Richland, Wash.: A Great Place to Retire for Your Health

This Washington city has sunny weather that makes for good wine, along with access to three large hospital systems.

With more than 300 days of sunshine and less than 8 inches of rain annually, Richland attracts plenty of retirees from soggy Seattle, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive to the northwest. The climate has given rise to a burgeoning wine industry, with 160 wineries within an hour’s drive. Local breweries, distilleries and cideries also use locally grown crops as ingredients. It’s one of 10 small or midsize cities we found that offer first-class health care.

Richland stats

Population: 56,200

What $300,000 will buy: 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath, 1,900-square-foot home with a master suite and a two-car garage

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Best place to exercise: Sacagawea Heritage Trail

5-star hospital*: Kadlec Regional Medical Center

Located at the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers, Richland boomed during World War II as thousands of workers came to produce plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Richland is still a center of scientific research and home to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other facilities.

Outdoor recreation is big. The Columbia River is a playground for all sorts of aquatic activities. Richland has two marinas, one public and one private, as well as a private yacht club on the Columbia. The Sacagawea Heritage Trail, named for the lone woman on the Lewis and Clark expedition, provides 23 miles of paved loop trail for walking and biking along the Columbia.

Locals enjoy the Parkway shopping area, home to a farmers-and-artisans market in the summer. Nearby is John Dam Plaza, where the Community Stage, an outdoor performance venue, hosts local performing arts groups, movies and a summer concert series with live music, food vendors and—no surprise—a beer and wine garden.

The median home price in Richland is $310,000. Retirees from Seattle who have sold a home there can often pay cash to get a nice place near things they want to do. For many, that means a home next to the river or in a golf-course community, says real estate agent Jeff Smart. You can rent a two-bedroom apartment or condo for about $1,100 to $1,200 a month.

The region is the health care hub of eastern Washington, with three large hospital systems: Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Lourdes Health in Pasco and Trios Health in Kennewick. Kadlec has an open-heart surgery and interventional cardiology program, an intensive-care unit, a neuroscience center, and health care providers in numerous specialties.

Washington has no state income tax, so retirees don’t have to worry about state taxes on retirement income, pensions or Social Security benefits. The state has an estate tax on estates valued at more than $2.19 million.

The Tri-Cities Airport offers direct daily flights to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis.

* Rating developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.