Virginia’s unofficial slogan is “Virginia Is For Lovers.” Lately it isn’t just for lovers anymore, increasingly it’s for retirees as well. The Atlantic coast state is gaining attention as an attractive retirement destination. Bankrate put Virginia at No. 5 on its 2015 list of the 10 Best States for Retirement, citing its low crime rate and good health care system. Virginia has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, and its healthcare system is ranked as above average. The state offers a wide variety of places to live, ranging from beachfront to urban to mountains.
The overall cost of living is slightly above average for the nation, though expenses vary widely depending on the region. The cost of living index near Washington, D.C. is 140 (100 is average), whereas in Richmond it’s 99, and in rural areas it’s much lower.
The median home price in 2015 was $230,900 which was 22% above the national median. In smaller towns and many active adult communities housing prices can be relatively inexpensive, and prices of homes in more rural areas are much less.
The Virginia climate is considered humid-sub-tropical. Summers are hot and humid and winters are cold but not as much as in the northeast. The climate is a bit milder in the western and more mountainous parts of the state. Coastal towns like Norfolk average just 7 inches of snow per year.Active residents can find a range of outdoor activities all year round, and, of course, for history fans, Virginia’s heritage traces back to the Colonial period.
The total tax burden in the Old Dominion State is above average for the nation and ranks 18th overall. Virginia’s top marginal income tax rate is 5.75%, which applies at income level above $17,000. Social Security benefits are exempt, and retirement income is partly exempt for residents age 65 and older.
The state sales tax is 5.0%, and local districts are required to impose an additional 1%. The state sales tax is 44th highest in the nation. Per capita property taxes are 18th highest in the country, and there is a homestead exemption. Virginia has no estate or inheritance tax.
While some of the northern parts of Virginia and popular tourist areas can be pricey, here are several more affordable retirement destinations.
Blacksburg is a small (population 43,000), historic town in the western part of the state. Forbes named it one of the 25 Best Places to Retire in 2014, citing its low cost of living (7% below the national average), mild climate, and low crime rate. The average summer high temperature is 82 degrees and the low temperature in winter is 21 degrees.
Blacksburg ranks high for safety and resident satisfaction. It is a college town and the home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The town dates back to the Seventeenth Century, and there are many historic sights in town. Smithfield Plantation recreates the area during the time of the Revolutionary War. The Alexander Black House & Cultural Center is a restored Victorian mansion and the former home of one of the founding residents of the town.
Cultural attractions include the Moss Arts Center and Lyric Theatre. The town is located in a scenic area and has several nice places to enjoy the outdoors, including New River Junction, Coal Mining Heritage Park, and the Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech.
Annual events include the International Street Fair & Parade held every April. It features international food and craft booths and t an eclectic mix of musical performances from around the world. Steppin’ Out, held each August, features over 150 artists and crafts people from around the United States selling unique handcrafted items, sidewalk sales by local merchants, food booths, and live musical performances. Summer Solstice Fest takes place on the Saturday afternoon/evening closest to the solstice and includes live music, vendors, a dog parade, and a 5k race.
Winchester was named one of the 10 Affordable Cities for Retirement by AARP in 2011. The town and area have a 250-year history and were the scene of six crucial battles during the Civil War.
Today, Winchester is one of many small towns in the Virginia countryside that offer natural scenery with fruit orchards, stone walls, and villages dating back two centuries. Located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Winchester offers residents the chance to enjoy museums, vineyards, farmers’ markets, and hike and bike past historical sites and paths once frequented by George Washington and Stonewall Jackson.
The county has earned the title “apple capital of the world.” The town has hosted the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival annually for almost a century. The festival includes a carnival, parades, several dances and parties, and a coronation for the Apple Blossom Queen.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is a good place to learn about the area and also stroll the well-kept grounds. Other historic sites nearby include the Old Court House Civil War Museum, Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters, and Patsy Cline Historic House.
Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, is a college town that offers a combination of livability, affordability and culture. The area offers plenty of outdoor recreation options, with mountain climbing and hiking, lake fishing, and golfing. The university plays a big role in the community, with its 14 libraries containing more than 4.5 million volumes and nationally ranked sports teams in football and men’s basketball. The town has 22 bookstores and several community theater groups.
The local medical center has been rated one of the top 100 hospitals in the United States. It has specialty treatment centers for heart disease, cancer, digestive and neurological disorders and other health problems. Also in Charlottesville is Martha Jefferson Hospital, a well-regarded, 200-bed private hospital.
The highly active Senior Center, open to residents age 50 or over, is housed in a modern building and has more than 90 classes and activities such as investment clubs, lecture series, arts and crafts groups, and exercise classes. The center also sponsors visits to Washington, D.C. and other outings.
Several local museums in the area depict the history of Virginia, and the Civil battlefields of Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg are not far away. In the winter, the area gets an average of two feet of snow annually, and skiing is popular in the nearby mountains. Summers can be hot and humid. The growing season can last 200 days each year, making the area good for gardening and flowers.
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