Best Places to Live

Bismarck, ND

Population: 66,980
Dan Koeck

OK, first things first. Yes, it is cold in Bismarck, sometimes bitterly so. (You are close to the Canadian border, after all.) Still, North Dakota’s state capital can be enticing to retirees who are seeking a more remote, relaxed lifestyle. Crime and the cost of living are both low, the downtown area is clean and attractive, and there are lovely views of the Missouri River as it curves past the city. In addition, quality health care is readily available through Bismarck’s largest employer, Sanford Health, as well as St. Alexius Medical Center. And finally, you can’t beat the summers, when temperatures usually top out in the 70s, while much of the rest of the country swelters. That’s the time of year Bismarck shines as one of the 100 Best Places to Live in America.

Part of Bismarck’s appeal for retirees comes from its low cost of living. Bismarck ranks second on the list of the 10 Most Affordable Places to Live, thanks in large part to a reasonable housing market. On average, people in Bismarck spend less than 23 percent of their income on housing, with average single-family homes costing less than $200,000. And while North Dakota does tax Social Security benefits, the combined state and city tax rate of 6.5 percent is less than the national average.


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When the weather is conducive, Bismarck is a wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors, from boating on the river in the summer, to cross-country skiing in the winter. There are more than 80 miles of biking and walking trails in the area, as well as several scenic parks. Bismarck is also one of the nation’s 10 Best Golf Cities, with challenging layouts available at seven different courses. The elevated perch from the first tee box at Hawktree Golf Club offers one of the most picturesque views in the area.

The city’s vibrant downtown is filled with shops and restaurants. Many eateries offer up wild-game options such as buffalo, pheasant and venison, as well as locally caught pike and walleye fish. Wildlife can be viewed up close at the Dakota Zoo, and wild action can be seen across the river in Mandan at the Dacotah Speedway. The Bismarck Event Center hosts concerts, Broadway shows, craft fairs and rodeos. And when the snow melts and the weather warms, the delightful Lewis & Clark Riverboat embarks on daily cruises out of the Port of Bismarck.