View of buildings along a street in Decorah, Iowa. Editorial credit: Steve Heap /

7 Top-Ranked Towns in Iowa for Retirees

Retirement means getting away from the world, and these top-ranked towns in Iowa for retirees offer just that. As a state, Iowa is a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the United States. Its laid-back atmosphere and easy access to amenities make it an excellent place for retirees looking to take it slow. These seven top-ranked towns in Iowa for retirees are ranked based on various factors, such as healthcare, affordability, and safety. Moreover, each town also offers a fresh set of activities that anyone can enjoy. This ranges from the lakeside activities in Spirit Lake to the historic tours in Fairfield. Let’s dive right into the best towns in Iowa for retirees.

Spirit Lake

Aerial view of Spirit Lake, Iowa.
Aerial view of buildings in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Spirit Lake, Iowa, traces its history back to the indigenous Dakota Sioux tribes, who named it "Minnetonka," meaning "big waters." For retirees considering Spirit Lake, Iowa, the area offers many activities and attractions to enjoy during their leisurely years. To start with, Spirit Lake provides abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation, including boating, fishing, and hiking along scenic trails. Areas like the Pikes Point State Park and Center Lake Wildlife Management Area each showcase a unique side to the outdoors. Those interested in golfing can also consider spending time at the nine-hole golf course of Indian Hills Golf Club.

With a population of just over 5,000 people, Spirit Lake is one of the smaller top-ranked towns in Iowa for retirees. While the average housing price is $334,200, $45,000 greater than the state average, most homes boast amazing waterside views that justify the cost. Residents in need of healthcare services can head over to the Lakes Regional Healthcare Hospital for state-of-the-art facilities.


Aerial view of downtown Waukee, Iowa.
Aerial view of downtown Waukee, Iowa.

Waukee, a thriving suburb of Des Moines, boasts a strong sense of community. The town hosts a variety of community events, such as the Waukee Arts Festival and the Waukee Farmers Market, providing opportunities for retirees to socialize and engage with the community. Staying in shape is easy with adventures like hiking and biking on the 56-mile Raccoon River Valley Trail, playing golf at the Sugar Creek Golf Course, or picnicking in the beautiful Centennial Park.

For retirees in need of assisted living, the Independence Village Waukee is a reputable option in the area. Those willing to shell out $410,000 can own their own residence in this lively community. The best part is Waukee’s location next to Des Moines, which means that world-class amenities and services are easily available within a 15-minute drive.


Main Street in Fairfield, Iowa.
Brick buildings along Main Street in Fairfield, Iowa. By Bill Whittaker (talk), CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Fairfield, with its founding year dating back to 1839, maintains a historic charm while embracing innovation. This is palpable through a thriving arts scene, sustainable initiatives, and a diverse community, making it a unique and vibrant destination. Retirees will have access to a holistic wellness community in the town with opportunities for yoga, meditation, and wellness retreats at The Raj. Also, the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center hosts cultural events, including concerts and art exhibitions. Those interested in history can explore the Maasdam Barns to glimpse the area's agricultural heritage through its 20th-century buildings and farming artifacts.

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the scenic 16-mile Fairfield Loop Trail for walking or biking while nature lovers relax at the 30 acres of Chautauqua Park. The Fairfield Farmers' Market presents fresh produce and crafts on Wednesdays and Saturdays and is a regular meetup place for residents. Furthermore, you can trust Jefferson County Health Center for all your medical emergencies. It is also one of the cheaper locations to retire in, with just about $220,000 required to buy a housing property.


Windmill in Pella's Dutch Village.
Windmill in the Dutch Village of Pella, Iowa.

Pella is a community known for its Dutch heritage, which was rooted in its establishment by immigrants from the Netherlands. Today, the town is home to 10,500 residents and has more than enough to keep retirees engaged and entertained. For history buffs, Pella is home to the Vermeer Windmill, one of the tallest operating windmills in the United States, and the Pella Historical Village, a collection of 22 historic buildings that offer a glimpse into the town's past. The town also hosts an annual Tulip Time Festival, which celebrates its Dutch heritage with parades, music, and food. Nature lovers will appreciate the nearby Lake Red Rock, the state's largest lake, which offers boating, fishing, and hiking opportunities.

The cost of living in Pella is relatively high, with a median home price of around $371,500. Thankfully, many alternatives offer affordable accommodation. For example, retirees can consider the Pella Manor at Hearthstone, a senior living community fitting all budgets and needs. Moreover, as nearly 19% of the town’s population is over the age of 65, there is no shortage of like-minded people here.


Buildings along W Water Street in Decorah, Iowa.
Rustic buildings lined along W Water Street in Decorah, Iowa. Editorial credit: Steve Heap /

With a population of just over 7,500, Decorah offers a small-town feel with all the amenities and attractions of a larger city. Retirees can make a stop at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the largest museum in the country dedicated to Norwegian-American heritage. The museum features 33,000+ artifacts, including textiles, furniture, and artwork. The town also boasts many historic buildings, including the Hotel Winneshiek, a beautifully restored historic hotel that dates back to the early 1900s. When in need of nature therapy, the Decorah Fish Hatchery, which offers a variety of exhibits and programs related to fish and wildlife, and the nearby Dunning's Spring Park, featuring a beautiful 200-feet waterfall and a hiking trail, are two excellent choices.

Retirees will be at ease when looking for housing options in Decorah as the average price is currently around $279,200, which is about $10,000 less than the state average. Winneshiek Medical Center, now known as WinnMed, services the town for any medical necessities.

Clear Lake

The historic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
The historic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Editorial credit: Joseph Kreiss /

Clear Lake provides a peaceful and picturesque setting for those looking to retire in a tranquil environment. Retirees in town can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as boating, fishing, and swimming on the lake, keeping them active in their later years. Additionally, the town features the Surf Ballroom. This historic 1948 music venue has hosted legendary performers like Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, making it a must-visit cultural spot for music enthusiasts. Clear Lake also has attractions like the Clear Lake Arts Center, which features rotating art exhibits and classes for retirees to enjoy.

Those who decide to retire in Clear Lake will be delighted by the social environment, as more than 26% of the 7,700 locals are above the age of 65. Transportation is another plus point as the town offers city and regional bus transit, so retirees can travel easily. If one ever needs to head out of town, the Jefferson Lines private intercity bus service is a great option for comfortable traveling.


Shops along the commercial district in Tipton, Iowa.
Shops and stores along the commercial district in Tipton, Iowa. By Farragutful - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The charming town of Tipton is not just good for a gateway but also for spending one’s retirement years in peace. Residents can visit the Cedar County Historical Society Museum, showcasing artifacts and exhibits detailing the area's pioneer past and agricultural roots. Tipton Golf & Country Club is a popular hangout spot providing a 9-hole course, a grill, and a bar. Evenings are best spent at Buchanan House Winery with a glass or two of wine and events like Games & Wine with Friends on weekends.

When it comes to healthcare, you can always stop by UnityPoint Health Family Medicine Clinic for your concerns. The housing market is also very decently priced at $197,500, a steal compared to the state average of around $300,000. Even if you don’t want to invest in a house, Prairie Hills at Tipton can be your home if you need assisted living facilities.

Explore What Iowa Can Offer Retirees

Iowa is usually not regarded as one of the places that people would love to retire to, but it has many small towns that are attractive to older folks. Not only are they small and cozy, but they also offer the support retirees need as they grow older. With low costs of living across the board and possibilities of community engagement at farmer’s markets or theaters, parks, and golf courses to remain in shape, these seven options should be high on the list of places retirees consider.

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