9 Vacation Cities That Make Great Places to Live and Retire

Have you ever gone on vacation and thought, ‘I could live here.’? Many people fall in love with their vacation destinations, but many never make the move. However, there are cities that continue to draw new residents based on their appeal, cost of living, quality of life and activities, all of which visitors sample while on vacation. Read on to learn about the top cities that make great places to live.

9 Vacation Cities That Make Great Places to Live and Retire

Austin, Texas

Dozens of media outlets have ranked Austin among the best places to live due to affordability, diversity, culture and job availability. Not only that, but the city offers recreation activities, perfect for spending time with loved ones or getting into shape.
Austin also attracts different age ranges, including college students, grads just starting out, savvy investors, families, tech gurus and retirees.

Even though Austin feels like a metro college town, the suburbs offer a world of possibilities with active adult communities as well as traditional real estate.

Vacation highlights: Although best known as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin borders the Hill Country region in Texas near several lakes and open spaces. Popular outdoor activities include: SUP, year-round swimming at Barton Springs Pool, hiking, golf and sampling local wineries. Visitors can also choose from over 200 live music venues, dozens of festivals, theaters and kid-friendly attractions.

What is Austin Known For?

Austin has been awarded the following accolades: Most Fun Cities in U.S. (Wallethub), Top 10 Best City in U.S. (Travel + Leisure), Top 10 U.S. Cities for Jobs (Glassdoor) and Hottest Zipcodes for Millennials (Realtor.com)

Branson, Missouri

Situated in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, Branson has long welcomed visitors to its family-friendly city. Branson offers a moderate cost of living, affordable housing, low crime rate and low unemployment rate, all paired with attractions, outdoor activities and mountain culture. Many also know Branson as the Live Show Capital of the World, with over 100 live shows held throughout the year.

Vacation highlights: In addition to live shows, Branson offers family-friendly entertainment for all ages. Outdoor lovers will find hiking trails, boat tours, fishing spots, ziplines and golf courses. Travelers also enjoy playing at Silver Dollar City, an award-winning amusement park, and visiting educational and fun museums.

What Is Branson Known For?

Branson accolades: Best Places to Raise a Family in Missouri (Movoto), No. 1 Entertainment District in Missouri (USA Today), Silver Dollar City Named in Top 8 Parks for Families (Family Vacation Critic) and Tree City USA Growth Award (Tree City USA).

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston exudes Southern charm, culture and modernity. This port city sits on the eastern border of South Carolina with easy access to rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. Cost of living is higher than average, mostly due to housing prices and availability. These costs are offset by a healthy job market, mild climate and start-up business potential. Charleston is a favorite among retirees due to it’s historic and coastal setting combined with southern temperatures.

Vacation highlights: Charleston offers a bustling destination full of shopping, history, food, indoor and outdoor activities, and world-renown festivals. Popular things to do include: golfing, trying new restaurants, walking and boating tours, admiring the architecture, and attending events.

What Is Charleston Known For?

Charleston accolades: Best City in the U.S. (Travel + Leisure), Top Best Town (Outside Magazine), No. 4 Best Mid-size U.S. Metros for Jobs (Forbes), Top 5 Best City to Start a Business (Inc. Magazine), No. 1 Small City in U.S. (Conde Nast Traveler).

Loveland, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver continue to make best places lists, but don’t overlook Loveland. The city is located in northern Colorado, less than three hours from award-winning ski resorts and Rocky Mountain National Park. Although cost of living is higher than the national average, Loveland offers affordable housing compared to other cities in Colorado and a low crime rate.

Vacation highlights: Like most towns in Colorado, outdoor recreation is a big deal. Visitors enjoy hiking, fly fishing, SUP and golf. When not playing outside, shop boutiques, explore the sculpture gardens with over 130 pieces and visit museums. In addition, Loveland is less than a four-hour drive to Vail, Beaver Creek, Steamboat Springs, Copper Mountain, Keystone and Breckenridge, all award-winning resort destinations.

What Is Loveland Known For?

Loveland accolades: 10 Best Cities for Young Families (Westword), 10 Best Places in Colorado (Movoto), Top 10 Best Places to Live in the Nation (Money Magazine).

Nashville, Tennessee

Downtown Nashville
Nicknamed Music City, Nashville has gained a reputation as one of the trendiest places to live in the U.S. Due to its popularity, cost of living has been on the rise, however job opportunities often outweigh the expenses.

Music city’s top industries include healthcare, tourism and music, with growing segments such as technology, STEM and real estate. Like Austin, Nashville also welcomes and embraces cultural diversity.

Nashville offers big-city entertainment and small-town vibes. Home to professional sports teams, live music venues, museums, a bustling downtown and festivals, there’s always something to do. Visitors can also paddleboard, kayak, bike, hike, play golf and go boating.

What Is Nashville Known For?

Nashville accolades: Top 18 Cities in the U.S. (Travel + Leisure), South’s Best Cities (Southern Living), Top 10 Cities to Launch a Career (Realtor.com), No. 3 Best Cities for New College Grads (SmartAsset) and No. 7 Best City for Millennials (Penny Hoarder).

Sarasota, Florida

Home to some of the best beaches in Florida and a thriving arts scene, Sarasota offers all the amenities of a big city without the large population. Warm temperatures year-round and plenty of spacious beaches attract new residents from all over the U.S. The city also has top-rated public schools, affordable housing options and thrives off tourism.

Located in western Florida on the Gulf Coast, Sarasota is home to Siesta Key Beach, one of the top beaches in the U.S. While this beach is usually crowded with tourists, the key itself has many permanent non-rental residences.

Sarasota also houses dozens of museums and art galleries, a historic downtown with restaurants and shops, several parks, and nationally known events. Residents may even see celebrities who either permanently live in or reside seasonally in the area.

What Is Sarasota Known For?

Sarasota accolades: Best Food Cities in the U.S. (Conde Nast Traveler), Top Small City in U.S. (Conde Nast Traveler Readers), Siesta Beach: Choice Award for Best Beaches (TripAdvisor), Top 25 Best Places to Live (U.S. News & World Report).

St. Petersburg, Florida

Located in west Florida, sits St. Petersburg, located 30 minutes from Tampa and part of the Tampa metro area. Although the city measures the fifth largest in the state, visitors seldom feel crowded. St. Pete offers a sunny coastal climate, affordable cost of living and housing, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and lots of beaches.

Vacation highlights: St. Petersburg (St. Pete) features a laid-back vibe compared to other great places to live in Florida, outdoor recreation, award-winning beaches, museums and parks. Top things to do include fishing, kayaking, scuba and SUP. Must-see indoor attractions are the Dali Museum and Chihuly Collection.

What Is St Petersburg Known For?

St. Pete accolades: Best Cities for Young Professionals (Forbes), Best Places to Live (Coastal Living), Hottest Cities to Live and Visit (The Huffington Post), Best Run Cities in America (WalletHub), #33 Best-Performing Metro (Milken Institute).

Orlando, FL

While most people think of Disney when they think of Orlando that rarely consider it as the hotbed of retirement that it is.  Surrounding Orlando are the suburbs of Davenport, Kissimmee and more.   While neighborhoods that are convenient to the parks are a mix of vacation and permanent residences, the homes in the suburbs are … well, more suburban.   Davenport in particular has many retirement options and is home to the somewhat misleading name Del Webb Orlando

Because Orlando isn’t on the beach you’ll find the area is much more affordable than it’s coastal counterparts.

Vacation Highlights:  Orlando is home to one of the 2 Disney parks in the country.  In addition, Universal Studios as well as many other parks and attractions are here.  Making your home (if you retire here) as grand kid magnet. 

What’s Orlando Known For?

Orlando Accolades: Playful City USA Award ( KaBoom!) ,Tree City Award (National Arbor Day Foundation), Best Stadium Experience In The NBA (ESPN), Solar City (US Department of Energy),

Wilmington, North Carolina

With the Cape Fear River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Wilmington draws water lovers. The city sits in southern North Carolina, providing a mild climate, which residents enjoy because there’s little snow and reduced humidity compared to other southern cities. Cost of living is slightly higher than average, however median home costs are more affordable than other cities on this list, making retiring to North Carolina another perenial favorite..

Vacation highlights: Wilmington has a historic downtown full shops, restaurants and beauty. Other activities include: biking, hiking, boating, fishing, SUP, surfing and windsurfing. The city also has several family-friendly attractions, such as museums, an aquarium, parks and historical sites. Don’t leave before touring the area via boat, kayak or on foot, and look for celebrities who live in Wilmington.

What’s Wilmington Known For?

Wilmington accolades: America’s Coolest Towns (Jetsetter), Top 9 Towns with Treasure Waiting to be Discovered (TripAdvisor), America’s Best Riverfront (USA Today), Best Cities for Beer Drinkers (SmartAsset), Most Festive U.S. Cities to Celebrate the Holidays with Kids (MiniTime.com).