States – Kentucky


Those looking for a comfortable, affordable place to retire might consider Kentucky. The Bluegrass State is known for pastures and horse farms, bourbon distilleries, college basketball, and also abundant natural scenery and refined culture. The recreational activities are outstanding and there is ready access to the Appalachians.

Those who love the outdoors can also explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Red River Gorge, and Lake Cumberland.The weather is also amenable to outdoor recreation. The humid sub-tropical Kentucky climate features hot and humid summers and mild winters, although in mountainous areas the climate is quite cooler than in lower areas.

The state has a rich and varied history and residents work to preserve it. As the origin of bluegrass music, Kentucky has a unique and distinguished musical heritage – it’s the former home of Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, and Dwight Yoakam.

Living in Kentucky is also cost effective. The cost of living is well below the national average. In 2015 the median home value for Kentucky was $25,500, also well below the national average. The tax structure is low – for income taxes, Kentucky is right in the middle, 25th out of 50 states. The state has six income tax brackets; the highest at 6% applies at income levels of $75,000 or above. Federal, state, and private pensions are exempt up to $41,110. Social security benefits are also exempt. The sales tax is 6%.

Kentucky is the 36th highest state in terms of property taxes as a percent of home value and 46th highest on a per capita basis. While Kentucky has an inheritance tax, spouses, parents, children, grandchildren and siblings are exempt.

Here are several retirement destinations in Kentucky to take a look at.


Lexington is one of the most desirable places to live in Kentucky because of its cultural attractions and outdoor recreation. There are over 100 city parks, six public golf courses, and three public disc golf courses. There is also the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, a 734-acre wooded area near the Kentucky River that has 11 miles of hiking and walking trails. The Arboretum and McConnell Springs are other nature preserves.

The city of 310,000 has many active artistic groups including a professional orchestra, two ballet companies, several choral organizations, and an opera program at the University of Kentucky. There are many artistic events throughout the year including the Mayfest Arts Fair that features 100 arts and crafts booths and live entertainment, and the Roots & Heritage Festival with art exhibits, literary readings, live musical performances, and film screenings.The Festival of the Bluegrass is Kentucky’s oldest bluegrass music festival. It features a Broadway medley presented by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.

Lexington also has many museums and historic buildings including the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and the University of Kentucky Art Museum. The university also hosts many sporting events and fields 22 varsity sports teams, including a top-ranked men’s basketball team. Lexington has also been famous for thoroughbred horse racing since the late 18th Century and hosts two historic race tracks and the Kentucky Horse Park, site of internationally known equestrian events.


Danville was ranked the fourth-best place to retire in the country in 2011 by Money magazine. Although a small town of 16,000 Danville has many amenities. There are four theatrical venues: the Pioneer Playhouse is the oldest outdoor theater in Kentucky, and the Norton Center for the Arts is a state-of-the-art facility for performing and visual arts.

The Great American Brass Band Festival is an outdoor festival featuring picnics, wine and bourbon tastings, live performances by brass bands from around the nation, and the Great American Balloon Race. There is also the Kentucky State BBQ Festival, Oktoberfest, and the Forkland Heritage Festival.


Louisville is located in the northwest part of the state, along the Ohio River, and is the home of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and three of Kentucky’s six Fortune 500 companies. It is also the site of the first large space illuminated by Edison’s light bulb and the first artificial heart transplant.

Today Louisville is known as a large, highly walkable city with many cultural activities. The city and surrounding area have 122 city parks encompassing over 13,000 acres. Nearby is the largest municipal urban forest in the U.S., the 6,218-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest, which has 30 miles of hiking trails. Another large nearby park is Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area, which is a popular mountain biking destination. Additionally the city is developing a 110-mile paved walking and biking trail surrounding the city and is also adding 4,000 acres of new park land.

The city hosts many annual events. The most well-known is the Kentucky Derby, held each May. The derby is preceded by the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival, which starts with the largest annual fireworks display in North America. The Humana Festival of New American Plays is an internationally acclaimed six-week live performance festival. On Memorial Day weekend, Louisville hosts the largest annual Beatles festival in the world.

During the summer there are cultural events like the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and the Kentucky State Fair. The Forecastle Festival, held on the Louisville waterfront, attracts 35,000 visitors for art and music. The Kentucky Center, dedicated in 1983, located in the downtown hotel and entertainment district, features a variety of plays and concerts. This is also the home of the Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, Bourbon Baroque, Stage One and the Kentucky Opera.

Bowling Green

A college town of about 50,000 in southwest Kentucky, Bowling Green was listed in 2007 as one of the “Top Ten Value” towns for retirees and Best Small Places to Do Business by Forbes magazine. The city maintains 895 acres of public parks and recreational lands that contain swimming pools, playgrounds, picnic tables, disc golf courses, and ball courts and fields. Basil Griffin Park has a large pond with migratory birds.

There are four city recreational and community centers, including ball courts, picnic shelters, and game rooms, and a swimming center. The city has six golf courses and eight disc golf courses. Other outdoor attractions are the Low Hollow Bike Trail and Cave Spring Caverns. Bowling Green is also near part of the Civil War Discovery Trail, a path that connects over 600 Civil War sites in 30 states.

There are several museums in town, notably the Barren River Imaginative Museum of Science, an interactive science museum, and the National Corvette Museum, with over 75 Corvettes on exhibit. Western Kentucky University hosts major sports teams including highly ranked football and men’s basketball teams. About an hour south is Nashville with its cultural and musical attractions.

For more information about retirement in Kentucky:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement