Best Small Town for Retirement in Florida

Best Small Town for Retirement in Florida

Do you want to retire to the Sunshine State, but want to skip the crowded streets, high housing prices, and worrisome crime rates of big cities like Miami and Jacksonville? Small town Florida living offers all of the benefits you seek – great climate, senior-friendly tax laws, proximity to beaches, great healthcare facilities – without the nuisances of urban retirement. Although the “best” place to retire is a very subjective question, but several  Florida small towns really stands out.

Orlando is not only the entertainment capital of Florida, it is the retirement captial of Florida as well.  All the big 55+ community developers like Triligoy, Cresswind and Del Webb, have communities in the Orlando area. Neighbor Kissimmee is part of this retirement area of Orlando.

Tampa/ Saint Petersburg is one of Florida’s original retirement areas and is still going strong.

Sarasota is one of my favorite places in Florida in visit and a lot of people retire their in one of the ocean side condos that stretches for miles.  A quaint downtown Sarasota is appealing place to visit.

Other Florida retirement hotspots are Delray Beach, Ocala, and Lakeland.

Bradenton, Florida, self-styled “The Friendly City,” has a population hovering around 49,000. This means residents can find friendly, quiet neighborhoods and local businesses, while at the same time enjoying some of the perks of larger city living – shopping and dining, arts and entertainment, a good public transportation system, and excellent healthcare options. In fact, of the many small Florida cities we considered in our quest for the best, Bradenton had one of the highest “senior-friendly amenities per capita” ratings. With its proximity to an international airport (Sarasota-Bradenton Int’l Airport is just 8 miles from downtown Bradenton), this location also offers ease of travel to globetrotting retirees.

Situated on the western coastline of Florida between Sarasota and Tampa, with Tampa Bay on one side and the Manatee River on the other, Bradenton enjoys some of the state’s mildest weather (with an average temperature of 60), water views and beachfront living – and plenty of beach access and marinas for water-sports enthusiasts.

This small Florida city is renowned for its thriving art community, centered around the specially-zoned 36-acre Village Arts Center located in a reclaimed and revitalized area of town, where homes do double duty as galleries and studios. The town also attracts artists with the ArtCenter Manatee – an art education and appreciation center housing galleries, classrooms, an art library, and an artists’ market – as well as the South Florida Museum and Riverfront Theatre.

Bradenton is home to the Manatee Memorial Hospital and a number of other modern medical facilities. For more specialized healthcare needs, the nearby cities of St. Pete, Sarasota, Tampa, and Clearwater have plenty of top-of-the-line facilities and medical specialists.

There are a number of quality 55+ communities in and around Bradenton, and housing prices hover in the low to mid 130s. The newest residential areas are found in the eastern part of town, but some of the older neighborhoods have more of the kind of friendly diversity and appeal that many are looking for in a small-town retirement location.

The Villages Florida
Destin Florida
Florida – Why Wait?
Best Florida Places to Retire To   |  City of Bradenton

Best Florida Small Town: Bradenton Florida
Best Florida Small Town: Bradenton Florida

Seasonal Small Town Living

Burlington VT

I remember vacating during the Summer in Burlington VT , what a great time. What’s not to like…  walkable downtown with great restaurants, located right on Lake Champlain. Visiting Vermont Teddy Bear outlet, Ben and Jerry’s and a short ride up to Stowe Vermont, a ski village with apple cider, cheese shops and scenery all around.

Then I thought out loud…this may be a good place to retire.  Well, I was quickly reminded about the harsh Winters and winds off Lake Champlain. It seems Burlington VT is a great place to visit in the Summer, but not in the Winter.

Spokane WA

Mary Ann and I just spend 9 days in Spokane WA.  We stayed at The Continental Hotel at The Park, Riverfront Park that is.  Located on scenic Spokane River, Riverfront Park is right downtown and easy walking distance to lots of restaurants and the rest of downtown.

Riverfront Park in Spokane WA
Riverfront Park in Spokane WA

We visited Spokane Falls, toured historic Campbell house, and saw there were many  gardens in Spokane Parks.

Walking downtown we found all kinds of neat restaurants, Steelhead Grille was one of our favorites. Main Street Market Food Co-op was another favorite.. kind of a mini Whole Foods run and owned by some cool people. Things were really different than back in our home state of Georgia, but we liked the change.

Again, the Winters could be pretty cold, we were told. A Summer cottage sounds tempting.

Live Part of the Year in a Small Town

Many retirees live part of the year in the Sun Belt states, notably Florida, SC, even Georgia.  But what if you lived in the South and spend some of the Summer in a small town in other parts of the country, like the two I like above.  I really have not heard too much of that happening but it sounds like an idea.

The idea is not new.  Many residents of Atlanta have Summer homes in Cashiers NC and Western NC.  Many times these are weekend homes for people working in the city.  But renting a home in Western NC, Boone NC, Bar Harbour Maine, Portland Oregon, Spokane WA, Jackson Hole WY (expensive), or other places during the Summer, really sounds like a good idea. Being retired, a person could have a seasonal home in a small town in other sections of the country and enjoy the variety.




Small Town Livability

Livability is what makes small towns a good place to live and to retire to.

Small Town Sense of Community

Many features makes up what we call livability, but for me it is a sense of community. Big cities and urbanized suburbs have much to offer, but they can’t hold a candle to small towns in offering a sense of community on a personal level. I could give many examples as I have experienced this first hand after moving from a big city urbanized suburbs to a Del Webb Community in a small town two years ago.

I loved living in the suburbs while I was working, but now that I am retired, I like my new small town community and feel a sense of pride in it.

Small Town Amenities

The amenities in small towns have improved and may even offer more accessibility to amenities than you were used to.  We have 5 theaters around our area, a regional mall within 15 minutes, Universities nearby, museums and some very nice gourmet restaurants.  Just about any service you want is available.  Amazon Prime delivers to my doorstep!

Small Town Demographics

Most people, I have found, are open and friendly. They are well spoken, interesting and at least as intelligent as the public can be. They can not be type cast.  The teenagers show a respect to us adults and don’t just look through you as though you do not exist,  like they did in the suburbs.

Small Town Education

I have been impressed with the colleges, universities and technical schools in the area.  We went to a show put on by the Gainesville Theater Alliance put on by the Drama Department of two area colleges and it was excellent!  I reviewed recently the IT computer department of the local university and was impressed with the staff and the programs offered.  There is a program for senior adults that offers a range of interesting courses for us.

Small Town Economy

The economy in my area is dong great.  The paper lists the new commercial projects and rezoning requests. Four or five new restaurants just opened last year in the immediate area and several more in the general area and they are doing a good business.

Small Town Health Care

I have never had this good of access to health care.  We have a hospital right next door to Village at Deaton Creek off Friendship Rd and that has caused multiple medical buildings to sprout up in the area.  Most of my doctor appointments are now only 5 minutes away! This has been the best and biggest surprise since moving to my area. They can handle anything right here from heart stents and by pass surgery, removing prostate cancer, cataract surgery to my annual physicals.

Small Town Housing

Small towns offer a variety of homes from 55+ communities to farms to rural homes with big lot or acreage. The prices may be a little lower than in the city but not as much as you may think.  Retirement areas seems to bring more services catered to us retirees and they is a good thing.  Buying in an 55+ Retirement Community like we did, gives you certain housing standards as do other communities.  The new Del Webb at Chateau Elan is opening in March.

Small Town Governments and Civics

We have been pleased to be part of Hall County.  They have a nice mid rise government building with tag and tax and other services that is very efficient. You are in and out.

Hall County Georgia also has a senior school tax exemption that we are getting and helps a lot.

Our voting precinct is 5 minutes away. I am going for jury duty Monday morning. There is an Arts Council with Summer and Winter programs. There are programs to promote downtown Gainesville and other towns with events each week.

Small Town Transportation and Infrastructure

Our parkway at the entrance is two years new and goes 9 miles all the way to Lake Lanier. It has a Life Pathway walk way all along the route where you can walk, run, bike and even use your golf cart.  The intersecting busy Spout Springs road will be widen as is I-85 up past our exit.  The road are good but we do have some two lane rural roads too and while scenic must be the reason our drivers insurance is a little higher. But it is worth it for the atmosphere of seeing pasture, barns and llamas.

Life After The Suburbs

After  having retired to a small town over two years ago,  I am pleased with the livability.  I see nothing that I am lacking and have gain more than I expected. Could not ask for anything more.

Robert Fowler
Also see my blog about living in a Del Webb community.