Where to Retire in New Hampshire

One view of retirement is as a layover for people on their way out of the world, but most retirees will tell you their lives have just begun. Here are the places where the best years are yet to be.
Mystical Morning Lake
It's no surprise that Lake Winnipesaukee and the Lakes Region and general is a popular choice for retirement.

Maybe you didn’t get to spend your college years at Dartmouth, but now you can enjoy your golden years in Hanover.

Located in the beautiful Upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire, Hanover made the cut for the country’s “12 Smart Places to Retire” list in the July 2019 Kiplinger’s “Retirement Report,” and Money Magazine rated the town the sixth best place to live in America in 2011. This vibrant, inclusive and intellectually stimulating Ivy League college town consistently ranks high on many of the aggregated lists of the best places for retirees.

Although a college community could be the best answer for some active seniors, especially those with a keen interest in igniting their imagination and engaging their minds through academic pursuit, others are still trying to put together the puzzle pieces when picturing which town or city would be the ideal spot for their meaningful third act.

Access to excellent medical care, outdoor and recreational activities, arts and cultural events, sporting events, volunteer opportunities, transportation plus walkability, safety, tax rates, housing costs and the overall cost of living should be carefully factored when coming up with the all-important quality of life quotient. Fortunately for natives and transplants alike, the Granite State offers many inclusive, wonderful and welcoming communities that check all the boxes.

Consider Concord. The capital landed on the most recent list at greatplacestoretire.com, and it was the only place in the state to impress the panel of judges.

“We’re centrally located and have a close proximity to the lakes, mountains, seacoast and forests,” says Stefanie Breton, the public information officer for the state’s fastest-growing city. “We have so much to offer culturally with the world-renowned Concord Community Music School, the Kimball Jenkins Estate’s arts programs, the independent Red River Theatres, the Capitol Center for the Performing Arts and the newly renovated Bank of New Hampshire Stage,” says Breton.

Concord’s lively downtown is also newly renovated. Within the last few years, the ease of access on Main Street, which is a quintessential New England main street, has been improved. Traffic is now one lane on each side of the street, and the sidewalks, crosswalks, walkways and handicapped accessibility were all upgraded to make the area safer and much more user-friendly, especially for seniors.

“They want to be downtown more now, and they are really enjoying it,” says Breton. “There is more outdoor seating for restaurants, and now there a lot of very good restaurants with diverse cultural menus plus the classic American cuisine. We also have all the locally owned shops and boutiques selling unique and specialty goods. Concord is a very nice and very safe place to be,” she says, adding that having the iconic Statehouse there creates extra buzz, especially during the run-ups to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Hanover also boasts a bustling downtown with lovely shops and excellent restaurants, and having the Appalachian Trail run right down Main Street speaks to the availability of the area’s recreational opportunities year-round, including those with the Dartmouth Outing Club and at the Dartmouth Skiway, located about 20 miles north of campus. Hanover offers a strong sense of community for blended ages with a rich cultural lifestyle, and one of the area’s biggest selling points to seniors is the top-notch Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. It is the state’s only Level 1 trauma center and sole in-state academic hospital and is affiliated with Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.


The recently renovated Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College is a cultural gem and offers free programs, open to all, including tours, lectures, conversations, sketching, storytelling, mindfulness, family days,
workshops and social events. Photo by Michael Moran

“There is a great deal of interest from people, and not just Dartmouth alumni, from all over the country who want to retire here,” says Tracy Hutchins, president of the Upper Valley Business Alliance.

“[Retirees] are moving here. We have a lot of very nice 55+ residential communities. The arts and cultural events are ongoing, especially at the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts, the renovated Hood Museum and Opera North, and there are a variety of ways to participate in lifelong learning or volunteer for a number of causes. Dartmouth engages in a lot of outreach to the community and Hanover is a phenomenal place to retire to,” says Hutchins.

Many in the Lakes Region feel the same. Not only are natives staying put, others with an emotional attachment are moving in. Whether they went to one of the many camps on Lake Winnipesaukee as a kid, took winter vacations to ski Gunstock Mountain, or spent lazy summers in a family cottage by one of the five lakes, they are drawn back. In droves.

“Retirees are coming to the Lakes Region. It is skewed to people who have a real appreciation for nature and the beauty of this region,” says Paul Charlton, vice president of marketing at the Taylor Home continuing care retirement communities in Laconia and Wolfeboro. “There are many who worked in Manhattan or another large city for their entire careers and have those great childhood memories, and now are choosing to retire here. They’re happy with the decision and love the lifestyle.”

Portsmouth, the picturesque maritime city filled with an abundance of museums and historic sites, is also popular for its array of entertainment offerings and senior activities, and it is close to a major medical center. Those desiring a more intimate locale will gravitate to the utterly charming towns of Exeter and Peterborough, which each topped different rating sites for New Hampshire’s best retirement spots.


New Hampshire storytelling icon Fritz Wetherbee walks with Blake Tewksbury at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough. Though the world-famous artists’ retreat is only open to the public once a year on Medal Day, its presence in Peterborough helps establish the town as a cultural center of the state. Tewksbury has delivered lunch baskets to visiting artists for decades. Photo by Mark Corliss

Peterborough holds special appeal for those with a fine appreciation for the arts. The Monadnock Region’s cultural center is home to the venerable MacDowell Colony for established and emerging artists in residence, the Peterborough Community Theatre, the Peterborough Players and the New England Art Exchange. The terrific local music and food scene helped to vault Peterborough to No. 1 on niche.com’s 2019 list.

In Exeter the 55+ set is welcome to enjoy many of the educational and artistic offerings on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the nation’s finest prep schools, and the short drives to Manchester and Portsmouth helped to land the town atop the list for best places to retire in New Hampshire by smartasset.com, and is among the 30 best in the nation. The availability of senior housing options and good medical care were prime factors in determining Exeter’s top billing.

No matter which city or hamlet is chosen, the best places in our state set the gold standard for living well in the golden years.

Categories: Destination NH, Seniors