PLACES TO RETIRE – KANSAS RETIREMENT – Kansas, not actually as flat as popularly thought, actually has an elevation rise of 3,000 feet between the eastern and western ends. But this transition is so gradual that it’s almost imperceptible. Kansas is the nation’s largest producer of wheat, and is named after the Kansas River which flows through it. The original inhabitants were the Kansa Native American tribe.
Kansas became part of the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In the 1800’s, the Santa Fe Trail was a major transportation route for manufactured goods from Missouri, and silver and furs from Santa Fe. Wagon ruts are still visible from this time in the prairie today. Kansas City, Abilene, and Dodge City were all important destinations for the cattle drives of the American West. Overrun by cowboys, Kansas became the first U.S. state to adopt a Constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages as a response to the violence perpetrated by this unruly lot.
The state is one of the slowest-growing in the nation, exemplifying a phenomenon known as a rural flight, which is a migratory pattern out of the countryside into cities. There are more than 6,000 ghost towns and dwindling communities in Kansas. Paradoxically, at the same time, some of the areas of metropolitan Kansas City are among the fastest-growing in the country.
Topeka, with a population of 127,473 as of the 2010 census, is the capital city of Kansas. It was an important stop on the Oregon Trail, and was one of the Free-State towns founded by Eastern antislavery men immediately after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. It was the home of the Oliver Brown family, the namesake in Brown v. Board of Education which retirees will remember well from the 1954 Supreme Court case that eliminated the “separate but equal” standard in American public schools.
Climate: Topeka has the dubious distinction of being one of the leading U.S. cities in terms of having the biggest variations in temperature, precipitation, and wind. Retirees can expect anything from the weather here, including tornadoes and hail. There is also a wide variation in the total annual precipitation, ranging from 25 to 47 inches, but snowfall is generally light.
Cost of living: Retirees will find this lifestyle affordable. The cost of living in Topeka is 8% less than the national average and the median home cost in Topeka is $93,700, an attractive 43.9% less than the national average.
Colleges and Universities: Programs designed to increase access to “learning for a lifetime” are promoted through Washburn University. There are also a number of Senior Centers and many activities for seniors planned by Topeka Parks and Recreation.
Transportation: Billard Airport provides air service, Amtrak offers travel by rail, and Topeka Transit is the local bus transportation.
Travel and tourism: Topeka has been recognized for its lively arts community and whose citizens believe their well-being ranks #30 in the nation. Some attractions not to be missed are the Brown v. Board National Historic Site & Museum, the Kansas History Museum, the Old Prairie Town at Historic Ward-Meade Park, and the Kansas State Capitol.
Dodge City, with a population of 27,340 people, is located in Southwest Kansas, approximately 150 miles west of Wichita. It is still known as a cattle town, and is home to two beef processing plants, one of which (Excel) is the second largest in the world, so retirees should have no trouble finding a big steak to sink their teeth into.
Baby boomers will all remember Dodge City’s western heritage from the TV show Gunsmoke. But in real life, the personalities of Dodge were even more colorful than fiction, and included Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson. There are numerous museums and tourist attractions around town to showcase Dodge’s remarkable history. One such organization is the Boot Hill Museum which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Dodge City and the Old West.
Dodge City became the world’s largest shipping point for Longhorn cattle when it was founded in 1872, and also was the wildest of the early frontier towns. The forces for law and order were led by Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and Bill Tilghman.
Dodge City honors and preserves its western tradition with its Front Street buildings which are reconstructions, exhibiting hundreds of original artifacts. These buildings represent Dodge City in 1876, and were carefully researched through historic photographs
Climate: There are 256 days of annual average sunshine here with less than 14 inches of snowfall. Summers are hot, with low to moderate humidity. That should be good news for retirees who enjoy golf and other outdoor activities.
Cost of living: Attractive to retirees on a budget, the cost of living in Dodge City is 1.1% less than the Kansas average, and 10% less than the national average. And the median cost of a retirement home in Dodge City is just $81,000, 43.8% less than the national average.
Colleges and Universities: Retirees will find a variety of non-credit courses at Dodge City Community College which offer opportunities for lifelong learning.
Transportation: Dodge City Regional Airport offers service to Denver and Kansas City on Great Lakes Airlines. Amtrak provides passenger transportation on its Southwest Chief route.
Travel and tourism: One interesting way to explore this area with its rich western heritage is through Agritourism. This concept offers tours of area agri-businesses with activities such as hunting, fishing, and hands-on ranch activities.
Kansas City, with 143,209 residents, is famous for its BBQ, fountains (over 200 – on a par with Rome), and jazz. Hometown hero Charlie Parker is probably the most famous musician who hailed from KC. On a more sober note, the Internal Revenue Service and H&R Block have huge headquarters here.
Kansas City was established in 1821 as a trading post but really came into its own once westward expansion began and the Oregon, California and Santa Fe trails all met steamboats loaded with pioneers here. The city enjoyed a period of lively times in the 1930s when Mayor Tom Pendergast defied the prevailing Prohibition-era laws and allowed alcohol to flow freely. Unfortunately Pendergast was indicted on tax evasion, and the jazz and booze scene largely faded by the mid-1940s.
KC has been a bustling farm-distribution and industrial center for generations, although its giant stockyards closed in 1991. Often called “the Heart of America”, Kansas City has a commitment to parks and landmarks that makes it one of the most beautiful cities in America. Its city landscape includes wide boulevards, interesting architecture and more than 200 fountains.
Climate: There are four distinct seasons in Kansas City, with warm summers and generally mild winters. It receives an annual average precipitation of 35.51 inches.
Cost of living: Somewhat greater than the Kansas average, the cost of living here is still 4% less than the national average. But retirement housing is an even better bargain, where the median home cost is $88,300 which is a whopping 55.7% less than the national average.
Colleges and Universities: Retirees will find Community Education classes and workshops in driver safety (vehicle & motorcycle), wellness, hobbies, music, business, finance, and personal growth at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Transportation: Light rail and bus service around town are provided by Kansas City Transportation Authority. Kansas City International Airport offers flights to all major destinations.
Travel and tourism: In addition to its jazz tradition, Kansas City is one of the 25 greenest cities in the nation according to National Geographic. Retirees will want to check out the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art which has standout European painting, photography and Asian art collections.
Wichita, with a population of 382,368, is the largest city in Kansas. It was ranked 9th on Money magazine’s list of the 10 best U.S. big cities in which to live in 2006. In 2008, MSN Real Estate ranked Wichita 1st on its list of most affordable cities. These ratings are due in part to big-city amenities with Midwestern prices!
Climate: Wichita has hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The average annual precipitation here is 30.38 inches of rainfall and snowfall of 15 inches.
Cost of living: Equal to the Kansas average, the cost of living in Wichita is 9% less than the national average. Retirement homes are quite affordable, with a median home value of $106,300, 35.9% less than the national average.
Colleges and Universities: Retirees will find a range of noncredit professional development and personal interest classes at Wichita State University.
Transportation: Mid-Continent Airport has nonstop air service from 12 cities in the United States on seven major airlines. Wichita Transit provides city bus service, and the Q-Line is a free trolley shuttle service operating during peak evening hours to connect folks to restaurants, bars, hotels and performance venues throughout downtown.
Travel and tourism: There will always be something for retirees to do in Wichita. Some activities might include exploring the eclectic art, hands-on exhibits, and Old West and Indian artifacts at one of the many museums. Dining options are unlimited at Wichita’s more than 1,000 restaurants. Shopping is primo with an abundance of distinctive shops, antique stores and national retailers.
Kansas Retirement Summary:
For an affordable retirement and a relatively mild climate, Kansas has a lot to offer. Options range from sleepy little towns to bustling cities, all with solid Midwestern values. In fact, Money-rates.com ranks Kansas as #9 on its list of top ten states for retirement. Read Mark’s blog of 3/10/2012 http://retireusa.net/blog/best-and-worse-states-for-retirement for a complete list and more details.