8 Secretly Amazing Places to Retire in Iowa

Written by Kristen Holder
Published: September 20, 2023
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Iowa doesn’t have a reputation as a retirement state even with its affordability. Despite this, there are 8 secretly amazing places to retire in Iowa. We’ll check out these locales and discuss what makes them special now.

8 Secretly Amazing Places to Retire in Iowa
Iowa’s lower cost of living and affordable housing make it a good place to retire.

1. City of Estherville: Rural Retirement With an Excellent Cost of Living

All major amenities are found in town in Estherville, Iowa.

All major amenities are found in town in Estherville, Iowa.

©SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com

Estherville offers affordable housing and services for seniors including volunteer organizations and Meals on Wheels. Access to visiting home nurses and elder care facilities is also available within the community. There is an inclusive indoor activity center that offers swimming, a walking track, and tons of specialized classes in an environment protected from the elements. 

Estherville is a small community of less than 7000 people which makes it easy to navigate. It has a rural feel, and the Des Moines River runs through the western side of town. Despite its rural ambiance, there is still a grocery store and other amenities in town so residents don’t have to leave the area often.

2. City of Spirit Lake: Amazing Scenery for Active Retirees in Iowa

The City of Spirit Lake is in the Iowa Great Lakes region.

The City of Spirit Lake is in the Iowa Great Lakes region.

©Karl Kraut/Shutterstock.com

Iowa’s Spirit Lake is right in the middle of an area called the Iowa Great Lakes. The Iowa Great Lakes are 7 naturally formed lakes with the largest being Big Spirit Lake. This means that lots of opportunities for water recreation exist in the immediate area making Spirit Lake a great place for outdoor enthusiasts and boaters.

Spirit Lake is less than 15 minutes from the Minnesota border on the northwest side of the state. It’s approximately 2 and a half hours northwest of Des Moines and about 3 hours southwest of Minneapolis. While there are plenty of amenities in town because it attracts tourists, under 6 thousand people call the city home.

It offers several residential retirement communities and rental options. However, because Spirit Lake is so scenic, the cost of living is higher than elsewhere in Iowa. Despite this, it’s a popular choice for retirees because of the plethora of things to do in the surrounding area.

3. City of Mount Vernon: Secretly Amazing College Town for Retirees

Mount Vernon in Iowa is a college town with a sizeable retiree population.

Mount Vernon in Iowa is a college town with a sizeable retiree population.

©SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com

Mount Vernon, Iowa, is about 20 minutes southeast of Cedar Rapids in Eastern Iowa. It’s full of old architectural features including small Cornell College with mostly brick buildings that are pretty to drive by when taking in the sights around town.

Cornell College is a private liberal arts college that serves about 1,000 undergraduate students. Despite this, the town has a slow pace, well-manicured parks, and a cute historic downtown full of restaurants and shops. 

There are about 4500 total residents in Mount Vernon, so college kids and teachers make up a sizeable portion of the population. Because the school plays such a central role in the city, Mount Vernon’s education level is higher than most other places in the state of Iowa. Despite all of the college kids, around 10 percent of the population is retirement age and there are comprehensive facilities in the city prepared to help aging seniors.

4. City of Pella: Retire Around Tourists and College Kids for Entertainment

Pella is a Dutch-inspired town with an annual tulip festival.

Pella is a Dutch-inspired town with an annual tulip festival.

©Phil Roeder / Flickr – License

The City of Pella is a popular tourist destination in the state with a permanent population of about 10 and a half thousand residents. It was originally founded by Dutch immigrants, and an annual tulip festival held in town attracts large crowds every year. There is a Dutch-inspired square in town with a canal, and the city has the largest operating grain windmill in the United States.

Approximately 1000 undergraduate students attend Central College located in Pella. This means that the town not only has a lively tourist-based Dutch theme, but it feels like a college town. It’s a great choice for seniors who want the charm of a small city while also having the amenities associated with collegiate and cultural activities.

5. Sac City: A Secretly Happy and Self-Sufficient Community

Sac City is recognized for its citizen satisfaction by Iowa State University.

Sac City is recognized for its citizen satisfaction by Iowa State University.

©SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com

About 2000 people live in Sac City, Iowa. Despite its small size, the town has a nursing home, an assisted living facility, and an independent living community for seniors. It’s located in northwest Iowa.

It’s a recognized small community because it has a high level of citizen satisfaction according to a study done by Iowa State University. Everything needed for daily life can be purchased in town, and recreational opportunities abound. These include swimming, fishing, cross-country skiing, bowling, and snowmobiling.

There is a hospital located on the east side of town as well as specialty medical practices in Sac City. A popular senior community called Oak Terrace Estates is advertised by the city as the perfect place to retire. 

6. City of Bancroft: A Rural and Affordable Retirement in Iowa

There are affordable housing options for retirees in Bancroft, Iowa. A secretly amazing place in Iowa to retire!

There are affordable housing options for retirees in Bancroft, Iowa.

©SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com

Bancroft, Iowa, is a small community offering retirees a rural lifestyle. Despite having a population of only 700 people, there are comprehensive senior facilities in town as well as affordable housing options for independent retirees. The town has a grocery store, communal spaces, a library, and a health center which means residents don’t have to travel far for most of life’s amenities.

7. City of Waverly: A Small but Secretly Amazing Suburban Retirement Oasis

Secretly Amazing Place to Retire: Living in Waverly, Iowa, is about 20 percent cheaper than national averages.

Living in Waverly, Iowa, is about 20 percent cheaper than national averages.

©SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com

The City of Waverly is in northeast Iowa about two hours west of Dubuque. There are a little over 10 thousand residents that live in town. Retirees will get a small-town suburban vibe with amenities like grocery stores, a library, and indoor or outdoor recreation.

There are both independent and assisted living options in town, and the average rental in Waverly is around 20 percent cheaper than the national average. Studio apartments can run as low as 500 dollars while entire homes are rented for an average of 1500 dollars.

8. City of Carroll: A Social and Active Retirement in Iowa

Secretly Amazing: The Rec in Carroll, Iowa, is a major provider of recreation in town.

The Rec in Carroll, Iowa, is a major provider of recreation in town.

©Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock.com

The City of Carroll is seated alongside the Middle Raccoon River, and it’s home to a bit more than 10 thousand people. There are a lot of scheduled activities in town with a majority taking place at the library or the recreational center which residents refer to as The Rec. Some of the activities on offer include pilates, crafting, book clubs, and technology education.

There are quite a few independent living and assisted living communities in and around Carroll. The library hosts an Alzheimer’s support group for families who want to support elderly loved ones with this specific condition. At least one of the care centers in Carroll accepts Medicaid which is a good choice for seniors that don’t have a lot of income stacked away for retirement.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © railway fx/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves to dote on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with adventures that allow her to explore her new home.

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