retirement

Nashville, Tenn.: A Great Midsize City for Retiring in Good Health

Quaint neighborhoods and good tunes help make the Music City an ideal location for retirees.

Population: 654,610

Cost of living: 95 (national median: 100)

Median home price: $187,000 (national median: $185,000)

Healthy highlight: Sylvan Park farmers market

Nashville has long been known as the epicenter of country music. Recently, the hum of Nashville's music scene has had to compete with the thrum of the city's construction boom. Downtown, cranes dominate the skyscape; the Nashville Business Journal recently tallied 170 projects in the metro area.

Millennials are moving to Music City in droves to grab jobs—the economy is as hot as a Merle Travis guitar lick—but retirees are finding a lot to like here, too. Beyond the construction and traffic of downtown, you'll find quiet old Nashville neighborhoods, such as Sylvan Park.

Sylvan Park is a 15-minute drive from downtown Nashville and as little as a 40-minute walk to Vanderbilt University, in Nashville's West End. The neighborhood, whose modest homes and quiet streets give it a southern, small-town sensibility, is bordered by two parks. Richland Park hosts a farmers market on Saturdays, and McCabe Park has a greenway, with walking and biking trails, that leads to a new community and fitness center and a 27-hole public golf course. A Nashville partnership with the Urban Land Institute is promoting the transformation of the outdated retail corridor to the north of Sylvan Park into a greener, more walkable street. "We're updating our neighborhood identity," says Sylvan Park Neighborhood Association president Tracy Kane.

Homes in Sylvan Park include cottages and bungalows built in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as new construction that is replacing small, older homes. Prices of homes sold in the past few months range from $300,000 for a two-bedroom cottage to $829,000 for a newly built five-bedroom house, says real estate agent Kimberly Davis.

Sylvan Park has a handful of restaurants and a public library, but an active cultural scene beckons beyond the neighborhood. Besides a host of honky-tonk bars, many with open-mic and songwriters' nights (à la the Bluebird Café, featured in the TV drama Nashville), the city boasts a blues and jazz scene, an opera, a ballet and a full calendar of musicals and plays. By day, you can enroll in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt University or take classes at nearby Lipscomb University.

Just north of Vanderbilt's campus, you'll find its medical complex. The highly regarded St. Thomas hos­pitals are close by.

The cost of living is below the national average, and there's no broad-based income tax (but be prepared to fork over hefty sales taxes). Most seniors qualify for property tax relief. And the state no longer imposes an estate tax.

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