Tourists walk along the sidewalks outside the West Street Hotel in Bar Harbor, via KenWiedemann

7 Top-Ranked Towns in the Northern United States for Retirees

Old Man Winter is packing up his bags, which means it's time to welcome and embrace the freshness of a new season as spring stumbles upon us. In a few short weeks, the fresh air will fill your nostrils with a subtle floral scent as the atmosphere and rain nourish the soil for a new season. The melting snow is both a pretty sight and a reminder to get out of hibernation so you can begin exciting new adventures again. So, put your rain jacket on, and let's explore some top-rated towns!

Bar Harbor, Maine

Main street of Bar Harbor, Maine.
Main street of Bar Harbor, Maine.

This resort town offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. The bright blue waters stretch out as far as the eye can see, and locals have taken advantage of their town's geography, offering a variety of cruises for visitors looking to explore the shores. For example, Acadia Boat Tours runs from mid-May to November. It specializes in offering cruises that sail around coastal Maine, allowing patrons to observe various wildlife animals, including seals, eagles, and ospreys. On the other hand, the CAT is a high-speed ferry that sails between Maine and Nova Scotia and offers a range of amenities as a bonus. For a more serene experience, consider the relaxing Castine Kayak Adventures to sail out and delve into the stunning Penobscot Bay and Acadia National Park — the latter is a significant point of interest in its own right since it's home to Cadillac Mountain, the Atlantic Seaboard's tallest landmark mountain, standing a lofty 1,540 feet. This 228-year-old town also features over ten museums and art galleries, including the Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor Historical Society, and the Eclipse Gallery. For accommodations, the Bar Harbor Manor and Hanscom Motel both provide economically friendly options.

Port Townsend, Washington

Port Townsend, Washington, from Puget Sound.
Port Townsend, Washington, from Puget Sound.

Locals gave this town the moniker "City of Dreams," with ambitions to make it the biggest harbor on the West Coast. While that grand vision did not come to fruition, the town does flaunt a dreamy landscape with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. What's more, the legacy of the Victorian period has left an ever-lasting influence on Port Townsend's architecture, as over 300 Victorian-style houses still stand tall and proud centuries later. To get a holistic experience here, ensure your expedition includes riding the Puget Sound Express, which includes a whale-watching tour, enabling you to see enchanting orcas, gray whales, and 60-foot (six times the size of a basketball net) humpback whales. Another feature of Port Townsend is its numerous art galleries, with Water Street alone boasting more than a dozen. As for accommodations, the Olympic Railway Inn offers a pet-friendly stay with scenic water views for you and your furry animal friend.

Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of Stowe, Vermont.
Aerial view of Stowe, Vermont.

Some towns cater to tourists during certain seasons, but Stowe transcends calendars, offering year-round attractions to flock to. If you're a winter lover, Stowe has thrilling ski adventures in the Stowe Mountain Resort, with one hill peaking at 2,360 feet — good enough to rank the fourth highest in Vermont. If you're a history buff, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum has 7,500+ artifacts related to skiing and snowboarding to skim through. And if you're looking to explore Stowe during the summer, treat yourself to one of the many tasty restaurants in the area, including the famous Stowe Bee Bakery. Alternatively, ascend to the sky by exploring the Stowe Mountain Resort and witnessing the spectacular views while riding the Gondola Skyride. For a comfy sleep, the Topnotch Resort is a great choice for those seeking a luxury resort; the four-star hotel establishment offers a wide range of amenities, including indoor and outdoor pools as well as spas.

Traverse City, Michigan

Main Street in Traverse City, Michigan.
Main Street in Traverse City, Michigan. Image credit: Michigan Municipal League via

True to its name, traversing this town offers plenty of activities for outdoor lovers and foodies. In fact, Traverse City is recognized as a top food town, securing a spot on Bon Appetite's Top Five Foodie Towns list for two consecutive years. The diverse menus here feature food from all over the world, including Asian, Greek, Italian, and Mexican options. And if you're a camper, Traverse City State Park offers 350 campsites on 75 acres of land, with modern-day lodges and cabins. Conveniently, this site is located just a stone's throw away from the refreshing shores of Lake Michigan. If you're looking for a cozy and relaxing hotel to sleep in for the night, consider staying at one of the following hotels, all of which feature swimming pools: Sugar Beach, Bayshore Hotel, and Park Plac Hotel.

Bellingham, Washington

Fairhaven district, Bellingham, Washington: Nelson Block and other buildings.
Fairhaven district, Bellingham, Washington: Nelson Block and other buildings. By Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk the streets in 1853? If that piques your interest, Historic Fairhaven, a National Historic District, is home to many cozy shops, restaurants, and parks that await your arrival. Whether your forte is uncovering hidden gems in the commerce district, with dozens of mom-and-pop shops built from centuries-old brown bricks, or getting in the refreshing waters of the Pacific Ocean in Bellingham Bay to test your paddling skill, Bellingham has something for you. And be sure to ride the Chuckanut Drive to witness once-in-a-lifetime views of the idyllic coastline laden with miles of untamed lush trees and pristine sandy beaches — the views will not disappoint, whether you're the one driving or are in the passenger seat. To fully enjoy all that Bellingham has to offer, consider sleeping in at the four-star Hotel Bellwether. It provides numerous amenities, with the added bonus of waking up to a breathtaking view of Mt. Baker from your cozy and warm pillow.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Shops and galleries line Butler Street in Saugatuck, Michigan.
Shops and galleries line Butler Street in Saugatuck, Michigan. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via

This charming town's population surges by almost 200% during the warmer months, attracting tourists from surrounding states and beyond to experience its natural beauty. Saugatuck was awarded one of the best coastal small towns to visit by the USAToday in 2019, Furthermore, it boasts Mount Baldhead Park, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and one of the town's prized treasures — the sandy Oval Beach on Lake Michigan. If you plan to stay for the weekend, the 159-year-old Hotel Saugatuck is a popular 3.5-star hotel with complimentary breakfast, luxury rooms, and hydrotherapy tubs.

Portland, Maine

Cathedral in downtown Portland, Maine.
Cathedral in downtown Portland, Maine.

Did you know there's another major Portland in the United States? It's more than 3,000 miles away from Oregon. Unlike Oregon's inland city, though, Maine's Portland is a coastal town situated right on the Atlantic Ocean, where sailboats roam between the many islands. At the same time, 19th and 20th-century lighthouses stand mighty among the rocky shores, blending the best of the past and the present. As for those islands, some of them are accessible by ferry rides. For example, Peak Island is just 17 minutes away, where you can explore anything and everything from trails, historic forts, parks, community gardens, and even a restaurant! Furthermore, the island is home to two hotels: the Eighth Maine Regiment Lodge and Museum and The Inn on Peaks Island.

In conclusion, these top-rated towns provide a wide range of interactive and fun activities for visitors to partake in this spring season and beyond. From whale-watching adventures in Port Townsend to breaking a sweat on the slopes of Vermont, you're bound to stumble upon a new quest.

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