For Pamela Blackburn, some of the little things she saw during a visit led to the decision for her and her husband, David, to spend retirement in Danville after many years in Little Rock, Ark.
"We were sitting in the Hub having coffee and I looked out at the streets and said to David, 'they clean the streets here,'" said Pamela. "It was still winter, but you could see that it was important to keep things looking nice. We went down the street to find a Realtor right after that."
While the idea of a retirement destination may conjure thoughts of year-round sun and sand, Danville has been drawing national attention recently for its status as a top place for those looking for relatively low cost as well as culture.
Danville has never had a shortage of transplants from other places, but several online and print publications recently have taken notice of what the town offers those who want enjoy a full and active lifestyle.
The most attention has come from an article in this month's edition of Money magazine, which named Danville one of the top five places to retire in its print edition and included it among a list of 25 retirement destinations in an online list.
The town also will be featured in Where to Retire magazine in November.
So how does Danville end up on a list typically populated by metropolitan areas or places near sun-splashed beaches? Beth Braverman, who researched and wrote the piece on Danville, said the magazine didn't just want to focus on typical retirement enclaves.
"One of the things we wanted was broad geographical diversity," Braverman said. “For a lot of people, those (more stereotypical) kinds of places are not practical or feasible, and not everybody wants that kind of retirement."
For its rankings, Money used a database of about 1,200 cities with at least 30 percent of the population over age 50. According to the 2010 Census, about 36 percent of Danville's population fit those demographics.
Braverman said the list was narrowed from there based on cost of living, house prices and taxes. From there, writers gathered information about everything else the town had to offer.
Braverman said among the things that stood out most about Danville were the presence of a hospital and college, the emphasis on the arts, and the history
After talking to Charlie Cox with the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, Braverman also interviewed residents and Realtors.
"Everyone I spoke to talked about what a nice, warm community it was but also said there was plenty to do in the downtown," Braverman said.
While Danville may benefit from having an unexpected amount of activity for a town its size, Braverman said the proximity to Lexington and Louisville is also a plus.
The Blackburns were one of the families Cox referenced when talking up the virtues of Danville as a retirement spot to Braverman, and they say they were taken with many of the offerings chronicled in her article, particularly the arts scene.
The couple knew they wanted to make their next home in central Kentucky but decided to choose Danville last year.
The Blackburns, both originally from southern Ohio, were familiar with the area, and David Blackburn, a hospital executive for more than 35 years, had spent time at Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center in Richmond in the 1970s.
The couple, who built a house in Rolling Hills subdivision, are regulars at Norton Center for the Arts performances and the Community Arts Center, where David Blackburn is taking drawing classes.
The history buffs also have been able to act as tour guides for family and friends intrigued by their new hometown.
"We had a friend who was coming in from Arkansas and he said he wanted to do two things when he came to visit, go to the Cumberland Gap and be on the Wilderness Road," Pamela Blackburn said. "I told him we could take him to Cumberland Gap, but we have the Wilderness Road right here. It plays into your imagination, because the history is so alive here."
David Blackburn, no stranger to medical facilities in his professional life, said he has had positive first-hand experience with local health care so far. A cancer survivor, he is complimentary of Commonwealth Cancer Center and Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.
The couple said they have been accepted into the community with a warmth they couldn't have expected.
"Sometimes you might have some kind of buyer's remorse, but not us," David Blackburn said. "We're very pleased."
Local officials are hoping to perpetuate the image of the town as a destination for life's next phase.
"These designations by two highly-respected national magazines are compelling testimonies for Danville's status as an attractive retirement destination," said Jody Lassiter, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership. "These publications understood what we hear from recent retirees everyday. Danville has a comparably low cost of living and housing. We have a surprising variety of cultural, arts, recreational and shopping amenities for a community of its size."
Lassiter, who pointed to the knowledge and experience that retirees bring to a community, also noted the numerous opportunities for people to get involved immediately, the way David Blackburn has in joining the Rotary Club and the Heart of Danville board of directors.
All the publicity apparently has started to bear fruit for the community.
On Monday, a couple were passing through the Convention and Visitors Bureau offices at Constitution Square State Historic Site to pick up information that will help them choose where to retire.
John and Katie Powell, who saw the Money magazine list, said Danville was near the top of their list of places to visit during a fact-finding drive through the state. The couple, who currently live in Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington, D.C. had heard about Danville before and were impressed by the cultural opportunities and the small college town atmosphere
One of the pieces of information the Powells were looking for was contact information for real estate agents. While the quality of life is what often pushes Danville over the top, the $120,000 median home price often gets people who are looking at other locations interested in Danville.
Ben Guerrant of Guerrant Real Estate said he has received at least six inquiries directly related to the Money magazine piece, but people on the verge of retirement regularly call about Danville. Guerrant actually was interviewed in October of last year about Danville when the city made the "10 great places to retire" list put out by Bankrate.com.
"You have a high standard of living, lots of things to do and great health care," Guerrant. "Those are things people look for first and foremost when they are finding a place to retire along with the housing prices."