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Retirement: What it's like to live in Lancaster, PA

OK, we know what you’re thinking.

“Lancaster, Pennsylvania?!? What is the ‘retiring abroad’ couple doing there?”

We’d be asking the same thing. Let us explain.

After spending months in Mexico over the summer, then visiting family in the States, issues arose that made leaving the country again in 2021 impractical.


We shifted gears and began researching best retirement locations in the U.S.

Unsurprisingly, several of the top picks were in Florida, which for many reasons holds no interest to us.

But more than once we noticed Lancaster being mentioned. In 2019 it was #1 in the entire country according to U.S. News & World Report.

Their top ranking reflected favorable scores in areas like housing affordability, desirability, health care, and overall happiness.

Having never even heard of the place, we were immediately intrigued. You see, we’d never heard of Cuenca, Ecuador when it popped up on an Internet search in 2008.

And you know what happened with that discovery.

October with its changing foliage seemed like a great month to explore the city and surrounding Amish countryside. Being an easy train ride from our daughter’s home in New Jersey sealed the deal.

We booked an Airbnb in the downtown area for a month and away we went!

Let’s start by saying that Lancaster is really beautiful.

The architecture both downtown and in the residential neighborhoods is downright stunning.

Our arrival coincided with two big events—the annual Harvest Breakfast at Central Market and the Fall ArtWalk.

For the breakfast, crowds were large and the food was delicious. That pretzel bread cinnamon French toast was so tempting we dug in before remembering to take a pic!πŸ˜‹

The first Central Market was established in 1730, and the current building opened in 1889.

Today more than 60 local vendors offer farm-to-table fare at surprisingly reasonable prices. We stocked up on fresh produce and prepared foods weekly during our stay.

The ArtWalk on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon was a blast.

We found Lancaster to be an ideal spot for the pedestrian lifestyle we prefer. All our basic needs were within a 30-minute walk. And we discovered the local fixed-route bus service is free for seniors!

We concur that Lancaster’s high ranking as a retirement destination is well deserved.

In addition to the attributes we’ve described, real estate prices are indeed quite affordable.

There’s a modern hospital right in the middle of town.

City officials have gotten the message and are gearing up in a big way to welcome future retirees. Our research revealed that a 20-story residential tower for the 55+ group is in development to be completed by 2025. Wow!

On a more personal level, we were really caught off guard by how darned friendly everyone is. Strangers actually make eye contact and greet you passing on the street. Made us feel a bit like we were back in Cuenca.

The obvious downside of Lancaster is the snowy, frigid winter. However, if you enjoy a climate with all four seasons, or make plans to go somewhere warm during the cold months like we would 😎, there’s a lot to like about this small historic city.

We learned so much by taking a walking tour offered through the city visitor center. For instance, did you know that on September 27, 1777, Lancaster was the U.S. capital for one day?

Speaking of history, the city’s central location is perfect for easy and interesting excursions. Washington, D.C. is only about two hours away.

We didn’t make it there, but in future posts we’ll share the fun trips we did take to Philadelphia, Longwood Gardens, and Gettysburg.


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