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Sure, the place has prettied itself up nicely since those pioneer days with the addition of aging Victorians and craftsman-style bungalows, but the folks in sleepy coastal Astoria have never lost touch with their rough-and-tumble side.

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Take, for example, the surfers off of Astoria's scenic beaches, where ocean temperatures rarely break 60 degrees until midsummer. Reopened two years ago after being shuttered since , the property pairs modern furnishings with sly nods to the city's history as a seaside cannery hub: thick braided ropes, nautical charts and fishing floats. You didn't really think these former pioneers would celebrate with champagne, did you?

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Clayton, N. Not so with Clayton. The curators are so proud of their nautical heritage that they use Q-tips to clean the exhibits, right down to the well-preserved heel marks in the floor of one turn-of-the-century houseboat. Clayton sits on a peninsula that juts out into the St. Lawrence River, so far north that the fire department's boat flies the American and Canadian flags. One of the benefits of that isolation is that the river itself is like a neighbor. In the summer, the old ferry terminal, where wealthy visitors once caught rides to their cottages on the Thousand Islands birthplace of Thousand Island salad dressing , now hosts concerts.

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Eureka Springs, Ark. You could easily spend a week on the tourist circuit in this lates Victorian spa retreat. But you'd never get to meet the real Eureka Springs.

Eureka Springs may be the honeymoon capital of the Ozarks, but don't let the kitschy, heart-shaped Jacuzzis fool you. The current of creativity bubbles up just about everywhere, if you look hard enough.

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At the Eureka Thyme gallery, Marsha Havens skips the trinkets of other tourist traps in favor of works that draw on Ozark inspirations: wooden bowls made from found downed trees and clay bird whistles that warble like the real thing 19 Spring St. You might even say that an artisan spirit is part of the recipe of Garden Bistro, where partners Lana Campbell and Robert Herrera draw from local ingredients for their Amish-style bread baked in flowerpots and unfussy plates of family-style veggies grown on her farm N.

Main St. The biggest surprise of all may be the Crescent Hotel and Spa, a palatial ivy-covered grand hotel with claw-foot tubs and manicured gardens 75 Prospect Ave. From this perch, you'll be inclined to look back to see Eureka Springs, but the leafy Ozarks keep the valley all but hidden from view — an apt vista for a town dubbed Tree City USA.

La Pointe, Wis. It's a lovely idea, but in summer it can get, well, dangerous. That's when La Pointe, the island's only town, swells with visitors. And then there's the winter, when the only way off Manhattan-size Madeline is by wind sled or ice road. Then the Island Wave becomes a way to connect to the outside world. The literary and opera societies meet in the off-season, and occasionally there's a gorgeous show put on courtesy of the northern lights, when hearty La Pointe locals gather on the ice road to be dazzled together. Phoenicia, N. Not casualties of the fire, but boxes and boxes of donations to replace what was lost.

Residents now check out books and fishing poles at the temporary library branch housed in the old medical building on Ava Maria Drive. Phoenicia may look like a one-street river town sandwiched between hills in New York's Catskills — it does a wicked tubing business in the summer — but it's got a bookish, cosmopolitan vibe in its soul. Like Koegel, many Phoenicians came from Manhattan, and they've brought a healthy dose of quirk with them.

For instance, former New Yorker Alan Fliegel, who owns A Community Store, sells locally made clothing and underground comic books — and runs a well-stocked communal art gallery upstairs 60 Main St. Yet like its library that loans fishing poles, Phoenicia hasn't lost touch with its down-home roots. If you spend the night at the cozy Phoenicia Lodge, you may feel like you've woken up in Mayberry Rte. The pancakes pumpkin, pineapple-coconut, and plus other varieties are legendary, as are the lines waiting to get inside.

Newtown Borough, Pa. In fact, the rural Bucks County burg is close enough to Amish Country that most of the convertibles around these parts are horses-and-buggies. Both men grew up nearby and had always loved Newtown's well-worn charms. It's home to the nation's oldest movie theater, Newtown Theatre, a seat, red-brick treasure that's been in operation since N. State St. The Brick Hotel, built in and still looking sharp decked out in hunter green shutters and striped awnings, is one of the few places that can honestly claim that George Washington slept here 1 E.

Washington Ave. And director M. Night Shyamalan likes the look of Newtown so much, he filmed "Signs" here in So last year, the lottery brothers bought Ned's Cigar Store 4 S. It's now filled with mahogany chairs, cherry cabinets — and a steady stream of hopeful lotto-ticket buyers. Cedar Key, Fla. In fact, the town is America's second-largest producer of farmed clams, one of many surprises in this two-square-mile hamlet miles north of Tampa.

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Despite its prime location on the Gulf of Mexico, Cedar Key has escaped the pull of developers — its spit of beach isn't long enough to attract large-scale building projects. Instead, it still feels like a ramshackle, old fishing village straight out of Hemingway. Built in and restored in , Ada's Wabi Sabi Cottage is a time-capsule example of a "Cracker" cottage, a style of wood-frame house popular in the 19th century 4th St.

The last time outside developers set their sights on Cedar Key was in the late s, when pencil makers carted off the island's namesake cedars. There's still a bit left in the worn wooden exteriors of tackle shops and clam shacks on Dock Street. And there's always dinner at Tony's.

Ripon, Wis. Outdoor recreation is plentiful with miles of hiking and biking paths, nearby beaches where you can swim, kayak or paddleboard in the warmer months, and numerous skiing options in the area. An eco-friendly vibe permeates the town, from the businesses bolstering the city's economy, such as household-products maker Seventh Generation, to the local food movement feeding the neighborhood. But being green isn't easy on your wallet. Taxes and living costs are high. At least you can save money on academic pursuits.

The University of Vermont will cover tuition costs for state residents age 65 and older who wish to take a class, even if it's for credit.

River Towns

If the cold winters and equally harsh tax situation don't put you off of the North Star State, consider retiring in Mankato, about 90 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. It's still a small city, but development is on the rise, and the local economy is growing fast. Revitalization projects have added a nice mix of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and more to the downtown area in recent years, and the city's five-year strategic plan aims to spread that level of development throughout the Minnesota River Valley. Some goals of the plan include adding housing, specifically within walking distance of where jobs and shops are; expanding Riverfront Park and other recreational land; and possibly building a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Minnesota River to North Mankato.

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  7. So far, all that growth has yet to push up living costs. While other metro areas in Minnesota come with above-average expenses, Mankato's cost of living for retirees and others remains below the national average. By comparison, Minneapolis has living costs for retirees 5. Still, the poverty rate for residents 65 and older is lower at 7. West Virginia University offers a number of benefits to older Morgantown residents.

    If you're age 65 and up, you can take WVU courses, for credit or not, at a discount.

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    Or if you're 50 or older, you can join the local chapter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The University also helps boost local health care services with its many medical facilities, including the Eye Institute, Heart Institute and Ruby Memorial Hospital.

    The Milken Institute actually credits the area's abundance medical services—including orthopedic surgeons, primary-care clinicians and home-health-care professionals—for contributing to Morgantown's high ranking 18th among small metro areas. On the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, this small town is packed with history, charm and senior residents. You can find a surprising number of eclectic dining options in town, as well as an array of boutique shops, art galleries and other cultural attractions. In fact, in July , Easton was named one of two new Arts and Entertainment Districts in Maryland, joining the 26 existing Districts in the state in offering tax incentives to local artists and creative businesses.

    Qualifying developers and organizations will get a property tax abatement for artistic-related improvements to their buildings, and local artists can score a state income tax deduction for all art created and sold within the acre district. And you could use the extra opportunity to save. Maryland is, by and large, a wealthy area, home to a great number of millionaires , and the living costs reflect that. The cost of living for all residents in Easton are And water-loving retirees still have access to the same torrent of activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, boating and fishing, common on the Chesapeake Bay.

    State's tax rating for retirees: Most Tax Friendly.

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    7. Tiny Laconia offers a big bargain for your retirement destination. The overall cost of living is 1. That adds up to favorable odds for a balanced budget. And the Granite State's tax situation for retirees is solid, too. That means plenty of beaches and water-related activities for you in the warmer months. Other outdoor recreation abounds nearby, too. Gunstock Mountain Resort in neighboring Gilford, for example, offers camping, ziplining and snow sports, as well as fairs, events and dining options.

      Local crime may be worth noting: While the state sports a low rate of 1.