In the lush hills of northeastern Alabama, sleepy Guntersville (population 8,500) is tucked along a stretch of Lake Guntersville's 900 miles of shoreline and sits in a beautiful setting. The 69,000-acre lake is the center of life here and is particularly popular with bass fishermen. Residents also point out that John Gunter, the founder of Guntersville, is the great-grandfather of humorist Will Rogers.
Retirees are drawn to Guntersville not only for the water recreation bur for the low cost of living and affordable housing. In fact, the cost of living is 20% below the national average, and the median home price is $265,000. Residences include hillside cabins, bungalows, brick ranch ramblers and waterfront properties with a boat house. Most homes sit on wooded lots.
Forty-five percent of residents are 45 or better, and the vast majority of residents identify as Republican. Guntersville has grown by 20% within the last decade.
The non-touristy, authentic downtown has awning-draped, one and two story, red and blond brick buildings that house clothiers, banks, bookstores and more. Residents enjoy museums (Civil War and Native American) and a thriving parks and recreation department with a good menu of athletic programs for adults. The Whole Backstage presents six to seven full scale theater productions each season.
An arts council promotes concerts, art festivals and juried competitions. Good, locally owned restaurants are in good supply and serve everything from fried catfish to hush puppies. Chain eateries include Subway, McDonald's and others.
The Guntersville Public Library has writers' lectures, a genealogy room, yoga classes, free wi-fi and public computers with internet access. The Guntersville Senior Center, a pretty facility, offers daily nutrition programs, weekly recreation programs, health screenings, classes and transportation. There are several department stores, including Fant's, and the southern end of town has Wal-Mart and Belk.
The town is nearly surrounded by water. In addition to bass fishing, residents enjoy canoeing, water skiing and birdwatching. Lake Guntersville State Park is along the Tennessee River just northeast of town and has a beach complex, an 18 hole golf course, hiking trails, a campground and more.
Marshall Medical Center North is a 90-bed acute care facility with 50 physicians, a 20-room day surgery department, four operating suites and a certified Trauma III emergency department with four emergency helicopters. It is accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients. For military retirees, Guntersville has a VA outpatient clinic. The closest VA hospital is 65 miles away in Birmingham.
Guntersville does not have a public bus system, but scheduled van transportation is available for $1 to $5 per ride depending on the distance. The nearest international airport is in Huntsville, 35 miles away.
The climate is hot and humid, and summer temperatures often reach into the 90s with 90% humidity. Winters are mild, with temperatures in the 30s and 40s. On average, the area receives 52 inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. The sun shines 206 days of the year. The tornado risk is 290% higher than the national average, and the area sustained significant damage from a tornado outbreak in April, 2011.
According to some sources, the crime rate meets the national average. Other sources say that the crime rate is above the national average. Residents say that overall Guntersville is a safe, quiet town with one or two sketchy neighborhoods that are easily avoided. Locals also say that a bit of a "good ole boy" network exists, particularly in some political circles.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is Alabama Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
A reasonable cost of living, decent amenities, lake recreation, a good medical facility and strong senior programs are all positives. The tornado risk, however, should be considered before retiring here.
The Heart of Dixie was admitted to the Union on December 14, 1819. The Cotton State was a major player in both the American Civil War and the American Civil Rights Movement. Montgomery was once the capital of the Confederacy and also the heart of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Its current economy is fed by agriculture, auto production, and aerospace. Only Arkansas and Georgia produce more broiler chickens. Alabamians built the Apollo 11 rocket and helped land the first human on the moon.
Bordered by Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama covers 52,423 square miles of land and water. Topography ranges from mountains and plateaus to river valleys, lowlands, and coastal plains. Average rainfall is 56 inches per year. Growing seasons can be long and summers hot. Winters are normally mild.
Mobile, Alabama has the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States. Nicholas Langlois introduced Carnival to the city in 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was founded.
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