States – Michigan


For those who want to spend their retirement being active and enjoying nature, Michigan offers lots of opportunities. There is everything from bustling urban environments to expansive outdoor scenery. Michigan has four distinct seasons (which you can sometimes experience all in the same day). Each season has many recreational opportunities.

In the summer, residents can pick from 99 parks and recreation areas, enjoy 10 million acres of public land, 19 million acres of forest, and 11,000 inland lakes for hunting and fishing, and hike 1,300 miles of scenic trails. The state’s two peninsulas are located amidst four Great Lakes. With over 3,000 miles of freshwater shoreline, more than any other state, Michigan is a popular vacation destination for outdoor recreation fans from all over the country. In the winter, Michigan has many world-class ski resorts and cross-country ski areas.

Sports fans can find many major league teams in all major sports, and local teams for those who want to participate in sports. Michigan is also home to many highly ranked public and private golf courses.

Michigan also has some of the country’s leading cultural venues. The Detroit Institute of Arts has one of the top collections of art and antiquities in North America, and was a winner in the American Association of Museums’ 2013 “Excellence in Exhibitions” competition. Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids is a leading cultural destination for fans of horticulture and outdoor sculpture.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair attracts over 500,000 people to the area each year. Other unique and noteworthy attractions include Greenfield Village, the Henry Ford Museum, and the Motown Museum. The state has many institutions for those wishing to study music and art, such as northern Michigan’s Interlochen Center for the Arts and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

Michigan’s cost of living is lower than that of any other state or metropolitan area in the Midwest. For the past 10 years, Metro Detroit’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) has been below the national average. For example, housing is 366% more expensive in Chicago than Kalamazoo, and the cost of living in Chicago is 65% more expensive than Kalamazoo.

The infamous weather, however, is one downside of living in Michigan. The summers can be hot, and winters are frigid and snowy, especially in the upper penninsula. The economy is another downside. The state’s economy had a sustained downturn during the early 2000s. The unemployment rate of 11% is significantly higher than the national average, and future job growth is expected to be lower than in the U.S. overall. Although its economy has recently picked up, in 2014 Michigan’s gross domestic product grew by 1.9 percent, lower than the national average. A 2012 report by put Michigan as the worst state for retirees largely because of the economy and severe climate.

But there are some towns that are worth considering for retirees. Here are three.


Midland is a town of 42,000 with many amenities. There are many places to shop and attractions, the crime rate is 53 percent below the state average, and the cost of living is five percent below average.

Midland has many cultural opportunities in music, live performance, art, and science. The Midland Center for the Arts and the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art offer hands-on exhibits in science, art, and technology. The Center also provides two state-of-the-art auditoriums for audiences of 400 to 1500 to enjoy everything from the Midland Symphony Orchestra and Center Stage Theatre.

Midland County Historical Societies Heritage Park provides multiple exhibits to explore Midland County’s history. There are 72 city parks with over 3,000 acres. There is also a new 107,000 square foot civic arena, which has three ice skating rinks for skaters of all levels.

The revitalized downtown has restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. A 30 mile paved path for walkers, joggers, and bikers connects to the neighboring town of Clare. There is also a network of natural pathways that ends at the Chippewa Nature Center which includes 1,000 acres of woods, rivers, ponds, wetlands and upland fields.

The town also has two golf courses, the Midland Community Center (with multiple swimming pools and exercise facilities), the West Midland Family Center, the North Midland Family Center, the Midland Gymnastics Training Center, the Midland Community Tennis Center and the Midland Curling Center. Midland’s Dow Gardens feature 100-acres of flower and vegetable gardens, plus an arboretum.

East Lansing

Just east of the state capital, East Lansing is also the home of Michigan State University. The university has a huge presence in this town of 49,000. The downtown area is lined with many student-oriented businesses such as cafes, coffee shops, bars, and bookstores.

East Lansing has over 25 neighborhoods, and many have neighborhood associations that sponsor events. The university’s student population matches the town’s population, and many city events are centered around the school, especially celebrations of the varsity football and basketball teams. Attractions on campus include the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, the oldest botanical garden in the United States.


Named one of the 10 best places to retire by CBS News in 2015, Marquette is a great place for outdoor recreation. In the summer, head to the beaches or Lake Superior for fishing, boating, and every kind of water sport. The Marquette Golf Club is famous for its Greywalls course, opened in 2005, which features panoramic views of Lake Superior and winds its way past rocky outcroppings and a rolling valley, yet is less than two miles from downtown.

Marquette also maintains an extensive system of biking and walking paths, which the city has been expanding to promote itself as a walkable community. But if you don’t like snow, then Marquette is not for you. In the winter, the region gets an average of 141 inches of snow for cross country skiing and snowboarding. There are several cross country ski trails in the city, and downhill skiing is available in the hills on the outskirts of town.

The city also has an active artistic community. Live theatrical productions are presented at Northern Michigan University’s Forest Roberts Theatre and Black Box Theatre, and several other theaters in town. There is also the The DeVos Art Museum on Northern Michigan University, and the Oasis Gallery for Contemporary Art.

The city of 22,000 has a small airport with regular service to Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit, and Marquette General Health System is ranked as one of the top 50 cardiovascular hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson Reuters. The median home price of $130,000 is well below the national average.

For more information about retirement in Michigan:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement