Iowa has been recently voted the number one place to retire by the Blackwater Group. The rating was based on: crime, median home price, percent of the population over 60, and life expectancy.
Unfortunately, Blackwater is in the minority for recognizing this hidden gem of a state, likely due to its shortage of white sandy beaches. But what the Hawkeye State lacks in oceanfront and warm winters, Iowa makes up in the cost of living, welcoming communities, and safer cities.
Active retirees looking for a slower pace will find Iowa has more than enough to offer with its many lakes, rivers, and rolling hills. This state is perfect for retirees who love biking, hiking, fishing, and camping.
Although Iowa is primarily made up of farmland, it is home to a few large cities with all of the urban amenities any retiree could want. Plus, being in one of the top 10 agriculture states, residents can enjoy farm-fresh foods throughout the year. And we aren’t just talking about home cooking either; many top chefs are attracted to the fresh farm-to-table foods available in Iowa.
Iowa is so-so when it comes to being a tax-friendly state for retirees. It does not tax Social Security, but they do tax all other retirement income. However, the good news is that Iowa has a $6,000 tax deduction on retirement income.
Unfortunately, Iowa has a higher than average tax on property. But Iowa aids to offset the higher property tax with the homestead credit for those who claim the state as their permanent residence. The homestead credit can help you save between $100-$200 per year in taxes. The good news is that the cost of housing in Iowa is $158,930, which is more than $100,000 less than the national average.
Iowa has a sales tax on both the state and county levels, making the average sales tax about 6.94%, with a few exceptions such as prescriptions, some over-the-counter medicines, and food.
Retirees looking for a quieter charming place to retire that is both safe and affordable should put Iowa at the top of their list.
Where to Retire in Iowa
- Des Moines
- Cedar Rapids
- Iowa City
- West Des Moines
- Percent of Senior Population: 12%
- Overall Population: 214,237
Active retirees will love living in Iowa’s state capital of Des Moines. Like many urban areas of this size, Des Moines offers an abundance of outdoor and indoor activities, plus it is an easy city to navigate on foot.
Des Moines is very walkable with its many paths and skyways. The city has an abundance of sidewalks for retirees wanting to tour the city. Some of the top walking areas include the trails that lead to Gray’s Lake that loops around the whole lake.
And it is not just sidewalks that keep retirees active here; there are also several sightseeing locations that make for a great afternoon adventure, such as the botanical gardens, Living History Farms, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, and Walnut Woods State Park.
Though art and culture may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Des Moines, the city is far from lacking in these areas. A big part of why Des Moines has an active art scene is because it is home to Drake University. But not all of the credit can go to Drake; Des Moines also boasts several live performance venues like:
- Des Moines Metro Opera
Plus, because the city resides in the heart of one of the top agricultural states, it has no shortage of amazing restaurants. Some of the most trendy restaurants the city offers include St. Kilda, Fong’s Pizza, 801 Chophouse, and Django.
And the fantastic food isn’t just found in the restaurants either. Des Moines has the second-best farmer’s market in the nation. It is full of fresh seasonal produce, locally grown flowers, baked goods, and food vendors of all sorts.
Des Moines also has ample medical care centers, including multiple full-service hospitals such as Unity Point Health and MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center.
- Percent of Senior Population: 15.3%
- Overall Population: 133,562
Much like its larger counterpart Cedar Rapids is an art and cultural hub of a city. The city is home to several galleries like the Gilded Pear Gallery and museums such as the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, perfect for indulging any art enthusiast.
Cedar Rapids is an appealing state for those who enjoy the outdoors. It has more than 19 golf courses within and in nearby communities. But it isn’t just golf that gets retirees outdoors; there are several parks to explore, like the Palisades-Kepler State Park, which sits along the Cedar River, the Morgan Creek Arboretum, and the Cedar River Trail, a 13-mile multi-use trail.
The city of Cedar Rapids also celebrates diversity throughout the city; you can keenly see it at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, the African American Museum Of Iowa, and The Mother Mosque of America, the oldest standing mosque in the country.
And it isn’t just the capital that takes advantage of the local agriculture communities. Cedar Rapids hosts a weekly farmers market but also has several top-notch restaurants, including Zins. Zins is a well-known restaurant in the community that offers an extensive wine list, tapas, and mouthwatering selection of main courses.
On the afternoons you are looking to relax and kick back with friends, Cedar Rapids has several local breweries and a winery and distillery. The Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery offers both indoor and outdoor seasonal seating. They even have a full menu from brunch to dinner.
Plus, the average cost for a house in Cedar Rapids is well below the national average, coming in at $154,085, which is excellent for a larger city. And as a large city, Cedar Rapids does not fall short in health care facilities, including having multiple hospitals in the area.
- Percent of Senior Population: 10.5%
- Overall Population: 75,130
Many cities boast a strong art community, but Iowa City sets itself apart by being all about literature, which is best highlighted by their Iowa Avenue Literary Walk featuring 49 different authors connected to Iowa.
Though no longer the capital of Iowa, the city still has many historic buildings, including the former capitol building that has been transitioned into the University of Iowa Old Capitol Museum. The museum is open to the public and offers free admission.
The city is home to the University of Iowa, which adds to the liveliness of the community as well as contributing greatly to the art and culture attractions, such as the:
- University of Iowa Museum of Natural History
- University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art
- Division of Performing Arts, which holds more than 400 performances each year
Outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy the various parks and trails, like Ryerson’s Woods, Coralville Strip Nature Trail, Veterans Trail (set up to accommodate wheelchairs), and Waterworks Prairie Park. Waterworks Prairie Park has paved trails open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Although Iowa City is far from the state’s largest city, it still has an impressive number of medical facilities, including the University of Iowa Hospitals, Mercy Hospital, and The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.
West Des Moines
- Percent of Senior Population: 13.7%
- Overall Population: 67,899
The name gives it away; West Des Moines is a suburb of Des Moines. It is a preferred place by retirees wanting to live in the suburbs but still close to the downtown scene.
West Des Moines not only sets itself apart from its larger counterpart by embracing the suburban feel, but it also has a lower crime rate and more affluent style homes.
In addition to the beautiful yet reasonably priced homes, the city is home to two shopping malls, including the Jordan Creek Parkway.
The dining scene includes numerous restaurants, everything from casual eateries to more upscale dining like the Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.
West Des Moines also attracts active retirees. The city is full of parks and trails perfect for walking, hiking, and biking. Some of the top outdoor locations include:
- Clive Greenbelt Trail – 11.3 miles of trails
- Great Western Trail – 16.5 miles of paved trails
- Brown’s Woods – 484 acres of wilderness and trails
- Dale Maffitt Reservoir – Ideal for watching wildlife and anglers looking to wet a line
- Walnut Woods State Park – Offers camping and hiking along the Racoon River
And West Des Moines has several medical centers, plus a couple of hospitals, including Unity Point Health – Methodist West Hospital and UnityPoint Health – Methodist West Hospital.
- Percent of Senior Population: 18.7%
- Overall Population: 7,576
Decorah is located in northern Iowa near the Minnesota border. This small town offers a charming and welcoming community, with a lower cost of living than found in other areas of the state, especially when it comes to the price of homes.
One of the city’s highlights is that it is home to Luther College, a private liberal arts college that adds vibrancy to the town. The college hosts live theater productions, open to the public, at The Center for the Arts, which hosts two theaters.
In addition to the college, Decorah also has a few other art and culture venues such as:
- Porter House Museum
- Vesterheim The National Norwegian-American Museum & Folk Art School
- Steyer Opera House
But art and culture aren’t the only things Decorah has to offer retirees. Decorah also draws retirees who enjoy the outdoors. Decorah is full of amazing outdoor opportunities just waiting to be explored, such as:
- Trout Run Trail – This is a paved trail that loops around Decorah
- Dunnings Spring Park – Has a 200-foot waterfall with miles of trails
- Ice Cave Hill Park State Preserve – Explorable ice caves with one of the largest glaciers in the midwest
- Upper Iowa River Access Area – Ideal for canoeing and kayaking
- Phelps Park – Hiking trails through hilly woods
Though medical care centers are limited, there are two hospitals near the Decorah area. However, the Mayo Clinic is just an hour and a half north in Rochester if you need more extensive care.
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