Grand Marais Lighthouse against the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains on Lake Superior.

8 Towns Perfect for Retirement in the Northern United States

Retiring in the northern United States has many perks, not the least of which is the opportunity to experience the changing of the seasons, from the warm summer temperatures to the vibrant colors of fall foliage to peaceful snow-covered winters. Active retirees can enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, paddling, and hiking in the region's picturesque landscapes surrounded by tight-knit and welcoming communities in towns like Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Decorah, Iowa, Saugatuck, Michigan, Grand Marais, Minnesota, and others. So get ready for the next chapter, where every town tells a tale of serenity, community, and adventure.

Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

Front of Peace Church, Camp Hill, PA
Front of Peace Church, Camp Hill, PA

If moving out of the big city and retiring to a small town is part of the retirement plan, look no further than Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. With a population of 8,400 residents, this charming borough is located less than five miles from the state capital of Harrisburg. According to a report by, Camp Hill’s cost of living, low crime rate, and other attributes like proximity to amenities, housing opportunities, transportation, and access to healthcare at the highly-respected Penn State Health Holy Medical Center, make it a highly livable town, and perhaps even the “best small town in the U.S. for retirees.” A new home in Camp Hill is available for a median sale price of $330,000 (according to in April 2024, lower than the US average price of $400,000.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the scenic views of the Susquehanna River and Harrisburg skyline from Negley Park. It's a great spot for picnics, walking, and photography. Camp Hill’s a vibrant arts and culture scene, with live theater at the Oyster Mill Playhouse. The 2024 season opened with a performance of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.” Community events in the town include an annual Plein Air Art Walk, a Greek Fest where everyone gets to be “Greek for a Day,” and a “Market on Market” every Tuesday where residents can shop for fresh seasonal produce and mingle with neighbors.

For Saturday or Sunday brunch, reserve a table at the Watershed Pub, one of the oldest buildings in Camp Hill, dating back to at least the early 1800s. Peruse the menu over a Watershed Bloody Mary. Grateful Goat Brewing is a pub and tavern with an on-site brewery. It is also part of the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, a tour of 30 breweries, cideries, distilleries, and wineries for retirees who can’t resist stocking up on local craft beer and wine.

Ashland, Wisconsin

Overlooking Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior.
Overlooking Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior.

Ashland is a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Superior. It offers stunning views of the largest freshwater lake in the world, making it ideal for retirees seeking a peaceful lakeside retreat. The town's historic downtown dining scene features locally owned restaurants serving fresh seafood, Wisconsin cheese, and other regional specialties. Don't miss the opportunity to try the famous Friday fish fry at the Deep Water Grille or indulge in homemade pastries at the Ashland Baking Company and the Black Cat Coffeehouse.

On Chequamegon Bay, part of Lake Superior, active retirees can enjoy activities like world-class fishing for smallmouth bass, kayaking, paddleboarding, or birding, as the region around the bay is among the best birding destinations in the northern United States with over 300 species. Birders and nature lovers alike congregate from May 23 - 25, 2024, for the “Annual Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival.” The nearby waterways and woodlands that comprise the 1.5-million-acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest are ideal for retirees who can’t get enough of the outdoors with lots of hiking, camping, paddling, and wildlife viewing. There are two trails worth hiking in the forest: a 1.2-mile round trip hike to the picturesque 70-foot waterfall known as Morgan Falls and the 3.6-mile round trip trail to the lookout atop St. Peter's Dome (known locally as Old Baldy), both of which are perfect for nature lovers and photographers.

There’s so much to like about Ashland, including the median sale price of a new home, which is $224,500. Healthcare for retirees in Ashland is provided by the Tamarack Health Ashland Medical Center, which recently announced the expansion of services to the Ashland community by adding a primary care clinic set to open mid-May on its Ashland Medical Center campus.

Caribou, Maine

Caribou is the second largest city in Aroostook County, Maine, United States.
Caribou is the second largest city in Aroostook County, Maine, United States.

Caribou, Maine, is a charming town in Aroostook County called “The Crown of Maine,” on the border with Canada in the northern part of the state. Its location at the top of the state gives it a prominent position, almost like a crown atop Maine. Aroostook State Park and the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge are popular destinations for retired outdoor enthusiasts who want to walk in nature, photograph, or hike part of its 13 miles of foot-access trails. The refuge is open year-round, sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.

Caribou has a small-town feel with a strong sense of community. Residents often enjoy a slower pace of life, friendly neighbors, and a close-knit community atmosphere. The Caribou Historical Center & Whittier Museum serves as a cultural hub and educational resource, preserving the past and promoting an appreciation for Caribou's history and heritage. Downtown Caribou is the place to stop for a drip coffee at Ruska Coffee or the Northern Maine Brewing Company for a fresh brew. From July 31 to August 4, 2024, the Northern Maine Fair takes place in nearby Presque Isle. It features old-fashioned fun like livestock exhibits, carnival rides, live entertainment, and an apple pie contest.

A new home in this unique corner of Maine is available for a median sale price of $245,000. The closest hospital is Cary Medical Center, a full-service hospital that provides a wide range of medical services. The Aroostook Agency on Aging is a non-profit organization based in nearby Presque Isle that promotes the well-being of older adults in the region by providing various services and programs.

North Adams, Massachusetts

Main Street storefronts in North Adams, Massachusetts
Main Street storefronts in North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts, is a picturesque county in Berkshire County. It offers a range of attractions and activities for art-loving retirees, especially its proximity to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the largest contemporary art museums in the United States. The hottest ticket in North Adams is the museum’s 25th celebration anniversary this spring on May 25, 2024. The event is free as the community celebration guarantees to rock the galleries with museum tours, art-making in Kidspace, live entertainment, and more.

Outdoor adventure awaits active retirees ten miles outside North Adams at Mount Greylock State Reservation. At 3,491 feet, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. Take a scenic drive or hike to the summit and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. There are over a dozen trailheads up the mountain. Still, the one starting in North Adams is a 9.6-mile aggressive hike that gains 2,191 feet in elevation and follows a portion of Henry David Thoreau’s 1844 hike up Mount Greylock, described in “A Year on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.”

More than 17% of residents in this hip town of 26,000 are retirees, making it a nice hub for socializing and making friends. A new home costs $260,000, and Insider Monkey gives it a 95.9 rating on the cost of living index. The hospital serving North Adams is the newly reopened North Adams Regional Hospital after the previous hospital controversially closed ten years ago, so retirees to North Adams have a multi-million dollar renovated hospital to look after their needs.

Decorah, Iowa

Summer at the fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa
Summer at the fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa

Decorah is a charming town in northeastern Iowa's hills, known as the “Driftless Area,” characterized by its rugged terrain, steep valleys, limestone bluffs, and scenic rivers. Take a scenic drive along the Driftless Area Scenic Byway, stop at overlooks and scenic viewpoints for breathtaking vistas of the surrounding landscape, and be on the lookout for the famous Decorah bald eagles. Rent a kayak and paddle on the Upper Iowa River that flows through the town, or bike to the Decorah Fish Hatchery on the 11-mile Trout Run Trail. See how trout are raised, feed the fish, picnic next to the Trout Run stream, go fishing, or relax by the Siewers Springs waterfall—re-fuel in downtown Decorah with a craft brew at Pulpit Rock or Toppling Goliath Brewing Companies.

Retirees can enjoy the town's vibrant arts and culture scene, explore local parks and trails, and visit historic sites like the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum—the most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group. The museum features a world-class collection of 33,000 artifacts, a Heritage Park of 12 historic buildings, and a Folk Art School in scenic Decorah, Iowa.

Seniors looking to relocate to Decorah are in good company; 19% of the town’s 8,000 residents are seniors. In April 2024, a new home in Decorah cost around $280,000. WinnMed provides family medicine, specialty care, and health services at its Decorah Clinic in town.

Saugatuck, Michigan

The Kalamazoo River running through Saugatuck, Michigan.
The Kalamazoo River running through Saugatuck, Michigan.

Saugatuck is a charming coastal town perched on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is known for its sandy beaches, like Oval Beach, and is recognized as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 25 Beaches in the World. Enjoy soft sand, clear waters, and stunning views of Lake Michigan's shoreline and dunes. Or pay a visit to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, with 2.5 miles of sandy shores and 13 miles of trails. Next door to the park is the Felt Estate, once home to Dorr Felt, who invented the Comptometer in 1887, which performed basic math functions (much like today’s calculator).

Retirees can wander through downtown Saugatuck and browse the eclectic mix of shops, boutiques, and specialty stores. Find one-of-a-kind gifts, clothing, home decor, and souvenirs while enjoying the area's small-town charm. Stop for an espresso at Uncommon Coffee Roasters, hand-crafted chocolates at Kilwins, or book a patio table at Mermaid Waterfront Bar & Grill, which overlooks the Kalamazoo River.

This small town of 3,500 residents loves its festivals, an excellent way for retirees to mingle with their new neighbors. The Saugatuck Venetian Festival has been a mid-summer mainstay in Saugatuck for decades. This year’s theme is “country” and takes place from July 26 - 27, 2024. There’s also the Saugatuck Film Fest and the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck, dedicated to keeping chamber music vibrant and alive. A new home goes for a median sale price of a very affordable $195,000, and the newly-opened Holland Hospital Medical Building in Saugatuck provides local health care for the lakeshore community.

Millville, New Jersey

Millville, New Jersey
Millville, New Jersey.

There are 28,000 residents in Millville, of which almost 20% are over 65 years old, which means older retirees will be in good company. New Jersey is only moderately tax-friendly when it comes to taxes and retirement, as social security isn’t taxed, but other types of retirement income are. The median listing of a new home is $230,000, and Insider Monkey gives it an 85.6 rating on the cost of living index. Residents of Millville go to the Inspira Medical Center Vineland for healthcare needs.

Millville can be a nice place to retire, thanks to its artistic charm and small-town atmosphere. The town has a significant historical connection to the glass industry, having played a crucial role in developing glassmaking in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is home to WheatonArts, an internationally acclaimed arts community, and the renowned Museum of American Glass, where retired artists can watch daily demonstrations, discover other cultures in the Folklife Center, or picnic at the GateHouse Café.

Located on the Maurice River, seniors can enjoy the scenic views and many parks to stay fit and fresh. Enjoy hiking, birdwatching, and nature photography at the Maurice River Bluffs Preserve, with miles of trails through wooded areas, wetlands, and riverbanks. There are plentiful local wineries to explore, like Terra Nonno Winery, Bellview Winery, or Cedar Rose Vineyards, where wine lovers can taste a flight of five wines with pretty names like Whitetail, Driftwood, and Sweater Weather over a charcuterie board in the tasting room or attend a live music performance overlooking the vineyard.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Lighthouse on Lake Superior at Grand Marais, Minnesota
Lighthouse on Lake Superior at Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais is a picturesque harbor town on the shores of Lake Superior. It offers retirees access to pristine beaches, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. The town's downtown area features shops, galleries, restaurants, and North Shore Health, all within walking distance of the lake. For retired outdoor enthusiasts, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a vast network of lakes and forests perfect for canoeing, kayaking, camping, and wildlife viewing, is right at Grand Marais’ doorstep. Guided trips and outfitters like Boundary Country Trekking are available for new residents who want to explore the great outdoors.

Grand Marais has a thriving arts community, with numerous galleries, studios, and art events throughout the year. Visit the Grand Marais Art Colony to see works by local artists or join “Entry Points,” a unique way to participate in the Art Colony community through free and nominally-priced hands-on art activities, artist talks, and exhibitions. Attend the 33rd Annual “Grand Marais Arts Festival” in downtown Grand Marais on July 13 - 14, 2024, or the biennial “North Shore Readers and Writers Festival.”

This town of around 1500 residents with new home prices of $500,000 indeed loves its festivals, which provide an excellent opportunity for newly retired residents to get out and meet the community. The annual Grand Marais Fisherman’s Picnic on August 1 - 4, 2024, turns the small into a weekend-long party serving its famous fish burgers (deep-fried herring filets served on a bun) alongside sidewalk sales, live music, a parade, and activities for visiting grandchildren. The town also hosts the Winterer's Gathering & Arctic Film Festival in the fall.

Explore a collection of charming towns across the northern United States, each offering a serene haven for retirees seeking tranquility and adventure. From the picturesque shores of Lake Superior to the rugged terrain of the Driftless Area, these towns boast affordable living, vibrant arts scenes, and abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. Discover the historic legacy of glassmaking in Millville, or indulge in lakeside tranquility and world-class fishing in Ashland. With welcoming communities and a rich cultural heritage, each of these towns offers the perfect backdrop for retirees to enjoy the rest of the story.

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