Tempting Tourist Towns

Where to Retire, July/August 2015
Park City, Utah

When ski enthusiasts Don Croce and his wife, Jill Rathburn, relocated from Columbia, MD, to popular snow sports mecca Park City, UT, they discovered the summer-on-the-slopes bonus. “People here live a healthy lifestyle,” Don says. “My wife also likes cycling. This is a strong cycling community.”

In the summer, Robin and Troy Tilley, transplants from Chesapeake, VA, to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, take to the water for boating, water skiing or Jet Skiing. Twelve months a year, they walk along the sound, catching the sunsets, but the Tilleys especially enjoy the area’s peacefulness in fall and winter.

Many retirees who decide to live full time in tourist spots initially come for the spectacular mountains, beaches or lakes as well as easy access to skiing, fishing, boating and state and national parks. The nice surprise for permanent residents — the unexpected pleasures of the less visited months.

Before packing up to put down year-round roots in popular getaways, would-be retirees need to visit in the off-season to make sure enough restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets, gas stations and other services remain open to sustain day-to-day living.

Another strategy for life in a tourist town is to live there only during the fun of high season. Joe Kerata and his wife, Lynne Armington, spend seven months in the sunshine of Sarasota, FL. They stay away from Cleveland’s snowy winters, returning to the Midwest in the summer. Joe, a native Ohioan, recalls his first months in Sarasota: “I didn’t realize the sky could be blue for so many days in a row.” Joe and Lynne participate in the city’s thriving theater and film scene, putting them into a community of like-minded colleagues. It also gives them time off the sand and away from the winter beach crowds.

How else to deal with seasonal throngs? Locals quickly learn to drive the back roads, park in “secret” spots and head to the off-the-path eateries and entertainment.

Here are eight tourist towns, from the Adirondacks in northern New York to Las Vegas in southern Nevada, that can make vacation living an everyday event.

Lake Placid, Adirondacks, NY, Photo from stock

Lake Placid, Adirondacks, NY, Photo from stock

Northern New York’s 6 million-acre Adirondack Park draws nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to its scenic mix of mountains, lakes, river and valleys. The grouping of public and private lands, along with sizable stretches of wilderness, nearly totals the square mileage of Vermont and contains more that 100 towns and villages. Vacationers come to ski, snowboard, hike, kayak, boat fish and bike — or relax in a namesake Adirondack chair, designed in 1903 by a frequent tourist here.

Lake Placid, one of the region’s gems, hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. During a weeklong vacation in April 2012, Angie and Igal Nevo were so impressed by the scenery that they decided to investigate coming back permanently. They drove around, checked out the pharmacies and supermarkets, and chatted up a bartender during lunch. The following day, they went out with a real estate agent and found a home.

“Even in mud season, the area is still beautiful,” says Angie, 55. “It just felt right — the calm, the serenity. All of a sudden you start to breathe.”

The Nevos had spent a good portion of their marriage commuting between two sunny locations: Nassau in the Bahamas, where Angie worked in insurance, and Miami, where Igal, 64, was a physician. But the snowy winters aren’t a problem for them.

“You acclimatize to the weather,” Angie says. “I get up in the morning and the roads are clear. Lake Placid knows how to deal with weather.”

Unlike Nassau, which is on a 21-mile island, the Adirondacks are more spread out. “All around us are woods,” Igal says. “You do not have to get caught up in the crowds. You can enjoy the solitude.”

Population: 43,394 in Essex and Hamilton counties
January: High 29°/Low 8°
July: High 81°/Low 57°
Cost of living: Above average
Housing cost: The median sales price of homes in the Adirondack region was $135,400 from January through February, according to data provided by the Northern Adirondack Board of Realtors.
Information: Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, (518) 798-1761 or AdirondackChamber.org. Visit Adirondacks, (518) 846-8016 or VisitAdirondacks.com. Lake Placid-Essex County Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 447-5224 or LakePlacid.com.

Outer Banks, NC

The Outer Banks on North Carolina’s shore are home to a town called Duck, which has a boardwalk, shopping and dining

North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a strip of narrow barrier islands off the state’s northern Atlantic coast, stretch for about 120 miles from Corolla to Ocracoke.

“The Outer Banks have a large area of undeveloped open space set aside for recreation and habitats,” says Aaron Tuell, director of public relations for the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. “We have three national parks, two federal wildlife refuges and one state park.”

Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head undulates with the East Coast’s tallest natural sand-dune range. Some ridges rise 80 to 100 feet high. Farther south, the 70-plus-mile Cape Hatteras National Seashore is one of the largest tracts of undeveloped beach on the East Coast. Nearby, the nearly 6,000-acre Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge attracts more than 360 species of birds.

The Tilleys moved to Kill Devil Hills in 2013 after their children graduated from high school and Troy, 49, retired from the fire department. “We like the beaches, the beauty and the peacefulness,” says Robin, 47, who works for a vacation rental company.

That tranquility of surf breaking on sparsely inhabited sands disappears in the summer when throngs of beachgoers arrive. Many come to Kitty Hawk to see the monument honoring brother Wilbur and Orville Wright — the first to defy gravity in a powered airplane in 1903.

“The crowds do not bother us,” Robin says. “We know different areas to park the car. The biggest problem in high season is finding a spot on the beach without being right next to someone.” Locals also know to avoid driving during the day on Saturdays in summer when vacationers check in and out.

Population: 61,028 in Currituck and Dare counties and Ocracoke Island
January: High 54°/Low 36°
July: High 86°/Low 72°
Cost of living: Above average
Housing cost: The median sales price of homes in the Outer Banks was $327,450 from January through February, according to the Outer Banks Association of Realtors.
Information: Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, (252) 441-8144 or OuterBanksChamber.com, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, (877) 629-4386 or OuterBanks.org.

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota, FL, is well-known for its popular Siesta Key Beach, but also has a reputation for dedication to the arts.

Like many Florida coastal cities, Sarasota serves up beaches and boating, but what impresses retirees such as Lynne Armington and Joe Kerata is the culture.

The city on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of Tampa, is one of the state’s cultural centers, says Lynne, 64, adding they love the ballet, orchestra and theater.

Lynne, a former commercial office designer, says that marrying an Ohioan was great — except for the weather. During a May 2002 visit from Cleveland to Lynne’s Sarasota relatives, Joe saw a news broadcast announcing that a blizzard had hit back home in Cleveland. “That was the tipping point,” Joe says. “The next day we went and bought a condo.” The couple summer in Cleveland and spend seven months of the year in the Sarasota area.

“We’re involved in the arts,” says Joe, 66, a retired high school biology teacher. The both volunteer to lead backstage theater tours and Joe acts in plays. The Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts presents regional theater productions.

When tourists flock to the beaches, the locals enjoy The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, notable for its collection of European old masters, especially works by Peter Paul Rubens. The museum also showcases modern art, and the Ringling’s Circus Museum displays posters and big top memorabilia. An Asian art center is slated to open in 2016.

Those in search of continuing education find classes sponsored by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, the Ringling College of Art and Design and the Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning.

Population: 53,326 in the city, 396,962 in Sarasota County
January: High 71°/Low 52°
July: High 90°/Low 75°
Cost of living: Above average
Housing cost: The average sales price of homes in Sarasota County was $291,655 from January through February, according to the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.
Information: The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, (941) 955-8187 or SarasotaChamber.com, Visit Sarasota County, (941) 955-0991 or VisitSarasota.org.

Lafayette, LV

The Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette, LA, preserves Cajun culture through traditional food and music, which often includes the signature sound of the accordion.

Lafayette in southern Louisiana is in the heartland of Acadiana, where Cajun and Creole cultures are not only preserved, but practiced. At LARC’s Acadian Village and Vermilionville, both living history museums, candles are hand-dipped and corn shucks fill homemade mattresses.

Lafayette packs culture and urban amenities into a manageable city of 124,000 that also is widely known for its outstanding food, including crawfish pie, boudin (a spicy Cajun sausage), seafood gumbo, etouffee, blackened fish and jambalaya.

Plus, it’s a college town. “Because of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, we have continuing-education classes and man football, basketball, baseball and sporting events that retirees like,” says Kelly Strenge, vice president of media relations for the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.

The Cajundome has hosted such diverse events as monster truck jams, a Lady Antebellum concert, rodeos and a Disney on Ice extravaganza. Swamp boat tours regularly come across alligators, beavers, mink and egrets. The Atchafalaya, North America’s largest river swamp, is said to be one of the most popular wilderness areas in the country.

Cajun and zydeco music are another Lafayette signature. “Every single day of the week, you can find music in Lafayette,” Strenge says. Performers play accordions, fiddles and washboards at the Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House and other pubs. At Randol’s Seafood Restaurant, patrons do the two-step (just follow along) between courses.

Downtown’s Acadiana Center for the Arts hosts visual art exhibitions, ballet performances, jazz concerts and chamber music events.

Population: 124,276 in the city, 235,644 in Lafayette Parish
January: High 62°/Low 43°
July: High 92°/Low 75°
Cost of living: Below average
Housing cost: The median sales price of homes in Lafayette was $200,000 in the first quarter, according to the Realtor Association of Acadiana.
Information: One Acadiana, (337) 233-2705 or OneAcadiana.org, Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, (800) 346-1958 or LafayetteTravel.com.

Hot Springs, AR

Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs, AR, has been featuring top-notch horse races since 1905.

Long before the norther end of Hot Springs became a national park, the bubbling thermal waters lured Native Americans. Travelers continue to immerse themselves in healing soaks at historic bathhouses and private spas in central Arkansas.

Many tourists and retirees come for the area’s other water: the beautiful lakes. In October 2014, Jerry Smith, 68, who owned an insurance agency in Denver with his wife, Nanci, 61, purchased a property in Forest Lakes Garden Homes, an active-adult community roughly 1.5 miles from Lake Hamilton.

“We wanted easy living with no yard maintenance. Yet we can be downtown in 10 minutes,” Jerry says. The Smiths enjoy the restaurants and bars around 7,460-acre Lake Hamilton. Jerry fishes the 40-mile Lake Ouachita, about 20 miles from their house, and bikes the Ouachita Mountain trails. The Smiths live here April through September and in Sarasota October through March.

“Hot Springs is a quirky little town with a colorful history,” Nanci says. “It has a lot of homegrown restaurants, shops and art studios. There aren’t many chain stores.”

Additional attractions include the gaming tables and horse races at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming. Grandchildren enjoy Magic Springs and Crystal Falls, a theme and water park with roller coasters, kids’ rides and plenty of ways to get wet.

Hot Springs is great for retirees,” Jerry says. “It has a low cost of living and lots to do.”

Population: 35,680 in the city, 97,321 in Garland County
January: High 49°/Low 33°
July: High 93°/Low 73°
Cost of living: Below average
Housing cost: The average sales price of homes in Hot Springs was $133,351 in the first quarter, according to the Hot Springs Board of Realtors.
Information: Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, (501) 321-1700 or HotSpringsChamber.com, Visit Hot Springs, (800) 772-2489 or HotSprings.org.

Rapid City, SD

Free-roaming buffalo stop traffic as they saunter through Custer State Park near Rapid City, SD.

Rapid City anchors many trips to western South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and the Badlands National Park, with their fantastical assortment of pinnacles, needles, buttes and spires created by wind and water erosion. Southwest of town is Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where almost 3 million visitors a year see the famous president faces carved in granite. Also close by are Custer State Park, home to one of the world’s largest free-roaming buffalo herds, and Wind Cave National Park, whose cave — one of the Earth’s longest — winds for more than 100 miles.

In downtown Rapid City, the Journey Museum details the region’s natural formations and relates the culture of the Sioux. At Main Street Square, locals ice skate in winter and listen to free concerts in warm weather.

“Retirees like the fact that there’s no state income tax and the cost of living is relatively low,” says Julie Jones-Whitcher, director of tourism for the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The region’s beauty attracted Kathleen Tipton, 66, and her husband, Mitch, 65, who came here after nationwide searches. Kathleen, a former Air Force missile systems analyst, moved from Los Angeles in late 2014. Mich, a plumber, recently joined her.

“In winter, it’s like living in a giant snow globe. The snow is light,” Kathleen says. “I love being able to watch the deer go down to the creek on my property and the wild turkeys. And I also enjoy Rapid City’s shopping, entertainment and restaurants. I love living here. It’s the best thing in the world.”

Population: 70,812 in the city, 108,242 in Pennington County
January: High 38°/Low 13°
July: High 85°/Low 58°
Cost of living: Below average
Housing cost: The average sales price of homes in Rapid City was $205,743 in the first quarter, according to the Black Hills Association of Realtors.
Information: Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, (605) 343-1744 or RapidCityChamber.com, Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 487-3223 or VisitRapidCity.com.

Park City, UT

Tourist towns like Park City, UT, see a steady stream of visitors come and go, but locals learn how to enjoy their city all year.

Park City once was a rough-and-tumble mining camp where claim jumpers and shootouts were as common as the silver deposits that attracted hordes of prospectors in the 1870s. Now vacationers and retirees come for northern Utah’s legendary powder — a dry, light snow that, along with challenging slopes, drew the 2002 Winter Olympics to nearby Salt Lake City, UT.

“I always wanted to live in a ski-resort town,” says Don Croce, 54. Park City has three: Park City Mountain Resort, Canyons Resort and Deer Valley.

After selling his medical communications business, Don and his wife, Jill, 53, a former nurse, and their three sons moved in July 2005. “Park City’s not out in the middle of nowhere,” Don says. “It’s a full-fledged town with great schools and businesses.” Now Don and Jill operate Livin’ Life Park City, an art boutique on Main Street.

“This is the place to be if you like the outdoors,” Don says. In summer, the ski resorts run their lifts for hikers and mountain bikers who walk and pedal down the winding trails. Those wanting a more level stroll pace themselves on the 28-mile Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail. Golfers can swing through more than 12 courses within a 20-mile radius of Park City, and paddleboarders, boaters and water-skiers indulge at nearby Jordanelle Reservoir.

Don and his family do not mind the inevitable crowds that come with the snow. “We live close to the mountains so it’s not a problem,” he says. “We can also use the free bus system to get to the resorts or into town.”

Population: 7,962 in the city, 39,105 in Summit County
January: High 33°/Low 13°
July: High 80°/Low 49°
Cost of living: Above average
Housing cost: The median sales price of homes in Rapid City was $1.3 million in the first quarter, according to Carol Agle with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and the Park City Board of Realtors.
Information: Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 453-1360 or VisitParkCity.com, Park City Municipal Corp., (435) 615-5001 or ParkCity.org.

Las Vegas, NV

The 18b Arts District in Las Vegas is a collection of bohemian-style restaurants, galleries and shops.

Lured to southern Nevada’s Las Vegas by glitzy casino hotels, glamorous shops and trendy restaurants, vacationers troll the Strip in search of fun. Retirees, on the other hand, know another Las Vegas.

“Taxes are great,” says Clara Clarke, senior director of communications for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t have a state income tax or an inheritance tax. Because of the housing market tumble, even though prices are going up, you can still buy a nice house at a good price.”

Jerry Carnahan, 58, former CEO of Farmers New World Life Insurance Co., and his wife, Becky, 53, a part-time business consultant, moved to Las Vegas in 2012 after leaving residences in both Seattle and Los Angeles. “When I did a chart of places with good weather, low taxes and home costs, plus lots of restaurants and things to do, Las Vegas was at the top,” Jerry says.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute with more than 70 noncredit courses and study groups  — all for a yearly price of $150.

For entertainment, seats are easily booked for Broadway musicals, the Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Big-name performers often light up the stages at casino hotels.

How do locals handle the near-constant stream of visitors? “Residents know plenty of off-Strip properties with great shows and where to find the best neighborhood restaurants. They don’t have to go downtown if they don’t want to,” Clarke says.

The Carnahans often hand their visitors keys to a car and let them explore on their own. “When you move to Las Vegas, all the family and friends you never knew you had come to visit,” says Jerry, adding that the airport, with its many flights, makes travels easy.

Population: 603,488 in the city, 2,069,681 in Clark County
January: High 58°/Low 39°
July: High 104°/Low 81°
Cost of living: Above average
Housing cost: The average sales price of homes in Greater Las Vegas was $205,000 in the first quarter, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.
Information: Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, (702) 641-5822 or LVChamber.com, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, (702) 892-0711 or LVCVA.com.

Photos courtesy of www.WheretoRetire.com

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