Comparing the Coasts: East vs. West

Before moving to a new retirement destination, it\'s important to compare more than costs.
Before moving to a new retirement destination, it's important to compare many factors.
Before moving to a new retirement destination, it’s important to compare more than costs.

When looking to move to an active adult community in an area you’re not familiar with, it’s important to consider many factors. Those who want to move to the coast but cannot decide which one, should always compare the pros and cons of the East and West coasts.

Earthquakes versus winter storms. DK’s Donuts versus Dominique Ansel. Flaky Californians. Uptight New Yorkers. You don’t have to go far to find cliches about the East and West Coasts. Here, we compare and contrast the opposite ends of the country, but we’re also taking a peek behind the usual tropes and maybe even bridging some of that 3,000-mile distance.

Let us entertain you

There’s no question that both coasts are rich in culture, though for different reasons. The East Coast is a treasure trove for early American history buffs — especially the Washington, D.C. area, national battlefield parks in Virginia and Georgia, and colonial architecture throughout the region.

The West Coast is a destination for people who like to memorize the years of great bottles rather than battles. California is the fourth-largest wine producer in the world, and Oregon and Washington state are also home to thriving vineyards that welcome millions of visitors every year.

The performing arts are strong on both coasts. There’s Broadway in New York, of course, but all along the Eastern Seaboard you’ll find theater camps and festivals dedicated to up-and-comers and stage veterans alike. In California, film festival season is year-round, from Sonoma to San Diego.

Across the culinary divide

Years ago, California cuisine was considered the freshest and healthiest in the nation thanks to an abundance of local produce, while comfort (read: bad-for-you) foods were more prominent out East. Whether or not those generalizations were accurate, what’s clear is that today, the farm-to-table movement has crossed the culinary divide. Started in the 1970s by chef Alice Waters of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, locally grown food for restaurants, hospitals, schools and your table is expected to gain even more popularity in 2015 — according to several top Atlanta chefs.

Modern food trucks are another trend that’s moved from West to East. Roy Choi is credited as the one who started it all with Kogi in Los Angeles, though Portland, Oregon, which has embraced the movement by designating food pods all over the city, is arguably the food truck capital of the United States. In 2014, The Village Voice named ten top food trucks in New York City, including Luke’s Lobster, Wafels & Dinges and The Eddie’s Pizza Truck (so maybe there is a sliver of truth to that comfort food stereotype after all).

Change in the weather

When you think of differences in coastal weather, the most obvious are the well-defined seasons on the Atlantic coast and the year-round Mediterranean climate along the Pacific. While this generally holds true, both coasts saw extremes of a different kind this past winter, and not in a good way. The East Coast was hit with record storms and snowfall (even the Southeast had its share of ice storms), while the West Coast experienced record-breaking heat and drought with no relief in sight. In the Pacific Northwest, the Cascade snowpack has also been at its lowest point in years.

‘Retire Here Not There’

Despite the mercurial weather patterns, both coasts remain popular destinations for active adults. The cost of living tends to be higher in these regions than other parts of the country, but MarketWatch has been running a series called “Retire Here Not There,” which includes lists of budget-friendly coastal towns that offer the same benefits and amenities as their more expensive counterparts. Bellingham, Washington, for example, is a charming, outdoors-oriented town north of Seattle, but without Seattle’s high price tag.

And many of these MarketWatch recommendations are either home to or located near active adult properties. The Villages at West Neck is in Virginia Beach, “one of the fittest cities in the nation,” according to Men’s Health magazine. It’s situated near miles of shoreline and nature parks and features a lively performing arts scene, several museums and shopping and dining.

The highest concentration of active adult communities on either coast is in Florida — including The Villages, Sun City Center and Lely Resort — and Southern California, where you’ll find the Four Seasons at Palm Springs, Sun City Palm Desert and Trilogy at Glen Ivy, just to name a few.

Now it’s your turn. Which coast has better food? Entertainment? Lifestyle? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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