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There’s much more to these locations than a great place to put your feet up after retirement. Each offers its own enticing attractions, activities and geographic gems that help retirees make the most of their work-free days.
Asheville, N.C. Often called the Paris of the South, the city impresses retirees and second-home owners alike with stunning architecture, an ever-expanding arts community, quality health care and a bustling downtown. Biltmore Estate and the Grove Park Inn are major draws, as are recreational activities such as hiking, biking and golf, and seven major festivals that attract 300,000 people each year. Life-long learners enjoy programs at the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
Berea, Ky. Thanks to more than 40 artists who open their studios to the public for demonstrations, year-round art- and craft-related workshops at the Kentucky Artisan Center and a variety of craft shops in the area, Berea is known as the folk arts and crafts capital of Kentucky. Both residents and visitors enjoy browsing the galleries and antique shops, and indulging in food from local dining spots. Also notable: Berea College consistently ranks high among U.S. colleges; hiking is abundant at Anglin Falls and Berea College Forest.
Blue Ridge, Ga. It’s a small town that has it all. The area has been dubbed the Trout Fishing Capital of Georgia thanks to places such as the Toccoa River. Other popular outdoor adventures include horseback riding, hiking, golf, whitewater rafting and boating. Downtown Blue Ridge bustles with folks visiting the top-notch art galleries and specialty shops, dining at local restaurants or listening to live music. Snowfall here is often minimal, and the area sees more sunny days than the U.S. national average.
Boone-Blowing Rock, N.C. With temperatures averaging only around 77 degrees in July, it’s no wonder these closely connected communities have a comfort index about 25 percent higher than the entire U.S. Fly fishing, hiking, rafting, canoeing and golfing are superb. Arts and culture abound thanks to Appalachian State’s Appalachian Summer Festival, Blue Ridge Community Theater in Boone and The Blowing Rock Stage Company. Other notable attractions: Tweetsie Railroad and the Blowing Rock.
Bristol, Tenn. The official birthplace of country music sits on the Tennessee/Virginia border, offering affordable cost of living, big-city conveniences in a smaller atmosphere and, of course, lots of live music. Bristol also provides recreational activities such as boating and fishing on nearby lakes, golfing and exploring caverns. Big draws: NASCAR races at the Bristol Motor Speedway and performances at the Paramount Center for the Arts.
Charlottesville, Va. Historically speaking, Charlottesville overflows with places to enjoy year-round, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Michie Tavern and the University of Virginia Rotunda. The city’s health system consistently ranks among the nation’s best and weather is mild most seasons. Shoppers laud the car-free mall area filled with cosmopolitan shops, while art and culture buffs frequent the Ash Lawn Opera Festival, The Virginia Film Festival, the Community Symphony Orchestra performances and shows by The Virginia Players.
Chattanooga, Tenn. A moderate climate enhances Chattanoogans’ access to outlets for fishing, hiking and kayaking. The city’s downtown and waterfront received a major facelift – beginning in the early ‘80s – making it the cultural, social and economic center of the region. Attractions include the eight-mile Riverwalk, Hunter Museum of American Art, Tennessee Aquarium and The Tivoli theater.
Clemson, S.C. Situated in the upcountry, this small town of about 12,000 residents draws retirees for its temperate climate in the summer and minimal snowfall in the winter. But that’s not all. Clemson offers water recreation such as sailing and fishing on Lake Hartwell, hiking in the nearby mountains and sporting events to support at Clemson University, which also provides entertainment open to the public, as well as noncredit classes for seniors.
Garrett County, Md. For nature lovers, Garrett County presents a variety of ways to spend time outdoors. Wisp Resort in Deep Creek Lake is the place-to-be for winter recreation. The lake itself beckons residents and visitors to boat, fish or swim during warmer months. Arts and culture are alive in Grantsville, where Spruce Forest Artisan Village showcases resident artists. In the small town of Oakland, residents laud the charm of local dining and shopping options.
Lewisburg, W.Va. Quaint Lewisburg, with a population under 25,000, has an art scene that is larger than life. Carnegie Hall boasts live performances and art exhibits while the Greenbrier Valley Theatre features year-round theatrical productions, concerts and other events. Ample outdoor activities include hiking, biking, fishing and caving. Temperatures are mild, but heavy snow is possible during the winter.
Mentone, Ala. High atop Lookout Mountain, this charming community in DeKalb County is the ideal starting point for exploring nearby mountains, canyons and caves. And Mentone sits just eight miles from DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve. In town, residents are proud of the numerous antique and craft stores, as well as the Rhododendron Festival and Colorfest, both annual events.
Roanoke, Va. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke sits amid beautiful scenery and plenty of outlets for reveling in nature – mountain trails and miles of greenways to walk or bike. Retirees are drawn to the appealing cost of living and two top-notch healthcare systems. Art galleries dot the downtown area, as do the Taubman Museum of Art, restaurants and a busy farmers market. Roanoke also is a short drive from Smith Mountain Lake, where 500 miles of shoreline offer water activities galore.