A north Austin suburb is a big magnet for homebuyers. Leander, in fact, boasts one of the hottest ZIP codes in the country.

According to OpenDoor’s 2022 Hottest ZIP Codes in America report, Leander's78641 was the ninth most popular ZIP code for buyers around the U.S. last year. It fell from No. 6 in the 2021 report.

OpenDoor analyzed data from the local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) where Opendoor Brokerage operates, they say. The neighborhoods were ranked by total homes that went into contract within 90 days of listing in 2022.

Leander – a city of 67,000 about a half-hour northwest of Austin – tracks with a post-pandemic trend that OpenDoor identified when compiling its 2022 list: that buyers were gravitating toward “a small-town feel while close to a bustling downtown for entertainment, dining, and shopping,” they say.

“Whether to be closer to outdoor and recreational activities or to join a close-knit community, the desire to belong remained strong in 2022 as the recalibration of work and personal priorities encouraged people to move away from city centers,” the report’s author says.

For the same reasons, another Central Texas city – New Braunfels – was deemed a top ZIP for 2022. Its 78130 lands at No. 4 on the list for the second year in a row.

San Antonio also made the top 20 in the "emerging" top ZIPs, with 78253 coming in at No. 11.

“We are seeing homeowners vie for that sense of belonging in cities and towns accessible to major metros via short commutes,” OpenDoor says.

Elsewhere in Texas
Leander, New Braunfels, and San Antonio are the only Central Texas ZIPs to make it into the top 20, but they are in good company with several others around Texas.

The two Dallas-area ZIPs that made it into OpenDoor's report are Forney's 75126 and Aubrey's 76227, ranking No. 5 and No. 13.

Katy’s 77494, in the Houston area, is the highest-scoring ZIP in the state, landing at No. 3.

Half of first-time home buyers say ‘family’ is the top reason they decided to purchase a home in 2022. Katy, TX and Yukon, OK continued their reign on our hottest ZIPs list,” OpenDoor says. “They draw homeowners for their proximity to major employers while still being a good fit for families.”

Another Houston suburb, Cypress’ 77433, comes in at No. 7.

The hottest ZIP code in the country is 37042 in Clarksville, Tennessee, which has “a thriving, close-knit local community while still being close to the action in Nashville,” OpenDoor says.

The top 20 ZIP codes in the U.S. for 2022 are:

  • No. 1 – Clarksville, Tennessee (37042)
  • No. 2 – Yukon, Oklahoma (73099)
  • No. 3 – Katy, Texas (77494)
  • No. 4 – New Braunfels, Texas (78130)
  • No. 5 – Forney, Texas (75126)
  • No. 6 – Summerville, South Carolina (29486)
  • No. 7 – Cypress, Texas (77433)
  • No. 8 – Kissimmee, Florida (34747)
  • No. 9 – Leander, Texas (78641)
  • No. 10 – Murfreesboro, Tennessee (37128)
  • No. 11 – San Antonio, Texas (78253)
  • No. 12 – Loganville, Georgia (30052)
  • No. 13 – Aubrey, Texas (76227)
  • No. 14 – Winter Garden, Florida (34787)
  • No. 15 – Cumming, Georgia (30040)
  • No. 16 – Suwanee, Georgia (30024)
  • No. 17 – Gallatin, Tennessee (37066)
  • No. 18 – San Diego, California (92101)
  • No. 19 – Port Saint Lucie, Florida (34953)
  • No. 20 – Parker, Colorado (80134)
Photo courtesy of Campspot

Connect with nature at these 4 Texas campsites named the best in America


April's sunny, warm weather is here, and if you're looking for an outdoorsy spring vacation experience, one of these four Texas sites named among Campspot's Best Campgrounds in America should be on your itinerary.

Campspot is an online marketplace and booking website for private campsites; they used 70,000 data points across 12 categories, including community reviews and family-friendly amenities, to determine their rankings.

In the category for Best Campgrounds for National Park Lovers, two Port Aransas resorts came in at the top: Aloha Beach RV Resort was ranked No. 1 and Tropic Island Resortcame in at No. 3. Both were ranked highly thanks to their proximity to local beaches and opportunities for outdoor activities, such as world-class fishing, birding, boating, golf, and more.

Champions Riverside Resort in Gainesville, Wisconsin split the Texas resorts in the ranking at No. 2, while Pokegama Lake RV Park & Golf Course in Pine City, Minnesota (No. 4) and New Jersey’s Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: South Jersey rounded out the top five.

In the Best Campgrounds for Weekenders category, two Hill Country parks made the top five: Hidden Falls Adventure Parkin Marble Falls (No. 4) and Lazy L&L Campgroundin New Braunfels (No. 5). Hidden Falls is the perfect place for some off-road fun on its sprawling 2,000-acre property, while Lazy L&L is more along the scenic side with a beautiful river frontage across 25 acres.

Ranking above the two Texas sites are three California grounds: Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort in Mt. Shasta City (No. 3), Casini Ranch Family Campground in Duncans Mills (No. 2), and Sun Outdoors Paso Robles (No. 1).

Campspot’s 10 best overall campgrounds in America don’t include any Texas destinations, but are still worth a gander for any out-of-state adventures:

  • No. 1 – Indian River RV Resort in Indian River, Minnesota
  • No. 2 – On the Saco Family Campground in Brownfield, Maine
  • No. 3 – The Nugget RV Resort in Saint Regis, Montana
  • No. 4 – Otahki Lake Cabins & Campground in Patterson, Missouri
  • No. 5 – Stonebridge RV Resort in Maggie Valley, North Carolina
  • No. 6 – Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab, Utah
  • No. 7 – Pecan Park in Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 8 – Kootenai River Campground in Troy, Montana
  • No. 9 – Okefenokee Pastimes Cabins & Campground in Folkston, Georgia
  • No. 10 – Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: Memphis in Horn Lake, Mississippi

The full report can be found on campspot.com.

Photo couretesy of Torchy's Tacos.

Austin icon Torchy's Tacos wraps up first New Braunfels location


Hill Country residents will be able to get some "Damn Good" tacos much closer to home, sooner than you think. Torchy’s Tacos is opening its very first New Braunfels location on March 1.

The Austin-founded taco chain that has opened more than 100 locations will give New Braunfels customers a sneak peek at their offerings before the official opening, with a preview party on February 27 from 5 to 8 pm. This free event will allow guests to explore the 4,000-square-foot restaurant and outdoor patio while sampling a variety of tacos, beer, beverages, and more. The new location will also feature a full-service bar that offers guests a wide menu of handcrafted cocktails and weekly happy hour specials.

To commemorate the grand opening, Torchy’s will offer the first 100 guests in line a limited edition “restaurant opening” t-shirt. The shirt will serve as the guest’s ticket to get free green chile queso at the new location for a year. The offer only extends to in-person and pick-up orders, though – online, app, delivery, and Doordash orders aren’t eligible for the deal.

Another highlight of the beloved chain is its ever-changing Taco of the Month option. A portion of the proceeds from the Taco of the Month goes to charitable organizations such as Make-a-Wish Foundation and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Torchy's first New Braunfels restaurant, located at 229 FM 306, Suite 101, is the first in an anticipated 2023 Hill Country expansion. San Antonio is next on the list with a new opening on Hunt Lane scheduled for the end of March.

The restaurant's hours of operation will be:

  • Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm
  • Friday from 10 am to 11 pm
  • Saturday from 9 am to 11pm
  • Sunday from 9 am to 10 pm

More information about Torchy's Tacos is available at torchystacos.com.

Rendering by Mogas + Gonzalez Associated Architects

New marketplace development will transform historic New Braunfels site

Cool Co-Op Coming

Changes are ahead for historic downtown New Braunfels, with a new 2.5-acre mixed-use development set to transform and repurpose the former New Braunfels Producers Co-Op. Announced via press release November 16, and slated to open in 2024, the new Co-Op Marketplace will feature a biergarten, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail, and park space with a stage for live music.

The site transformation is the brainchild of New Braunfels-area entrepreneurs and business owners, so local residents can take heart that the project was made by locals, for locals. The late, notable New Braunfels businessman Ron Snider was one of the entrepreneurs behind the Co-Op Marketplace idea, working in tandem with his business partners, attorney Mike Myers and real estate developer Fred Heimer.

Now, Snider's wife, Carol, and their son, Chris, owners of nearby Krauses Cafe + Biergarten, are leading the project in honor of Snider's original vision."This is a very exciting project to be involved with and it has evolved a lot along the way while still holding true to what my dad and his partners originally envisioned by bringing something unique to downtown New Braunfels that the community can enjoy," Chris Snider shared in the release.

New Braunfels Co-Op MarketplaceThe Co-Op Marketplace will transform and repurpose the former New Braunfels Producers Co-Op. Courtesy photo

With construction set to begin in 2023, the new co-op space will be roughly 2.5 acres and feature more than 25,000 square feet of indoor space for guests. The release shared plans to adapt the existing agricultural buildings for the development, transforming structures like the 65-foot-tall grain silo, which will become the market's west entrance.

Plans for the space include more than an acre of outdoor space for guests to enjoy good weather days, with a splash pad and 4,000 square feet of artificial turf, seating, and shade trees.

Co-Op Marketplace New BraunfelsThe new development will feature a biergarten, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail, and park spaces.Rendering by Mogas + Gonzalez Associated Architects

San Antonio-based architectural practice Mogas + Gonzalez have been heavily involved in the plans for the space.

"Mogas + Gonzalez Associated Architects has worked closely with the owners’ vision to repurpose and recycle the existing and historically designated agrarian Co-Op structures to craft a campus of indoor and outdoor spaces that invite the city and its visitors to relax, dine, and celebrate right in the heart of Downtown New Braunfels," said architect Richard Mogas in the release.

The exciting new space will be located at 210 S. Castell Ave. Guests can grab authentic German fare down the street at Krause's and walk down to the Co-Op, which will also have a 13,000 square foot marketplace for restaurants, vendors, and more.

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Austin neighbor booms as 4th fastest-growing U.S. college town, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From Austin, to San Marcos, to Hye, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Austin neighbor booms as 4th fastest-growing U.S. college town, report says. San Marcos' population in 2000 was 36,120; in 2023 the population has nearly doubled to 70,372.

2. Exclusive pickleball club scores space in East Austin. Other Racquet Social Club brings three tournament regulation pickleball courts to a large lot protected from the surrounding area by trees, fences, and buildings.

3. Austin keeps movers on speed dial as No. 1 city for recent moves, says report. The study reflects people moving around Austin as well as moving into it, so it's not just new Austinites being counted.

4. Extraordinary self-sustaining Hill Country ranch hits the market for $8.75 million. Past the gate is 260-plus acres of land, a one-acre pond, and four fully-furnished buildings.

5. Austin golf course scores title from Texas Monthly as one of the state's best. The publication says Austin's Roy Kizer Golf Course maintains the "unpretentious flavor" of Austin before it got so big.

Country icon Willie Nelson returns to traditional 'hillbilly' inspiration in new album

The Red Headed Stranger goes Blue

Almost as much as Willie Nelson is known for Austin, he's known for Nashville — and for subverting it. The 90-year-old singer has made an iconic, and extremely long career of conforming to and bucking against musical expectations, and now he's circled back around to tradition — without losing his own sound.

Nelson's new LP, Bluegrass, is his first album-length tribute to the traditional country genre. Yet, released on September 15, it's not even his first album of 2023. It follows I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard, a tribute to the Nashville songwriter who gave folks "I Fall to Pieces."

Bluegrass, in a way, is Nelson's genre-bent tribute to his own work. The setlist gathers a dozen of the songwriter and his fans' "favorite" songs he wrote, according to a press release, re-rendered with a bluegrass ensemble.

The focus on orchestration highlights that this is a collaborative effort by the amiable, but largely solo performer. One song, "Good Hearted Woman," is the only track on the album not just written by Nelson, thanks to the similar creative genius of outlaw country great Waylon Jennings. Willie's son, Micah Nelson, created the cover art: an appropriately blue portrait of the singer with warm undertones and a wreath of familiar recreational leaves. The album was produced by Willie's longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon.

Willie Nelson BluegrassNelson's son created the cover art — in blue, of course.Image courtesy of Willie Nelson; created by Micah Nelson

Even if a listener doesn't recognize each song on the album, Nelson's voice is as unmistakeable as ever. Against a bluegrass arrangement, it floats undisturbed and unhurried. At times, it even sounds like Nelson and the band are performing in different meters, the band bustling along cheerfully while the singer lounges around the beat — but never on it.

In fact, listeners who avoid Bluegrass may find their tune changes when listening to these laid-back renditions. "Still Is Still Moving To Me" brings the more frenetic tempo and multi-part harmonies that the genre is known for at its most ferocious; but iconic songs like "Sad Songs and Waltzes" and "Yesterday's Wine" may not even strike listeners as bluegrass if they're not listening for it — just very string-heavy traditional country tunes.

"On the Road Again," "Man With the Blues," and album-opener "No Love Around" are perhaps the tracks that benefit the most from the Bluegrass treatment. All three seem a little more cheerful, a little more upbeat, and a little more reassuring than their original forms. There's nothing warmer than hearing the iconic "On the Road Again" melody on gut strings — except perhaps listening to the country legend offer his "advice" over that plucky, self-assured backcountry orchestra.

Most important, the arrangements rework rather than rewriting the songs. None of the renditions give off an air of hokeyness or trying to shake things up; These are just great country songs that sound even better with a banjo. It makes sense that the change in instrumentation wouldn't shift much, since according to the release, Nelson decided to record the tribute because the style informed so much of his natural songwriting style.

"Using his own catalog as source material, in the spirit of traditional bluegrass sourcing hillbilly folk music, Willie chose songs combining the kind of strong melodies, memorable storylines and tight ensemble-interplay found in traditional bluegrass interpretations of the roots (from European melodies to African rhythms) of American folk songs," acknowledges the release.

By Texas Monthly'scount (shared in the release), this is Nelson's 151st album. Avid collectors can look forward to a 12-inch special edition pressed in blue vinyl, available for purchase on September 29. Preorder ($29.98) at willienelson.com.

This year the songwriter was honored with a five-part documentary series, a blowout 90th birthday concert, the naming of a prestigious arts endowment by the University of Texas at Austin, and two Grammy Awards. His book, Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs, comes out October 23. He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame days later, on November 3.

Listen to Bluegrass on your favorite streaming platform. More information is available at willienelson.com.

More closed home sales in Austin show growing homebuyer confidence

real estate report

The Austin Board of Realtors has revealed a more optimistic outlook on Austin's housing market, with the latest data showing the first increase in closed home sales year-over-year since February 2022. More closed sales and a gradual increase of housing inventory convey growing buyer confidence throughout the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan statistical area (MSA).

2023 ABoR president Ashley Jackson said in the report that with the increased inventory, buyers can afford to be pickier about the homes they want to purchase. It's especially prevalent for first-time homebuyers to own a house that "checks all the boxes."

"When compared to the past two years of highly competitive market activity, this is both a welcome reprieve and perfect opportunity for buyers looking to enter the market," Jackson said. "Now is the time to take advantage of the increase in leverage that buyers now have."

The slight boost of housing inventory in the MSA is good news, but supply is still limited overall, according to ABoR housing economist Clare Losey, Ph.D.

"ABoR’s Central Texas Housing Development Fees Analysis, released in July 2022, shows that Austin’s drastically high development fees pose a significant barrier to new home construction and thereby diminish growth of our housing supply, especially when compared to other development fees in other Central Texas cities and major metropolitan Texas areas," Losey said. "Higher mortgage rates have led potential sellers to wait longer before entering the market, further constraining the supply of homes for sale."

Losey says it will get harder to predict the state of the housing market through the rest of 2023, as interest rates are likely to increase again before the end of the year.

Median home prices dropped slightly to $460,000 in the Austin-Round Rock MSA, which is a 7.6 percent decrease year-over-year from August 2022. Closed sales rose to 2,939 in August; a 1.4 percent increase. Homes are spending an average of 60 days on the market, which is 28 more days than this time last year.

Travis County
Over 1,350 homes were sold in August of 2023 in Travis County, with median prices dropping almost 5 percent year-over-year to $534,000. There were 4,772 active listings on the market; about 18 percent more than August 2022.

Williamson County
More than 970 homes were sold in August, with median prices sitting at $435,516. There were 1,241 new home listings in Williamson County, with a total 2,867 active home listings.

Hays County
A total of 417 homes were sold in August in Hays County, with median prices continuing to fall to $394,990. Pending sales were up by 8.2 percent year-over-year, while active listings had also risen 33.9 percent to 1,550 homes.

Bastrop County
Bastrop remains the county with the highest inventory in the MSA at 4.8 months' worth, which is 1.2 months more than August of 2022. 154 homes were sold this past August, and median prices are just under $340,000 (a 15 percent decrease). There are 28 percent more active listings on the market in Bastrop County, coming out to 586 homes.

Caldwell County
Homes in Caldwell County sold for a median of $299,990 in July, which is a 6.9 percent drop year-over-year. 42 homes were sold last month, nearly 18 percent less than the year before, and there are 180 active homes on the market. In a massive uptick in new home listings, Caldwell County had 92 new homes on the market in August, or 61.4 percent more than this time last year.