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The Natural State has a lot to offer retirees, both longtime Arkansans and those interested in relocating to Arkansas. The state of Arkansas does not tax Social Security benefits, military pensions or railroad retirement benefits. There are no estate or inheritance taxes, nor does the state collect property taxes. While local communities will collect property taxes, Arkansas still falls within the top 10 lowest property taxes in the nation. Cost of living, in general, is significantly cheaper in Arkansas, with the general cost of living at 79, with 100 being the national average (bestplaces.net). Arkansas has many communities that are naturally great places to retire, with a few communities going the extra mile to appeal specifically to those looking for a place where their dollar will stretch further while discovering the joys of retirement.
Nestled between three lakes and the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs has long been the premier resort and vacation destination in the state. From its inception in the early 19th century, the area has drawn numerous visitors, including infamous gangster Al Capone. Bathhouse Row allows visitors and residents alike to be pampered in the naturally warm waters running through the center of the city. The springs are protected as Hot Springs National Park. Downtown Hot Springs offers ample boutique shopping and curious attractions like The Gangster Museum of America and Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum.
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming offers horse racing from January to April and gaming opportunities all year. Attractions like the Mid-America Science Museum and Magic Springs Water and Theme Park keep families and kids entertained. The city is built around Lake Hamilton, with ample opportunities for fun on the water. There is so much to do in and around Hot Springs, visitors and residents alike would be hard-pressed to do it all. The area has very affordable housing, with the median home price at $135,900. The cost of living sits below the national average at 80.9. With Little Rock just an hour away, retirees are also close to the best medical care in the state, making Hot Springs an amazing choice for retirees.
Hot Springs Village – For those looking for a little quieter retirement with quick access to the liveliness Hot Springs offers, consider Hot Springs Village, the largest gated community in the nation. The community has lakes, nine golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, a swimming pool, and miles of paved walking and biking trails. The village also has its own school system, medical facilities and over 200 clubs to offer something for everyone. Housing prices are a little higher here than in Hot Springs, but with a median price at 180,700 and a cost of living score of 90.6, residents can still enjoy quality living with many amenities at a lower cost than the national average.
In 1965, Cooper Communities, headquartered in Rogers, Arkansas, initiated the creation of a 16,000 acre planned recreational and retirement community among the hills and bluffs of Northwest Arkansas. Bella Vista soon grew to 36,000 acres and includes six golf courses and a practice facility, seven lakes and over 40 miles of scenic trails for hiking and biking. Residents also have access to three fitness centers, eight tennis courts and three pools. If you buy property within Bella Vista, you’ll pay small monthly fees to The Bella Vista Property Owners Association, which grant access to all the amenities at a member’s cost.
Though the cost of housing here is a little higher, the area is well-established as a retirement community. The community incorporated into a city in 2007, and recently younger families have shifted the average resident age to 50. With the rest of Northwest Arkansas a short drive south, residents have easy access to museums like the world-renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, concerts at the Wal-Mart Arkansas Music Pavilion and Razorback sporting events, along with a wide variety of restaurants. Whether retired or not, Bella Vista offers a high quality of life to its residents.
Highway 71 winds through the beautiful Ouachita Mountains in southwestern Arkansas, and the small town of Mena, with its mountain views and ample outdoor opportunities, is increasingly becoming a popular retirement destination. This town has under 6,000 residents yet it’s the county seat of Polk County. Mena sits as the base of Rich Mountain, the second-tallest mountain in Arkansas. It is also the beginning of the Talimena Scenic Byway, a 54-mile National Scenic Drive that traverses the ridge of Winding Stair Mountain with breath-taking views of the Ouachitas. The cost of living and housing in and around Mena is one of the biggest draws for retirees, with the median cost of a home at a jaw-dropping $98,100. Mena scores a 73.2 on the cost of living scale, well below the national average and even the Arkansas average of 79.
The mountains mean the town is somewhat isolated, with winding roads and beautiful scenery surrounding it. The Ouachita Mountains and the Cossatot River are two of the biggest draws to the region. Besides the scenery, they offer opportunities for hiking, hunting, ATV riding and fishing. The city of Mena is the center of a small but lively arts community, with boutique shopping and art galleries downtown, and the Ouachita Little Theater hosts concerts and plays. Mena was once an important railroading town and the 1920s Kansas City Southern Train Depot is now a museum. Queen Wilhelmina State Park and Lodge sits at the top of Rich Mountain and the Cossatot River State Park and Natural Area is over 5,000 acres of river and forest. Mena has a regional hospital and is an hour and a half from Hot Springs. If you’re looking for a quiet retirement with a small-town feel, this is a good bet.
In 1954, John Cooper, of Cooper Communities, began developing the first planned recreational and retirement community in Arkansas. He bought property along the Spring River in Sharp and Fulton Counties, among the beautiful Ozark Mountains and marketed it as a resort and retirement destination. Cherokee Village grew into over 15,000 acres with two 18-hole golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, recreational trails and of course, the rivers. Both the Spring River and the South Fork River run through the area. Cherokee Village also has several lakes for boating and fishing. The cost of living is well below the national average at 71.1 and median home price is an astounding $78,700. Cherokee Village incorporated into a city in 1998 and continues to offer its residents a slower way of life for those seeking quiet on the water.
Before it was Heber Springs, this area in north central Arkansas was known for its mineral springs and health resort. The town was named after Dr. Heber Jones, son of one of the town sites’ early owners and a local doctor who espoused the benefits of its mineral waters. Since people came from across Arkansas and the U.S. to visit the springs, Heber Springs developed a reputation as a tourist destination. When Greers Ferry Dam and Lake was completed in 1962, the area became even more attractive to retirees. With ample access to fishing, boating and other water sports, lake life is always an option and only 15 minutes away from any part of the city. The city also has a downtown square with great shopping, a fish hatchery, a corps of engineers visitor’s center, and the JFK Overlook, where you can take in a view of Greers Ferry Lake and Dam as well as the Little Red River. With a population of just over 7,000, the area maintains a small town feel with larger scale amenities, including the Baptist Health Medical Center. Housing is very affordable and cost of living comes in at 79.1 on a scale of 100, making Heber Springs quite an attractive retirement destination.
Mountain Home in north-central Arkansas has drawn retirees to the area for its amazing water activities. Mountain Home is situated between Bull Shoals Lake on the west side and Norfolk Lake to the east and is often called the Twin Lakes region. The White River, North Fork River and Buffalo National River all flow through the region, making Mountain Home a water lover’s haven. It is nationally recognized for its warm water fishing, canoeing and camping. A popular vacation destination as well, visitors can enjoy staying at Gaston’s White River Resort or just enjoy a meal from its excellent restaurant, or book a guided fishing trip on one of the waterways. For those looking to retire, the Mountain Home area has a very low cost of living at 77.5 with a median home price of 136,300. The town of just over 12,000 residents contains a regional hospital to service Baxter County, with 255,000 people residing in the surrounding area. For those looking for water sports among the Ozark hills, Mountain home’s got it.
Holiday Island is a lovely planned community situated on Table Rock Lake on the edge of the Arkansas/Missouri border. The community is home to 5,000 planned lots, with property owners gaining access to 27 holes of golf across two courses, a marina, a recreational center with pools, tennis courts, a miniature golf course and walking trails. The cost of living here is a little higher than the Arkansas average at 82.5 with the median cost of a house at 172,000. However, Holiday Island still sits well below the national average and its location is tough to beat for those who want to be close to the water and enjoy the beauty of the Ozark Mountains. Fun and eclectic Eureka Springs is just down the road with its wide range of boutique shops, historic downtown, and art galleries. Northwest Arkansas is only an hour away, giving residents access to concerts, sporting events and medical care. The always entertaining Branson area across the Missouri border is within an hour’s drive, making Holiday Island a great location for those looking for a smaller planned community with access to larger cities close by.
Arkansans know Arkansas is one of the best-kept secrets in the nation when it comes to retirement living. With beautiful lakes, rivers, and mountains to explore, thriving cities and a low cost of living, not to mention four wonderful seasons, it’s no wonder Arkansas keeps rising in the ranks as one of the best places to retire.
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