Best places to retire
We found the best places in the country to make your retirement fantasy a reality.
By Ellen Florian Kratz, FORTUNE writer

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Once upon a time, retirement meant one thing: uprooting yourself to a warm locale where crime was low and doctors were abundant, and then living happily ever after playing bridge and bacci ball.

But over the years, those well-worn roads to the homogenized retirement communities in Florida and Arizona have sprouted several less traveled by-trails. "A lot of boomers are striking out in unique paths," says author David Savageau, who is finishing up his sixth edition of "Retirement Places Rated." "They don't want terry cloth or line dancing or early bird specials."

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They certainly don't, judging from the retirees FORTUNE spoke to. So what do they want? A beautiful and vibrant destination that offers the opportunity to pursue the things they were too busy to do while they were working.

Maybe you've always wanted to study Shakespeare. Or master the holes of a world-famous golf course. Perhaps perfecting your fly-fishing cast tops your list of retirement pursuits. Or maybe you dream of going someplace where the surf is up - but taxes aren't.

"There's really no best place," says John Howells, author of "Where to Retire." "What's wonderful for one person might be dreadful for another. It all depends on your interests."

Whatever your fixation, we found the best place in the country to make your retirement fantasy a reality.

From the classic beach town to a mountain paradise, here are five idyllic spots that are perfect for the second act of your life.

Reporter associates: Jia Lynn Yang and Regina Castro Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.