At $242,000, Eugene's median home price is steeper than the nation's overall, but $170,000 will buy you a charming, two-story home near both the Willamette River and the RiverRidge Golf Course. Getting around is a cinch and easy on the wallet. Bus rides cost nothing for those 65 and older ($1.50 otherwise), or you can bike just about everywhere on the city's expansive trail system. There's also plenty of affordable eateries, such as the quirky Off the Waffle, where "authentic Liège waffles" go for $3. Toppings cost extra, but, yes—in case you're wondering—the restaurant is willing to barter.
Fort Worth enjoys a reputation as an upscale cow town. The midsize city melds the low-key feel of the small towns that dot the dusty expanses just to its west with the suburban sprawl and studied glitz of neighboring Dallas to the east. The resulting mix is part rodeo, part Rothko, and locals say it's just the spot for a great retirement. "You can be as cosmopolitan or as laid-back and country as you want to be," says Margaret Puckett, a retired education professor and longtime Fort Worth resident.
The city, founded as a stop on Chisholm Trail cattle drives, retains many of the trappings of its history as a rough-and-tumble frontier town. The Fort Worth Stockyards are home to stock shows and a destination for country-western dance fans who take advantage of weekly lessons at Billy Bob's Texas, billed as the world's largest honky-tonk.
Avid collectors enjoy scouring for the best deals at the Montgomery Street Antique Mall, the largest in Fort Worth, where 240 stalls hawk everything under the sun and visitors stumble on the Secret Garden Tea Room tucked away inside. "You run into items that spark a memory of something you or your ancestors had," Puckett says.
Culture lovers also enjoy some of the state's best art and music. Fort Worth is home to two world-class art museums, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which include notable works by Richard Serra and Philip Guston. The zoo and the nearby Fort Worth Botanic Garden deserve an honorable mention, as do several museums devoted to the city's Western-tinged history, including the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. For a supercheap evening at Bass Performance Hall, a downtown landmark flanked by two 48-foot-tall angel sculptures, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra offers discounted tickets to seniors over 65 on Friday and Sunday performances for as little as $8.
Housing costs are generally affordable. Retirees don't tend to cluster in the area, but apartment-style retirement residences have sprung up near the downtown Sundance Square area, home to some of the city's best nightlife. More broadly, Texas was spared much of the worst of the housing slump, and Fort Worth has held up better than many other areas of the state. In 2008, the median home price was $128,500.
Fort Worth is also a city where helping out is a tradition. Retirees say the city offers ample opportunity to get involved in the community, thanks to an engaged local government and active volunteers. Don Smith, director of United Way's Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County, says that Fort Worth is "one of the most engaged cities I've ever worked in."
In Florida, the farther north you go, the more Southern it gets. Jacksonville is a perfect example. Take Hemming Plaza in the downtown area, where, amid chess players on benches, stands an obelisk dedicated to Floridian Confederate Army heroes E. Kirby Smith and J.J. Dickinson. But Jacksonville isn't living in the past. The city, which uniquely blends old influences with the new, offers an eclectic host of affordable activities for retirees looking for something different from the typical tropical getaway.