West Virginia is made up of 80% mountains, which is why it is known as the mountain state. It is one of the more under-appreciated and overlooked states for retirement, which is a shame, as there are many attractive places to retire in West Virginia. In fact, West Virginia should be at the top of every retiree’s list, especially anyone who is looking to spend their retirement exploring and enjoying the outdoors.
West Virginia’s many mountains, streams, lakes, and forests make it a dream state for the outdoor enthusiast. It is home to some of the most breathtaking mountain ranges, such as the Appalachians, Allegheny, and the Blue Ridge.
Plus, though the state enjoys all four seasons, it doesn’t experience the extreme temperatures other regions endure, unless you are up in the mountains. Summertime gets warm and sometimes borderline sub-tropical, but much of the climate depends on where you are in the state.
And it isn’t just the great outdoors that make West Virginia an appealing state to retire. It is a very affordable place to live, with some of the lowest property taxes in the US. Plus, the median cost of living is below the national average.
Although the overall tax burden is above average, it is still a tax-friendly state for retirees, much like Delaware and North Dakota are. West Virginia allows for an $8,000 income tax deduction per person over the age of 65. This deduction is applicable towards all forms of retirement income, such as pensions, either government or private employer, 401 (k)s, and IRAs. And, those receiving government pensions receive an additional $2,000 deduction.
Social Security is currently taxed but this tax is being phased out over the next three years. Plus, not all Social Security is taxable. Much depends on your overall retirement income.
Unfortunately, West Virginia does have its drawbacks, the two most prominent being the lack of high-speed internet availability and lack of medical centers in some of the smaller towns.
However, the good news is that West Virginia has multiple certified Designated Retirement Communities. Designated Retirement Communities are cities and towns that have been upgraded with amenities that meet or exceed the needs and preferences of retirees.
Last, but far from least, West Virginia is one of the friendliest and polite states in the country.
Where to Retire in West Virginia
- Cheat Lake
- Percent of Senior Population: 46,536
- Overall Population: 18%
Charleston is the capital of West Virginia and is also the largest city in the state. It sits in the Allegheny Mountains at the junction of Kanawha and Elk rivers, adding to the city’s beauty and charm. Located on the western side of the state, Charleston is near the state borders of Ohio and Kentucky.
Charleston has a rich history, pioneers first settled here after the revolution in 1787, and the city was once home to Daniel Boone. Initially, the town’s economy was dependent on abundant natural resources such as petroleum, bituminous coal, natural gas, and salt. Though these resources are still valuable, the local economy now has a greater focus on manufacturing, government services, and health care.
Retirees are attracted to the capital city for multiple reasons. But likely the biggest reason is having the conveniences of a city combined with access to the outdoors.
With the nearby rivers, it is perfect for fishing, kayaking, rafting, and almost any water activity. Plus, since Charleston is tucked in the Allegheny Mountain region, campers, hikers, and mountain bikers will love exploring the trails. But you don’t have to put on your hiking boots every time you want to get outdoors; there are plenty of local golf courses, beaches, and parks all near the downtown area.
And when you aren’t on the trails, you can enjoy one of the many festivals or a relaxing evening in the park listening to live music. Charleston is also home to several art galleries, too, such as Gallery Eleven, Art Emporium, and the Erma Byrd Art Gallery. And if you are looking to go shopping Town Center is where you want to go.
Retirees will have a hard time getting bored in Charleston.
- Percent of Senior Population: 30,549
- Overall Population: 10%
Morgantown, located in the northern part of West Virginia, is nestled amongst the hills creating a picturesque backdrop to this city. Though in some states it would not be considered a big city, it is the third-largest city in West Virginia.
Also, Morgantown is home to the University of West Virginia, giving this college town a vibrant feel. The locals of Morgantown love cheering on the Mountaineers at the Milan Puskar Stadium. And when football season isn’t keeping residents entertained, they are likely out enjoying one of the many parks in the area.
Much like the rest of the state, Morgantown has an abundance of outdoor activities available for retirees such as:
- Core Arboretum
- Dorseys Knob Park
- Deckers Creek
- White Park
Also, the city is very walkable, making it easy to get out and see all the town has to offer.
In addition to the beautiful outdoors, residents enjoy visiting the:
- Art Museum of West Virginia University
- Metropolitan Theatre
- Morgantown History Museum
- Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum.
And for lazy afternoons out and about, many love shopping in the historic downtown area.
Morgantown is home to two major hospitals and is within 60 miles of several more. Plus, Morgantown is an official Designated Retirement Community, making it very retiree friendly.
- Percent of Senior Population: 15,940
- Overall Population: 21.5%
Beckley, nestled in amongst the hills of southern West Virginia, is a quieter town, enjoyed by seniors who love the outdoors and the arts. Though Beckley isn’t large, it still attracts more than 1 million tourists every year who come to enjoy the galleries and many restaurants.
The Tamarack, a large art complex, attracts art lovers from all over. When you visit the Tamarack, you can shop for unique artwork, browse local galleries, take art classes, or have a bite to eat.
Other fun ways to stay active in Beckley include:
- Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
- New River Park
- Wildwood House Museum
- Little Beaver State Park
And though Beckley gets snow, they usually get less than two feet a year, and rarely drop below 20 degrees in the winter. The summers are warm but not hot, making the town all the more desirable.
Plus, this small town has lower than average housing costs, and three hospitals within an easy drive from Beckley. When you are ready to head out on vacation or are having guests come to visit, Beckley has both an Amtrak station and airport both within 10 miles of downtown.
The drawback of living in Beckley is that their crime rate is higher than the national average.
- Percent of Senior Population: 9,337
- Overall Population: 14%
Cheat Lake, located near Morgantown, was originally an iron mining town, making it quite popular in the 1800s. Unfortunately, by 1848 the iron mining business peaked and started going downhill from there.
And between 1910 and the 1920s, a hydroelectric dam was constructed on Cheat River, creating Cheat Lake, which was initially named Lynn Lake after the president of the power company.
Today, Cheat Lake attracts residents and tourists alike. It is a great place to boat, swim, or kayak. And the anglers will be happy to know that the lake and river have recovered from the pollution previously impacting the lake. And for seniors looking to try something new, there are stand-up paddleboard yoga classes on the lake.
In addition to spending time out on the water, residents in the area enjoy:
- West Virginia Botanic Garden
- Coopers Rock State Forest
- Cheat Lake Trail
- Coopers Rock
And since it is less than 20 minutes away, many residents go into Morgantown to take advantage of the city’s entertainment venues, including catching a live college ball game.
Cheat Lake has a couple of minor drawbacks to retiring there. First, is if you are a foodie, you may get a bit bored since there are only three restaurants. And second, though they have a few medical centers, you will have to make a short drive to Morgantown to get to a hospital.
- Percent of Senior Population: 1862
- Overall Population: 7%
Shepherdstown is a small humble yet charming town located on the Potomac River. It was founded in 1762, making it the oldest city in the state.
Though Shepherdstown is a small city, it is less than two hours from Washingon, D.C., allowing residents to enjoy the quieter side of life, yet have access to the entertainment venues and conveniences of a larger city.
Plus, history buffs and art lovers will equally find Shepherdstown appealing. Those interested in history will enjoy visiting Antietam National Battlefield, the Rumsey Monument, and the Historic Shepherdstown Museum.
And art lovers will be happy to know that many artists call Shepherdstown home; filling the city with arts, crafts, workshops, and galleries, like:
- Bridge Fine Art & Framing
- The Gallery at 105
- Badgerhound Studio and Gallery
- Dickinson & Wait Craft Gallery
Though Shepherdstown is the smallest town on our list, it is home to Shepherd University, which adds to both the economy and culture of the city. And like many college areas, it is very walkable, making it easy to get around without needing a car.
Plus, because of the college and art communities, Shepherdstown has live music at various venues in the evening. But the best part of living near Shepherd University is their Lifelong Learning program for seniors.
Not surprisingly, they do not have a hospital of their own in Shepherdstown. Still, just a short 10-minute drive to Martinsburg, there are a couple of different hospitals, including a VA Medical Center.