Flagstaff is a vibrant town of 62,745 people filled with students attending Northern Arizona University (NAU). Its climate boasts cool mountain air, ponderosa pines and even a mountain to ski on, and is the favored summer retreat for the folks in Phoenix. Retirees will enjoy sipping beer from one of the local microbreweries, and exploring interesting hotels and hip restaurants that are housed in historic brick buildings. For the outdoors enthusiast, there are abundant hiking and biking trails, and the Grand Canyon is less than a two-hour drive. Flagstaff prides itself on being a Golden Rule City where prejudice, hate, bigotry, and intolerance have no place.
Climate: Flagstaff has moderate summer temperatures and winters with an average snowfall of 100 inches for winter sports. It boasts 283 days without precipitation each year which make year-round outdoor activities enjoyable.
Cost of living: Rather expensive, the cost of living in Flagstaff is 12% greater than the national average. And the average retirement home will cost 65% more than the national average, at around $290,800.
Colleges and Universities: Northern Arizona University is pleased to sponsor Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) which has been offering programs throughout the Southwest since 1983. They have over 80 programs designed for the curious and adventurous minded retiree.
Transportation: Retirees can get to Phoenix by air out of Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, and Amtrak offers passenger service.
Travel and tourism: Flagstaff is located near historic Route 66, and makes a great regional base for exploring the Grand Canyon. Having a college in a town always makes for an interesting cultural and social environment for retirement.
Sedona had a population of 10,031 as of the 2010 census. It could enter a geography beauty contest and hold its own against the national parks with its spindly towers, grand buttes and flat-topped mesas carved in crimson sandstone. Unquestionably one of the most beautiful places in Arizona, it is also one of the most scenic cities in the Southwest. The discovery of energy ‘vortexes’ here in the 1980s turned this once modest settlement into a bustling New Age destination, and today the combination of mysticism and red-rock majesty attracts throngs of tourists year-round. In addition to all sorts of alternative medicine practices in town, the retiree will also enjoy art galleries, gourmet restaurants and top-end resorts.
Climate: Sedona has four seasons, with a temperate high desert climate. The area receives 18 inches of rain per year and 4 inches of snowfall on average.
Cost of living: Relatively expensive for a small town, the cost of living in Sedona is 12% greater than the national average and housing is 144% greater than the national average at around $394,800 for the average retirement home.
Colleges and Universities: Retirement is always richer when there is an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Sedona’s is part of Yavapai College, where retirees can expect lively discussion, experiential opportunities in personal growth, and cultural and environmental explorations for a rich, continuing educational experience.
Transportation: Retirees can connect to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport eight times daily by the Sedona-Phoenix line. Local transportation is provided by a free city-run Sedona Roadrunner (with trolleys).
Travel and tourism: Sedona provides a very interesting scene for retirees with its variety of New Age businesses available to read (and photograph) your aura, in addition to fine dining, unique shopping, and luxurious spa treatments. And the photography buff will never be able to stop snapping those Red Rocks.
Jerome is a historic copper mining town located high on top of Cleopatra Hill (5,200 feet) between Prescott and Flagstaff. It was once known as the wickedest town in the west, but its personality has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, and it is now a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community with a population of 391 as of the 2010 census. The citizenry of Jerome is composed of artists, crafts people, musicians, writers, hermits, bed and breakfast owners, museum caretakers, gift shop proprietors and fallen-down-building landlords, so retirees will have to think about how they fit into this lifestyle.
Climate: The average temperature in January is 37.9 in Jerome, and the average temperature in July is 81.2.
Cost of living: Jerome’s cost of living is 4% higher than the U.S. average. The median home cost in Jerome is $191,900.
Transportation: You will need a car to get here!
Things to See and Do: With over 30 galleries and working studios, Jerome is known as Arizona’s Art Destination. First Saturday Art Walk has become a favorite monthly event. The Old Jerome High School is home to world class artists and their open studios, which are welcoming to art lovers who enjoy seeing the creative process. Jerome’s open air art park is a gallery itself in nice weather for leather artisans, potters, glass blowers, jewelers, photographers, and painters.
Prescott with a population of 39,843 as of the 2010 census, prides itself on a friendly atmosphere which has earned it the nickname “Everybody’s Hometown”. A low crime rate, easy commuting, housing types in all price ranges from historic and stately Victorians to apartment complexes, excellent air quality, and a variety of recreational choices combine to create a low-stress retirement lifestyle.
Climate: Prescott’s four mild seasons offer just enough variation to make the weather interesting. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Prescott offers a climate that is attractive to retirees from colder, Northern areas. The area receives 19 inches of rain per year and 25 inches of snow.
Cost of living: Approximately equal to the national average for general cost of living, but housing is rather more expensive at 64.7% greater than the national average. The cost of a retirement home in Prescott will run about $242,500.
Colleges and Universities: Prescott has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program at Yavapai College. This program offers interesting and stimulating learning opportunities for retirees in a relaxed setting where members share peer-directed activities with others who are dedicated to lifelong learning.
Transportation: Great Lakes Airlines, with United and Frontier Airlines code-shares, serves the area out of Love Field. Citibus runs 5 days a week.
Travel and tourism: There are 637 buildings and more than 60 objects in Prescott listed in the National Register of Historic Places, more than any other community its size in Arizona, so history buffs will have a picnic. Retirees will also enjoy the interesting architecture here, including some of the West’s finest examples of Victorian homes.
Tucson, with a population of 520,116 as of the 2010 United States Census, is Arizona’s second-largest city, but it still embraces a small town feel. Tucson is a bustling college town, home turf to the 35, 000-strong University of Arizona (U of A). It features distinct neighborhoods and 19th-century buildings which give it a rich sense of community and history not found in the more modern and sprawling Phoenix.
One of the most culturally invigorating places in the Southwest, Tucson is set in a flat valley surrounded by craggy, oddly shaped mountains. More than 20% of the population is of Mexican or Central American descent, so Spanish slides easily off most tongues and high-quality Mexican restaurants abound.
Climate: A typical desert climate, Tucson has two major seasons: hot summers and temperate winters. Retirees who love sunshine will appreciate Tucson’s 11 inches of rain per year and only about one inch of snowfall on average.
Cost of living: Suitable for retirees’ budgets, the cost of living is 5% less than the national average. Housing is nearly equal to the national average, with the median home cost running around $142,200.
Colleges and Universities: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Arizona is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide individuals age 50 and older an opportunity to be a constructive participant in the academic community.
Transportation: Commercial air service is provided by Tucson International Airport, and Amtrak has trains to Los Angeles. Sun Tran buses serve metropolitan Tucson.
Travel and tourism: Tucson has its own ballet company, professional theater, symphony, and opera company. Often referred to as a “mini-mecca for the arts”, Tucson boasts 215 art groups, and more than 35 art galleries in the downtown area alone. Retirees will enjoy shopping in the eclectic shops touting vintage garb, and sampling menus from scores of diverse restaurants.