Massachusetts is often cited as a top retirement destination by publications like U.S. News, Money magazine. The severe weather and high living cost are certainly downsides. But there is excellent healthcare, many recreational opportunities, and a wide range of different environments. Residents can choose from quaint countryside towns, busy cities, and beachfront communities. And it’s a short, couple hours’ drive to get from the beach to the mountains.
Popular outdoor recreational activities are sailing, boating, hunting, fishing, and skiing. There are also many hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, the New England National Scenic Trail, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, the Midstate Trail, and the Bay Circuit Trail. The famous New England autumns are known for their colorful foliage.
Massachusetts has a wide range of cultural environments as well. The arts and music are popular all over the state. Boston has a symphony orchestra and pops orchestra. Northampton has its Paradise City Arts Festival, and the Berkshires have the Williamstown Theatre Festival and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
The Bay State is known for its severe climate, and there are frequent snowstorms and nor’easters in the winter. The coastal cities in the southeast have more moderate weather, while the inland areas get more temperature extremes. Overall, temperatures range from an average high of 82 degrees in the summer to a low of 16 degrees in winter.
Massachusetts is known as an expensive place to live. The cost of living is high – about 40% above the national average. The state income tax rate is 5.3% and the local taxes average 4%. State sales tax is 6.25%, and local districts may add their own. Social Security benefits are not taxed.
Here are some towns where you can enjoy the benefits of retiring in Massachusetts without the exorbitant costs.
Located in central Massachusetts, less than an hour’s drive from the Berkshire mountains, Longmeadow is known as one of the healthiest places for retirees. About 20% of the town’s 16,000 residents are retirees. The town has maple tree-lined streets with colonial style homes dating back two or three centuries, centered around the town green.
It looks like a rural New England village, but Longmeadow abounds with outdoor recreation options. Nearly a third of the town’s nine square miles are parks and nature preserves. Bird watchers can explore the countryside around the town to try to spot an osprey, great egret, or even bald eagle. Many residents are also active gardeners – community and private plots are common, with flowers, bushes, and vegetables, even cornstalks and pumpkins.
Every weekend in the summer, Longmeadow’s vintage baseball team has a game, which it plays with Nineteenth Century uniforms, equipment, and rules. West of town, the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club offers rowing classes on the Connecticut River, and the local yacht club sponsors sailboat races on Sundays in the summer. The adult center offers classes and workshops on tai chi, jewelry-making, and a host of other activities, as well as afternoon tea.
Northampton is a small college town with a flourishing cultural environment. Smith College, one of the Seven Sisters Colleges, is located in the town and gives it a youthful feel. Art and music are popular, with the Paradise City Arts Festival, Smith College’s art museum, several live music venues, and an academy of music. The town dates back to the 1700s, and the local historic district displays homes in a range of architectural styles, from 18th Century Colonial to Contemporary.
Northampton is in the Pioneer Valley in the western part of the state, a few hours drive from Boston and New York City. Located on the banks of the Connecticut River, Northampton is a popular area for boaters.
It also has several major parks that provide walking paths, bike trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, and mini-golf. There is also the Norwottuck Rail Trail, a paved, nine-mile walking and bike trail with lots of exits for bikers to detour to neighboring towns. The Smith College Botanical Garden houses a variety of exotic plants and hosts a spring flower show.
Northampton is becoming a popular tourist attraction. One reason is its artistic environment. The Smith College Museum of Art displays works by nationally known artists. The Calvin Theater, Iron Horse Music Hall, and Pearl Street Nightclub are among the many live music venues in town. Additionally, the Academy of Music, built in 1890, is the only municipally owned theater in the U.S. and is a music venue and a movie and live performance theater. Boris Karloff and Harry Houdini performed there.
The annual Northampton Independent Film Festival is one of the largest in New England and is continuing to grow. Each May, students at the Northampton Community Music Center come out and give performances on the streets of town.
Another reason for Northampton’s popularity is its many ethnically diverse restaurants. The town of 30,000 has a high number of restaurants per capita. Residents also have ready access to healthcare, provided by Cooley Dickinson Hospital and the Northampton VA Medical Center.
Residents of Newburyport can enjoy a variety of activities: walking along the beach on Plum Island, hiking, bird-watching, or cross-country skiing at Maudslay State Park, and shopping the independent boutiques in the walkable downtown. Boating, fishing, swimming, and water skiing are other popular options.
The town is also conveniently located along I-95, giving easy access to Maine and New Hampshire. It is also just 35 miles from Boston. Newburyport is also the north terminus of the commuter rail to Boston, providing access to that city and several neighboring towns.
The town holds many regular events including Yankee Homecoming, an annual week-long festival featuring an art show, antique car parade, nightly concerts, fireworks show, and 200 other events. There is also the Newburyport Literary Festival, held each April in which many local and regional authors appear to chat about their books.
Other festivals throughout the year include concerts, food, and live entertainment. During the summer a farmers market is held in an old mill building in town.
Nearly half of the population of 18,000 is age 45 or over, and 14% are age 65 or over. The town will soon have a new senior community center. Some of the larger homes have been transformed into downsized condos, with a median condo price of $318,500 in 2014.
Hingham is another town near greater Boston where residents can be close to the metropolis but enjoy outdoor recreation and natural scenery. The town is on the “South Shore”, just south of Boston. Residents can drive to the city or take a ferry and arrive in downtown Boston in less than an hour. The Boston commuter rail has also been restored and makes two stops in town.
The town offers many ways to get close to nature in a serene environment. World’s End penninsula is a quiet place to walk or bike and admire the Hingham Bay and Boston skyline. Wompatuck State Park is another secluded place for hiking and camping, with paved bike paths and mountain bike trails. Historic Loring Hall is a place to catch art-house type movies, documentaries, and independent films. Residents can also indulge in boating with the Hingham Yacht Club, and pick from top-quality restaurants and charming boutiques in town.
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