retirement

Seattle: A Great Large City for Retiring in Good Health

The Emerald City has something for city-dwellers and nature lovers alike.

Population: 684,451

Cost of living: 140.3 (national median = 100)

Median home price: $341,000 (national median: $185,000)

Healthy highlight: Seward Park, a 300-acre park with forest and beach trails

Seattle's urban center is surrounded by parks, nature trails, waterways and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, making the Emerald City a gem for active urbanites and nature lovers alike. Downtown, locals can explore historic Pioneer Square, take in a performance at the Seattle Opera or Pacific Northwest Ballet, or wander the iconic Pike Place Market. Outside Seattle, they can take advantage of the lush Pacific Northwest, including visiting Mount Rainier National Park, trekking to the 270-foot waterfall at Snoqualmie Falls and wandering Vashon Island's trails and beaches.

An average of 152 days of rain each year earns Seattle its other nickname: Rain City. But mild temperatures year-round give residents plenty of time to enjoy outdoor activities. Among them are kayaking on Lake Union, walking in Waterfront Park (while keeping an eye out for the occasional seal), and hiking any of nearly 12 miles of trails in Discovery Park, a 534-acre park on Magnolia Bluff, overlooking Puget Sound.

Many retirees head 10 miles east of downtown, crossing Lake Washington on the world's longest floating bridge, to Bellevue's Crossroads neighborhood. This Seattle suburb has grown steadily in recent years to become its own small city of more than 130,000 people. Here, housing options include a mix of apartments, condos and small single-family homes, nearly three-fourths of which are located within one-third of a mile of a park or access to a walking trail.

With few homes on the market, sellers have the upper hand. People looking for a home in the area should budget $500,000 or more.

Residents can shop for produce or other goods at the seasonal Crossroads farmers market, visit Bellevue Botanical Gardens or walk the promenade at Bellevue Downtown Park.

The Seattle-Bellevue metropolitan area offers excellent health care. Seattle's major hospital is the University of Washington Medical Center; other local hospitals include Overlake Hospital Medical Center and EvergreenHealth.

Although Seattle's cost of living and home prices are higher than the national average, Washington is tax-friendly for retirees. The Evergreen State has no state income tax, so retirees won't pay tax on their pensions, Social Security benefits or other retirement income. But state and local sales tax rates, which can be as much as a combined 9.5%, are among the highest in the nation.

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