In Rustic, Friendly Wimberley, Texas, Retirees Find Old Fashioned Charm, an Easygoing Way of Life and an Artsy Sensibility
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Swaddled by groves of tall cypress trees, fields of bluebonnet and carpets of colorful Indian paintbrush, the sleepy village of Wimberley (population 3,000) is in south central Texas' lush Hill Country, about half way between Austin and San Antonio. When East Coast settlers came here looking for cheap land in the 1800s, they knew that they had found a little bit of heaven in this inviting landscape. Soon Wimberley began to bloom and eventually became a thriving mill town. These days, it is a rustic, artsy hamlet and a rural oasis far from the stresses of modern day living.
With its easygoing pace and Texas-style friendliness, Wimberley is popular with artists, second-home owners and weekenders from its two neighboring cities. It has grown by 8% within the last decade and has also gained a reputation as a safe, friendly retirement destination.
In fact, 50% of residents are age 45 or better. Thirty-three percent of all locals have at least a four year college degree. Politics lean slightly to the right. Wimberley has some racial diversity. The cost of living is 30% above the national average.
The median home price is $575,000, reflecting an increase of 3% from a year ago. Established neighborhoods have ranch ramblers with yards and mature trees. New subdivisions on the outskirts of town are peppered with Craftsmans, custom homes and others. There are a few condominium and town home developments, but apartments are not in great supply.
When it comes to taxes and retirement, Texas is somewhat friendly. The state has no state income tax, so retirement income is not taxed, but real estate taxes are high even though homeowners receive a $15,000 homestead exemption, and people age 65 or better receive an additional $10,000 exemption. The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Wimberley is 2.3%. The annual taxes on a $575,000 home are approximately $13,398 without a homestead exemption.
The Blanco River and Cypress Creek, lined by pecan trees, cedar trees and oak trees, meander through the village, and the quaint town square has cute boutiques, galleries and restaurants. The ambiance is a combination of the Old West and Old Mexico, and some people say that Wimberley is reminiscent of Santa Fe, New Mexico but smaller and less expensive. The town master plan calls for connecting the downtown Square to neighboring parks and walkways.
Wimberley is known for its engaging arts scene and has been an artists' retreat for years. Painters, writers, wood craftsmen, glassblowers and photographers all make their home here and exhibit their works in numerous galleries, studios and at the Wimberley Community Center.
The Wimberley Valley Art League, which promotes the local arts community and boasts more than 190 members, sponsors bi-monthly juried art shows, art workshops, two Art Walks (Spring and Fall), a studio tour in September and a holiday show and sale each November. When it comes to performance art, the Wimberley Players and the EmilyAnn Theater are the local theater groups and fun places to volunteer.
Perhaps Wimberley's biggest claim to fame is its Market Days, a flea market that brings in shoppers from around the region (motor coach tours even come to offload bargain hunters). It is the biggest flea market in central Texas and transforms peaceful Wimberley into a lively, outdoor bazaar on the first Saturday of each month from March through December.
The scenic Texas Hill Country is a prime reason to retire in Wimberley. Clear rivers, rolling hills and sweeping vistas entice even the most stubborn homebodies outside to fish, hike or swim, particularly at the Cypress Falls Swimming Hole or at the Blue Hole, a well-known, natural swimming area that was named by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the 12 best swimming holes in the country. Tubing on both rivers is also a favorite activity. Golfers enjoy spending time on the 18-hole, par-72 Quicksand at Woodcreek Golf Course.
On warm, summer Saturday nights, the place to be is the old Corral Theater, an outdoor movie theater where much of the town gathers for an evenings under the stars. On weekends, two neighboring wineries make for a fun afternoon getaway.
Some errands can be accomplished on foot, but for those that cannot be, CARTS (Capital Area Rural Transportation System) provides limited local transportation and has rides to surrounding towns and cities, including Austin (population 925,000). Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is 30 miles away and is serviced by major carriers. San Antonio (population 1.5 million) also has an international airport.
WSCAI (Wimberley Senior Citizens Association, Inc.) is the go-to organization for senior resources and activities. It manages the Senior Community Center and provides a variety of services, including classes and movie days. It is the meeting place for various community groups as well. Meals on Wheels is also active.
Wimberley does not have its own hospital, but Central Texas Medical Center, a 178-bed facility and part of the Adventist Health System, is 12 miles away in San Marcos. The hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients. Further medical care is found in Austin, where there are six major hospitals, including award-winning Seton Medical Center, and six smaller specialty hospitals. For military veterans, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System is in San Antonio, 45 miles to the southwest.
The Wimberley Village Library has public computer stations with high speed Internet connections. An interlibrary loan program, online book clubs and a volunteer program are additional library highlights.
South central Texas is often scorching hot in the summer, with temperatures in the high-90s, but Wimberley enjoys cool breezes from the rivers which helps mitigate the heat a bit. Winters are mild and damp with temperatures in the 30s, 40s and 50s. On average, the area receives a dusting of snow and 40 inches of rain per year (May and October are the wettest months) On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Wimberley comes in below the national average.
Wimberley has a few negatives. It is far enough off of I-35 to feel as though it is in a world all its own, but Hays County has been growing quickly, and Wimberley is starting to feel the effects. Traffic has increased, and finding a parking place downtown on weekends is often difficult. Locals worry that preserving Wimberley's way of life might be a challenge in years to come. The area is known as "Flood Alley," and the town suffered severe flooding in May, 2015 when rainfall reached record levels and the Blanco River overflowed its banks. Flooding could happen again.
For now, though, this gentle Texas hamlet offers exactly what many retirees are seeking and is a great retirement spot!
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