Santa Fe, New Mexico

Joel Stein, a corporate bond broker from New York City, and his wife retired to Santa Fe in 1997. The reason: “It’s like a microcosm of New York but without the hustle and bustle,” he says. “It’s a small town but it’s sophisticated — there’s art, opera and hundreds of restaurants. It’s a nice place to retire but it doesn’t feel like a ‘retirement town’.”

Nicknamed “City Different,” Santa Fe is indeed unlike the trendier Sedona, an Arizona town that’s often touted as a best place to retire. Unemployment is just 5.3%, thanks to Santa Fe’s thriving tourism business and government payroll. (Santa Fe is the state capital.)

The arts scene is one of the best you’ll find anywhere. Santa Fe is dotted with 240 art galleries and the home of Art Santa Fe, an international art fair that attracts buyers and tourists from around the globe. In fact, Santa Fe’s art market is the fourth largest in the country in terms of sales, according to the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Stein says he and his wife have embraced the scene. He leads historic walking tours of the area and works for pay at the Museum of Natural History; she is a docent at a local art museum.

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