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Best Cities, States & Places

Why Springfield, Mass., Is a Great Place to Retire

Just outside Boston, Springfield is back on its feet and has plenty to offer.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum

Population:
154,341

Nearby large cities:
Boston; Hartford, Conn.

What $300,000 will buy:
3-bedroom, 3.5-bath brick colonial with hardwood floors in Forest Park

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

Springfield is about a half-hour drive from Hartford and, depending on traffic, an hour and a half from Boston. Given its proximity to higher-cost metro areas, Springfield is sur­prisingly affordable. Plenty of homes are available in the $150,000-to-$200,000 range. Springfield also offers a less-stressful lifestyle than larger East Coast cities, says Bob McCarroll, 69, a retired city planner. “There are no lines at ATMs, no lines at grocery stores,” he says.

McCarroll lives in Springfield’s historic downtown neighborhood, where you can find 130-year-old row houses, early 20th-century apartment buildings, and factories and schools that have been converted into condos. His home is a five-minute walk from CityStage and Symphony Hall, where the Springfield Symphony Orchestra plays. And it is within walking distance of the MassMutual Center, home arena for the Springfield Thunderbirds minor league hockey team.

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Downtown residents are also a short walk from the Springfield Museums, which are clustered around a tree-lined quadrangle on State Street. The complex includes two art museums, a science museum, a history museum and a recently opened museum dedicated to the life and work of Springfield native Theodor Geisel, better known to children around the world as Dr. Seuss. The first floor of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum features interactive games and activities; the second floor showcases Geisel memorabilia, including some of his original oil paintings and a collection of zany hats and bowties. Admission to the museums is free to Springfield residents.

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Geisel’s spirit can also be felt in nearby Forest Park. As a child, Geisel frequently visited the park’s small zoo with his father (who later became the park’s superintendent), and its inhabitants inspired some of his animal characters. The 745-acre park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York’s Central Park.

The surrounding neighborhoods, Forest Park, East Forest Park and 16 Acres, feature a variety of single-family houses, including colonial and Tudor-style homes from the 1920s. Prices range from about $150,000 to $300,000.

Springfield has struggled with urban decay and crime since many of its heavy-equipment manufacturing companies moved to the South or overseas. But the city has made a concerted effort to tackle those problems, says Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. An MGM Casino is scheduled to open next year in the city’s South End; the project will include more than 55,000 square feet of retail and dining establishments, as well as new residences. The city has also increased its police force and placed a strong emphasis on community policing.

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One thing Springfield can’t change is its weather. This is New England, after all, and it gets cold in the winter. But it’s easy to escape to warmer climes. Bradley International Airport, in Windsor Locks, Conn., is just 25 minutes away. And residents don’t need to get on I-90 to Boston to get good health care. Baystate Medical Center, a training center for the University of Massachusetts Medical School–Bay State, has 716 beds and more than 1,100 staff physicians.

Massachusetts doesn’t tax Social Security benefits or government pension income, but all other income is taxed at a flat rate of 5.1%. Estates valued at more than $1 million may be subject to an estate tax. The median property tax in Hampden County, where Springfield is located, is $3,152.

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