The 15 Best Places to Live & Retire in Minnesota

The Best Places to Retire in Minnesota

When it comes to retirement living, Minnesota may not be the first place that comes to mind. Each year seniors flock to warmer parts of the country, but for the hardy people who appreciate the beauty of all four seasons, no place beats Minnesota.

Often referred to as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Minnesota is a dream for retired hikers, birders, anglers, hunters and boaters. With so many opportunities for outdoor recreation, it’s a great place to pursue wellness, and the healthcare system is top-notch.

In 2019 AARP ranked Minnesota #4 in its list of healthiest states for seniors and #1 in health outcomes. It also tops the list in home health care workers per capita for adults 75 and older.

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Bordering Canada and the Great Lakes is a state fondly dubbed as the “North Star State” and “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The state has a lot of lakes sprawled across its more than 86,000 square mile area. In a comprehensive study of cities, Minnesota is the number one state for raising a family because of its high median income, affordable cost of living and exceptional education services…

The cost of living in Minnesota varies by location and is highest in its large metro areas, but on the whole, it compares well to the coasts and to big cities. Housing costs follow a similar pattern. Of Minnesota adults age 65 and older, 78 percent own their own homes.

Above all, Minnesota is a neighborly place. Over a third of Minnesotans over 65 report that they’ve volunteered in the past month (the fourth highest rate in the nation), and 74 percent say they’ve helped or been helped by a neighbor in the past year. “Minnesota Nice” is a way of life.

Each community in Minnesota has its own personality, and here we will introduce you to 15 of the best options for Living & retiring in the North Star State.

1. Rochester, MN

Rochester is a small city with a big reputation. Home to around 119,000 people, it is known worldwide as the home of the Mayo Clinic, one of the foremost medical centers in the country. A public-private initiative called Destination Medical Center aims to build on that reputation, investing $5 billion over two decades into public infrastructure and planning.

While Rochester is expected to grow in the coming years, its housing costs remain competitive with other small cities in the state, and the cost of living is moderate. It’s a safe place, too, with crime rates far below the national average. Plenty of parks and natural areas round out the lifestyle.

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2. Wayzata MN

If a stunning home is part of your retirement plan, you may find your future neighborhood in Wayzata. Hugging the shore of Wayzata Bay, part of Lake Minnetonka and its network of lakes, Wayzata is one of the most luxurious communities in the state. Boating is popular here, and the shopping and restaurant scene are big draws.

With median home sale prices in mid-2020 very nearly reaching $1 million, the emphasis here is on quality of life rather than affordability. One unique opportunity for residents and visitors is the annual Chilly Open, where participants not only play golf, but do yoga, take sled dog rides, and watch movies—all on the frozen lake.

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3. Edina, Minnesota

For those who value gracious living and amenities over bargains, Edina may be the perfect suburban community. Located southwest of Minneapolis, Edina features many attractive homes and tree-lined streets, plus upscale shopping and dining. Plenty of parks and golf courses offer recreational opportunities. As of mid-2020, the median sale price of homes in Edina was $552,500.

If your grandchildren are the best thing in your life, you’ll love Edinborough Park, an indoor park with a huge playground and pool, plus an amphitheater and fitness area. Lake Cornelia provides a scenic place for enjoyment on nice days.

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4. Minnetonka, MN

Minnetonka is a lakeside town (Lake Minnetonka is among the most popular recreational lakes in the area) and a suburb west of Minneapolis, a “best of both worlds” location for retirees who want to be near the city but not in it. About 54,000 people make their home here.

Compared to Minneapolis, Minnetonka has lower population density, lower crime levels but higher housing costs. Healthcare offerings in the area are plentiful and high in quality. Retirees with time on their hands will find much to enjoy in the vicinity of the ninth largest lake in the state.

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5. Duluth, MN

You can’t get much farther from balmy beaches than Duluth in winter, but if you have a soft spot for snow, you’ll love Duluth. Summers here are gorgeous along Lake Superior, and the city has embraced its exceptional winters by building a robust maze of skywalks.

For retirees with ready to embrace a more leisurely pace, long afternoons at the Canal Park shipping canal, watching the aerial lift bridge go up and down and the massive ships arrive and depart, can be a satisfying daily pastime.

If you’re up for a drive, you can explore the coast of Lake Superior and the lush Northwoods. Add to that affordable home prices and good healthcare and you’ve found a great place to settle in and savor your surroundings.

6. New Prague, MN

A small town of just over 8,000 southwest of the Twin Cities, New Prague is a cozy place to retire. It was initially built by Czech immigrants in the mid-1800s, and hints of its Bohemian history are still present today.

The town sits across the border between Scott County and Le Sueur County, the latter of which has a lower average housing cost and cost of living. From New Prague, it’s an easy drive to any of the conveniences and amenities available in the Twin Cities, including the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport, which is less than an hour away.

The 15 Best Places to Live & Retire in Minnesota

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7. Saint Paul, Minnesota

Not everyone is looking for a slower pace in retirement. If you crave the excitement of the city—or if you rely on its conveniences, such as public transportation and access to goods and services that are hard to access in a small town—Saint Paul may provide your ideal retirement location.

The smaller of the Twin Cities, with a population around 308,000, Saint Paul also has a lower median home sale value ($245,000 as of mid-2020, versus $290,000 in Minneapolis).

Healthcare services in the metro area are plentiful and high in quality. Two of U.S. News and World Report’s top 10 hospitals in the state are located in St. Paul, and the location is convenient for healthcare throughout the metro area as well as Mayo Clinic.

St. Paul has plenty to keep you busy, from the Science Museum of Minnesota to the Minnesota History Center, historic buildings and churches like the Cathedral of Saint Paul, and theaters and performance centers. Buses and light rail make it easy to get where you need to go.

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8. Mankato, MN

Mankato, Minnesota, City Mankato, MN

Kiplinger recently named Mankato among its 50 Best Places to Retire in the U.S. The economy is growing quickly in this small city of about 43,000, but the cost of living is still low—below the national average for retirees. The city is investing in revitalization, improving the quality of the downtown experience, and plans to add more housing and public recreation in coming years.

The mid-2020 median home sale price in Mankato was $247,000. The area is served by Mayo Clinic Health System. The town has plenty to offer visiting family, from the Sibley Park Zoo to Minnesota State Park, as well as a popular children’s museum.

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9. Lakeville, MN

Lakeville, Minnesota; city of Lakeville, MN

South of Saint Paul by about 20 minutes, Lakeville is a little further out and a little more laid-back. The median home sale price as of mid-2020 was $382,000, reflecting a higher proportion of single-family homes. About 67,000 people make their homes here.

True to its name, Lakeville winds around multiple lakes, the largest of which are Lake Marion and Orchard Lake. Along with parks and conservancies, these bodies of water provide ample space for outdoor recreation. Lakeville is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area, with a strong local economy.

The 15 Best Places to Live & Retire in Minnesota

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10. Shoreview, MN

Shoreview, Minnesota, Shoreview city MN

The small city of Shoreview (population 68,462) ranks highly for quality of life. Close enough to the Twin Cities for easy access to cultural events, transportation and top-notch healthcare, Shoreview is an attractive community situated among beautiful lakes and parks.

While its outdoor areas are the biggest draw, the Shoreview Community Center is popular for its fitness center, indoor waterpark and playground—great for grandkids.

It’s not the least expensive place in Minnesota—this county (which includes St. Paul) has a median home price around $253,000—but it offers the comforts of a small town and is extremely low in crime. Housing costs compare favorably to Hennepin County (which includes Minneapolis).

11. Little Falls, Minnesota

Little Falls, Minnesota, City of Little Falls MN

For classic small-town Midwest living, Little Falls might be just the place. With fewer than 10,000 residents, it’s easy to stay on top of all that’s going on here. The cost of living here in Morrison County, a rural area north of Saint Cloud, is the lowest among the towns on our list, according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, and monthly housing costs are the lowest as well.

Little Falls, located on the Mississippi River and thus the border with Wisconsin, has a long history; it was among the first European settlements in Minnesota, established in 1848. Residents today can enjoy the same beautiful scenery and edge-of-the-Northwoods location that drew its earliest inhabitants.

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12. Northfield, Minnesota

Northfield, Minnesota, City of Northfield MN

The quaint town of Northfield, home to about 20,000 people, is located about a 45-minute drive south of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and less than an hour from the Mayo Clinic. For its small size, Northfield maintains a thriving culture.

Two high-quality liberal arts colleges (Saint Olaf and Carleton) are located here, providing music, theater and other opportunities for entertainment and learning.

You can live in Northfield for much less than in the Twin Cities; typical housing costs, for instance, are around $907 per month. Livability has ranked Northfield among its Best Small Towns, citing high levels of community involvement and many events and celebrations.

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13. St. Cloud, Minnesota

St. Cloud, Minnesota, City of St. Cloud MN

If all the conveniences of a city are part of your ideal retirement community, but you don’t need the traffic or high housing costs of a major metropolitan area, Saint Cloud may strike the right balance.

With a population of 308,000—the 10th largest in Minnesota—it’s the county seat of Stearns County, which has a cost of living index well below the Twin Cities’. The median sale price of homes in Saint Cloud as of mid-2020 was $179,000.

The city straddles the Mississippi River. While it’s located on the plains, a drive of one to two hours will take you to many of Minnesota’s most popular lakeside vacation destinations, such as East Gull Lake and Nisswa. Saint Cloud Hospital and the CentraCare healthcare system serve the area.

14. Plymouth, Minnesota

Plymouth, Minnesota, City of Plymouth MN

Plymouth is one of the larger suburbs of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, located west of Minneapolis and home to about 80,000 residents. It is separated from the city by Medicine Lake. Plymouth offers easy driving access to the metro area and other parts of the state.

Plymouth’s residents support the local natural environment and voters here have twice approved bond sales for the city to raise funds for purchasing parklands.

The 15 Best Places to Live & Retire in Minnesota

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15. Red Wing, Minnesota

Red Wing, Minnesota, City of Red Wing MN

Red Wing offers small-town Minnesota living against the backdrop of the Mississippi River. It’s an artsy place that’s fit for visitors, with art galleries, wineries, scenic parks and more. The Cannon Valley Trail is a popular attraction for residents and vacationers alike and winds through diverse and scenic ecosystems.

For those who live in Red Wing (about 16,000 of them), housing costs are moderate to low. The median sale price as of mid-2020 was $228,000. For healthcare beyond local offerings, Saint Paul and Rochester are less than an hour’s drive away.

Bonus: Experiencing the Magic of Minnesota Winter

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