What Are the Best Places to Retire in Minnesota ?

Minnesota is becoming a popular retirement destination especially for retirees who desire to live in a place that has all four changing seasons and are relatively active. This state does have hot summers, but retirees should consider that the winter season can be exceptionally cold and snowy.

Many seniors decide to move to smaller cities and towns and often choose one that is not far from a larger urban city if they enjoy city amenities.

Keep reading for our top 10 list of the best places to retire in Minnesota.

1. Willmar

Willmar is a smaller town that has lots of charm and friendly people. The scenery is spectacular with several lakes, gorgeous nature trails to investigate, quaint downtown shops, good restaurants and shaded green parks.

All-in-all, this town is idyllic for retirement. Many active seniors make their home here, and residents are often found in Grizzly’s Wood-Fire Grill & Bar feasting on filling food and sipping on cold brews.

Many retirees frequent this city’s popular Willmar Civic Center & Blue Line Club to enjoy hockey, curling and ice-skating.

There are also plenty of places for hiking and biking, and the town boasts the Foxhole Brewhouse. The Barn Theater offers live music, dance and theater performances on a regular basis.


  • The Barn Theater – live performances
  • Glacier Lake State Park – wildlife, birds and nature scenes with trails
  • Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center – hands on activities like cross-country skiing, canoeing, rock wall climbing
  • Bill Staunton Stadium – home to Willmar Stingers baseball team
  • Kandiyohi County Historical Society and Museum
  • Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center – pool and fun
  • Lake Waconia Cruises
  • Schwanke Car Museum
  • Find exquisite gems and stones at West Central RockHounds

2. Mendota Heights

Located in Dakota County, Mendota Heights makes our top 10 best retirement place list for its lovely densely populated suburban atmosphere with small town crime rates, good healthcare and affordable living costs ideal for retirees on a budget.

Mendota Heights is near to St. Paul and Minneapolis that each offer a stunning array of city attractions and events.

Residents can roam several gorgeous parks, like Lilydale, browse at local boutiques and antique stores, dine at any number of delicious restaurants, meetup with friends at local coffee shops and have fun pursuing their cultural hobbies as well.

The city also boasts Harriet Island which is an area recreational center where seniors can workout at their own speed.


  • Mall of America – a must-see entertainment venue
  • Visit Minneapolis Convention Center
  • Browse the galleries at Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Nicollet Mall – find unique gifts and outdoor entertainment
  • Discover MN area history at the Sibley Historic Site – 4 historic buildings
  • Simley Island Park – has picnic area and a cute drawbridge
  • Big Rivers Regional Trail – has asphalt trails for rollerblading, walking and biking
  • Golf or picnic outdoors at Kaposia Park
  • Friendly Marsh Park – see marsh birds and wildlife
  • Have cocktails at The Mudd Room
  • Como Park Zoo and Conservatory – nearby in Minneapolis/St. Paul region

3. Fairmont

In the southern portion of Minnesota, the city of Fairmont beckons retirees who love being outdoors enjoying nature and engaging in outdoor pursuits.

This town has 5 lakes nearby, and 4 of those lakes are conveniently connected by water channels. See what Red Rock Center for the Arts has going on and find out how hobos rode the rails at the informative Hobo Camp situated in-between Sisseton Lake and George Lake.

Residents here tend to enjoy spending time doing water activities like boating, jet skiing, kayaking, swimming, fishing and more. In fact, individuals can rent a boat or jet ski at a decent rate for those who do not own their own water sport equipment.


  • Spend a sunny day at Fairfield Aquatic Park
  • Play a round of golf at the outdoor Mini-Golf Course
  • Hike or bike on several terrific trails
  • Take your furry pet to the town’s Dog Park
  • Martin County Veteran’s Memorial –
  • Martin County Historical Society
  • Fairmont Opera House – live performances in historic building
  • Learn all about the region’s agricultural history at Heritage Acres – 20th Century Farm
  • See Livingston Log Cabin and Chubb House
  • Meet for coffee and a frozen yoghurt at Graffiti Corner
  • The Marina Lodge

4. Grand Rapids

The scenic city of Grand Rapids is located near the Mississippi River and was first a logging town. Visitors can tour a 20th century styled logging camp complete with tour guides dressed in period costumes narrating life details from that era.

This area is a wonderful retirement option, and there are no shortages of interesting and fun things to do.

This is home to the North Star Lake Resort along with Chippawa National Forest with its sprawling trails and outdoor recreational opportunities throughout all seasons.

Stop at the Joyce Estate to see this historic home that dates to the 1920s. The actress and singer Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids. There is a museum that honors her memory.


  • Pokegama Lake – fishing, ice-fishing and snowmobile riding in winter months
  • Go sledding on Murphy’s Hill during snow
  • Mesabi Trail – hiking, biking in warm weather and cross-country skiing in winter
  • Reif Performing Arts Center – live performances, dance, music and theater
  • Forest History Center – fire tower and historic log cabin
  • Judy Garland Museum – “Dorothy” of Wizard of Oz fame was born here
  • Drive the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway
  • Macrostie Art Center – learn about art with local artist exhibits
  • American Legion Memorial Park
  • Pokegama Golf Course – on shores of Pokegama Lake
  • Historic Central School Marketplace

5. Albert Lea

Retirees that desire to find a retirement home with lakefront property can find it at affordable costs in Albert Lea. This town has many things to offer, such as Holliday Lanes for bowling, a movie theater, the Albert Lea Aquatic Center and lots of unique restaurants and cultural attractions.

The town has plenty of top-rated healthcare facilities like the Mayo Clinic and the Albert Lea VA Outpatient Clinic.

Marion Ross, of “Happy Days” fame, is a native of Minnesota. Although born in Watertown, the actress spent many childhood years making memories of this area. The town’s Performing Arts Center is named after her.

Find amazing vintage items at the Junktion Market, take a Pelican Breeze Cruise on Albert Lea Lake and enjoy Wind Down Wednesdays downtown where local businesses offer great food and shopping deals. Walk around and listen to the live music for a fun and relaxing time.


  • Marion Ross Performing Arts Center – named for “Happy Days” actress Marion Ross from Watertown, MN
  • Learn about area life and history at Freeborn County Historical Museum – tour an old-time village with 18 buildings
  • Myre-Big Island State Park – hiking, biking, camping, water activities on the lake and more
  • Green Lea Golf Course
  • Head to Broadway Bike Company – get bikes to ride the trails
  • Three Oak Winery – wine-tasting tours
  • Albert Lea Civic Music – see famous ballet dancers, actors and musical artists
  • Albert Lea Audubon Wildlife Preserve – see local wildlife and stunning scenery

6. New Ulm

New Ulm is an enchanting city modeled after smaller German towns with evidence of German-style architecture found in restored and preserved historical homes, buildings and landmarks. Residents can enjoy summertime music in beautiful German Park that has a German-styled garden.

Stop at the Hermann’s Height monument a historic landmark of a famous figure who helped negotiate unity among ancient Germanic tribes to fight together against the Romans driving them out of German lands.

Visit the John Lind House built in 1788. He was the first Swedish-born American ever to be elected by the people to Congress. Other German influences include the Glockenspiel which is a 37-bell clock and bell tower located downtown along with Starkeller Brewery.

New Ulm is a great retirement town with authentic German dishes from local restaurants, a lowered cost of living, access to great healthcare and lots of local festivals and events year-round.


  • Minnesota Music Hall of Fame – Prince, Bob Dylan, The Anderson Sisters and Judy Garland are honored here
  • Visit Flandrau State Park tucked by Cottonwood River – has lovely hiking trails
  • Schell’s Brewery – local German-styled brews and lagers
  • Brown County Historical Society – German renaissance architecture
  • German-Bohemian Immigrant Memorial
  • Wanda Gag House – historic home in Queen Anne architectural style of artist Wanda Hazel Gag
  • Morgan Creek Vineyards

7. Fergus Falls

Located in Otto Tall County, Fergus Falls offers retirees a picturesque city with a friendly, smaller-town atmosphere along with plenty of activities to keep every senior engaged and active all year long.

The longer warm summer months offer residents many outdoor recreation options like fishing, swimming, water adventures on several nearby lakes, beautiful parks and scenic nature trails that are ideal for hiking, biking, birdwatching and just enjoying the fresh air. There are many wintertime activities to do here as well.

This town has several well-rated medical care facilities that include Lake Region Healthcare Walk-in Clinic, Historic Fergus Falls State Hospital and the Healthcare Cancer Care and Research Center along with many private doctor practices.

Seniors can also stay in shape no matter the weather at local fitness centers and gyms. Fergus Falls Center for Arts offers many performances throughout the year including music, dance and theater productions.


  • Fergus Brewing Company
  • Otter Tail County Museum
  • Mable Murphy’s – Irish-inspired steak and seafood bar/pub
  • The Viking Cafe – delicious breakfasts
  • Prairie Wetlands Learning Center – beautiful trails and educational programs
  • Pebble Lake Golf Course – tree-lined fairways and golf course for all levels
  • Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail – spot all kinds of local birds and wildlife
  • Phelps Mill County Park – historic site with old mill dated from 1800’s
  • Plan to see exciting theatrical, musical and other artistic productions all year long
  • Torii’s Tangles to Treasure – local artist weaving studio
  • Find gifts at Creative Homemade Goods

8. Minnetonka

Minnetonka is a delightful town to retire in with miles of trails for biking, hiking and birdwatching.

There are some cool downtown food venues, lots of outdoor parks, over 48, and outside activity opportunities like golfing, fishing, boating and camping among other amazing recreational pursuits.

Find an eclectic variety of goods at the local The General Store of Minnetonka that has Christmas decorations, gourmet foods, clothing and more.

Enjoy films, theater and musical events from June until August called Entertainment in the Park held at the Civic Center. Play golf indoors at Bunker Indoor Golf or play tennis at the Minnetonka Tennis Club instead.

If your ideal retirement plan includes living a suburban lifestyle with close access to big city entertainment and amenities, then Minnetonka should be on your list.


  • Minnetonka Ice Arena – ice-skating, hockey and more
  • Ridgedale Center – first U.S. indoor mall from 1962
  • Purgatory Park – nature area with pond, playground, picnic areas, petting zoo, rides and more
  • View Historic Carpenter Gothic/Stick architectural style by touring Charles H. Burwell House
  • Big Willow Park and Jidana Park
  • Snuffy’s Malt
  • The Marsh – wetlands for birdwatching and walking
  • Grays Bay Marina
  • Minnetonka Mills – first settlement – boardwalks, botanical gardens. hiking trails and canoeing
  • Shady Oak Beach – swimming, boating and more

9. Jackson

Jackson is a pretty, suburban city that has much to offer seniors and others. Residents enjoy walking and taking in the stunning nature views in several parks including Ashley Park, that has tennis courts and biking trails, and Dann’s Island Park.

There are several fantastic healthcare facilities nearby, and residents wanting to partake of cultural events can do so at the popular Historic State Theatre that is gorgeous inside boasting Art Deco design elements.

There are several downtown local restaurants, and many residents enjoy finding beautiful specialty and gift items at The Red Barn which has a turn-of-the-century architectural design style.


  • Jackson Golf Club
  • Fort Belmont JCT Inc. – recreation of historic fort 1860 era and log house tours
  • The Red Barn – specialty items and gift shop
  • Senior Citizen Recreation Center
  • Historic State Theatre
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Visit Cosmos & Clover

10. Hibbing

If you want to retire in a setting that provides spectacular nature scenery with lots of different options for recreation both indoors and outside, consider the small town of Hibbing.

This town was once known for its mining history, and today, Hibbing boasts some interesting sites like the Bob Dylan House that offers public tours of this famous musician’s childhood home.

Carey Lake Recreation Area and Carey Lake Park are excellent locales for fishing, boating, kayaking and more.

Hibbing also has several healthcare facilities that include the prestigious Fairview Range Medical Center and Regional Health Services where state-of-the-art medical technologies are available.

There are also some terrific fitness centers along with martial arts and dance training available too. This is a closeknit community that often hosts festivals and other events throughout the year.


  • Paulucci Space Theatre – learn about space and stars
  • Mesabi Trail – hiking and biking
  • Greyhound Bus Museum – learn about history of this bus company
  • Hibbing Historical Society and Museum
  • The Rhythm Deli
  • BoomTown Brewery and Wildfire Grill
  • Minnesota Discovery Center
  • Roses and Iron – stunning annual rose garden
  • Hull Rust Mine View
  • Hibbing Jubilee Community Festival – July event with food, fun, parades and street dance

FAQs about retiring in Minnesota

1. How many lakes are there in the state of Minnesota, and are they open to the public for recreation?

A: Minnesota is often referred to as the “land of 10,000 lakes.” Officially, the state contains 11, 842 lakes, which is much more than Vermont or any other upper states, that measure more than 10 acres and many are open to the public offering lots of water adventures like fishing and boating.

2. What is the weather in Minnesota generally like?

A: Minnesota typically has warm summer months, but unlike the state of California, the winters can be brutally cold. Most retirees who move here have already lived in similar climates, are more active and are usually described as hardy.

3. How tax-friendly is Minnesota to retired individuals compared to other states?

A: Taxes in Minnesota are not as friendly to senior citizens as some other states may be. Just to cite a few examples, Florida, Arizona and Nevada are tax-friendly states for retirees.

However, the state usually has a lower cost of living, healthcare is typically lower than many other places and there are some terrific programs that help seniors with housing and medical expenses.