This is spot on:

Even if you hate the idea, make a tour of the nearest Walmart in your proposed retirement paradise–if the place has one. (And if it doesn’t, be warned. Walmart does far more market research about its locations than you ever will and knows from where it invests.)

A Walmart walk-through will tell you almost all you need to know about the locals: how they shop, their attitude toward cleanliness, their degree of contentment, hidden issues of class and taste.

Source: Opinion: Before you move to a new town in retirement, check the local Walmart – and 5 other hard-learned lessons – MarketWatch

We thought it would take six months to choose a retirement relocation destination. It took over 4 years – and we know others who found it took ten years.

We began with a list that grew to 18 possible areas, cut that in half to 9 based on further online research, and visited 5 of the 9, in person, sometimes several times, over a period of years, plus two that we had visited during prior vacation trips.

Through this process we identified to key evaluation steps!

  • Spend time in the local Wamart for the reason the author gives, above. That is spot on.
  • Second, visit the local public library. This too tells you much about the locals and the local community – plus, local librarians are a wealth of information about the area – not just for book research projects!
  • Third, hang out in an espresso shop for a bit and see what people are there and what they are doing. Again, you are learning a lot about the local community.

We narrowed our choices to three areas. While continuing to evaluate those three, we happened to go on a camping trip. There, the folks in the adjoining camping spot had just retired back to the town he had grown up in 40 years prior. And he asked, “Have you considered this town?” Strangely enough, we had been there but never put it on our list. The next weekend we visited that town. And over the next few months, visited again a few times. And thus, we ended up retiring to a city that had never even been on our list for 4+ years!