Main Street Galena, Illinois. Image credit Dawid S Swierczek via Shutterstock.

7 Most Affordable Towns to Retire in Illinois

Illinois, the sixth most populous state in the United States, is an excellent destination for retirees. The state boasts many retirement benefits, including full tax deductions on Social Security, a diverse economy, and many amenities. While most people look towards major cities like Chicago, Illinois is also home to plenty of affordable small towns. Combining the favorable tax policies of the state with fun activities and attractions, seniors adore these towns. Whether it is the historic appeal of Galena or the college environment in Belleville, let’s take a look at the most affordable towns in Illinois to retire in.


Main Street in Galesburg, Illinois
Main Street in Galesburg, Illinois. Image credit: David Wilson via

Galesburg is a bustling town in Knox County, home to a lively 32,000 residents. Retirees here can enjoy an eccentric atmosphere with tons of fun activities to choose from. A stroll through town exudes cultural charm, and sites like the Galesburg Railroad Museum, Discovery Depot Museum, and Orpheum Theatre stand out. Whether learning about the town’s railway history or watching live shows in a rustic venue from 1916, the possibilities are endless. The colorful vibe continues out on the streets, and the downtown area is a perfect example. It is the ideal place for a fun day in Galesburg, with endless nightlife, people, and entertainment.

Out of the town’s 32,000 residents, a whopping 22% are above the age of 65. To this end, like-minded people are always around for a popping social scene. Moreover, the town is very affordable, with a median house value of $83,000. This is far below the state average of $250,000, meaning you won’t have to break the bank to buy your dream home. Add the amazing railway and bus connectivity via the Amtrak and Galesburg Transit to make it a convenient place to settle down.


Aerial view of Freeport, Illinois
Aerial view of Freeport, Illinois, By Stevedrone91 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Freeport is another town boasting a lively environment, ode to its bustling population of 24,000. Retirees adore the colorful town, with many ways to connect with the community, such as events, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities. In terms of events, the Paint the Port and Pretzel City Winefest are two popular options, with everything from artistic beauty to delicious food. The rest of the year, sites like Lincoln Douglas Debate Square, where the infamous debates occurred, and the Freeport Art Museum display local vibrance. Retirees who want to escape the urban streets can visit the Oakdale Nature Preserve. It has 220 acres of trails, foliage, and wildlife for endless exploration.

The best part about Freeport is that you won’t have to enjoy the array of activities alone. With 23% of the town’s population over the age of 65, there is always someone to join for the day. Regarding affordability, Freeport is a great option, with a low median home value of $102,000. About $150,000 less than the state average, seniors can enjoy their golden years on a budget.


Downtown Nauvoo, Illinois
Downtown Nauvoo, Illinois. Image credit: Ken Lund via

Nauvoo is a quaint town in Hancock County that offers an escape from urban hustle and bustle. Home to less than 1,000 residents, retirees can enjoy the peace and quiet of Illinois’s cultural charm. Most seniors spend their time in the historic side of town, which boasts dozens of rustic landmarks like the Visitor Center, Nauvoo Temple, and Stone Arch Bridge. From exhibits of local history to horse-drawn carriages with tales of old, the possibilities are endless. Hand in hand with the past, Nauvoo’s Mulholland Street is a wellspring of life, with eateries and shops on both sides. Here, one can enjoy a meal, buy clothes, or run daily errands.

Nauvoo also shines when it comes to retirement benefits, as the small town is large in amenities. For example, healthcare needs are covered by the Memorial Medical Clinic, which is centrally located on Mulholland Street. Buying a home nearby is also easy, as the median housing value in town is less than $150,000. Moreover, there are plenty of motels and hotels like The White House Inn, where one’s family can stay when they visit.


Main Street lined with historic brick buildings in downtown during summer. Belleville is the county seat for Saint Clare county Illinois.
Main Street is lined with historic brick buildings in downtown Belleville, Illinois, during summer, via RozenskiP /

Belleville, the county seat of St. Clair County, is a place that retirees can rely on. With 42,500 residents and a large area of 24 sq. miles, this town has tons to see and do. Cultural activities are among the most popular, and plenty of theaters and museums abound. Most seniors enjoy the Lincoln Theatre, Labor & Industrial Museum, and St. Clair County Historical Society. From watching a movie within a rustic ambiance to learning about the town’s German heritage, each site has a unique tale to share. On the other hand, Belleville is also home to peaceful farms, which offer both fun outings and delicious fresh food. Thus, one can spend the day roaming the orchards, picking out fruits, or hopping on wagon rides.

Beyond the activities, Belleville is a retiree’s dream, with excellent facilities and services. Whether healthcare at the Memorial Hospital Belleville or home shopping from The Home Depot, everything is available in town. Moreover, it is decently affordable, with a median housing value of $132,500. For those who want something a bit less expensive, retirement homes like The Atrium of Belleville offer reasonable prices for independent living and assisted living.


Quaint Shops on the Main Street of Galena, Illinois
Quaint Shops on the Main Street of Galena, Illinois, via Wirestock /

This famed tourist destination in Illinois is known for its historic charm, yet many overlook its retirement appeal. While buying a home can be slightly expensive, with an average home value of $275,000, plenty of alternatives are available. For example, the Prairie Ridge Galena and Midwest Senior Care Community boast friendly staff, great facilities, and specialized care. Moreover, the town has many outdoor parks, especially along the banks of the Galena River, offering retirees ample space to work out and stay fit.

After settling in, seniors can rejoice at the range of activities available. Most spend their time in the Galena Historic District, which encompasses most of the town and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Walk along Main Street to discover brick and stone buildings, exuding a rustic vibe that can make any day intriguing. Or, immerse yourself in historical stories at the Ulysses S. Grant Home and the Elihu B. Washburne House. While the former was once the home of the 18th U.S. President, Ulysses S. Grant, the latter is revered as the home of a famous local lawyer.


Downtown Kankakee at the corner Schuyler Avenue and Court Street in Kankakee
Downtown Kankakee at the corner of Schuyler Avenue and Court Street in Kankakee, via Nagel Photography /

As the county seat of Kankakee County, Kankakee is a lively abode awaiting retirees in Illinois. Upon arrival, the town’s array of cultural attractions shine, beckoning people with unique features. For example, the Kankakee County Museum is full of historical exhibits, while one can experience railway history at the Kankakee Railroad Museum. Apart from this, racing enthusiasts will adore retirement in Kankakee thanks to the Kankakee County Speedway. This racetrack hosts regular races, providing endless thrills for locals.

Those who settle down in Kankakee can expect a comfortable retirement with ample facilities. From medical care at the Riverside Medical Center to golfing at the Kankakee Country Club with views of the Kankakee River, everything is available in town. If there is ever something missing in town, Chicago is just an hour’s drive away, so retirees can rest easy. The best part is, even with so much on offer, the town is very economical, with an average housing value of $127,000, nearly half the state average of $251,000.


Views of Alton, Illinois, from the middle of the street, flanked by city buildings
Views of Alton, Illinois, from the middle of the street, flanked by city buildings. Editorial credit: Fsendek /

Alton rests on the Mississippi River with immaculate charm for seniors. Developed in 1818 as a river town and now part of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area, Alton caters to all kinds of people. History enthusiasts flock to the National Great Rivers Museum and Beall Mansion, while outdoor lovers can opt for the Great Rivers Scenic Route for a nature drive nearby. That said, what stands out in town is the range of unique and quirky activities. For example, Alton was once home to the world’s tallest man, Robert Waldow, and people can learn about him at the World’s Tallest Man Statue. Similarly, Alton was the site of the last Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate, which is a large part of local heritage.

From a retirement perspective, Alton is one of the most affordable towns on this list, with an average home costing less than $90,000. Considering its prime location, this is a steal that few retirees would want to miss. To this end, Alton boasts a strong population of seniors; over 17% of the locals are above the age of 65. Thus, there is always someone like-minded to accompany you for your outings in town.

From the lively Mulholland Street of Nauvoo to riverside golfing at Kankakee, each of these towns boasts unique opportunities for retirees. Moreover, they are all reasonable, with affordable housing, great amenities, and optimal social environments. Add these towns' quaint environments and outdoor charm, and they become optimal retirement destinations in Illinois.

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