is only 75 miles to the southeast. 

Whatever you’re looking for, Fresno is the perfect city for retirees who want to live it up under the sun.

Spartanburg, SC

Spartanburg, SC
Billy Hathorn, Fountain at Morgan Square, Spartanburg, SC, CC BY-SA 3.0

Between its historic downtown and its schools Wofford College, Converse College, USC Upstate, Spartanburg Methodist College, and Spartanburg Community College, there’s no limit to the exciting things you can do in Spartanburg. For more traditional cultural fair, one can visit the Chapman Cultural Center, where you’ll find ballet, live theater, and more. Those who like their art to be a bit more progressive can stop by The Showroom, which serves as a performance space and think-tank for local artists. 

If you prefer to stare at the run formations than the fine arts, then you’ll find lots to love at Wofford College’s Gibbs Stadium, where the Carolina Panthers hold their annual training camp and the high school Shrine Bowl is held every year. 

Finally, second-to-none healthcare is available in Spartanburg, with the large-scale Spartanburg Medical Center and the Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care in town, and many other specialty facilities nearby. 

Athens, GA

Athens, GA
DXR, City Hall, Athens, Southeast View, CC BY-SA 4.0

Music fans know Athens as the city that gave the world rock acts such as R.E.M., the B-52s, and Widespread Panic. But to readers of, Athens is the 2017 #1 Best Place to Retire.

That honor can be marked up to Athens’ low tax rates, or maybe its temperate climate. It might even be because of its unique shopping experiences

But for many, the appeal of Athens is its art and culture. In addition to museums such as the Georgia Museum of Art and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the literary-minded will appreciate a visit to independent publisher Hill Street Press, which brings a steady flow of authors to the area, including Pulitzer Prize winners Deborah Blum and Edward Larson. 

Whether you want to contemplate a good book or rock out like you’re still a teen, Athens has everything for the culturally literate retiree. 

Johnson City, TN

Johnson City, TN
Mrgriffter, Johnson City, CC BY-SA 4.0

Johnson City may be the perfect town for retired sports fans who want to attend live events without dealing with metropolitan woes. Home to the Division I East Tennessee State Buccaneers, Johnson City also features the Doughboys, a minor league baseball team. 

Downtown Johnson City has learned to embrace the city’s history as a railroad town by converting train cars and stations into restaurants in breweries. If regular live music at Yee-Haw Brewery and White Duck Taco Shop isn’t enough for you, then you can always enjoy summer concerts and the Blue Plum Music Festival in Founders Park.

If health concerns are a part of your daily life, Johnson City offers a Medical Center with a Level 1 Trauma Center, the LEED-Certified Franklin Woods Community Hospital, and the ETSU-affiliated Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital

With a low cost of living and no state income tax, all that makes Johnson City a great place to enjoy a rich and healthy retirement. 

Greeley, CO

Greeley, CO
Peter Romero, Greeley, Colorado Courthouse, CC BY-SA 3.0

Greeley, Colorado offers a whole host of living options for retirees. From patio homes and townhouses to the all-inclusive Greeley Place retirement community, there’s a housing option for every preference. And with a median household income of $47,342, Greeley has a cost-of-living attractive to those on a fixed income. 

Active seniors can take advantage of the “Silver Sneakers” program in city-owned recreation centers, walk the paved, 21-mile Poudre River Trail, or golf on one of three courses. Cultural offerings include the Greeley History Museum, the Moxi Theater, the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra. And, of course, bigger acts are only an hour away in Denver. 

Greeley residents keep healthy by visiting the award-winning North Colorado Medical Center, which also operates the Summit View Medical Commons.

With all these advantages, it’s easy to see why so many retirees are coming to live their best lives in Greeley. 

Appleton, WI

The third-largest city in Wisconsin, Appleton is the best college town for retirees. In addition to cultural events brought in by Lawrence University’s acclaimed Conservatory of Music, citizens can enjoy Octoberfest, the folk festival Mile of Music, and year-round happenings at Houdini Plaza. Visitors can see the historic mansion the Hearthstone House, the History Museum at the Castle, and a Harry Houdini Exhibit

Although the city can be humid in the summer and cold in the winter, Appleton has relatively moderate precipitation, and therefore less snow to shovel than in other Midwestern towns. That’s good news for outdoorsy types, who can visit one of 24 neighborhood parks, including the 139-acre Memorial Park

Simply put, Appleton features everything a retiree could want – culture and nature, good weather, and reliable hospitals, all for a reasonable cost of living.

Previous articleIs University of Chicago Ivy League? Ranking, Acceptance Rate, and More
Next articleThe Best Dental Schools in Texas