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Retire in Key West, Florida?
Overview: The southernmost city in the continental U.S. is laid back Key West, Florida. It started out as a Spanish fishing village in the 1500s, but development did not start until the early-1800s. Presidents have vacationed here, and authors, including Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, have written landmark works here.
This island town's casual, tropical vibe draws "snowbirds" and tourists from around the world, and shorts and t-shirts almost count as formal wear. The Historic Old Town along the waterfront features Mallory Square, a long public plaza, and nightly Sunset Celebrations. Duval Street is home to colorful shops, pubs and famous eateries, including Sloppy Joe's, Jimmy Buffett's original Margaritaville and Rick's Bar. This area is usually congested, and evenings often have a carnival atmosphere. It is also where cruise ships offload. The city supports a symphony, a dance company and theater companies. The Tennessee Williams Theatre on the Florida Keys Community College campus attracts national acts, and the Key West Literary Seminars draw an international audience.
The city has a deep harbor and a large marina, and they are a great place to start a fishing, diving or Dry Tortugas National Park adventure. Residents also enjoy a botanical garden, a butterfly habitat and an aquarium. Sites and museums include the Ernest Hemingway House, Truman's Little White House and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
Neighborhoods are compact, and most residences sit on a small lot with overgrown vegetation. Key West is famous for its colorful historic mansions, bungalows, shotgun homes, Conch houses (a combination of Victorian, New England and Bahamian styles) and homes with eyebrow windows and deep porches. Many of these are in Old Town. In other areas, condos, modular homes and modest ranch ramblers atop pillars are common. Sunset Harbor is a laid back, waterfront manufactured home community.
Population: 26,000 (city proper)
Percentage of Population Age 45 or Better: 38%
Cost of Living: 68% above the national average
Median Home Price: $595,000
Climate: This area has a tropical savannah climate. Year round temperatures are in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Key West receives 38 inches of rain per year, on average. It is the driest city in Florida.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? Yes
At Least One Hospital is Accredited by Joint Commission? Yes
Public Transit: Yes
Crime Rate: Above the national average, but much of the crime is confined to Duval Street where late night drinking leads to fighting.
Public Library: Yes
Political Leanings: Liberal
Is Florida Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Yes
Cons: Tropical storms and hurricanes are always a possibility.
Notes: Key West is racially diverse and has a rich Cuban heritage. It is well known for its gay-friendliness. Beaches are not the city's strong point. Large city amenities are three hours away in Miami.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes, although tourists never leave.
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