Pueblo: A Desert Gem
Median home price:$102,600
Median mortgage payment:$392
Median property tax: $765
State tax on Social Security: Yes
State tax on pensions: Yes (with some exceptions)
Great eating: Known for the distinctive Mira Sol green chile peppers that grow here, the city is famous for its "sloppers" — a cheeseburger slathered in green chili. The Sunset Inn is the reigning champ.
Catch a game: The ThunderWolves, Colorado State University-Pueblo's Division II football team, has a fierce following. Tickets for seniors are $13 -($20 for reserved seats and $6 for admission to Thunder Hill grassy slope).
Best freebie: Take in all three miles of the Pueblo Levee Mural Project‚ which holds a Guinness Book of World Records distinction as being the world's largest continuous painting.
This smaller desert community is winning attention as a bargain among Colorado's sprawling cities. While skiers can be on world-class slopes in less than two hours, Pueblo's climate is blissfully temperate. And the city offers unexpected delights, including HARP (Historic Arkansas River Project), archaeological treasures, an impressive library and expanding health care options. And people here are among the healthiest in the U.S., with a longer life expectancy, fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer, and a lower stress index.
HARP Riverwalk is one of Patricia Samson's favorite things about her native Pueblo. "You can walk for several miles along the river, and it's beautiful — there are boats and ducks and restaurants and food vendors, with waterfalls and kids splashing," she says. "It's really special."
Samson, 69, lives in the center of Pueblo, just a block from the river. In addition to the $695 she gets in Social Security, she receives $27 a month in SSI and a $37-a-month pension from the state. To make ends meet, she volunteers as a foster grandparent in a local school, helping fourth- and fifth-graders with their math. In return for that work, besides the company of plenty of energetic 9- to 11-year-olds, she gets a stipend of $2.65 an hour, plus $2 a day for lunch and 43 cents a mile for driving expenses, which works out to about $200 a month during the school year.
She lives in an apartment building for those over 50, and her rent (based on income) is $206 per month for a one-bedroom, including all utilities except for phone. "It's safe. It's warm. And it's a very comfortable, friendly place — I can leave my windows open, and there's a common area where we all have coffee."