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Walla Walla Valey GrapesI wanted to share a wonderful article today about Washington State Retirement areas and specifically the section in the article on Walla Walla from Smart Money. Here is the article (link in the body will take you to the full article on smartmoney.com):

Retire Here, Not There: Washington

By CATEY HILL

When baby boomers think about Washington State, the R-word that comes to mind isn’t retirement, but rain. That may be an unfair rap, say experts, even given Seattle’s deservedly soggy reputation. In fact, those determined to spend their golden years in locales where umbrellas are as unnecessary as winter coats have several options in Washington’s eastern, drier half, which is full of grasslands and even some desert-like areas.

[smretired0613]Getty Images

Indeed, Washington “is one of the best states to live in for retirees who like the outdoors,” says Andrea Singleton, a Seattle-based adviser with Amerprise Financial. There’s hiking through the emerald-green Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham, golfing nearly year-round at one of the 33 courses near Spokane and bird-watching near Wenatchee.

The state’s proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and nearby mountains ranges gives retirees even more to do. The picturesque, heavily forested San Juan Islands — accessible by ferry, private boat and plane — in the Puget Sound are a huge draw for retirees who like to sea kayak, sail and whale-watch. And the entire coastal region is known for excellent fishing, particularly of salmon, Singleton adds. The Cascade Mountains offer a handful of ski resorts like Crystal Mountain (for alpine skiing) and Mission Ridge (for skiers of all levels). The mountain range’s crowning peak, the 14,410-foot Mt. Ranier, an active glacial volcano, offers plenty of hiking, scenic driving routes and mountain climbing.

In recent years, Washington also became well-known for its wine. The number of licensed wineries grew from 360 in 2005 to more than 700, and the number of acres of vineyards increased from 30,000 to 43,000 over that period, according to the Washington State Wine Commission. Furthermore, nearly half of the Washington wines reviewed by Wine Spectator in 2011 received a rating of 90 or higher on a 100-point scale, including the Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 and Leonetti Reserve Walla Walla Valley 2008.

All this doesn’t come at bargain prices, alas. Though the state has no income tax, Washington does have higher than average sales tax (7.7% compared to an average of 6.8% for the U.S. on the whole), and a high cost of living (18.6% higher than the U.S. average). And the Seattle area, which frequently lands on “best places to retire” lists, is extremely expensive. The cost of living in the city is nearly 50% higher than the U.S. average and the median home costs $424,600 — more than double the national average.

That said, there are plenty of gems in this state that cost a lot less, but still offer plenty of outdoor recreation, wine-tastings and cultural opportunities. There are four in the original article here – http://www.smartmoney.com/retirement/planning/retire-here-not-there-washington-1340228557471/. I’m only highlighting Walla Walla.

Walla Walla: For the aspiring wine maker
[smnprwallawalla]Getty ImagesWine barrel warehouse in Walla Walla

Sometimes dubbed the “Napa of the North,” this charming town, situated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, is a hotbed of great new vintages. While there was just one winery in the region in 1974 (built by machinist Gary Figgins and specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon and White Riesling), today there are more than 100 and 1,800 acres of vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, which produces nearly all types of wines. Retirees can have their pick of wine-tastings, residents say, as well as scenic drives, and aspiring wine-maker can even learn the trade: Walla Walla Community College’s Center for Enology and Viticulture offers a degree in viticulture and enology. For retired archaeologist Jerry Mosgrove, these wine-tastings are the perfect entertainment for visiting guests: “It’s a great day trip — take in the sunshine, drive through the beautiful countryside and stop when you feel like it for wine and food.”

By the numbers

  • Population: 30,013
  • Median home cost: $152.800
  • Cost of living: 1.6% lower than average
  • Unemployment: 8.9%
  • Source: Sperling’s Best Places

 

Even though this town is a hotbed of wine-making, locals say it has none of the rarefied atmosphere that exists in places like Napa. “Here, you go to a wine tasting and you’re actually talking to the wine-maker himself,” says Michelle Liberty, the executive director of Tourism Walla Walla. “It’s more intimate here.” This friendly, approachable vibe extends into town as well: Last year, the town was named the friendliest small town in America by Rand McNally in its “Best of the Road Competition.”

Like Spokane, Walla Walla’s big downside is its remote location   it’s four hours from larger cities like Seattle and Portland and two hours from Spokane. But due to the presence of three universities in the area, it’s still a culturally-rich town dotted with restaurants, shops and boutiques. There’s also a lot of theater and music here: There’s the Shakespeare Walla Walla festival each August, which puts on a variety of productions all month, several theaters, The town hosts several music festivals, including the two-week Chamber Music Festival in June, as well as the Walla Walla Symphony, the longest running symphony west of the Mississippi.

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