by Bart Gross

scene from

scene from "Dreamy Draw", an urban park in Phoenix

It's no surprise to find Arizona on the list of destinations for American retirees.

The same features that have made it popular for the late 60 years are all still there, and with the growth of Phoenix it's only become more attractive over time. The state merits serious consideration from any retiree.

Ever since Del Webb founded Sun City on the western outskirts of Phoenix in the late 1940s, Arizona has become a magnet for all kinds of retirees -- those who seek an active lifestyle with a bit of golf or a desert hike every morning before breakfast, or those who want access to high-end shopping, galleries and restaurants.

For those who seek the solitude of natural surroundings to people who like it best when they can dance and play cards and gossip in a lively community of their peers, Arizona's got it.

Visitors expecting a flat desert are still surprised by the variation in the state, from the wooded alpine highlands of Flagstaff with the snow-covered Mt. Humphreys, to the remote desert highlands where fields of saguaros stand guard against the wind.

Few first-time visitors expect to find the many cultural and culinary pleasures of the sixth-largest city in the country, from the bargains and the border town grit of Nogales to the resorts and international glitter of Scottsdale.

With entire towns literally designed around the needs of an older population, Arizona offers every practical amenity you could hope for. The medical attention is world-class; the Mayo Clinic on the eastern outskirts of the Phoenix area itself attracts many visitors.

In the aftermath of the economic downturn houses are plentiful and prices, to say the least, are reasonable.

Mostly, it's the weather. Wintering in the southwest is absurdly beautiful.

Once you've tried enjoying a warm, clear day with the blue sky stretching endlessly above you, relaxed on your patio, watching a t.v. report about those poor souls back east struggle under three feet of wet snow, you'll swear you're in the right place.

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