It's been a long year, Austin. With 37% of the U.S. fully vaccinated and counting, it's time to start looking for the best places to enjoy that summer sun.
Wallethub makes your next vacation easier with a list of the best summer destinations in the U.S., but you might not even need to leave Austin to get your "Vaxxed Girl Summer" on.
Based on 42 key metrics, here are the five best summer travel destinations in the U.S. and where Austin ranked on that list.
1. Orlando, Florida
Disney World and its many amusement parks provide plenty of entertainment in Orlando. (Walt Disney World/Facebook)
With Disney World, an abundance of lakes and proximity to other Florida destinations, Orlando was ranked the No. 1 metro to travel to this summer. Orlando offered the most local attractions, the second-most attractions, and had the third-lowest local costs on the list.
Waikiki Beach is just one of many destinations in Honolulu.
Honolulu seems obvious; lush beaches are a must after spending a year mostly indoors and away from people. The city boasts the second-most attractions on the list and was ranked the safest city to travel to. Families, couples or friends looking for a good time can all enjoy a back-to-nature experience at the U.S.'s most tropical state capitol this summer.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The French Quarter gives European flair to the Cajun-infused city of New Orleans.
With its French and Spanish influence, visiting New Orleans can seem like getting a taste of Europe. Cajun food, Bourbon Street and the city's storied past offer plenty of destinations for the summer, and the city was also ranked the second-most safe in the survey.
For those that can't exactly travel, you can always have a "staycation" in Austin, whether that means booking an Airbnb, staying at a trendy hotel or planning a day of activities like you're new in town.
Austin, with its Hill Country outdoor attractions and "Live Music Capital of the World" reputation, came in at fourth on the list. It was the only Texas city in the top 10.
Favorites of the city include taking a dip in Barton Springs, paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake, strolling through South Congress and enjoying a night out on Rainey Street. There's always the option of a short drive to visit nearby wineries and quaint Hill Country towns like Fredericksburg or Dripping Springs.
5. Atlanta, Georgia
The city with both Southern charm and cosmopolitan appeal has plenty of attractions, from its signature "chicken biscuit" to the world's largest indoor aquarium. With a rich history steeped in Black culture and the 20th-largest economy in the world, the metro is packed with destinations, including botanical gardens, a zoo and plenty of major league sports teams. The city, sometimes called the "Capital of Hip-Hop" and a hotbed for other music genres, has a lively nightlife scene and is dotted with great eats.
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Officials are asking certain residents in Bastrop State Park to evacuate as crews work to put out a “very active fire” that is currently 0% contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to help local fire departments with the Rolling Pines Fire at 100 Park Road 1A, which is consuming 300 acres. Residents of Pine Hill Drive, Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane are being asked to evacuate.
Today’s Bastrop Rolling Pines Fire is burning along Power Plant Road towards Lake Bastrop South Shore. pic.twitter.com/YCvJkIAg1u
— BastropCntyTexas OEM (@BastropCntyOEM) January 18, 2022
Aviation resources have been called to assist.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the wildfire sparked during a prescribed burn that took place today, despite wildfire warnings. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A had been closed for the prescribed burn.
The blaze is in the same location as the Bastrop Complex Fire of 2011, which burned for 55 days, killing two people, destroying 34,000 acres and around 1,700 homes and buildings. The fire, which started in 2011, became the most destructive wildfire in Texas at the time.
A hotbed for fires, the Hidden Pines Fire started at the same location in 2015, destroying 4,600 acres and 64 structures.
Some road closures have been put in place at State Highway 21 South Shore Lake Bastrop and East State Highway 21.
This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.
After months of record-setting periods for Austin real estate, the Austin Board of Realtors announced Tuesday that the metro's housing market accounted for over $23 billion of economic activity in 2021, making it the biggest year yet for both home sales and median home prices in the metro.
The Austin-Round Rock MSA saw 41,316 homes sold in 2021, 2.5% more than a record-setting 2020. Median home prices skyrocketed as well, rising 30.8% from 2020 to $450,000. The housing market also saw unprecedented impact on Austin's economy, with sales dollar volume jumping to over $23.38 billion, and more homes hit the market in 2021 than any previous year, increasing by 5.9% to 46,449 total homes listed.
(Austin Board of Realtors)
As many recent Austin homebuyers have experienced firsthand, Austin Board of Realtors 2022 President Cord Shiflet said 2021 was the most "exciting, complicated, fast-paced and record-setting housing market" in Austin's history.
Shiflet dubbed the market as "complicated" for a reason—Austin became a case study on supply and demand in 2021, with demand far outpacing the number of active listings, which dropped by 48.2% to 2,348 homes in 2021.
The metro ended the year with 0.6 months of inventory, a far cry from a "healthy" six-month supply, and houses were snatched at breakneck speeds, spending 25 fewer days on the market when compared to 2020. The average home was on the market for 20 days.
But low inventory is more due to high demand than a stagnant homebuilding market, Mark Sprague, Independence Title's state director of information capital, said in the report.
“In 2021, the record number of homes sold were demand-driven transactions and that demand was influenced greatly by companies continuing to target the region for job creation and expansion," Sprague said. "Even though more homes are being built, listed and sold than ever before, our region is still nowhere close to having a comfortable amount of supply to meet the demand, which is why home prices continue to rise steadily.”
Over 23,000 jobs have been promised by companies across the metro as of December 2021, breaking the 2020 record, according to Opportunity Austin, the economic development arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. With an influx of major factories and offices, including Tesla's Giga Texas, Samsung's Taylor plant and a planned 33-floor Facebook office, Sprague said the region's booming market paired with a struggling inventory and supply chain issues could be a double-edged sword in 2022.
"In short, 2022 will see a robust market for home sales and property values, but the region must do more to address inventory, ” Sprague said.
Shiflet recommended that potential homebuyers make a decision ahead of predicted increases in interest rates and home prices and said that he hopes local politicians will continue to prioritize affordable housing in the election year.
Still, Shiflet said a record-breaking housing market reflects Austin's growing reputation as a hub for talent, tech jobs and a good quality of life.
"With all the new jobs across the region from exciting companies like Tesla and Samsung, Austin was put on the world’s stage and captured the hearts and attention of so many," Shiflet said. "We are lucky to call Austin our home when it has so much to offer from a great quality of life to a wonderful destination for innovation and opportunity.”
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