AARP names top retirement destinations

WASHINGTON — AARP magazine last week identified the top 10 retirement destinations, which potentially could be growth opportunities for pharmacy, that offer comfortably affordable lifestyles for seniors.

To determine the list, AARP examined financial data on more than 350 cities across the country, including the median housing price, cost of living, tax rates on pensions and social security, recreation, climate and health resources. The September/October issue, now available online, features the annual top 10 list of retirement hot spots that combine affordability and a rewarding environment.

The top 10, including AARP's commentary, are:

Gainesville, Ga.: Water sports such as boating, sailing and kayaking on Lake Lanier make Gainesville the perfect destination for an active retirement; not to mention the area's 15 golf courses and shop-filled town square. How far your money goes in Gainesville:

  • State tax on pensions: Yes

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 7%

  • Property tax rate: 7.76%

  • Best way to spend $10: Grab a drink and small plates at Recess Southern Gastro Pub on the square, then check out events downtown, including free concerts.

  • Can't put a price tag on: Fast access to the Blue Ridge Mountains and their panoramic hiking trails, lush with rivers, waterfalls and richly diverse ecosystems. Gainesville is near the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests, which comprise 843 miles of trails.

Columbus, Ind.: Residents love this little city's under-the-radar charm. And less than an hour south of Indianapolis, Columbus has it all. The city boasts dozens of buildings and pieces of public art by such big names as I.M.Pei, the Saarinens and Henry Moore, and its innovative architecture ranks right up there with Chicago's and San Francisco's. How far your money goes in Columbus:

  • State tax on pensions: Yes  

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 7%  

  • Median housing price: $124,200

  • Best Deal in Town: Drink in the Hoosier bliss of an ice-cream soda ($2.99) at the counter of Zaharakos, which looks the same as when it opened in 1900 — and sounds it, too, thanks to a fully restored pipe organ.

Harrisburg, Pa.: With its gracious layout, the lovely Susquehanna River and plentiful festivals and events, Harrisburg is a magnet for cyclists and pedestrians. The city's 50,000 shade trees, 4.5-mile-long Riverfront Park and 20-mile greenbelt around the city showcase its modern skyline, lovely old cathedrals, elegant Capitol complex and historic districts. How far your money goes in Harrisburg:

  • State tax on pensions: Partial  

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 6%  

  • Median housing price: $144,200

  • Best deal in town: There's no admission for Wildwood Park, which includes a nature center that specializes in wetlands life.

Portland, Maine: This diverse city offers a relaxed urban environment with a variety of cultural and art opportunities, and is just a short drive from some of Maine's famous outdoor attractions, including ski resorts, lakes, ocean beaches and more. The bustling waterfront also recently helped Portland earn the title of Bon Appetit's "Foodiest Small Town in America." How far your money goes in Portland:

  • State tax on pensions: Yes

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 5%

  • Property tax rate: 14.35 %

  • Best way to spend $10: Pack a picnic and hop the ferry to Peaks Island (the fare is just $7.70 round-trip).

  • Can't put a price tag on: Eating a lobster roll next to the oft-photographed Portland Head Light in nearby Cape Elizabeth.

Ithaca, N.Y.: Set in the heart of the Finger Lakes' booming wine and food culture, Ithaca's outdoorsy-urban hum provides plenty to do for nature lovers with crystal-blue lakes and waterfalls, and hiking trails that allow you to see both. How far your money goes in Ithaca:

  • State tax on pensions: Partial  

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 8%  

  • Median housing price: $146,100

  • Best deal in town: For no more than $15, have lunch at the Moosewood Restaurant, a hippie haven that launched the vegetarian movement back in the 1970s; then shop and watch street performers on Ithaca Commons.

Tulsa, Okla.: Tulsa is a small-city jewel with an impressive art deco district, first-rate art museums and plentiful green spaces. Residents can enjoy the great outdoors along the city's 26 miles of paved cycling and walking trails that wind among fountains, playgrounds and sculptures. How far your money goes in Tulsa:

  • State tax on pensions: Yes

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 5.5%

  • Property tax rate: 8.77%  

  • Best way to spend $10: Admission to the Philbrook Museum of Art, an Italian Renaissance villa built in the 1920s and converted to a museum, is just $7.50.  

  • Best night on the town: Although Tulsa offers plenty of big acts — Elton John and Paul McCartney both played recently at the BOK Center — it has smaller quirky pleasures, too. Try a Mexican dinner with local and organic ingredients at trendy, affordable Elote.

Midland, Texas: For all its wealth and Big-City skyline, it still is uniquely West Texan — barbecue and mariachi mingle with haute couture and endless cowboy boots. For entertainment, check out the Museum of the Southwest or a local high school football game. How far your money goes in Midland:

  • State tax on pensions: No

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 8.25%  

  • Median housing price: $96,600

  • Best deal in town: $10 gets you a balcony seat at Summer Mummers in the Yucca Theatre, a melodrama/comedy performance that's been going on since the 1940s. Alcohol is served and attendees are encouraged to throw popcorn at the actors.

Winchester, Va.: A haven for history buffs, Winchester and Frederick County were the scene of six major battles during the Civil War. Plus, its rural location allows visitors to enjoy miles of rail fences, apple and peach orchards and lovely stone houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. How far your money goes in Winchester:

  • State tax on pensions: Partial  

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 5%  

  • Property tax rate: 5.53%

  • Best way to spend $10: Shenandoah Conservatory has exceptional music, theater and dance programs (tickets range from $5 to $25).

  • Can't put a price tag on: Proximity to Skyline Drive, a 105-mile scenic highway through awe-inspiring Shenandoah National Park.

Wenatchee, Wash.: It may be the "Apple Capital of the World" but Wenatchee also offers an endless array of recreational options, including skiing, hiking, camping hunting and fishing. Stunning views make this city the Northwest's very own "Garden of Eden." How far your money goes in Wenatchee:

  • State tax on pensions: No

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 8%  

  • Property tax rate: 10.52%

  • Best way to spend $10: Have a milk shake downtown at Owl Soda Fountain & Gifts, founded in 1926, then check out "Art on the Avenues," a collection of more than 70 unique outdoor sculptures scattered throughout Wenatchee.

  • Best night on the town: Fall in love with baseball all over again with the AppleSox, part of the West Coast League, a wooden-bat summer collegiate league.

Cheyenne, Wyo.: Cowboy culture and Wild West images abound in Wyoming's Capitol, which boasts just under half a million residents. Visitors flock here each summer for Frontier Days, still one of the world's largest outdoor rodeos after 115 years. What makes Cheyenne most appealing to residents, though, is the real spirit of the West: low-rise buildings, wide-open spaces, tumbleweeds and "Neighborhood Night Out" parties that draw hundreds of locals. How far your money goes in Cheyenne:

  • State tax on pensions: No  

  • State tax on Social Security: No

  • Sales tax: 6%  

  • Median housing price: $141,400

  • Best deal in town: Admission to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, nine High Plains acres inside Lions Park, is free.

Additional information on AARP's 2011 list of the top 10 places to retire affordably can be found online at AARP.org/Magazine.

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