Brunswick, Maine
A classic New England fishing village that's also home to Bowdoin, a 207-year-old, top-ranking liberal arts college, Brunswick is picturesque but not isolated, bustling but not hectic.

Independently owned restaurants, galleries and shops line "Maine Street," while the quiet coastline offers summer boating.

Festivals, farmer's markets and, in winter, skating take place on The Mall, a village green complete with a trolley-car hot dog stand.

A few miles down the road, a shopping center complex offers the necessary Wal-Mart and Starbucks. Bob Morrison, 76, and his wife Nesta, 71, chose to retire near Bob's alma mater because, having spent four decades in teaching jobs around the world, the couple wanted to remain in a learning environment.

They found it with Bowdoin Friends, a group offering full access to the college's lectures, concerts, readings and sporting events. Annual membership costs just $55 a couple. And like all Brunswick locals, they can audit classes for free.

These perks come at a price. January in Brunswick chills to an average low of 12°F, and the town typically sees 70 inches of snow each year. State income taxes top out at a steep 8.5 percent and sales tax another 5 percent, but the cost of living -- and real estate -- is significantly less than in comparable New England college hamlets.

Good medical care is nearby: The area has two hospitals, and Maine Medical Center, the state's premier facility, is 30 minutes away in Portland. "I think this town has everything you'd want," says Bob. "And if it doesn't," he says, "it's nearby."