PLACES TO RETIREKENTUCKY RETIREMENTKentucky is a geographical and cultural crossroads which combines the friendliness of the South, the rural frontier history of the West, the industry of the North, and the aristocratic charm of the East. “Lonely Planet” would like you to “Imagine a coal miner, a fiddler, a college basketball player and a grand Southern lady in an elegant hat, all sitting on a veranda sipping mint juleps, and you’re starting to get an idea of what Kentucky’s all about.”

British and French forces battled for control of Kentucky in the mid-1700s, and legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. Kentucky was bitterly divided during the Civil War, with 30, 000 fighting for the Confederacy and 64, 000 for the Union. Both the Union president Abraham Lincoln and Confederacy president Jefferson Davis were Kentucky-born.

The Bluegrass Region gives Kentucky its nickname “The Bluegrass State” for the pastureland that is prevalent in the north central area. It is renowned for horse farms as well as Kentucky’s signature sporting event, the Kentucky Derby which takes place on the first Saturday in May in Louisville at the Churchill Downs racetrack.

Fans of Bluegrass music will find plenty to love here as well. Bill Monroe, a Kentucky native, is considered by many to be the father of Bluegrass music which is described as a banjo-fueled amalgam of Appalachian folk songs, African American beats and Chicago jazz.  Monroe named his group the “Bluegrass Boys” in honor of his home state.

A favorite with many retirees, Chevrolet Corvettes are built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, also the location of the National Corvette Museum. And Kentucky retirees can also enjoy natural wonders such as Mammoth Cave which is the longest recorded cave system in the world.  Other scenic areas include the Daniel Boone National Forest, and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area for canoeing, kayaking, rafting, camping, hiking, and horseback riding.

Retire USA currently features three city profiles for a Kentucky retirement: Lexington, Louisville, and Frankfort.


Lexington is known as the Horse Capital of the World. It is structured like a wheel with spokes, with main arterial roads running from downtown out into horse country. Horses love Bluegrass, which thrives on the limestone beneath the soil’s surface. The latest U.S. Census places the population estimate for Lexington-Fayette at 295,800.

Climate: Lexington has four distinct seasons that are cooled by plateau breezes. It enjoys moderate nights in the summer, and has no prolonged periods of heat, cold, rain, wind, or snow. The area receives annual precipitation of 45.68 inches.

Cost of living: Retirement living is affordable here, at 3.3% greater than the Kentucky average, but 7% less than the national average. The median cost of a retirement home in Lexington is $148,900 which is 25.5% less than the national average.

Colleges and Universities: The University of Kentucky is the state’s flagship institution of higher learning. Here retirees can pursue continuing education through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UK. Always a favorite with retirees, OLLI features courses such as a Thoroughbred Racing Saturday Seminar.

Transportation: Urban County Government is working to make Lexington a more walkable and bike-friendly city. Travelers are welcomed to Lexington by Blue Grass Airport with one of the most beautiful air approaches in the nation.


The largest city in Kentucky, 741,096 as of the 2010 census, Louisville is home to Churchill Downs of Kentucky Derby fame. The Muhammad Ali Center is also located here, which should be of interest to people of retirement age. Louisville has been named America’s “Most Livable” large city by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Climate: Louisville has four seasons, with a humid subtropical climate that will probably please many gardeners. The area receives 42.80 inches of rainfall annually.

Cost of living: A good bargain for retirement, the cost of living in Louisville is approximately equal to the Kentucky average, but 10% less than the national average. Even better value awaits the retirement home shopper where the median home value in Louisville is 44.4% less than the national average.

Colleges and Universities: Educational opportunities abound for retirees where there are five four-year universities: The University of Louisville, Bellarmine University, Spalding University, Sullivan University, and Simmons College of Kentucky.

Transportation: The 4th busiest airport in the United States for cargo shipments, Louisville International Airport provides passenger service to all major destinations. Public transportation consists mainly of buses run by the Transit Authority of River City (TARC).

Travel and tourism: For your mint julep, you’ll need bourbon, and nearby Bardstown is the “Bourbon Capital of the World”. Don’t miss the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Louisville prides itself as being a community on the move, with major city amenities like world-class performing arts, great sports and incredible dining while offering hospitality, warmth and smaller-city advantages like shorter commutes and a lower cost of living.


Frankfort, whose current estimated population is approximately 27,741 people, is the state capital, but has all the advantages of a small town. An appealing organization for retirees is Commonwealth Gardens which is dedicated to the formation of community gardens. It advocates the consumption of locally grown food because it tastes better and takes less energy to produce, and also to support local farmers and merchants. Another quality of life organization that may resonate with retirees is Walk/Bike Frankfort which is dedicated to making it the best city in the Commonwealth for pedestrians and cyclists.

Climate: Frankfort has a fairly humid climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The area receives 44 inches of annual average precipitation.

Cost of living: There is affordable retirement living here as well as the other cities in Kentucky.  The cost of living in Frankfort is 3.3% greater than the Kentucky average, but 7% less than the national average.  Even better, housing costs are 40.5% less than the national average, with the median retirement home at approximately $130,200.

Colleges and Universities: Kentucky State University is a four-year institution of higher learning, and should provide plenty of opportunities for exploring continuing education in retirement.

Transportation: Frankfort is strategically located between three major airports: Lexington Bluegrass Airport, 30 minutes; Louisville International Airport, 50 minutes; and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, 1 hour 15 minutes. This provides convenient connections to anyplace in the world retirees want to travel.

Travel and tourism: Retirees who enjoy history will appreciate the many opportunities to explore an array of architectural styles, famous landmarks, and museums of Kentucky’s past as well as unique shopping and dining in restored buildings.

Kentucky Retirement Summary: Kentucky retirement can offer both rural environments as well as the faster pace of larger cities.  And the cost of living is very affordable, especially for retirement housing. In fact, has ranked Kentucky as #2 on its top ten list of best states for retirement. For a complete ranking of best and worst states, see Mark’s blog

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