Sarasota is No. 1 in Kiplinger's rankings of top Florida retirement cities.
Folks who live here probably already know this, but three Southwest Florida cities were just named among the "7 Great Places to Retire in Florida."
Sarasota, Punta Gorda and Venice were selected for the top spots for retirement in the Sunshine State by Kiplinger's personal finance.
Sarasota, where "life unfolds a bit more slowly" than nearby Tampa-St. Petersburg, ranked first on the list, with plaudits for its upscale shopping on St. Armands Circle, the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. The share of 65 and over population is 26.5%, much higher than the 14.9% average nationwide.
"Nature lovers will find lush landscapes and subtropical wildlife at the local parks, as well as at Celery Fields, an erstwhile celery farm now known for its birds and wetlands, and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens," Kiplinger said. "Sarasota also has a lively and diverse arts scene, which includes a ballet company, art museums and an 80-member orchestra."
Not mentioned is what some see as a nearby development threat to the celery fields, the controversy over the proposed Selby expansion, and the Sarasota Orchestra's ongoing search for a new home.
The high ranking also comes despite a cost of living higher than the national average and home prices $16,100 above the national median.
Punta Gorda, at No. 5, reports a 55.3% share of 65-plus residents. Its cost of living index was below the U.S. average.
"Life here revolves around 55 miles of canal-front homes as well as numerous retirement communities, restricted to people age 55 and older," the report said. "Plenty of golfing, plus a Fishermen's Village waterfront complex with 30 shops and restaurants. Also in town, the Harborwalk along Charlotte Harbor is just a portion of the 18 miles of bike trails and pedestrian pathways you can enjoy."
In Venice, ranked seventh, 61% of the residents are 65 or older, and the cost of living is higher than average. The report liked the proximity to the water and the wide, palm tree-lined sidewalks in the historical neighborhoods.
"Venice has a slow pace but offers plenty of amenities," Kiplinger said. "Locals can stroll the historic district and stop in the numerous shops and restaurants. On Saturday mornings, there’s a farmers market. You can catch a show at the Venice Theatre or a performance by the Venice Symphony at the Performing Arts Center."
Local cities are routinely named to some of these “best places" reports.
In June Venice was named the second-most livable city in Florida by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The unincorporated Englewood community ranked 10th, while Sarasota was down at 78th. Earlier, Sarasota was ranked No. 6 and Venice No. 10 on a list of best beach towns to live in by personal finance website WalletHub. Sarasota finished 20th in U.S. News & World Report’s “25 most desirable places to live in the U.S.” Sarasota also ranked No. 2 on Go.Verizon’s list of places to start a small business.
Gainesville, Naples, St. Petersburg and St. Augustine also were named by Kiplinger among the great places to retire in Florida, a state growing by more than 1,000 people a day. The state's rarely cold climate and tax-friendly status are key draws for retirees.