For the more than 36 million Americans who will turn 65 in the coming decade, the best cities and towns to retire in now have a much higher bar to clear: They can't just be great places -- they have to be affordable. Each week, SmartMoney.com tours a different state to find less-expensive alternatives to the most well-known golden year destinations.
Spend a day or two in the Palmetto State, and you may quickly understand the state slogan -- "smiling faces and beautiful places." But residents say there's more to South Carolina than Southern charm and beautiful landscape, including its world renowned Lowcountry region that extends 150 miles along the state's coast. The state also boasts low property taxes and zero state estate tax. And while a growing number of retirees have been flocking to the state for its mild winters and slower pace, the state remains a bit of an "undiscovered gem."
And while many of the state's smaller cities and towns are filled with historical sites and a good mix of cultural offerings, residents say it isn't the place to come strictly for shopping or nightlife.
Charleston, SC: For the foodie
This city has certainly been discovered by retirees. In fact, it frequently pops up on "best places to retire" lists thanks to the warm weather, access to some of the best beaches east of the Mississippi, award-winning restaurants and its offering of arts, culture and entertainment. All this, plus cobblestone streets lined with Spanish moss-draped trees and stunning antebellum mansions. And did we mention the food? Critic Anthony Bourdain recently wrote that the Charleston restaurant scene is exciting and deserving of more attention. Bev Seinsheimer, a broker at Carriage Properties in Charleston, adds that "some retirees don't even cook because the restaurants are so good here." Another plus: The 17-day Spoleto Festival in May and June offers performances by famous artists from around the country in opera, theater, dance, chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. Charleston hosts so many cultural events it landed in the top ten of "America's Favorite Cities" for theater and performing arts, according to a 2010 Travel & Leisure survey. In fact, so much is going on in Charleston it can feel overrun with tourists at times. Roughly 4 million people visit the city each year.