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Best Cities, States & Places

Why Northfield, Minn., Is a Great Place to Retire

Just outside the Twin Cities, Northfield is a welcoming college town enveloped by pristine nature.

St. Olaf College

Population:
20,455

Nearest large city:
Minneapolis–St. Paul

What $300,000 will buy:
4-bedroom, 2-bath 1920s bungalow with detached garage close to downtown

SLIDE SHOW: See Our Picks for 10 Great Places to Retire, 2017

Home to St. Olaf College and Carleton College, Northfield seamlessly blends town and gown. Retirees George and Linda Davis, 70, can vouch for that. Last year, they moved here from Moorhead, Minn., to be closer to their children in the Twin Cities, 45 miles to the north. Recently, the couple attended a presentation at Carleton about the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr with about 200 people in attendance. “Half of them were college students and half were ‘gray hairs’ like us,” says Linda. “I thought, You won’t get that in every community.”

The arts and lifelong learning are huge here. At the colleges, you can attend music and theater performances by students and guest performers almost daily, as well as guest lectures and film screenings. The Northfield Arts Guild’s downtown Center for the Arts produces more than 100 events a year and holds 40 art classes every week. Several venues around town offer live music. The Bridge Chamber Music Festival brings jazz and chamber music groups to town an­nually. The Cannon Valley Elder Collegium offers classes on diverse topics in the liberal arts to students older than 50, taught by retired faculty from the colleges and local public schools. Northfield has an independent bookstore called Content, and even the sidewalks are literate: Winning submissions to an annual poetry competition are imprinted on them.

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The focal point of Northfield’s lively downtown is Bridge Square, where you’ll find the Riverwalk Market Fair, an open-air Saturday market, as well as year-round festivals. You’ll never go thirsty: Northfield is home to several coffee shops, craft breweries, a cider house, a distillery and a winery.

See Also: 8 Great Places to Retire Abroad

The Cannon River runs through town, and several parks and walking paths provide access to fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Fitness buffs have plenty of options: In the snowy Minnesota winter, you can cross-country ski along miles of groomed trails or snowshoe through Carle­ton’s Cowling Arboretum. Too cold outdoors? Run, swim or take exercise classes at the YMCA Community Center. No need to worry about health care, either. If you need access to specialists not available at Northfield Hospital & Clinics, the Mayo Clinic is 50 miles away, in Rochester.

The median home price in Rice County is $217,300, but the inventory of homes for sale is tight, says Jan Stevens, a real estate agent who helped the Davises. A few condos have been built downtown on the river, but they’re multilevel and tend to be high-end, she says. When the Davises couldn’t find what they wanted, they built a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home that will allow them to age in place. The median annual property tax paid in Rice County is $2,057.

Minnesota isn’t a tax-friendly state for retirees. Income and sales tax rates are high, and Social Security income is taxed to the same extent it is on your federal return. The state also has an estate tax, which excludes up to $2.1 million in 2017; the exclusion will increase to $2.4 million in 2018.

See Also: The State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retirees