Eden Prairie's ranking by U.S. News & World Report as No. 3 among the best places in America to retire took City Manager Scott Neal by surprise.

"Eden Prairie still thinks of itself as a city of young families,'' Neal said. "We are surprised we might be known for that.''

But the city will take its newest accolade and add it to a growing list. In 2006, it was ranked 10th among the best small cities in America by Money Magazine.

This time Eden Prairie is third behind Bella Vista, Ark., and Boulder, Colo. The other seven best places to retire are Green Valley, Ariz.; Issaquah, Wash.; Long Meadow, Mass.; Portland, Maine; Punta Gorda, Fla.; Reston, Va., and Walnut Creek, Calif. The report can be found online at www.usnews.com/bestretirement and on newsstands Monday.

The magazine made its picks on the basis of cost of living, climate, crime rate, access to health care, educational opportunities and cultural and recreational amenities. Each city cited has ample opportunities for seniors to focus on physical and mental health, the magazine said.

"As retirement becomes a reality for the country's largest generation, finding communities that match their active, healthy lifestyles is critically important," said Brian Kelly, editor of U.S. News & World Report.

The magazine credits Eden Prairie for cultural attractions, shopping, sports facilities and community ed classes. It also notes that there are more than 170 miles of trails in the city.

Jim Tucker, 55, a retired FBI agent who moved to Eden Prairie in 1991 from Washington, D.C., when his family was young, said he also finds it a good place to retire.

"It has a couple nice golf courses, nice shopping centers, athletic clubs -- it's a very well-rounded city as a whole."

But Tucker agreed that the designation as a choice retirement spot surprised him, too.

Then he noticed that most of the people on his block are retirees as well.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711