Charleston, SC vs. Savannah, GA – How to Decide
For those researching retirement in the southeast, the choice often comes down between retiring in Charleson or retiring in Savannah. Both of these historic coastal cities offer the amenities of larger metropolitan areas, but with a smaller town feel and a relatively lower cost of living.
Lots of Visitors – the sames things that make Savannah and Charleston such great places to live, also make them incredibly popular with tourists as well. Historic buildings, amazing restaurants, nearby beaches and vibrant art scenes keep both cities consistently ranked among the best vacation destinations in the world.
Comfortable Weather – not only are there plenty of reasons to get out and enjoy the sights of Charleston and Savannah, there’s also more days during the year to do it thanks to a moderate climate. It’s pretty normal for temperatures to reach at least 60 degrees in the dead of winter, and the spring and fall are both very pleasant.
Arts and Culture – both Charleston and Savannah are to known to be the arts epicenter for their respective states. From art galleries and architecture to performing arts and festivals, these cities are overflowing with enough culture to keep art lovers busy year-round.
Savannah is home to the largest art school in the country, the Savannah College of Art and Design (known as SCAD) where students, as well as retirees and other lifelong learners, enjoy an extensive line up of art and design classes. The city also boasts the Telfair Museums, which consists of three art museums: Telfair Academy which houses historic art, Owens-Thomas House, a preserved mansion, and the Jepson Center (art-zee-um) interative children's museum. There are also more than 200 festivals that take place year round in downtown Savannah, including their famous St Patrick’s Day parade, which draws visitors from around the world.
Charleston’s downtown is home to many museums and historic sites, such as the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Charleston Museum showcasing priceless artifacts, and several historic homes open for tours. History lovers will also enjoy the beautifully preserved structures and magnificent gardens of Charleston’s Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation, and Middleton Place. For live performances, residents have several options, including the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, Opera Charleston, and dozens of smaller theaters and music venues. Charleston is also home to the wildly popular popular Spoletto Festival USA, and annual arts festival in late May that brings world-class performers into town for intimate performances.
Thanks to a tremendous amount of national attention and a growing number of housing developments over the last few years, Charleston has surpassed Savannah in terms of the number of retirees relocating there. The median age in Charleston is approximately 2.2 years older. However, thanks to a larger area, Charleston is actually less crowded, with a 15 percent less-dense population than Savannah.
Lifestyle and Recreation
If living near the beach or having easy access is a big factor in your decision, Charleston will be your better bet. While Savannah has nearby Tybee Island as its closest and most popular beach, Charleston has Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island, Folly Beach and Kiawah Island, all within a 45-minute drive.
Both South Carolina and Georgia provide free tuition for seniors (in SC it’s 60+, and in GA it’s 65+), and Charleston and Savannah give retirees multiple ways to take advantage of those free learning opportunities. In the heart of downtown, the College of Charleston offers more than 100 degree seeking courses in liberal arts and sciences, and there are also great courses offered at the community colleges in the area. Savannah is home to a Georgia Tech satellite campus that offers professional education programs that don’t have minimum requirements or other prerequisites for enrollment. Also, Armstrong Atlantic State University has a Road Scholar/Elderhostel program in Savannah offering in-depth lectures, fascinating field trips, and cultural experiences.
While neither city has the number of golf courses of nearby coastal cities Hilton Head Island or Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Savannah provide plenty of options for golfers. Just south of Charleston is Kiawah Island, home of the famous Ocean Course, which has hosted the Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open in recent years.
Medical and Heathcare
Residents in both cities have excellent access to quality medical care with a mix of large academic medical centers and high-quality smaller, more specialized hospitals. However, people who live in and around Charleston have more choices when it comes to both facilities and networks of specialists.
Savannah is home to Memorial University Medical Center, an award-winning 610-bed academic medical center that serves southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina. In addition, St. Joseph’s/Candler’s, with five Centers of Excellence, also has a large presence in the city.
Located in downtown Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is a 700-bed teaching hospital that has been consistently recognized as one of the country’s top medical schools. In 2009, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health “One of America’s Best Hospitals” in seven specialty areas, with nearly 300 MUSC Health physicians making the prestigious Best Doctors in America list.
In addition, The Roper Hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, and Roper St. Francis Hospital Mount Pleasant have more than 90 medical facilities and affiliated doctors in the area, and is one of the most sophisticated medical facilities in the region.
Cost of Living and Housing Options
On average, Savannah’s cost of living is approximately 20% lower than Charleston, and housing costs are approximately 40% lower. However, keep in mind this is an average. When it comes to master-planned communities, the areas are much closer in terms of price and type of housing. For instance, The Landings in Savannah is comparable to Nexton, located just outside of Charleston in Summerville. Charleston does have more high-end options, including oceanfront and waterfront homes on the surrounding islands like Kiawah Island and Daniel Island.
Some of our favorite Charleston communities to check out include:
Some of our favorite Savannah communities to check out include:
If you’re searching for the best place to retire, both Charleston and Savannah’s mild winters and world-class amenities – combined with an abundance of master-planned communities and resorts make them excellent options. Visit these coastal towns and discover for yourself if Charleston or Savannah is the right retirement destination for you.
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