Ann Arbor, Mich.
A small but cosmopolitan town, rich in culture but relatively inexpensive.

Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, is small enough to be friendly but cosmopolitan enough to satisfy retirees like Marina Brown, 65. A Brazilian who moved here in 1989 with her husband Richard, 68, she's found it easy to continue her political and cultural pursuits.

With its 38,000 students and Gothic architecture, the university is at the center of the city's cultural life, from plays at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater to live music at The Ark. Home games of the school's sports teams are marquee events. And, jokes Helen Thomas (class of '55), "if you support the teams, you can be an alum," wherever you went to school.

There's more to Ann Arbor than reliving your college days. The world-class Fisher Theatre in Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Arts are less than an hour's drive away. A host of beautiful lakes and beaches are even closer. If you want more than Ann Arbor's 147 parks, you can join the Bicycle Touring Society or the Ski Club, which organize safe and reasonably priced trips throughout the state.

Real estate prices have been escalating in Ann Arbor but are still not exorbitant. These days a three-bedroom home goes for around $210,000. Barbara Olsen-Forest, 81, pays $1,300 a month for her large condo. Property taxes are based on a complex scheme of valuations that have been known to make homeowners reach for the Advil; this year the tax on a typical three-bedroom house is expected to be about $4,755.

Most living costs are manageable. The state income tax is a flat 4 percent, sales tax is 6 percent, traffic tickets can be paid for under $10, and there's no shortage of restaurants where a full breakfast or hearty lunch will barely break the $5 mark. Michigan also offers several discount-drug plans for seniors.

Still, these are just details. People move to Ann Arbor, says Thomas, because "they fall in love with the city. It's a city of smart people, and they attract more smart people, so you're not going to be bored."

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