Great College Towns to Retire In

Some of the best towns to retire are the ones that are infused with the lively youthful energy, creativity and intellectual atmosphere of a local university.

College towns make up a good percentage of the top 100 towns to retire on John Brady's TopRetirements.com. In fact, Brady says that there are so many great college towns with so many different atmospheres that any attempt to rank them would be impossible.

What makes a college town such a desirable place to retire? According to Brady, the vibrant, youthful atmosphere, an opportunity for life-long learning, high-end facilities such as libraries, hospitals, fitness centers, sports venues and theaters, and a rich array of cultural opportunities are among the reasons.

Of course, there are downsides. Game days can turn into gridlock. If you are conservative in your politics, the liberal-leaning atmosphere of a college town might be too much. And, of course, a better quality of life usually comes with a cost -- some college towns can be on the pricey side.

We culled through the lists of recommended college towns for retirees at TopRetirements.com to compile this list. Many of them have desirable features for retirees, and are surprisingly affordable. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Home to the University of Michigan, this graceful city of 115,000 residents has music stores, sidewalk cafes, bars, bookstores, and shops. The downtown is the center for dining out, entertainment, and artistic performances.

Photo: Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock

Asheville, N.C.
Asheville, N.C.

Asheville, N.C.

This prosperous small city of just over 75,000 in the Blue Ridge mountains offers a beautiful environment and mild weather. Retirees can enjoy the town's architecture, antique stores, art galleries, boutiques and cafes. University of North Carolina-Asheville even has a Lifelong Learning Institute, formerly the Center for Creative Retirement.

Photo: Shutterstock

Athens, Ga.
Athens, Ga.

Athens, Ga.

This university town of about 100,000 in the hills of northeastern Georgia is extremely popular as a retirement community. It has a thriving artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual scene. The downtown has a range of restaurants, nightclubs, music stores, sidewalk cafes, bars, bookstores, and shops, and there is a variety of housing options in Athens for people over 55.

Photo: Shutterstock

Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas

Home to the University of Texas and nine other colleges and professional schools, Austin's array of cultural and other activities is a big draw for retirees, along with its cosmopolitan and high-tech, quirky soul.

Photo: Shutterstock

Boulder, Colo.
Boulder, Colo.

Boulder, Colo.

Boulder is a mid-size city that is still small enough to feel the lively presence of 32,000 students from the University of Colorado. There are the Rocky Mountains for recreation, a strong high-tech industry provides a good economic base and there are many cultural things to do. The area has a relatively mild climate compared to the mountains nearby.

Photo: Shutterstock

Burlington, Vt.
Burlington, Vt.

Burlington, Vt.

On the shore of Lake Champlain, Burlington offers the benefits of the University of Vermont, plus wonderful biking, hiking, and skiing.

Photo: Shutterstock

Champaign, Ill.
Champaign, Ill.

Champaign, Ill.

A big part of this town's excitement comes from being the home of the University of Illinois and Parkland College. This midwestern town with a number of hi-tech startups has a population of 82,500.

Photo: Leigh Trail / Shutterstock

Chapel Hill, N.C.
Chapel Hill, N.C.

Chapel Hill, N.C.

To many, this is the consummate college town (University of North Carolina) and is now also home to many active adult communities.

Photo: Bryan Pollard/Shutterstock

Charlottesville, Va.
Charlottesville, Va.

Charlottesville, Va.

The university founded by Thomas Jefferson, University of Virginia, is a key part of the Charlottesville scene. Its location at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Shenandoah National Park, and beautiful distinct seasons makes it a popular retirement town.

Photo: Shutterstock

Claremont, Calif.
Claremont, Calif.

Claremont, Calif.

About 30 miles east of Los Angeles, The City of Trees and Ph.D's has no less than seven colleges. Educated people and folks who enjoy living in a bustling college town will like it in Claremont, though it is expensive. Pictured is the Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music at Pomona College in Claremont.

Photo: Shutterstock

Clemson, S.C.
Clemson, S.C.

Clemson, S.C.

Clemson University's fine facilities provide a range of cultural, sporting and recreational opportunities. On game days the 80,000-person stadium fills the town with excitement. Retirees may audit classes at the university at no charge.

Photo: Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock

Delaware, Ohio
Delaware, Ohio

Delaware, Ohio

In addition to Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware is home to one of America's most famous horse races, the Little Brown Jug, an internationally-known harness race which is part of the Triple Crown of harness racing. Winters here can be chilly, but Delaware is affordable and close to Columbus, Ohio.

Photo: Shutterstock

Durham, N.H.
Durham, N.H.

Durham, N.H.

Home to the University of New Hampshire, this small town (pop. 14,000) sits beside Great Bay at the mouth of the Oyster River, and is close to the historic town of Portsmouth, N.H. The median value of a home was about $370,200 in early 2019, according to Zillow.

Photo: Shutterstock

Eugene, Ore.
Eugene, Ore.

Eugene, Ore.

The home of the University of Oregon has many attractions as a retirement community: it is a vibrant college town, it has the Cascade Mountain range for unlimited hiking, skiing and outdoor opportunities, and the wild and rugged Pacific coast is just an hour to the west. Pictured is the university's Autzen Stadium.

Photo: Torgado / Shutterstock

Gainesville, Fla.
Gainesville, Fla.

Gainesville, Fla.

The University of Florida, one of the 10 largest universities in the country, puts a unique stamp on this town. From restaurants to the downtown campus to world class medical facilities, Gainesville has many attractions for retirees and is a fun-loving, laid back old city. Gatorade was invented in Gainesville for the benefit of the UF football team.

Photo: Shutterstock

Hattiesburg, Miss.
Hattiesburg, Miss.

Hattiesburg, Miss.

Hattiesburg makes some of the the "best places to retire" lists because it is a college town with lovely historic districts. The two colleges are the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. Hattiesburg is designated a "Certified Retirement Community." Cities chosen for this honor must meet rigorous standards for health care facilities, housing, cultural opportunities and a welcoming committee.

Photo: Shutterstock

Ithaca, N.Y.
Ithaca, N.Y.

Ithaca, N.Y.

Home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, as well as the famous Moosewood Restaurant, what more is there to ask for? Ithaca has many walkable neighborhoods and the region features rolling hills with farms, vineyards, beautiful gorges and waterfalls.

Photo: Shutterstock

Lakeland, Fla.
Lakeland, Fla.

Lakeland, Fla.

Lakeland is a city of 94,000 in central Florida, east of Tampa. Frank Lloyd Wright's "A Child of the Sun" project for Florida Southern College's west campus is the largest on-site collection of the architect's buildings in the world. The Detroit Tigers have their spring training here.

Photo: Shutterstock

Lancaster, Pa.
Lancaster, Pa.

Lancaster, Pa.

Franklin & Marshall College is a big force in this Pennsylvania town of 55,000. Lancaster is Pennsylvania Dutch country, and has pretty scenery. The city has many cultural institutions, and the median value of a home is about $136,000, according to Zillow. The Central Market, pictured, is the oldest farmers market in the country and a big tourist attraction because of the Amish goods offered for sale there.

Photo: George Sheldon / Shutterstock

Las Cruces, N.M.
Las Cruces, N.M.

Las Cruces, N.M.

The second largest city in New Mexico has been on several lists of best places to retire thanks to its low cost of living, active cultural life with its major university and unusually beautiful location. Pictured is New Mexico State University's Center for the Arts.

Photo: Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture/Wikipedia

Lawrence, Kan.
Lawrence, Kan.

Lawrence, Kan.

The University of Kansas and its 30,000 students give Lawrence a liberal bent and is the source for many cultural offerings. Lawrence has microbreweries, locally-owned coffeehouses, and strong anti-discrimination laws. The city has a thriving music and art scene.

Photo: Shutterstock

Lexington, Va.
Lexington, Va.

Lexington, Va.

Lexington is the home of two prestigious colleges, Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, above. There is a nice 18-hole golf course and an historic downtown. Lexington is in a fairly remote part of Virginia. Both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried here.

Photo: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Madison, Wis.
Madison, Wis.

Madison, Wis.

The University of Wisconsin's 41,000 students help make Madison a bustling place. An ideal retirement community, it consistently rates as one of the top places in the U.S. to live and retire. The downtown is located in the picturesque isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.

Photo: youngryand / Shutterstock

Northfield, Minn.
Northfield, Minn.

Northfield, Minn.

Northfield, in the southeastern part of Minnesota, is a lovely college town that boasts two thriving private colleges, Carleton College, pictured here, and St. Olaf. A big part of the lore of Northfield is the attempted robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield by Jesse James and his gang in 1876. The event is commemorated every year with a festival. Northfield has a very pretty and prosperous downtown, and a lively cultural scene.

Photo: tmphoto98 / Shutterstock

Oxford, Miss.
Oxford, Miss.

Oxford, Miss.

If you love literature and music you will like Oxford as a retirement town. Oxford, population 19,000, is the home of the University of Mississippi, also known as "Ole Miss." It was also William Faulkner's adopted home town, and some of his books draw upon local scenes. The popular legal thriller author, John Grisham, has a home here, too.

Photo: Shutterstock

Princeton, NJ.
Princeton, NJ.

Princeton, NJ.

The prestigious Ivy League college dominates the town with its graceful "collegiate gothic" architecture. Princeton is pricey, but the town of only 13,000 is rich in history and culture, and there are more affordable communities nearby. Active adults over 55 will find a wealth of opportunities for independent as well as assisted living in the area.

Photo: Benjamin Clapp / Shutterstock

Tallahassee, Fla.
Tallahassee, Fla.

Tallahassee, Fla.

Tallahassee is a popular retirement community for many who want to live in a diverse city. The state capital is home to both Florida State University and Florida A & M.

Photo: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Tempe, Ariz.
Tempe, Ariz.

Tempe, Ariz.

Many retirees might not want to live directly in the vicinity of this mega-university, (Arizona State University) but they would enjoy Tempe's vibrant downtown. There are plenty of good places to live at most price points here, the mountains and desert are nearby, and Phoenix is just 12 miles away. Summers are hot.

Photo: John Dvorak / Shutterstock

Williamsburg, Va.
Williamsburg, Va.

Williamsburg, Va.

A lot of Williamsburg's culture revolves around its colonial setting. Living here is like living in an 18th-century museum. College of William and Mary is one of the oldest colleges in the country, and Williamsburg is close to the beaches of Virginia and North Carolina. The Christopher Wren Association offers classes to people of all ages who have a desire to continue academic learning.

Photo: Bob Pool / Shutterstock

Williamstown, Mass.
Williamstown, Mass.

Williamstown, Mass.

This delightful college town nestled in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains offers a rich cultural environment and is home to Williams College, one of the most elite colleges in the U.S. Residents tend to share a love of the outdoors or art, or both. Winters are cold here.

For more great places to retire, visit TopRetirements.com.

Photo: Shutterstock

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