If it’s time to start thinking about where to settle down and enjoy your twilight years, you may want to consider Arizona. There’s lots to love about The Grand Canyon State: it’s warm, cost of living is relatively low, and there are some legitimately excellent towns and cities that offer a wide variety of living experiences.
Stick around and we’ll break down the top 5 best places to retire in Arizona, depending on the vibe you’re looking for.
If your relaxing retirement requires the hustle and bustle (and amenities) of a city, you could do a whole lot worse than Tucson, Arizona, even if it might take you a few tries to get the pronunciation right (it’s pronounced TWO – SAWN, not TUCK – SON, like I thought).
What makes Tucson such a great place to live as a retiree? Keep reading to find out.
If you’re looking for a big city, Tucson ticks the box: it’s the second largest city in Arizona with a population just shy of 550,000 (as of 2018). We see this as the goldilocks size for a city: it’s large enough to have all of the amenities you’d expect from living in a big city, but without the overwhelming numbers of a New York or LA (or Phoenix, even).
What amenities, exactly, does Tucson have to offer? Here are just a few:
What’s more, Tucson is relatively walkable. You’ll definitely need a car if you want to live there (for things like grocery shopping), but there are eight neighborhoods in Tucson that earned a “Very Walkable” score on RedFinn. Because Tucson is also quite flat, biking is an excellent way to get around (and stay fit).
If you like a nice mountain view, Tucson is the perfect place for you. It’s surrounded by a whopping five mountain ranges (eat your heart out, Portland), all of which are visible throughout the city. Tucson is also smack-dab in the middle of the Sonoran desert, so there are plenty of hiking opportunities nearby if you’re looking to stay active (just don’t hug the cacti): Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain Park, and Catalina State Park are all within half an hour’s drive of downtown Tucson, and the Coronado National Forest and Las Cienegas National Conservation Area are just over an hour away.
In addition to being a place of incredible natural beauty, Tucson also happens to have the longest agricultural history of any city in the United states. People have been farming, ranching, and producing wine in the area for over 300 years. The result is that Tucson is an absolute haven for anyone interested in a locally sourced, delicious meal.
In fact, Tucson was the first city ever to be given the UNESCO designation “Creative City of Gastronomy.” The result of all of this is that there are a veritable ton of amazing places to dine in Tucson: from Barrio Bread, a James Beard Award winning bakery; to El Charro Cafe, the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family in the United States; to the over two-dozen annual food festivals hosted in the city, you’ll never want for a place to grab an incredible meal in Tucson.
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Housing: The average home price in Tucson is right around $330,000, as of November 2022. The average monthly rent, on the other hand, is $1,249.
Weather: Throughout the year, temperatures in Tucson tend to range from lows around 42℉ in the winter to highs of about 102℉ in the summer. You can expect around 11 inches of rain all year long, so even when temperatures get hot (and they will), it’s at least a dry heat (so you won’t be drenched in sweat in the time it takes to walk from your front door to your car).
Politics: Tucson is located in Pima County, Arizona, which is described as “moderately liberal” on the political spectrum. In the last presidential election, Pima county voters were 58.4% democrat and 39.8% republican. The county has voted democrat in every presidential election since the year 2000.
If you just happen to be driving through Sedona, the first thing you would notice would be the unbelievable natural beauty that surrounds this tiny town of not-quite 10,000 permanent residents. Even if you stuck around for the rest of your life, you still wouldn’t get bored of all of the outdoor adventure opportunities this town has to offer.
Sedona may be a small town in terms of overall population, but due to its overwhelming natural beauty, it’s a popular destination for hikers and campers. This means that, despite being small, Sedona is rife with excellent restaurants, hotels, and cute shops to peruse.
Sedona’s Natural Landmarks
There are far too many natural landmarks in and around Sedona to include in this post. In fact, there are over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails in the area. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock:
Both of these towering geological monuments are within a 20 minute drive of downtown Sedona. They are also both visible from the town, so you don’t even need to drive there to appreciate their awesomeness (though the hikes are excellent, and you should).
This naturally occurring sandstone archway takes (somewhat) brave hikers on a path about 50 feet above the scrubby forest below. It is widely considered one of the best hiking experiences in the Sedona area.
If you’re looking for a nice, casual hike with a spectacular view, look no further than Airport Mesa. Actually, you should look further than Airport Mesa, because the views from this plateau just South of Sedona are fantastic. One of the best places to watch the sunset or scope out Bell or Cathedral Rock from a distance.
This isn’t a natural landmark per se, but, due to its location in the middle of a desert and the fact that it’s a fairly small town, the Sedona area offers some of the best stargazing available in the United States. Just take a quick drive out of town and you will be able to see the full splendor of the unadulterated night sky.
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Housing: Unfortunately, some of the best nature the US has to offer does come at a price: the average Sedona home sold for nearly $930,000 in November of 2022. Renting is also relatively expensive in Sedona, averaging around $1,600 for a one-bedroom, or nearly $2,000 for a two-bedroom. You know what they say, though: you get what you pay for, and the views in this town? Priceless.
Weather: Despite being in an area of the world known for its scorching heat and lack of precipitation, Sedona does see some snow in the wintertime. It tends to melt away by midday, however, as winter temperatures are usually in the 50s. In the summertime, temperatures average between the 80s and 90s, however it does occasionally break 100. Like Tucson, however, Sedona stays pretty dry. On average, the town sees 28 inches of rain per year (considerably more than Tucson, but much less than the national average of 38).
Politics: Sedona is located in Yavapai County, Arizona, which is deemed “strongly conservative.” A whopping 63.7% of the county voted republican in the last presidential election, whereas only 34.5% voted democrat. This has been the trend since the 2000 presidential election.
Located about 90 miles Southeast of Tucson and just 15 miles North of the Mexican border, Bisbee, AZ is a small town (population of approximately 5,500) known for being a haven for the artistic and creative.
The narrow streets of Bisbee are home to over a dozen art galleries, a plethora of cute shops, and enough cafes and restaurants to keep even the most cooking-averse well fed (and entertained) for months.
Bisbee also hosts a whole slew of artsy festivals throughout the year (their visitor’s website advertises “a quirky event for every month” if that helps define the vibe of the place). Here are just a few of the more exciting events Bisbee holds each year:
The Bisbee Arts Festival
Every year in October, art truly takes over the town of Bisbee. Over 100 local artists display their work in an exhibition hall downtown, and there are artsy events scheduled throughout the weekend, including the BRATS (Bisbee Rolling Arts Transportation Society) Parade, which features handmade and artistically designed gravity cars that roll through the town for all to see.
The Sidepony Express Music Festival
Music is art too, and Bisbee is not about to let anyone forget it. The Sidepony Express Music Festival celebrates independent musicians from the Bisbee area. The festival has been ongoing for over 10 years, and at its pre-pandemic peak, it featured over 140 local musicians and bands, all of whom performed in the community for free over the course of a weekend.
The Make Day is a youth arts festival put on each year by the Central School Project in Bisbee. Its goal is to promote the arts and provide a space for young people to create and exhibit their art. The festival features exhibitions by local youth artists, space to create art, and musical performances (again, by young folks). The best part? It’s all free!
Bisbee Chocolate Tasting
Each year right around Valentine’s Day, Bisbee puts out a call to local bakers, professional and amateur alike for the annual Bisbee Chocolate Tasting. You can buy a $15 ticket and taste all the delicious local chocolate you want, or you can come for free to participate in the silent auction.
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Housing: If you’re looking to retire to the artistic haven of Bisbee, AZ, you’re in luck: housing is relatively cheap there. According to Zillow, the average home in Bisbee will cost you under $220,000. Rent, too, is relatively inexpensive: a 1 bedroom apartment will likely cost you between $650 and $900 per month (well below the national average).
Weather: Given that Bisbee is basically in Mexico, you might have guessed that it gets pretty hot there. If you did, you’d be right. Summer highs range in the 90s to low 100s, though it does tend to cool off a bit in the evening. There’s also very little precipitation in Bisbee, though there is some rain and snow in the wintertime. Winters in Bisbee are mild, with highs in the 60s and 70s and lows in the 30s and 40s.
Politics: Bisbee is located in Cochise county, AZ, which is moderately conservative. 39% of the population voted democrat in the last presidential election, compared to 58% voting republican. That being said, Bisbee itself is (as mayor David Smith described it in 2017) “a blue dot in a sea of red.” Most residents opposed the building of a US/Mexico border wall, which would have cut them off from their neighbors in Senora, and Bisbee was the first town in Arizona to legalize gay marriage and to ban plastic bags from grocery stores.
Tombstone, Arizona is located just up the road from Bisbee, about a 25 minute drive North. It’s affectionately known as “The Town Too Tough To Die,” and basically everything else about the place evokes the spirit of the Old West too.
Historic Landmarks of Tombstone
If you love to immerse yourself in the history of the frontier, this is a fantastic place to do it. Here are just a few of the most exciting historical aspects of Tombstone:
The OK Corral: The location of possibly the most famous gunfight in American history is right here in Tombstone, Arizona. There are daily reenactments of the famous fight, and a plethora of museums and theaters dedicated to detailing the fight as much accurately as possible.
Bird Cage Theater: When it opened in 1881, the Bird Cage Theater was deemed “the wildest, wickedest nightspot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast” by the New York Times. These days it’s calmed down quite a bit, but there are still over 140 bullet holes in the building, and some visitors claim to have seen the ghosts of the theater’s former inhabitants and heard the sounds of laughing and yelling.
Boothill Graveyard: Tombstone’s first operational graveyard, Boothill Cemetery (as it was originally called) is home to about 250 internments (and a bunch more fake ones added in the mid-1900s to drum up tourism), most of which are outlaws. You can see the graves of the McLaurys, for example, who were killed by Wyatt Earp and his brothers in the OK Corral shootout.
The Goodenough Silver Mine: Perhaps the greatest treasure Tombstone has to offer can’t be found above the ground. 100s of feet below the streets of the city is the Goodenough Silver Mine, one of the most productive silver mines in the history of Arizona. The mine opened in the 1870s, however it is no longer in operation. You can, however, tour the mine to this day.
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Housing: Housing in Tombstone is fairly affordable. The average home price, according to Zillow, sits right around $250,000. Rent is cheap too, coming in at around $630 per month for a 1 bedroom on average.
Weather: Given that it’s only a few miles North of Bisbee, Tombstone’s weather is basically the same: hot, dry summers with lows in the 60s and 70s and highs in the 90s and 100s and mild winters with lows in the 30s and 40s and highs in the 60s and 70s. Not much in the way of precipitation, though you do get some snow and rain in the wintertime.
Politics: Tombstone is also located in Cochise county, AZ, which, as we noted above, is moderately conservative. 39% of the population voted democrat in the last presidential election, compared to 58% voting republican. Unlike Bisbee, however, Tombstone is not a blue dot, and tends to match the politics of the county.
Lake Havasu City describes itself as “Arizona’s Playground,” and for good reason, too. The city, located on the shores of its titular lake, is a hot spot for watersports (as well as many other outdoor recreational activities). Here are just a few of the aquaculture highlights LHC has to offer:
Jet Ski Hub of the World
Lake Havasu City is known as the jet ski hub of the world, and so was named “America’s Best Lake Town for Watersports” by Men’s Journal. Not only does the area boast an impressive 60 miles of navigable waterways (which you can explore easily on rented jet skis), but is home to International Jet Ski Boating Association’s Jet Ski World Finals.
Boat Rentals and Tours
If you like to enjoy your waterways at a bit of a slower pace than that afforded by a jet ski, fear not: Lake Havasu City is home to a treasure trove of boat rental opportunities. Everything from motorless paddle boats to luxurious pontoons is available. There are also many chartered lake tours available, from the Havasu Landing Ferry ($2 per ticket) to the mind-bogglingly beautiful Sunset Experience tour.
Get your tackle boxes and bucket hats ready, because Lake Havasu is home to some truly excellent fishing. In fact, Bassmaster magazine has ranked LHC in the top 10 bass lakes in the Western US four years in a row. The scenery is also incredible; you’ll be taking in far more than the 8 varieties of sports fish available in this beautiful, mountain-ringed lake.
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Housing: Lake Havasu City isn’t exactly the cheapest place in the world to live, though you can get a home much cheaper there than in Sedona. The average home price, according to Zillow, was just shy of $500,000 in 2022. Rents, on the other hand, are considerably lower than the national average. You can expect to get a 1 bedroom for under $1,000 per month.
Weather: Lake Havasu City is smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave desert, so you better believe it gets hot there: summer temperatures rise into the 110s, and you can expect it to stay above 70 even at night. Luckily, you have a refreshing body of water close at hand. Winters, as you might expect, stay fairly mild. Lows are in the 40s and 50s, and highs get into the 60s and 70s with minimal precipitation. Lake Havasu City’s tourism site also boasts an impressive 300 days of sunshine every year.
Politics: Lake Havasu City is located in Mojave county, which is overwhelmingly republican. A mere 23% of voters submitted democratic ballots in the last presidential election, compared to 75% who voted republican. This trend has been consistent since the 2000 election.