When thinking of Heartland America, many people think of Iowa or Indiana. But Missouri also embodies the concept quite well. The majority of the state is rural, and there are more turkeys than people (almost a two to one ratio). It also has many lakes and rivers – Lake of the Ozarks has 1,150 miles of shoreline, more than the entire state of California.
There are also hundreds of miles of caves to explore and hide out in. Missouri was once popular with French fur trappers, and the Show-Me-State is still home to all sorts of wild critters, including beavers, opposums, bats, badgers, skunks, and flying squirrels.
But Missouri is more than untamed terrain. A century ago it was the second leading wine producing state in the U.S. and wine is again a big industry, with wineries like Chandler Hill Vineyards shipping selections all over the world.Missouri’s history of German immigrants left it a beer heritage that tops most other states. The state derives 6.1% of its GDP from beer production. Anheuser-Busch, founded in St. Louis, owns 47% of the U.S. beer market, and Missouri is also home to a growing craft brewing industry.
There’s also the barbecue. Missouri has the fourth-most barbecue restaurants per person of any state, and barbecue is a passion among the residents. Branson, located in the southwest part of Missouri, is a nationally known tourist destination, with many entertainment outlets, as well as caves, amusement parks, museums, and other attractions.
The weather is a downside to living in Missouri, especially the winters. The low temperatures in January are in the teens to low twenties, with snow, and the high temperatures in August are close to 90 degrees. Missouri also gets many tornadoes and thunderstorms, including the 2011 twister that destroyed a third of the city of Joplin and caused 159 deaths and over $1 billion in damages
A plus is the cost of living. Although some areas of the state are above the national average in living costs, especially the suburbs of St. Louis and Kansas City, overall the state is 10% below the U.S. average. Social Security Income is taxed, and the state income tax is as high as 6%. But sales taxes are just over 4%, and assisted living costs are well below average.
The unemployment rate and job growth rate are both favorable compared to the national average, which is encouraging to retirees looking to work part-time.
For people considering retirement in Missouri, here are several places worth looking into.
Manchester is a small town (population 19,000) with lots of history and a good quality of life. The town is known for its good municipal services. It also has low cost of living. In 2014, Manchester’s median household income and median home price were $71,071 and $212,100, respectively. Its crime rate is 20 per 1,000 residents per year and its median rent per month is $871. The unemployment rate is 3.1 percent.
Local attractions include the Museum of Transportation, which features train exhibits and car shows, the Saint Louis Holocaust Museum, Worldways Children’s Museum, and shopping at the Sutton Place Shopping Center and Nationalway Shopping Center.
There are also seven parks encompassing 63 acres. Manchester is 20 miles from St. Louis, giving residents ready access to the amenities of the big city, including Six Flags amusement park, classes at Webster University and Maryville University, and Lt. Louis International Airport.
Many people know Branson as an entertainment center and a place to stay and play. But it’s more than just that. Those looking for outdoor recreation will find 15 parks covering 290 acres managed by the Branson Parks & Recreation Department, from small city parks to vast wilderness areas. The Branson RecPlex includes two gymnasiums, a fitness center, aerobic and exercise rooms, an indoor track, locker rooms, community rooms, game room and concession area. There’s also a 12,000 square foot aquatics center.
Other parks include tennis courts, a skate park, and a golf course and community center. The three lakes in the area offer over 100,000 acres of swimming, boating, fishing, and water skiing. Table Rock Lake, with 750 miles of shoreline, is known as one of the top bass fishing lakes in North America, and is also a favorite of campers and boaters.
Branson also hosts nine scenic golf courses and country clubs that match all levels, from beginning golfer to expert. There are even more courses in the surrounding area.
Plus, of course, there are all those entertainment options. At Silver Dollar City, both kids and adults can roam the hills in search of treasures and enjoy thrilling rides. At White Water, you can indulge in water rides, calm rivers, and big waves. If you like history and science, you’ll find many museums in the area, including the “World’s Largest Toy Museum”. There are also more than 50 live performance venues to see shows featuring many musical genres, from gospel to Broadway.
One downside of living in Branson is that it gets overrun with tourists. Over seven million people visit each year, mainly in the summer. Although the population is 7,000 it can grow to 50,000 during the tourist season.
This college town of 115,000 was on Forbes’s list of the 25 Best Places to Retire in 2015. It was selected for its low cost of living and high number of doctors per capita. The downsides are extreme climate, high crime rate, and low air quality.
The three schools in town, Stephens College, Columbia College, and the University of Missouri provide educational and cultural outlets. Columbia is sometimes called the Athens of the West because of its classic beauty and emphasis on learning. The universities offer continuing education classes in a wide range of topics.
The city is located near the Missouri River valley, where the Ozark Mountains give way to plains and savanna. There are limestone bluffs and rain carved caves and springs. Surrounding the city, Rock Bridge State Park, Mark Twain National Forest, and Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge preserve wildlife and offer hiking and sightseeing.
The town has a thriving artistic community. The North Village Arts District is home to many galleries and studios, and also hosts a weekly farmers and artisans market in the summer. Art in the Park, a two-day festival at Stephens Lake Park, is the oldest and largest fine arts festival in mid-Missouri. The festival features more than 100 visual artists from across the US, as well as entertainment and hands-on activities.
The summer schedule is packed with activities including more farmers markets, live plays, musicals, and ballet performances, and concerts by the Missouri Symphony Orchestra. There is also readily available health care: there are more than 730 doctors per 100,000 people in Columbia, nearly three times the national average.
This suburb of St. Louis, population 55,000 was included in Money magazine’s 2012 list of the 100 best places to live among America’s small cities, and topped Movoto’s 2014 list of the best small cities to retire in. One reason is the cost of living, which is 85 percent of the national average. Other reasons are the relatively moderate climate and low crime rate. Movoto ranked the town 54th among 140 cities for amenities for residents. The proximity to St. Louis accounted for much of this: St. Louis International Airport is just eight miles away.
The City has twenty parks comprising almost 400 acres. The James J. Eagan Center, named for Florissant’s long-serving former mayor, includes a gymnasium, an indoor swimming pool, a covered outdoor ice rink, a fitness center, a game room, and a 600-seat theater. The John F Kennedy Community Center includes a gymnasium, a game room, fitness center, and racquetball court.
There are two outdoor water parks that contain play areas and slides, diving boards, and swimming areas. The local 18-hole golf course underwent a $1 million renovation and draws some of the top golfers in the state. The city sponsors many activities including golf outings, dances, a fishing tournament, and a summer outdoor concert series. Almost 16 percent of residents are age 65 or over.
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