Photo courtesy of Visit Bastrop

Outdoor offerings are a major draw for Bastrop, a small community with big personality that's located on the outskirts of Austin. Specifically, all the fun things you can do based around the Colorado River, which runs through the city.

Here's a closer look at what life on the river is like here:

Best of both worlds
When in Bastrop, you don’t have to go far to catch a break in a beautiful outdoor setting. As you’re exploring the adorable shops and galleries of downtown, make a quick jaunt over to Fisherman’s Park to stroll along the river, rent a canoe or kayak, or take the family to the kiddie splash pad and playground. When you’re done, you can quickly pop back to town without missing a beat.

Seek out adventure
Explore the rolling box canyons, wildflower meadows, lazy river bends, and diverse wildlife at McKinney Roughs.

Check out its 1,100 acres by foot, horseback, or take a guided raft or kayak trip. The park also hosts interpretive hikes guided by naturalists, native animal presentations, and other community programs.

For a more daring adventure, let Rising Phoenix Adventure Tours and Events or Bastrop River Company set you up with a complete and memorable water-sports or biking experience. If you prefer to explore the outdoors from above, try zip lining at Zip Lost Pines.

Time for R&R
You can relax on the El Camino Real Paddling Trail and fish for Guadalupe bass and flathead catfish. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife sightings such as great blue herons, red-shouldered hawks, or kingfishers.

Bastrop is home to the famous loblolly pine trees, or “Lost Pines.” These trees are unique to the Texas Lost Pines Forest and are thought to have originated during the Ice Age. Explore this piece of natural history at the 600-acre Bastrop State Park.

The park covers nearly 6,000 total acres, so you can make a whole camping trip come to life. Go canoeing, swimming, golfing, wildlife viewing, or hiking, and camp at one of the park’s various campsites or historic cabins (built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s).

Or go for a luxe option in the woods at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa. It embraces the outdoors with exterior “living rooms” along with private balconies and patios, and coordinates a long list of activities for its guests.

Make it your home
Neighborhoods in Bastrop highlight the local environment, including The Colony. It features an extensive system of hike and bike trails, beautiful parks, and a greenbelt dog park so you and your furry best friend can hang out outdoors together.

This new-home community features resort-style amenities — of course there are several pools — and first-class builders, including David Weekley Homes, Lennar Homes, Perry Homes, Terrata Homes, Gehan Homes, M/I Homes, Scott Felder Homes, Sitterle Homes, and Westin Homes.

There are homes in a range of price points, and all only a 30-minute drive to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport via Highway 71.

Find even more to love about The Colony and life on the river in Bastrop here.

Man looking at the Colorado River in Bastrop

Photo courtesy of Visit Bastrop

The Colorado River runs through Bastrop.

Photo courtesy of Engel & Völkers Austin

Austin settles into ranks of Texas cities selling homes over $10 million


Austin is being redefined as a market for homes for the ultra-rich, according to a new report. The $10M+ National Luxury Report for 2022 from real estate brokerage Compass cites five local sales of homes over $10 million in 2022; that's only up one from the previous year, but there had been none in the years shown before that.

The report is for all sales in the area and based on MLS data.

Affluent areas in Austin have landed increasingly in wealth reports, like the richest cities in Texas as the benchmark for the 1 percent of highest earners in Texas rises. The Compass report acknowledges that the wealth of Austin transplants has permanently changed the real estate market.

DFW holds the top spot in Texas for the $10 million-plus category of home sales, with $145.79 million in sales volume (counting 11 houses over the $10 million mark). Austin totaled $55.95 million, and in Houston, just one home in this category sold last year.

So, how much did those uber-expensive homes go for? In Austin, it was just $11.99 million for buyer-represented sales, and $7.75 million for listing-represented sales. In Dallas-Fort Worth, the top market, it was $20 million and $14.65 million, respectively. The average price of a sale in this category was $11.19 million in Austin and $13.25 million in Dallas-Fort Worth.

"2022 continued to be a banner year for the high-end luxury market inAustin with most transactions occurring off-market," quoted the report of local real estate agent Dara Allen. "Austin remains a high-demand destination for those who seek both more space and more favorable tax situations, with buyers coming from California, NY, Canada, Chicago, Boston, Georgia and even Europe. ... I believe that Austin will continue to be a destination of choice for many luxury buyers in the years to come.”

For a nationwide comparison, the top selling price was $56 million in Manhattan, $44.5 million in Greater Los Angeles, and $48.5 million in Palm Beach County, Florida.

The over-$10-million-homes number looks poised to rise in Austin as one community in Westlake plans for a development with homes starting at $12.5 million to be completed in 2024.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin were the only areas included from Texas, and DFW easily bests its neighbors down south. This is one contest Austinites may want to keep losing.

Photo courtesy of Whisper Valley

Test drive Teslas around Austin's most sustainable master-planned community on Earth Day

Live Green

In Whisper Valley, Earth Day is more of a 24/7, 365-type celebration. As Austin's greenest and most sustainable community, it's leading the charge in planning, developing, and building residential neighborhoods and business districts that truly make the world a better place to live.

Curious about what that means? April 22 is the perfect time to stop by and see.

Whisper Valley is hosting a green home tour that day from 10 am-5 pm where you can peek inside both model and available homes — all of which are zero-energy capable and achieve a HERS rating of 7-25. That means they are roughly 75-80 percent more energy efficient than standard homes.

To up the fun factor, there will be four Teslas on hand for you to drive around the 2,067-acre Whisper Valley, as well as raffle prizes and a visit from Frank's Taco Truck (from 11 am-1 pm). The first 100 guests will even receive a free tree sapling to take home and plant.

See homes from AHA Dream Homes, GFO Home, Pacesetter Homes, Thurman Homes, and Terrata Homes. In the near future, Chesmar Homes will also be on that list. Prices start in the mid-$300s and go into the $600s.

Not only are these dwellings stunning to look at, but they also boast some incredible innovations designed at helping the planet.

Standard features include geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, Energy Star appliances, pre-wiring for EV charging, and smart home technology like home energy monitoring.

The community itself is set among 700 acres of beautiful parks, scenic trails, rolling hills, meandering streams, and quiet meadows. There's an expansive dog parks\ and several playgrounds, plus a full-featured fitness center and resort-style pool with beach entry.

There are even neighborhood organic gardens where you can help grow the fresh, local produce you'll later enjoy.

Planned for the future are village-type restaurants, retail, office areas, three school campuses, an emergency services center, and a transportation center.

Come see it all for yourself on Saturday, April 22, at 9400 Petrichor Blvd.

Whisper Valley is located just off State Highway 130 and is 20 minutes from downtown Austin, 10 minutes from the Dell and Samsung corporate campuses, and 10 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Whisper Valley home

Photo courtesy of Whisper Valley

Tour both model and available homes, like this one from Pacesetter Homes.

Getty Images/Courtney K

Ready to buy your Austin dream home? Here's why a local bank is your secret weapon.

On Your Side

If you’re planning to buy or build your next dream home, consider your options for financing. Contacting a local community bank for your mortgage needs could provide more flexible loan options.

Local banks aim to provide loans based on people and not just their credit scores. That's how SouthStar Bank operates, offering a superior level of personal attention — in the current market, this can be especially crucial.

Whether you are buying your first home or building your forever dream home, there are steps you can take along with your lender and Realtor to create a streamlined process.

Starting with pre-qualification, your lender will evaluate your unique situation. Many borrowers qualify for a traditional home loan — but, of course, not everyone is traditional. Through their unique custom loan programs, SouthStar Bank is continuing to make home ownership a priority for everyone.

Many individuals, especially first-time homeowners, may not understand the nuances and complexities of home loans. For this reason, one of the most important qualities of a good loan officer is to be a great communicator. The best mortgage lenders can convert complex terms into easy-to-understand language for their clients. Don’t be afraid to ask questions early and often!

With the ever-changing market, switching lenders midway through the process can mean losing the perfect home. Having a lender on your side who is able to thoroughly evaluate your situation and pivot to a variety of loan options will keep your goals of homeownership at the forefront.

With the high demand for housing in Austin, many are also considering building their own home. But where to begin? Along with a variety of mortgage options, SouthStar Bank specializes in lot and construction lending. This spans from financing the land to the construction of a custom home on a lot you already own.

Customers can also opt for "construction-to-permanent" loans, which cover your project from beginning to end — and into paying the mortgage. As experts in the market, SouthStar Bank’s lending team will be with you every step of the way.

"For most clients, the construction loan process is new," says Kimberly Watson, SouthStar Bank's senior vice president of lending. "We do what we can to make it as straightforward as possible. It’s something I look at day in and day out, and I enjoy seeing plans come together for clients who aren’t sure where to begin."

Founded in 1920, SouthStar Bank holds over $1 billion in assets and is one of the largest independent banks in Texas. All decisions are made locally by a dedicated lending team, allowing the flexibility to apply common-sense standards to products, services, and loan requests.

Locate your nearest branch to speak directly with a loan officer, or visit the SouthStar Bank website to explore your mortgage options and get started with pre-qualification.

All loans subject to approval. Other fees and restrictions may apply. SouthStar Bank NMLS #410624. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

This is how long Austin home buyers need to work to save for a down payment


With home prices rising for most of 2022 in Austin and around the country, thoughts about saving for a down payment have been distressing, to say the least.

SmartAsset.com, a consumer-focused financial information and advice website, analyzed and ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities on how long it takes the average household to save for a home, with calculations for a 12 percent or 20 percent down payment. The study compared the median household income and median home values for each area to determine the rankings.

The new study says Austin buyers will need to work for 3.64 or 6.07 years, saving up for a 12 or 20 percent down payment on a median home value of $482,900 with a median income of $79,542. Compared to Los Angeles where it takes the longest (11.6 years) and New York (10 years), that's somewhat encouraging.

Compared to other Texas cities, however, it's less encouraging: Austin was the only Texas city to rank in the top third, tying with Las Vegas for 14th place.

Dallas came in 24th, right in the middle of the pack, as did most Texas cities. With a median income of $57,995 and a median home value of $267,600 in Dallas, only 2.77 years of work and saving would be needed for a 12 percent down payment.

That's comparable to Houston, where the median income of $55,499 and median home price of $236,700 placed the city 31st out of 50. Houstonians need to work, on average, 2.56 years to save for a 12 percent down payment and 4.26 years for a 20 percent down payment.

Elsewhere in North Texas and around the state:

  • Fort Worth ranked 27th with 2.19 or 3.65 years of work needed to save for the $249,000 median home price on a $68,235 median income.
  • Arlington came in at number 32 with 2.55 or 4.25 years of work needed to save for the $254,700 median home price on a $59,889 median income.
  • San Antonio placed 38th with 2.16 or 3.60 years of work needed to save for the $197,600 median home price on a $54,923 median income.
  • El Paso came in 48th with 1.97 or 2.98 years of work needed to save for the $152,800 median home price on a $51,241 median income.

Texans looking to save for a shorter time without moving too far away might look to Oklahoma, where Tulsa ranked 42nd (2.02 or 3.37 years,) and Oklahoma City tied with Memphis, Tennessee for 46th place (1.97 or 3.22 years.)

Photo courtesy of Moreland Properties

Exquisite craftsmanship and special details set this Travis Heights home apart

On the Market

A moody black exterior is only the beginning for the eye-catching 1135 Gillespie Pl., built by the renowned Jack Boothe Construction.

Douglas Fir accents and a white standing-seam metal roof are complemented by lush landscaping that's framed by bespoke, handcrafted steel, providing a backdrop for native plants and trees that create privacy and shade.

Inside, stunning materials and beautiful European oak floors ground the bright, sunny rooms that look out over the verdant backyard, sparkling pool, and neighborhood treetops.

The open main living space encourages entertaining, with a seamless flow out to the Lueder limestone-covered patio, sun deck, sparkling pool, and lawn beyond.

The kitchen centers the space, and serves its function beautifully with quartz waterfall countertops, a 48-inch Wolf Range top, and other chef’s appliances, plus a charming butler’s pantry with convenient wine cooler and storage.

The thoughtfully designed floorplan features flexible spaces that can adjust to practically any needs.

Two en-suite bedrooms downstairs are ideal for family sleepers or as an office, home gym, or guest room. A charming hideaway awaits under the eaves upstairs, sun-lit by skylights.

The lounge features a built-in wet bar and refrigerator to spoil the owners with evening snacks and the morning’s first brew. The primary suite enjoys a glorious spa bath with oversized shower covered in gleaming tiles, while the walk-in closet is outfitted with extensive built-in storage.

A fourth en-suite bedroom completes the upper level.

This is the ultimate urban home, sporting the benefits of a traditional neighborhood and close-in excitement while offering a tree-filled, neighborly street.

It's listed for $2,976,000 by MJ McFarland with Moreland Properties. Email mj@moreland.com or call 512-717-1567 for more information and to set up a showing.

1135 Gillespie Pl Austin home for sale

Photo courtesy of Moreland Properties

1135 Gillespie Pl. is listed for $2,976,000.

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Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, plus more top stories

hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Georgetown to Brenham, and of course inside Austin proper, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Charming Austin suburb is the fastest-growing city in the country, with neighbors close behind. Georgetown had a 14.4-percent population increase from 2021 to 2022, bringing the city's total population to more than 86,500 residents.

2. Austin dethroned from top spot in new ranking of top summer travel destinations for 2023. Some Austinites are happy to hear the summer will be less crowded, but tourist revenue may suffer.

3. Lengendary Texas ranch resort makes waves on the market with $15 million price tag. It's a stretch to call it rustic, but this resort for sale includes horse stables, wildflowers, and an organic farm.

4. This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month. Unsurprisingly, it's not as much square footage as you can get elsewhere in Texas, but it's still not even close to Manhattan.

5. Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend. The Memorial Day weekend brings chances to try great barbecue, take a walk with faeries, and hear lots of live music.

Dip your toes into these 7 Austin pools with passes, snacks, and summer events

Wet Hot Austin Summer

Memorial Day is here, which means so are the days of sitting in a lounge chair and sweating while looking unreasonably fabulous. Whether it's to beat the summer heat or to show off a new swimsuit, Austinites may have more options than they think to take a swim at the many pools around town. Even if you haven't committed to an overnight stay, most hotels offer day passes, and some even offer other deals or poolside programming.

One great way to find passes not just to pools around town, but also to spas and other hotel amenities, is to browse ResortPass. (Not sponsored, just cool.) There are 26 Austin options on the site right now.

But we wanted to let you know what's going on beyond the pass — who will set you up for a great meal, who lets you drink out of a coconut, and whose views (or lack thereof) provide the best ambiance for your day off. Some of our choices aren't even on the platform.

Go grab your sandals, and save us a towel.

Greater Austin YMCA
Let's start with the less glamorous before we break out the poolside fashion. The YMCA is a family staple for a reason, and if your goal is just to get in the water regularly throughout the summer, especially with kids, it's a great place to start. There are "interactive hours" at the outdoor pools (more fun than swimming laps) at the East Communities, Hays Communities, Northwest Family, Southwest Family, and Springs Family YMCAs, as well as the YMCA at Camp Moody. The Y is semi-affordable; It would probably be cheaper to visit a hotel pool once or twice, but a Y membership includes a month of access, guest passes, and much more, and may replace your gym membership for the summer. $69 per month, with age and household discounts. austinymca.org

Hotel Van Zandt
If your pool visit doesn't include spritz and giggles, why are you even there? Hotel Van Zandt is opening up its stylish rooftop pool for the "Spritz & Giggles Poolside Happy Hour & Sunset Swim" event series. Every Monday through Thursday, visitors can enjoy $8 frozen Aperol spritzes, $8 specialty cocktails, and a special pool menu with items like a refreshing green salad, pork belly al pastor tacos, and a spicy fried chicken sandwich. Geraldine's, the main restaurant, is right inside for even better drinks, expanded bites, and sometimes live music. Starting at $48 per day for adults, $15 for kids. hotelvanzandt.com

Carpenter Hotel
If one day at the Carpenter Hotel pool is just not enough, the hotel has now added monthly passes. In addition to unlimited access to the secluded pool in the Zilker neighborhood, a pass gets a $30 discount for the new monthly BBQ Pool Parties (bringing attendance down to $25). That will include a great spread of less commonly seen barbecue items like grilled bay scallops, mushroom skewers, elotes, deviled potato salad, and more. Monthly pass holders also get to bring one child under 8 for free. $40 daily, $200 monthly. Both Monday through Thursday. carpenterhotel.com

South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel is right in the middle of where many Austinites want to be on a summer day, if it weren't so dang hot. This rooftop pool solves that problem in style, with daily pool passes every day of the week, as well as cabana rentals. Café No Sé supplies poolside drinks and snacks, and downstairs, Austin's Best New Restaurant Maie Day offers a hearty meal after a day of napping in the sun. Cabanas can be rented for four people and include self-parking, bottled water, and a bottle of champagne or bucket of High Noon. Days for $40 and cabanas for $300 on weekdays; days for $75 and cabanas for $400 on weekends. southcongresshotel.com

Hotel Viata
Hotel Viata is a bit of a sleeper hotel among Austin boutiques, as it's located a little beyond West Lake Hills. Still, if you want a taste of Italy, the drive to this retreat will be worth it. Not to mention, with the extra room these downtown hotels can't offer, a pool pass includes access to a hot tub, fire pits, and great views of the hills around the city. Pool passes are available, but if you want to see it for free before you spend, wait for June 10; The hotel invites guests 21 and up to check out the pool for free at the "Summer Festa in Piscina" party, with a "Taste of Italy" add-on ($55) for Aperol Spritz, limoncello lemon drops, and negronis all day. $45 per day for adults, $25 for children. resortpass.com

Wax Myrtle's
This rooftop bar and pool is known for its never-ending events calendar, and of course that energy extends to poolside entertainment. There will be live music on the weekends, plus live DJ sets on Saturday nights, alongside whatever other programming happens to be going on inside. Even if it's a do-nothing day, these large, over-the-top drinks will give you a delicious challenge. The "Boot Scootin Fruity" mixes rum, an aperitivo, hibiscus, and lime in a cowboy hat punch bowl ($90); the luxe "Mojito 75" combines Moët & Chandon with rum and mojito must-haves in a disco ball ($230); and an unnamed cocktail is worth trying just to enjoy it from a real coconut. Starting at $15 for adults, $10 for children, and more for daybeds and cabanas. waxmyrtles.com

Austin Motel
Perhaps one of the best known pools in Austin for its retro vibes, fun events, and accessibility to on-foot wanderers is the Austin Motel. This is a great, less expensive choice that's probably more fun for casual pool revelers who would feel a little put out by having to dress up and behave in a more luxe hotel setting. There are also frequent poolside events at this motel, like the free "Bounce Motel" series with live DJs, or the body-positive "Chunky Dunk." The pool is offers daily passes every day, even when there's nothing on the calendar. $25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends, or $600 in three-and-a-half-month "waves." austinmotel.com

Carpenter Hotel pool

Photo by Andrea Calo

Austinites don't need to stay at a hotel to be invited to the pool. (Pictured: The Carpenter Hotel)

6 Austin museums are offering free admission for military families all summer long

spread the museum love

Half a dozen Austin museums are honoring active-duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20 through September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members – including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states two million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the website says. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

Among Austin's participating museums, the Blanton Museum of Art recently held its grand opening celebration to debut their new grounds, complete with a new large mural by Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera.

“As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career," Herrera said.

Here's a look at all the museums in Austin that participate in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

For those looking to take a drive around Central Texas, the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum and Taylor's Moody Museum are also participants in the Blue Star Museums initiative.

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.