10 Best College Towns in the South to Live at Retirement

Best College Towns

Baby Boomers with an insatiable thirst for knowledge are exploring the best college towns in the south for retirement. In addition to the exciting colleges and universities, many towns cater to individuals over the age of 55 by providing lifelong learning courses at local museums and community centers to enhance their quality of life during retirement. The towns also offer a wide array of inexpensive restaurants, shopping venues and cheap transportation in the best places to live in the south.  After analyzing the 42 best cities to live that we specialize in, here’s our picks for the Top 10 Best College Towns in the South and why:

ASHEVILLE - NORTH CAROLINA

With the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville’s average elevation of 2,000 feet provides the perfect place to enjoy the fall foliage from the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through the heart of Asheville.  Named as “America’s Happiest City” by Self Magazine, residents enjoy street festivals, cafes, street performers and abundant art galleries with views of Mount Mitchell State Park (the highest peak in North America at 6,684 feet) clearly visible from downtown. Another major draw to the region is America’s largest private home, The Biltmore Estate built by business tycoon George Vanderbilt and The Grove Park Inn which features unique Hansel and Gretel architecture. It is in the ‘Land of the Sky’ that folks will find the award winning University of North Carolina Asheville.

With Asheville’s diversity and charm, residents range from affluent retirees to “hippie clad” college students which creates a unique environment that is full of environmentally conscious and creative people. Asheville was named as the #1 Best Small City by American Style Magazine for its Art Deco architecture, art studios and galleries.  The City of 1,000 Easels created by Asheville Arts Council is a walking tour of art displays downtown.  For cultural enrichment there is also the Asheville Art Museum, the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and the Asheville Lyrical Opera.  For college students and “rock-n-roll” Boomers, The Orange Peel was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 5 rock clubs in America and the venue draws headline bands from around the world and is a funky and fun live entertainment venue.  For dance and theatrical performances, there is The Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre and the Asheville Community Theater which has been voted the Best Theater Group in Western North Carolina.  For history buffs, there are a number of historic museums near the university to visit.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA) is a 4 year public liberal arts university and is the only designated liberal arts institution in the University of North Carolina system.  Originally founded in 1927 as Buncombe County Junior College, UNCA merged with the College of the Asheville to form Biltmore Junior College.  In 1934, the college was renamed Biltmore College then in 1936 changed to Asheville-Biltmore College.  In 1961 the campus was moved to its present location and in 1963 became a state-supported 4 year college.  In 1969 the current name was adopted and it became part of the Consolidated University of North Carolina and is designated as 1 of 3 liberal arts universities.  UNCA has more than 215 full-time faculty members and an enrollment of approximately 3,600 students.  The university offers 36 baccalaureate programs and a master’s degree in liberal arts and sciences.  The school has attained many accolades for its education programs and is ranked 3rd nationally on the “Best Schools for Making an Impact” list from the new Princeton Review guidebook, Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get In -  2015 Edition.  With the 6th lowest cost of attending in-state colleges and the 10th lowest average debt among graduates according to Kiplinger’s “Best Values in Public Colleges”,  UNCA is a great value with great returns on the investment.  

With the Blue Ridge Mountains nearby set in 1,000,000 acres of protected forest (Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Nantahala National Forest), students and Boomers enjoy the notorious outdoors programming which offers rock-climbing, caving, hiking and kayaking. Asheville is also a fisherman’s paradise as the French Broad River flows through downtown and students can enjoy whitewater rafting.  Boomers can easily stay active and enjoy the region while enjoying quality family time.  Additionally, the Creative Center for Retirement at UNCA offers over 100 lifelong learning courses designed for retirees including studies in architecture, arts and crafts, film, literature, music and wellness to name a few.  Classes are also offered at many of the Asheville art galleries and museums.  Asheville is clearly one of the best college towns in the south.  The average homes prices range in the $200k’s and urban dwellers can find an upscale condo in this spectacular town with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

ATHENS - GEORGIA

Athens is highly cultural and rich in history providing an eclectic blend of the “old and the new” located about 1.5 hours northeast of Atlanta.  Neighborhoods found here reflect a combination of Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian architectural style and downtown is highly active and energetic due to those who attend the University of Georgia found here. Fine dining, shopping and cultural events keeps this location happening and makes this one of the best college towns in Georgia.  With a blend of rock bands like REM and the B-52’s and the Athens Symphony, individuals of all ages can enjoy the free concerts offered by the symphony for the last 35 years.  Rolling Stone magazine named Athens Georgia as the “Number 1 College Music Scene in America”.

Since the 1980’s, Athens has been preserving its rich history by restoring homes to the Victorian era and notably has 15 neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places. There are also great museums and art galleries for all residents and visitors to enjoy.  Nicknamed “The Classic City”, Athens is also the birthplace of America’s first garden club, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and is also rated as one of “America’s Top 25 Art Destinations.”   Athens is the northern gateway to Georgia’s Antebellum Trail which is a 100 mile journey through 7 cities used in Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864.  Athens is also ranked the “Number 1 Place to Retire” by Fortune Magazine and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named Athens as the “Best College Towns for Retirees.” The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute found on the campus of the University of Georgia has 19 special interest groups on campus where ambitious seniors can take lifelong learning courses.

The University of Georgia was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly in 1785 and became the first state to charter a state-supported university. UGA actually was established in 1801 when a 633 acre tract of land on the banks of the Oconee River was purchased by John Milledge and given to the board of trustees.  The university is made up of 17 colleges covering a wide array of course offerings. Today, UGA has become recognized as one of the best higher learning institutions in the country and its’ “Small Business Development Center” established in 1977 is one of the first such programs in the country providing hundreds of small businesses and entrepreneurs counseling, management training and continuing education.  In 1980, UGA became the 15th institution to attain “Sea Grant” status recognizing its excellence in marine research, education and advisory services.  UGA is one of the best values in public higher education and was ranked 10th on the 2014 Kiplinger Magazine’s list of 100 best values among public colleges and universities.  The Chronicle of Higher Education lists the University of Georgia as one of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright students by type of institution.  UGA has had 23 students named as Rhodes Scholars in its history.

Geographically, Athens is only one hour north of the Blue Ridge Mountains where free adventures can be found exploring the beautiful scenery while cycling, hiking and rock climbing.  Nearby the 38,000 acre pristine Lake Lanier provides a haven for boating enthusiasts and anglers of all ages.  For golfers, several courses can be found that are open to the public.  Downtown Athens offers great shopping, dining, antiques and art studios.  Athens is also a pet friendly city and allows folks to enjoy excursions with their four-legged friends.  Homes found in Athens average around $130k and provide great value for those approaching retirement.  

CHARLESTON - SOUTH CAROLINA

Another historic destination we applaud is in the Low Country of South Carolina.  The colorful southern charm of Charleston is apparent when folks drive down Rainbow Row which showcases 14 pastel painted homes that date back to 1740.  Charleston is 300 years old and filled with a vibrant culture combining history with the luxury of having some of the country’s most beautiful beaches nearby.  Charleston is made up of several barrier islands connected by statuesque bridges and is on the list of America’s Best Beaches.  The islands of Isle of Palms, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands make Charleston one of the best college towns combining 19th century architecture with academia.  It is the perfect place to attend college and enjoy this quaint and vibrant destination. Whether it’s a stroll on one of the pristine beaches or relaxing at White Point Gardens, the city’s waterfront park, folks of all ages can enjoy all the happenings this town has to offer. Forget dieting. It’s a foodie’s paradise. Here you’ll find the freshest seafood and local cuisine and top chefs from around the country. Charlestown is also home to an excellent higher learning institution, the College of Charleston which draws students not only all over the country, but worldwide as well.

Charleston has two rivers that frame its downtown and the harbor found here is one of largest cargo seaports on the East Coast.  For boaters, there are two deepwater marinas off the Intracoastal Waterway, The Isle of Palms Marina and St. Johns Yacht Harbor which gives easy ocean access.  For cultural enrichment there is Charleston’s Museum Mile with multiple museums and historic sites.  The Gibbes Museum of Art and Charleston Museum feature Low Country history while The Confederate Museum and Old Slave Museum provide historical recounts of living in the South. There is also Charleston’s Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation and Middleton Place which have beautiful gardens to admire.  The North Charleston Performing Arts Center hosts concerts and sporting events and the Opera Charleston provides world-class entertainment. Charleston is America’s list and ours of “Best Places to Live in the South.”

GREENVILLE - SOUTH CAROLINA

One of the fastest growing college towns and a great place to retire is the city of Greenville, South Carolina.  The beautiful surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains make this region a popular spot for those who love outdoor activities.  The intellectually chic town is home to The Swamp Rabbit Trail and amazing mountain fed lakes at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There are 3 lakes to enjoy in the region, Lake Keowee, Lake Jocassee and Lake Hartwell.  Whether it’s hiking, fishing or boating there is plenty of things to do in the Upstate. Named as one of the best art towns by Southern Living Magazine, Greenville is home to numerous art galleries, studios, lifelong learning opportunities and music festivals.  The city has a rich history from civil war times and the revitalized downtown is “happening” with excellent restaurants lined along the Reedy River.  For career minded adults and college grads, there are excellent businesses based in Greenville, the likes of BMW, General Electric and Michelin Tire.  The economy is booming as more than 44 companies expanded or relocated to Greenville in 2010.

There are two outstanding universities found in Greenville, Furman University and Clemson University.  Furman University is a private, coeducational liberal arts college founded in 1826.  Furman is considered South Carolina’s oldest and “most selective” private institution in the region.  Furman sits on a 750-acre campus and was named for Richard Furman of Charleston who was a prominent minister and president of the Triennial Convention which was the first Baptist convention in America.  There are approximately 2,700 undergraduate students representing 46 states and 53 foreign countries.  In 1933, students from the neighboring Greenville Women’s College began attending classes with Furman students.  Shortly thereafter, the 2 schools merged to form the present institution.  The first school building from downtown Greenville is still present today at the campus.

Clemson University is an American public, coeducational, land-grant and sea-grant research university located in Clemson, South Carolina.  Founded in 1889, the highly acclaimed Clemson University consists of 6 colleges and according to US News and World Report Clemson ranks 20th among all national public universities.  As of 2014, Clemson enrolled a total of 17,260 undergraduate students for the fall semester and 4,597 graduate students.  There is an excellent student/faculty ratio of 16:1 and the cost of in-state tuition is about $13,054.  Out-of-state tuition is $30,488 which makes a good reason for Boomers with college kids to seek housing in this picturesque region. Homes in Greenville average around $130,000.

For retirees, The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is both at Furman and Clemson University.  There are 11 course offerings at Furman and Clemson has 13 lifelong learning courses to choose from. Greenville is also a culturally rich city. The Peace Center for the Performing Arts is architecturally appealing and hosts a variety of performances annually.  The Greenville Country Art Museum features artwork from Andrew Wyeth and Jasper Johns and there is also the Museum and Gallery at Heritage Green, the Upcountry History Museum and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate. With all the amenities and the prestigious universities found in Greenville, it is clearly one of the best college towns in the south.

KNOXVILLE - TENNESSEE

Pet lovers will fall in love with Knoxville Tennessee located in the Appalachian Valley.  Known as the Most Dog Friendly City, it is also nicknamed the “Lakeway to the Smokies” due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains. Folks drawn to a high quality of life in Eastern Tennessee will find beautiful properties on Tellico Lake, Fort Loudoun Lake and Norris Lake.  Forbes Magazine ranked Knoxville on the list of the Top 25 Best Bang for the Buck Cities which appeals to parents raising college-aged children and retirees on fixed incomes. Downtown residents and visitors can enjoy the 26 story bronze glass Sunsphere icon which accessorizes the city built as the symbol for the 1982 World’s Fair.  The University of Tennessee offers affordability and an excellent education for youngsters pursuing a rewarding and challenging career.

Since Knoxville is home to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, there is ample employment for hundreds of scientists and Ph.D’s and the town is full of highly educated individuals.  As such, culture is rich here offering ballet, opera and theatrical performances.  Knoxville also draws hundreds of thousands of people to attend their annual indoor and outdoor festivals held year round and provides entertainment for the whole family.  During football season at the University of Tennessee, the town is active with “Vols” fans celebrating with tailgate parties and collegiate team gatherings.  There are more than 15 theaters and staging companies in Knoxville with the Bijou Theatre being the largest.  There is also the Clayton Center for the Arts, a world class Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as well as the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.  The Knoxville Museum of Art features rotating exhibits, live musical performances and educational classes and The Art Gallery Market showcases original art and crafts from local artists. The energy in Knoxville is enthusiastic and makes it one of the best college towns in Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee (UT) is one of the oldest universities west of the Eastern Continental Divide and is the only university in the nation to have 3 presidential papers of all U.S. presidents from Tennessee, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson.  In 1794, 2 years before Tennessee became a state, the University of Tennessee was chartered as Blount College.  The all-male non-sectarian college struggled for 13 years with a small student body and staff.  UT was re-chartered in 1807 as East Tennessee College and in 1809 when the first president of the college, Samuel Carrick died the school was closed until 1820.  Thomas Jefferson recommended that the college relocate and in 1826 the trustees explored “Barbara Hill” known simply today as “The Hill” and in 1828, the college was relocated.  UT is recognized as the oldest “religiously non-affiliated institution of higher learning” west of the Appalachian Divide.  During World War II, UT was one of 131 colleges nationally that participated in the V-12 Navy College Training Program offering students a path to a Navy commission.  Today, UT is one of the top rated universities in the country.  UT has 9 undergraduate colleges and 11 graduate colleges and hosts almost 28,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries.

Boomers can also enjoy educational enrichment in Knoxville with lifelong learning courses.  The Knoxville Museum of Art offers art classes, the Knoxville Ballet School offers adult ballet and outdoor lovers can sign up for the Smoky Mountain Field School which is part of UT.  With outdoor hikes and workshops related to the Great Smoky Mountains, staying healthy and enjoying the beautiful scenery is a top reason why retirees are choosing Knoxville, one of the best college towns to live.  The University of Tennessee’s Seniors for Creative Learning provides classes and social events for folks over 55 with courses in wellness, history, the arts and technology.  Enjoying the great outdoors is a deliberate lifestyle choice for active retirees and their families with more than 84 parts and 41 miles of greenways. The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is a free botanical garden for residents and tourists. With 3 lakes to choose from, boaters and anglers can enjoy the fresh water mountain-fed lakes found here.  Active students can enjoy rowing on the Tennessee River that runs through downtown.  With a wide array of shopping venues and over 34 restaurants to choose from, it’s no wonder Knoxville is on the list of the best places to live in the south.  Homes here average around $150k and provide retirees a lavish lifestyle on affordable budget.

NASHVILLE - TENNESSEE

The college town on our list can be found in the Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.  With a rich music and art scene, Nashville has become one of the best college towns in the America.  Nashville is the home to several recording studios and distribution centers and was rated the Best Music Scene by Rolling Stone Magazine.  Students and parents have the choice to attend a wide array of music concerts, art exhibitions, theatre performances and festivals that take place downtown and in the suburbs of the city year round.  It has been estimated that over 10 million people visit Nashville annually.  Honky Tonk Row on Broadway provides endless free entertainment as musicians hoping to gain national recognition showcase their talent to local bars and restaurants along main street. The city also has an NFL football team, the Tennessee Titans and a hockey team with the NHL the Predators to keep young and old sports fans entertained year round.  In the center of the city, the Cumberland River makes its course and adds a beautiful backdrop for both residents and visitors.  The river leads to 2 scenic lakes, the Old Hickory Lake and the J. Percy Priest Reservoir and provides additional entertainment for folks living in the region.  In addition to all the cultural events annually, there are over 1,000 eateries and Nashville is a pet friendly city with 3 dog parks in Nashville.  Nicknamed the “Buckle of the Bible Belt”, Nashville has over 700 places of worship in the area.  This progressive town also built Greenways which are linear parks and trails connecting Nashville neighborhoods, shopping and restaurants along scenic rivers, streams and roadways.  Vanderbilt University is found in Nashville and it is a premiere educational facility which attracts students from around the world.

Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt University is a private research university named in honor of shipping and rail magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt who gave the school its initial $1 million endowment to help fund research which would help heal the sectional wounds inflicted by the Civil War.  Vanderbilt enrolls approximately 12,000 students from all 50 U.S. states and over 90 foreign countries in 4 undergraduate and 6 graduate and professional schools.  There are several research centers and institutes that are affiliated with the university and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center is the only Level I trauma center in Middle Tennessee.  There is also an off-campus observatory.  The campus encompasses 330 acres in the heart of Nashville located only 1.5 miles from downtown which adds to its appeal to young adults.  For those over the age of 50, Vanderbilt offers exciting lifelong learning courses designed by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offering studies in music appreciation, history, social issues and classes in the arts. Folks are super friendly in Nashville. To stay socially active, there are 25 Meetup groups the Music City which are an excellent resource for meeting new friends and sharing common interests.

For Baby Boomers who love music and art, Nashville is a must. In addition to the country legends that perform at The Grand Ole Opry House, The Nashville Symphony, The Nashville Opera, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts and The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery provide impressive performances and exhibits for those interested in cultural enrichment.  For music lovers with college aged kids, Nashville is the best place to live in the south.

ORLANDO - FLORIDA 

The next city that made our list is the popular vacation destination of Orlando, Florida listed as “America’s Most Visited Cities” by Forbes Magazine in 2009 and as the 4th most popular city that Americans want to live by The Pewter Institute.  With warm memories of their childhoods at Disney, it’s no wonder students and their families choose the best college town of Orlando for retirement. Orlando does well at carving a name for itself. The Orlando Sentinel is the 2nd largest newspaper media circulated in Florida and The University of Central Florida is the second largest college campus in the country. With over 59 million visitors in 2013, Disney brought in 33 billion dollars and helps make Orlando a thriving city by a strong economy.

Orlando has plenty on the “to do” list including Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and waters parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.  Universal Studios and the Island of Adventures round out the endless options folks will find in Orlando. Orlando also has the 7th largest technology park in the country and hosts the world’s largest model and simulation conference known as I/ITEC (Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference).  In addition to the theme parks, Orlando also is culturally enriched with the Central Florida Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Mad Cow Theatre and The Bob Carr Performing Arts Center which features local artists performing original plays and Broadway shows.  

The University of Central Florida (UCF) located in Orlando, Florida is a metropolitan public research university. It’s a member institution of the State University System of Florida and is the largest university in the United States based on undergraduate enrollment and the country’s 2nd largest by total enrollment. UCF was founded in 1963 by the Florida Legislature and opened as Florida Technological University with the mission of training personnel to support the U.S. space program at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast. When the academic scope expanded beyond engineering and technology, “Florida Tech” was renamed The University of Central Florida in 1978. The initial enrollment was 1,948 and as of 2014 the number of students attending the university had risen to over 60,000.  UCF has a very diverse student population comprising 140 countries and more than 40 states.  Most students reside at the university’s 1,415 acre main campus located 13 miles from downtown Orlando.  UCF offers over 200 degree options through its thirteen colleges and twelve satellite campuses throughout Central Florida.  In 2015, UCF was ranked as the 3rd best “up-and-coming” national university and UCF was ranked 97th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report.  In 2014, UCF was also rated one of the “50 Best Value Public Universities” by USA Today and is a great value for Boomers with college-aged children.

For retirees opting to live in Orlando, lifelong learning courses are offered at multiple locations including the UCF College of Arts and Humanities.  The Full Sail University and Florida Interactive Academy specialize in careers in the entertainment industry.  Orlando is a great value for higher education making it a best college town for those who love warm weather and 24/7 family fun.

SARASOTA - FLORIDA

Sarasota, Florida is home to the most beautiful beaches in USA. Surrounded by the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and fine white sandy beaches, this “piece of paradise” is the perfect place to retire. There are multiple beaches found in Sarasota including the #1 beach on Siesta Key which has been named the Best Beach in America multiple times.  Each beach found here has a distinctive personality and there are several choices including Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Casey Key and Lido Key.  The winter weather is ideal and a perfect place for Boomers to retire to escape harsh winters. Sarasota is also considered one of the Best Art Towns in Florida and it is highly cultural due to the affluence and age of its residents.  With unique boutiques, fabulous restaurants, Broadway performances, opera and professional ballet, St. Armand’s Circle on Lido Key is the place to be. It is here in paradise that ocean dwellers find The University of South Florida.

The University of South Florida (USF) was founded in 1956 and is a member institution of the State University System of Florida and a public research university located in Tampa.  USF is the 4th largest public university in the state of Florida with enrollment of 48,373 as of the 2014-2015 academic year.  The USF system is made up of 3 institutions:  USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee.  There are 14 colleges that offer more than 80 undergraduate majors and more than 130 graduate, specialist and doctoral-level degree programs.  It is rated in the top tier of research universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and in the 2011 ranking of the Intellectual Property Owners Association USF was ranked 10th among all universities worldwide in the number of US patents granted.  It also ranks in the top 100 best public schools in the 2014 Best Colleges edition of U.S. News & World Report and ranks among the nation’s 50 best in graduate school rankings.

For retirees, lifelong learning courses are offered at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) based out of the University of South Florida in Tampa. There are more than 80 lifelong learning classes, lectures and educational day trips to choose from. Designed for adults over 50, the courses include astronomy, history, botany, dance, humanities and intermediate computer classes to name a few.

Sarasota is home to the world-class Sarasota Orchestra, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Asolo Repertory and the Florida Studio Theatre which offers musical and drama venues weekly.  The 1926 Sarasota Opera House is an impressive art deco building that houses many performances annually.  The Sarasota Ballet is superb and runs its season October through May.  For art lovers, there are multiple galleries located at St. Armand’s Circle on Lido Key.  With beautiful beaches, scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico and all the amazing cultural events, Sarasota is one of the best college towns in the south for Boomers.

SAVANNAH - GEORGIA

Another choice location for living the good life after retirement is the historic southern town of Savannah, Georgia. It’s a city filled with history and personality. A place of cobblestone streets and 22 park-like squares in the heart of downtown.  In 2012, Forbes magazine named Savannah as one of the Best Cities to Retire In and Money Magazine rated it one of the Top 100 Places to Retire. What makes it special? Savannah combines rich history, brand label shopping, eclectic restaurants and waterfront neighborhoods along the Savannah River.  Even magnate Henry Ford chose Savannah for his winter getaway.  With streets lined with massive oak trees draped with Spanish moss and antebellum homes, a walk along the city’s Riverfront after an evening concert attracts individuals from all over the country. It is here that ambitious art students flock to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Known as one of the best art towns in Georgia, those seeking a career in art and design can attend the largest and best art school in the county, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). There is plenty to do in the Hostess City, for both young adults and parents. Southern comfort foods, jazz and blues, and over 200 festivals take place annually in downtown Savannah.  The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade is a premier event annually. The Telfair Museums add culture to the formula with 3 art museums; the Telfair Academy has historic art, the Owens-Thomas House is a preserved mansion that still displays slave quarters, and the Jepson Center which is an interactive children’s museum.

The Savannah College of Art and Design was founded in 1978 and is a private, nonprofit university with worldwide locations.  In addition to Savannah, there is a SCAD in Atlanta, Georgia, a degree-granting location in Hong Kong and a study abroad program in Lacoste, France. There are more than 11,000 students enrolled at the university from the United States and around the world with 14% of the student population from overseas.  In 2003, SCAD launched an online learning program that U.S. News and World Report ranks among the best for bachelor’s programs in the nation.  In 2005 the university opened its location in Atlanta that merged with the Atlanta College of Art.  The SCAD then opened a Hong Kong location in September of 2010.  The college is known for its lectures, performances and film screenings at two historic theaters its owns, the Trustee Theater and the Lucas Theatre for the Arts where the Savannah Film Festival is held in late October/early November drawing nearly 40,000 attendees each year.  Another annual event held each April is the Sidewalk Arts Festival in downtown Forsyth Park where there is a chalk-drawing competition. The Sands Arts Festival which is held every spring on the beaches of nearby Tybee Island involving sand sculptures, sand castles and wind sculpture competitions.

For Baby Boomers living in Savannah, the Armstrong Atlantic State University offers lifelong living courses under its Road Scholar/Elderhostel program which provides in-depth lectures, field trips and interesting cultural events. A new trend unfolding with Boomers are cooking classes and there is no better place than in Savannah. Cooking schools are scattered all throughout the city. There is also 80 miles of coastline and barriers islands that offer lots of time to explore the beautiful undeveloped beaches found here.  The islands offer plenty of southern food choices, golf, fishing and boating.  With so much to offer its residents and students, Savannah is clearly one of the best places to live in the South at retirement.

WILMINGTON - NORTH CAROLINA

The last city on our list is hardly in last place. It’s the historical town of Wilmington, North Carolina where young adults and parents can enjoy a blend of the “old and new” with access to some of the best North Carolina beaches in the state. Beaches here include Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach.  This quaint town (often compared to London, England) has been named one of the 100 Best Art Towns in America and the town reflects this passion with displays of artwork on buildings and throughout the 39 galleries and store fronts downtown.  The Cameron Art Museum (CAM) offers art classes for all ages and exhibits from emerging artists are inspirational to say the least. The Bellamy Mansion of History and Design also hosts exhibits and community events as well.  Culturally, people can enjoy symphony orchestras, theatre at The Thalian Center for performing arts where over 400 events take place annually and street festivals take place year round. Performing venues in the city include By Chance Productions, Opera House Theatre, Willis Richardson Players, Theatre Exchange and the Stageworks Youth Theatre for enhancing cultural enrichment.  It’s no surprise to us that Money Magazine named Wilmington as the “Best City to Live in North Carolina”. The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is located here and offers a great program for ambitious students.

Historically UNCW opened its doors on September 4, 1946 as Wilmington College and operated as a junior college.  In 1963 the college became a senior college and allowed the school to operate a four-year curriculum with the ability to offer bachelor’s degrees.  In 1969, the name of the school was changed to University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) and became the fifth campus of the University of North Carolina system.  Programming was again expanded in 1977 when UNCW was authorized to offer graduate programming at the master’s level.  Today, over 14,000 students are enrolled and with nearly 500 full-time faculty members, a quality education is assured for all who attend.  There are 52 bachelor degrees to choose from and 36 masters and doctoral degrees in marine biology, educational leadership and administration.  With close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the university has a highly ranked marine science program which draws a lot of “seaworthy” students.  Students attending UNCW can enjoy the Student Recreation Center built in 2000 and expanded in 2012 which features state of the art exercise equipment, 3 basketball courts, exercise classes, an indoor climbing wall and an indoor running track.  The Lumina Theater features 360 stadium seats with a 15’ x 30’ screen and Dolby Digital surround sound to enjoy blockbusters, independents, international films as well as students films throughout the year.  Boomers can enjoy programming offered for adults over age 50 at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) found at UNCW.  Courses include academic, recreational sports, international travel and lecture series.  The Cape Fear Community College offers non-credited courses as well including nautical navigation, art classes, quilting and airplane flight instructions. 

For health enthusiasts, The Riverfront Farmer’s Market provides fresh produce from local farmers. It’s one of the best farmers markets in the south and is open April through December along the Cape Fear River.  All of these accolades and more make Wilmington a best place to live in the South.

Baby Boomers seeking the perfect place to retire with opportunities to experience lifelong learning would be smart to start with the best college towns in the south. We hope you found our list helpful and welcome your comments. 

 

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