retirement

Johnson City, Tenn.: A Great Place to Retire for Your Health

Set amid the Appalachians, Johnson City offers low taxes on retirees and quality health care from the Ballad Health Network.

Johnson City’s lively downtown, natural scenery and wealth of opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking and walking make it an ideal location for active retirees. It’s one of 10 small or midsize cities we found that offer first-class health care.

Johnson City stats

Population: 66,400

What $300,000 will buy: 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,500-square-foot home on Boone Lake with a dock

Best place to exercise: Tweetsie Trail, a 10-mile rails-to-trail project

5-star hospital*: Franklin Woods Community Hospital

Founded as a railroad town in the 1850s, Johnson City’s downtown merges cool renovations with historic charm. Restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, music venues and eclectic shops now fill revitalized 19th-century buildings in an easily walkable area. Old train depots have been transformed into restaurants and breweries, with the Yee-Haw Brewery and White Duck Taco Shop hosting festivals and live music on a spacious patio. Founders Park, in the heart of downtown, hosts live music throughout the summer, yoga, a farmers market and the popular two-day Blue Plum Music Festival.

Just blocks away is East Tennessee State University, where you can watch Division I sports and enjoy performances from the school’s famous bluegrass and country-music program. A 90,000-square-foot arts center will be completed in 2019. See future stars of the St. Louis Cardinals close-up when they get their start with the Johnson City Cardinals minor-league team.

You can bike, run or walk the Tweetsie Trail, a 10-mile rails-to-trail project that starts downtown. Or you can hike through 725 acres of dense forest at Buffalo Mountain Park, just 10 minutes from downtown, and look down on Johnson City from above.

The Ballad Health network runs several well-regarded hospitals in the area. The 445-bed Johnson City Medical Center, one of six Level 1 Trauma Centers in Tennessee, has received awards for its heart hospital and cancer center. Franklin Woods Community Hospital, an 80-bed hospital built in 2010, gets top ratings for patient satisfaction and for its native stone building.

The cost of living in Johnson City and the surrounding areas is low: You can rent a three-bedroom house in town for $1,300 or less, and the median home sales price is $170,000. Tennessee is very tax-friendly for retirees: It has no state income tax.

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

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