retirement

Austin, Tex.: A Great Large City for Retiring in Good Health

For retirees looking to relocate, Austin's low taxes could be a main attraction.

Population: 931,830

Cost of living: 96 (national median: 100)

Median home price: $209,000 (national median: $185,000)

Healthy highlight: A 10-mile hiking and biking trail that encircles Lady Bird Lake

The city where Whole Foods was founded takes its healthy living seriously. Residents of the Zilker neighborhood, for instance, are steps away from Zilker Park, a green space of more than 350 acres. Outdoorsy options include sand volleyball courts, disc golf, bo­tanical gardens and Barton Springs Pool, a natural, spring-fed swimming hole that's open year-round. (Residents older than 62 pay only $1; once you hit 80, you get in free.) On Lady Bird Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River, you can canoe, kayak or float on stand-up paddleboards. The park also hosts free Shakespeare productions, musical theater and concerts.

Beyond its outdoor amenities, "Zilker is almost two types of living," says longtime resident David Piper, 62, a novelist and painter. The tranquil interior is full of big, old trees, while the business strips of South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road are lined with shops, restaurants and bars, such as Uncle Billy's Brewery and Smokehouse. Piper can walk from his home to downtown Austin in less than 20 minutes. The peace is disturbed only during concerts or music festivals, such as Austin City Limits and SXSW, when performances take place in nearby parks. (On the bright side, you can sit on your porch and listen free, says Piper.)

As for the rest of Austin, its many attractions include film festivals, taco trucks, barbecue joints, live-music venues (even at Whole Foods) and—for a little something weird—the world's largest urban bat colony, under the Congress Avenue Bridge.

St. David's South Austin Medical Center, a few miles from Zilker, offers specialties including women’s health, heart and vascular care, and oncology, and it is home to Austin’s only bone-marrow transplant program. Seton Medical Center Austin is the only hospital in central Texas that performs heart transplants.

You'll pay for the prox­imity to downtown—and for the convenience of bypassing Austin's worsening traffic. Single-family homes start at $600,000, says Socar Chatmon-Thomas, former chair of the Austin Board of Realtors. Retirees tend to live in townhomes with small yards or condo townhouses, which go for $450,000 or more. Renting a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment can run $2,000 per month. But Texas has no state income tax, nor does it tax any retirement income.

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