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Fans of homegrown brands like Amy's Ice Creams or Lick Honest Ice Creams know that Austin has some of the best scoops in the country. So it's no surprise that on a recent list of the best (and worst) ice cream cities in America, Austin lands in the top 10.

The survey, compiled by real estate brokerage Home Bay, ranks 50 cities using factors such as the number of ice cream shops per capita, the price of a small cup or cone (using Ben & Jerry's as a benchmark), average annual temperature, and Google searches. Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, Yelp, and Google Trends.

The best
The best cities for ice cream have more shops (an average of 4.9 ice cream shops per 100,000 people), a high interest in ice cream (Google searches), and better prices, with a small cup of Ben & Jerry's averaging $4.47 versus the $4.50 residents pay in the average city.

Here's a surprise: Oklahoma City is America's best ice cream city, thanks to a high number of ice cream shops per capita as well as affordability.

Austin is the only Texas city in the top 10:

  1. Oklahoma City
  2. New Orleans
  3. Las Vegas
  4. San Jose, California
  5. Providence, Rhode Island
  6. Raleigh, North Carolina
  7. Salt Lake City
  8. Austin
  9. Boston
  10. Philadelphia

Way to go, Austin! This is what they say about Austin's ice cream scene:

Austin excels when it comes to appreciation of different ice cream styles. The city ranks third in our ice cream variety metric thanks to frequent searches for ice cream types and flavors. The slogan "Keep Austin Weird" is appropriate with so many locals going bananas: The city ranks first in online search interest for banana ice cream. Visitors can find two different types of banana ice cream — banana cream pie and strawberry banana — at local chain Amy's Ice Creams. Additionally, Austin has the seventh-warmest average temperature in our study, making ice cream especially appreciated as a sweet treat for relief from the heat.

And as a subset of this ice cream survey, San Antonio wins the No. 1 slot for Best Shaved Ice.

The worst
The bottom 10 cities have fewer ice cream shops, higher costs, and less ice cream interest in the topic, which they judge by the number of Google searches for topics such as "ice cream near me" and "ice cream flavors."

The 10 worst ice cream cities are as follows:

  1. Memphis, Tennessee
  2. Riverside, California
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Miami
  5. Houston
  6. Baltimore
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Sacramento, California
  9. Dallas
  10. Jacksonville, Florida

These cities have only 2.2 ice cream shops per 100,000 people. The average city has 3.4 shops per 100,000 people. And Dallas has only 1.4 ice cream shops per 100,000 people.

Ice cream in these worst cities is also more expensive. A small cup of ice cream averages $4.80 in the bottom 10 cities, versus $4.50 for the average city in the study.

Ice cream in Missouri and Alabama is the cheapest: $3.99 for a small Ben & Jerry's cone. Washington, D.C. is the most expensive, at $5.35 for a cone.

Rendering courtesy of St. David's HealthCare

Austin hospital earns healthy ranking from prestigious U.S. News & World Report

med center might

U.S. News & World Report has released its 2022-23 Best Hospitals list, naming Austin's St. David’s Medical Center as the No. 8 best hospital in Texas and No. 37 nationally.

Not the first accolade for the local facility, St. David's Medical Center's national ranking came courtesy of the hospital's post-procedure work and physical therapy in its rehabilitation department, which landed the facility among the top 51 out of 4515 hospitals nationwide.

Rankings for the annual U.S. News study are based on scores in patient care, patient safety, outcomes, nursing, advanced technology, and reputation.

One data point not used in the Best Hospitals rankings, but worthy of note: The hospital also earned four out of five stars in patient satisfaction, which measured how patients felt about their hospital stay and discharge overall.

At the top of the list was Houston's Medical Center, which boasts the best adult and children’s hospital in Texas and the best cancer center in America.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center earned No. 1 in the nation for cancer care. For those keeping track, MD Anderson has been considered in the top two cancer hospitals in the U.S. since the U.S. News launched the survey in 1990.

Elsewhere in Texas
Other Houston hospitals earned high rankings as well, with Houston Methodist Hospital coming in at No. 15 nationally and No. 1 in Texas for the 11th year in a row. Notably, U.S. News has ranked Houston Methodist Hospital in at least one specialty for the past 30 years. Houston's Texas Children’s Hospital ranked No. 2 overall in the Best Children’s Hospitals ranking, remaining top in Texas and the Southwest, and at No. 1 in heart treatment for the sixth year in a row.

Also boasting top honors in the state is the Menninger Clinic, which tied for tenth place on U.S. News’ list of best psychiatric hospitals, making it the all-out best in Texas.

Dallas-Fort Worth is home to the No. 2 hospital in Texas, per U.S. News. UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas also ranked especially well nationally in urology (No. 11), cardiology and heart surgery (No. 14), diabetes and endocrinology (No. 18), pulmonology and lung surgery, (No. 21), and cancer (No. 25).

Not far down the list is Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, which ranked No. 4 in Texas. One Baylor department ranked nationally: gastroenterology and GI surgery department, No. 34.

Courtesy of Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection

Austin hotels check in on Travel + Leisure's prestigious World's Best for 2022

Premier property

The Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection, has had no shortage of accolades since it first opened in 2020.

And a new ranking from Travel + Leisure places the estate at No. 2 among the top 10 resorts in Texas, followed close behind by Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa at No. 3. The Houstonian in Houston came in at No. 1.

“The best resorts in Texas, according to Travel + Leisure are located in close proximity to the state's biggest cities but set on perfectly manicured grounds that make them feel worlds away when guests want to unwind,” reads the ranking.

Here’s Travel + Leisure’s list of the top 10 resorts in Texas, part of the publication's World's Best Awards 2022:

  1. The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, Houston
  2. Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection, Austin
  3. Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin
  4. Gage Hotel, Marathon
  5. The Woodlands Resort, The Woodlands
  6. Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Irving
  7. JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio
  8. La Cantera Resort & Spa, San Antonio
  9. Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, Grapevine
  10. Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio

Aside from naming two Austin properties among the top 10 resorts in Texas, Travel + Leisure also ranked the top five hotels in Austin. It’s the first time Travel + Leisure readers were able to vote on the best hotels here.

Appearing at No. 1 on the Austin list is Austin Proper Hotel & Residences, followed by Arrive Austin at No. 2, the Four Seasons Austin Hotel at No. 3, The Driskill at No. 4, and the Fairmont Austin at No. 5.

Amenities at the 32-story, 244-room Austin Proper include two pools, a spa, a fitness center, and complimentary bike rentals. McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality operates the hotel’s dining venues, including La Piscina, a rooftop poolside Mexican restaurant, and the Peacock Mediterranean Grill.

“Located in the 2nd Street District, the hotel is just a short walk from Lady Bird Lake, indie boutiques, and many nightlife venues. T+L readers complimented the hotel’s ‘beautiful rooms,’ ‘great location,’ and service,” the publication says.

Photo by RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty Images

Austin-area lake town splashes onto list of best waterways in the U.S.

Lake-way to go

As temperatures start to sizzle, Austinites know the best way to beat the heat — besides margaritas, of course. In Austin, we are blessed with all kinds of lakes, rivers, and waterways, but one Austin-area locale is the best lake town of them all, according to a new report by Boatline.com.

The study puts Lakeway at No. 8 among the best lake towns in the U.S. Boatline praises the town as a "laid-back destination located on the southern shores of Texas' Lake Travis."

The report goes on to say that while the city started as a community for second-home owners and retirees, "Lakeway is now home to full-time residents of all ages that are drawn to the lake lifestyle. You'll often find locals, as well as weekenders from nearby Austin and farther, taking in the panoramic views of Lake Travis from a pontoon or speedboat."

No. 8 is a commendable place to land on a list that only includes 17 cities, especially as the only Texas destination on the list. Bigfork, Montana, claimed the No. 1 spot. It's situated on the picturesque Flathead Lake and home to year-round activities including whitewater rafting in the spring, summer boating, fly fishing in the fall, and ice fishing in winter.

Other lake towns ranking above Lakeway all hail from northern neighbors like Vermont (Burlington, No. 2); Washington (Chelan, No. 3); Colorado (Grand Lake, No. 4); and Minnesota (Grand Marais, No. 5) — which is hardly fair when all five boast wildly better temps than our Texan counterparts. Only Georgia (Greensboro, No. 6) and Arkansa (Hot Springs, No. 7) share even close to the same latitude as any Texan candidates.

On the positive side, Lakeway beats several towns in Wisconsin (Lake Geneva, No. 9); New York, (Lake George, No. 10); Michigan (Traverse City, No. 15); and New Hampshire (Wolfeboro, No. 17). Head to boatline.com for the full list. Or better yet, head out to Lakeway to enjoy that top 10 ranking for yourself.

The Vegan Nom

Austin makes showing on list of top 20 vegan cities in U.S.

Vegan News

Austin made the top 10 in a new survey of the top vegan cities in the U.S., coming in at No. 8 on the list — well ahead of Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth.

That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone familiar with Austin's longtime vegan scene, but the shocker is that Austin got beat out by Houston, which came in at No. 6. Boo.

The survey by the team at Meal Delivery Experts set out to determine which cities have the most vegan food options. They compiled the 20 most populous cities in the U.S., then used data from TripAdvisor to count how many restaurants or food venues offer at least one vegan option.

New York came in at No. 1, blowing everyone else away with 1464 restaurants or food venues offering vegan options — more than double the number than any other city on the list.

Los Angeles was in second place, with 705 restaurants or food venues offering vegan options. Los Angeles has among the widest variety of cuisines including vegan Korean, Ethiopian, and Thai food.

No. 3 was Chicago, with 489 restaurants or food venues offering vegan options, surprising since Chicago is such a meaty town, although the city is best known for deep-dish pizza, and many Chicago restaurants now offer a vegan alternative.

Houston has 312 vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants, compared to Austin's tally of 286 restaurants.

Among other Texas cities, Dallas came in at No. 12, with 209 vegan- or vegan-friendly establishments, followed by San Antonio at No. 13, boasting 202 restaurants that are vegan or offer vegan options.

Poor Fort Worth came in last place, with 68 restaurants or food venues offering at least one vegan option. Despite what the numbers say, Fort Worth has a buzzy vegan scene with places like Pizza Verde, Zonk Burger, and Mariachi's Dine-In; it's also home to Texas' most famous vegan restaurant, Spiral Diner.

Austin has a long history dating back to 1979-1980, with the opening of pioneering vegan-friendly restaurants such as Magnolia Cafe and Kerbey Lane Cafe. Its vegan prowess began to coalesce in the 2010s with the debut of hipster spots like The Vegan Nom and Counter Culture; the city is especially known for its vegan food truck scene. It's also home to Rebel Cheese, one of the best vegan cheesemakers in the U.S.

Whether motivated by health, environmental, or ethical reasons, the number of vegans in the US is rapidly increasing, reaching new heights in 2022. One in ten, or 10 percent, of Americans now consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.

The dollars are also there, with the plant-based industry worth over $7 billion in the US in 2022.

The milk substitute market is valued at over $3 billion in 2022.

The meat substitute market is valued over $1 billion in 2022.

The full list, by ranking:

  1. New York - 1464
  2. Los Angeles - 705
  3. Chicago - 489
  4. San Francisco - 467
  5. San Diego - 385
  6. Houston - 312
  7. Seattle - 309
  8. Austin - 286
  9. Denver - 261
  10. Philadelphia - 258
  11. Phoenix - 234
  12. Dallas - 209
  13. San Antonio - 202
  14. Charlotte, NC - 176
  15. Jacksonville, FL - 140
  16. Indianapolis - 140
  17. Columbus, Ohio - 137
  18. San Jose - 80
  19. Oklahoma City - 80
  20. Fort Worth - 68

Austin climbs onto list of the country's best cities for hiking

sort of great heights

Texas is home to a surprising amount of great hiking, and a new study of 200 U.S. cities places Austin at No. 30 for the best hiking nationwide.

The study from lawn care startup LawnStarter is based on 13 criteria, from “hiking access and quality to trail difficulty to natural hazards index.”

With an overall score of 54.32 out of 100 (which sounds borderline bad until you consider the highest score on the chart is 68.37), Austin fares best for hiking access and supplies access, in which the city ranked No. 11, followed by hiking quality, 63rd of 200.

Austin ranked poorly in climate, of course, at No. 98. The number of sunny days, apparently, couldn’t stand a chance against the number of extremely hot ones.

The top 10 U.S. cities for hiking, according to LawnStarter, are:

1. Portland, Oregon
2. Tucson, Arizona
3. Phoenix, Arizona
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
5. Oakland, California
6. Salt Lake City, Utah
7. Los Angeles, California
8. Boise, Idaho
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
10. San Diego, California

(The 200 cities were chosen based on population, so those small Vermont and New Hampshire towns built around incredible hiking did not get to play.)

Elsewhere in Texas
The highest-ranked Texas city is El Paso, coming in at No. 18, an obvious choice for beautiful desert treks that probably didn’t break the top 10 because of its low hiking access and climate scores. San Antonio comes in behind Austin, at No. 36.

The other Texas cities in the top 100 are as follows: Garland (No. 43), Frisco (No. 55), Dallas (No. 62), Fort Worth (No. 65), McKinney (No. 75), Laredo (No. 82), Houston (No. 92), and Plano (No. 94). Pasadena ranks the worst statewide — and nearly nationwide — at No. 198.

Hikers in and around Garland should be happy to learn the city ranks No. 1 in average consumer rating for hiking trails. Midland suffers from some of the worst consumer ratings, but it happens to rank No. 1 in lowest natural hazard risk. Perhaps it’s just not as exciting when nature is on your side.

With sister cities San Antonio and Austin ranking among the top 20 percent of U.S. hiking, outdoorsy locals have plenty of reason to get outside and take a hike.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

---

The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.