Small Town Living, Reasonably Priced Homes and Nearby Lake Recreation Bring Retirees to Kentucky's Historic Danville
Cost of Living: Below the National Average
Danville (population 17,000) is along the southern edge of the famed Bluegrass Region in lush central Kentucky, an area where horse breeding and horse racing are a way of life. A city of firsts, Danville was the first capital of Kentucky, the site of the first Kentucky courthouse and the site of the first state-support school for the deaf. The city was founded in 1787 and it is proud of its place in its state's history. Unassuming, relaxed and affordable, Danville has two small college campuses and is close to Kentucky's southern lakes. Residents are down to earth, friendly and generally conservative.
Thirty-eight percent of locals are age 45 or better, and 25% have at least a four year college degree. The town has grown by 3% within the last 10 years, and the crime rate is below the national average. The cost of living is 12% below the national average.
The median home price is $160,000. A real estate dollar goes a long way here, as modest but well kept homes are for sale for less than $100,000. Town homes and apartments are not plentiful, but there are seven manufactured/mobile home parks. None, though, are age-restricted.
Kentucky is a welcoming place when it comes time to retire. Social Security benefits, railroad retirement benefits and Roth IRA proceeds are exempt from state taxes. Up to $31,110 in other retirement income (military, civil service, qualified pensions and more) is also exempt. Property is assessed at 100% of market value, and in Danville, the annual taxes on a $160,000 home are approximately $1,280. For homeowners 65 and better, $37,600 of the assessed value of their property is exempt from state taxes. The state sales tax is 6% (food and prescription drugs are exempt), and the income tax is 5%.
Danville has a strong sense of community and offers an appealing quality of life not found in all small towns. Five neighborhoods and 120 restored historical houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the downtown, just six blocks long, has a variety of architectural styles, creating an eclectic streetscape with locally-owned eateries and mom and pop boutiques housed in renovated buildings. In 2001, it won the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Great American Main Street Award.
A favorite local spot is three-acre Constitution Square State Historic Site, the place where Kentucky's constitution finally came to life in 1792. The Square hums with craftsmen, historic demonstrations and strolling minstrels each September when Danville celebrates its prominent role in Kentucky's march to statehood. Another park-like spot is the 152-acre campus of nationally-recognized Centre College, a top liberal arts college with 1,350 students. The annual Great American Brass Band Festival is held here each June, attracting almost all of Danville's residents.
The beautiful Community Arts Center, home to a number of galleries and rotating regional exhibits, is an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon. Several internationally known painters and glass blowers also make their home in Danville, and Ceramic Creations offers pottery classes. For book aficionados, the Boyle County Public Library has research databases, a bookmobile and 54 public computers with Internet access.
The Pioneer Playhouse Dinner Theatre is Kentucky's oldest outdoor theater, and nationally recognized Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts presents year-round programming in the performance and visual arts, including theater presentations and a jazz series. The JFC Museum showcases war memorabilia. Farmers' markets, strawberry farms and wineries with public tours are sprinkled in and around town. And Penn's Store, opened in 1850, is the oldest country store continuously operated by the same family.
Dining is not world-class, but residents have a good selection of medium-priced chain restaurants, pizza places and coffee shops from which to choose. Burke's Bakery, across the street from Constitution Square, is almost world-famous and definitely worth a visit (the butterflake rolls are particularly delicious). Shopping is adequate, with box stores, including a Wal-Mart and liquor stores on the south side of town. Still, a trip to Lexington (population 315,000), 35 miles to the northeast, may be necessary here and there.
This area offers a bounty of recreation venues, and a huge draw for Danville retirees is 2,300-acre Herrington Lake. Just three miles outside of town, it is popular for all kinds of water activities, from fishing for perch, bluegill and crappie to swimming and sailing. The well-worn, somewhat primitive campground of Gwinn Island Resort and Marina has floating cabins and boat rentals. Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge, which covers 500 acres, is just 13 miles from Danville and is a great spot for birdwatching and hiking. The lakes and river region, which includes 65,000-acre Lake Cumberland, is 50 miles to the south, and, of course, the annual Kentucky Derby is just 68 miles away in Louisville.
Danville has three golf courses, including Old Bridge Golf Course. Centre College gives retirees a chance to watch college soccer, basketball and baseball. This semi-private course opened in 1989 and has 18 holes, a driving range, a putting green and a bar and grill.
The Danville-Boyle County Senior Center works in conjunction with the Kentucky Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging. Services include congregate meals three days per week, exercise classes, outings, home services such as light housekeeping and more. The city also has a senior citizens' board to address issues in the older population.
Public van transportation is provided by DanTran. It has 15 stops within town and operates Tuesday through Saturday. The cost to ride is $2.
Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center (222 beds) provides comprehensive care and is a Level III Trauma Center. It accepts Medicare patients and is accredited by the Joint Commission. For military vets, Lexington (35 miles) and Louisville (82 miles) both have a VA medical center.
The elevation is 948 feet above sea level, and summers are warm, with temperatures in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Winters can be chilly with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. On average, the area receives 47 inches of rain and 13 inches of snow each year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Danville is below the national average. The sun shines 188 days of the year. The water quality is below the national average, but the air quality is above the national average.
Retirement in Danville does not have many drawbacks, although the tornado risk is 78% above the national average.
Even with the threat of twisters, Danville beckons. Surrounded by pretty horse farms and rolling hills, its sense of history runs deep, and its appreciation of traditional values remains strong. With an award-winning downtown, an outstanding local college and an easygoing way of life, Danville is indeed a great place to retire.
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