Tucked into an impressive skyline of towering stone buildings and sleek, mirrored windows is the 81-year-old Ohio Theatre—the busiest performing arts venue in the state—where seniors can get reduced-price tickets to see everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Over at the Columbus Museum of Art, $8 allows seniors to check out magnificent works by Picasso, Renoir, and O'Keeffe.
For wildlife of a more active variety—such as an Amur tiger—consider an afternoon at the Columbus Zoo, the nation's top-ranked zoo and a big source of pride for the community (senior admission: $6).
Sports enthusiasts have plenty to cheer about. The 10,000-seat Huntington Park—which opened just this year—provides a stunning setting to watch the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians (senior tickets: $7 reserved, $3 general admission). And things really heat up in September when Ohio State's football season begins. But even if you aren't one of the 100,000-plus fans squeezed into Ohio Stadium for the games against the University of Southern California, you can still benefit from the city's connection to this first-rate public research university. Through Ohio State's Program 60, seniors can chose from a host of noncredit courses to take free of charge. "It would be difficult, I think, for a city to have much more to offer," says Joan Plankell, an 80-year-old, retired high school teacher who lives in Columbus.
Columbus also presents many opportunities to establish a more intimate connection to the community. Seniors can donate their time to local hospitals or social service organizations or even become ushers at Ohio State football games, says Carol Ventresca, executive director of Columbus-based Employment for Seniors. "You will never have a problem becoming a volunteer in Columbus." While the recession has made it more challenging for seniors to land full- or part-time jobs, Ventresca is planning workshops designed to help them turn hobbies or interests into small businesses of their own. And with median home prices at just $106,000—and expected to increase over the next decade—Columbus is an attractive place to launch a new commercial venture or a pleasant retirement.
Saturday market in Eugene overwhelms the senses. Surrounded by artists selling kaleidoscopic wares, free-spirited folks dance to a cover band's Grateful Dead tunes. Others stroll through the adjacent farmers market or lounge in the grass, enjoying a summer breeze laced with incense. It's enough to make you want to kick off your Birkenstocks.
But if bongos and tie-dye aren't your thing, don't count Eugene out just yet. Tucked in the southern Willamette Valley between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains, the city has much to offer in the way of natural beauty, the arts, and recreational opportunities—all of which retirees can take advantage of on a budget.
Home to the University of Oregon and nicknamed "Track Town USA" for its rich running heritage, Eugene is rife with outdoor activities for the older set. Hiking clubs, for example, offer camaraderie and opportunities to explore the area's countless waterfalls and old-growth forests. The Obsidians outdoor club carpools to trail heads, often in the mountains. "It's highly organized," says Jim Duncan, the group's president, a retired professor who moved from Chicago to Eugene in 2001. "We pack lunches, and each year we have a summer camp and set up a kitchen in the woods."
Summer is beautiful in Eugene, and it's also a time when you can find free entertainment most nights of the week: marching bands, outdoor movies, live theater performances, and concerts of all sorts. One of the season's most anticipated events is the three-week Oregon Bach Festival, which showcases world-class musicians and singers from around the world. This year, more than a dozen of the festival's events were free.