Retirement is definitely not ho-hum for the Murphys, who hold cooking classes in their home. They teach slicing-and-dicing skills and sessions on making holiday dinners, using leftovers, and grilling. The classes are offered through the local North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, which runs a sort of "college for seniors" in which members pay $115 for two months of unlimited classes. They're held at the center, members' homes, and on campus at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
On Saturdays, you'll find Jan Moran—who recently came out of retirement and works as a marketing consultant—at one of Asheville's farmers' markets stocking up on veggies and grass-fed local beef. "It's the best-quality food, and it's also a social experience," says Moran, who moved to Asheville from Tucson, Ariz., more than two years ago after her husband, Paul Rollins, revealed a "secret desire to return to North Carolina," where he had grown up. (Jan was sold on the area after a visit.) The market's organic produce is often more expensive than at the local grocery, "but the meat I buy comes farm to market, and the people charge less than at the store," she says.
As visitors have discovered, a trip to Asheville's extravagant Biltmore Estate comes at an extravagant price: $55, and no senior discount. But if it's absorbing architecture you're after, the city is dotted with unique buildings, including the Art Deco city hall, the breathtaking Spanish Baroque Basilica of St. Lawrence, and the Jackson Building, a gargoyle-flanked, neo-Gothic masterpiece. Admission, of course, is gratis.
Real estate in this mountain enclave is pricier than in many cities of its size, but a drive down the winding Blue Ridge Parkway, a frozen custard at the Grove Arcade, or a lazy afternoon spent listening to drummers in Pritchard Park are reminders that everyday life in this laid-back town is easy on the wallet. The secret about Asheville may be out, with more and more retired people flocking to the city, but as retiree Fred Teach puts it, "Asheville's still a gem. It's magnificent."
Aurora may rub elbows with Denver, but it assuredly is not a suburb. Home to roughly 300,000, the city covers a whopping 154 square miles and includes nine colleges and universities, seven golf courses, and 10,000 acres of parks, trails, and open space within its city limits. Housing is reasonable, to boot: In 2008, the median home price was $138,000, roughly $40,000 less than in Denver.
Want to feel young? Visit the centrally located Aurora Center for Active Adults, and you'll be bowled over by an enthusiastic crowd and an array of activities, all of which are free or have a minimal cost. In the lobby of the building, retirees enjoy a friendly but competitive game of Wii bowling. An intense match of doubles Ping-Pong draws a crowd of spectators upstairs. The popular billiards room is occupied, the gym is bustling with exercisers, and classrooms are filled with students of ceramics and watercolor painting. The crowd (mostly made up of those 50 and over) is often on the move, attending Colorado Rockies baseball games or day-tripping to the mountains for a picnic.
Many retirees say Aurora's climate is a big draw: The sun shines some 300 days a year, the humidity's low, and Indian summers are an occasional treat. Despite its considerable expanse, "Aurora's like a 'big' small town," says Jo Creager, a retired teacher. That's a common attitude among retirees at the center, including Cristobel Nallathanby, a New Jersey transplant: "It's things like the farmers' market and neighborhood block meetings that make this a homey place to live."
Aurora's location is an extra. The polychromatic Rocky Mountains, which are within an hour's drive, make for a mesmerizing backdrop in some parts of the city. Having a car is nice but not necessary: A ride downtown on Denver's light rail costs just a buck, and a senior discount on the skyRide bus will deliver you to Denver International Airport for $4. Cyclists can take advantage of Aurora's many bike trails, which extend to the Cherry Creek Reservoir and even downtown Denver.