Choosing your home away from home with the vacation real estate experts
You’ve been saving up your days off and counting the hours till you’re home free, so when it’s time to get away this year, you want to stay away. Living out of a hotel is out of the question. You need to unpack, get to know the neighborhood, and feel at home. We hear you, which is why we’ve partnered with Redfin, the vacation home specialists, to bring you this ranking of the top ten destinations based on their real estate data and local insider scoops. Every year, at the beginning of summer, the conversation around vacation homes peaks. People want to know where, when, and how to have the best vacation home experience and they want an expert opinion on top vacation destinations.
How did we come up with these rankings, you ask? To answer top vacation homes-related queries, Redfin focused on cities with populations of at least 1,000 people and considered the following stats:
- To find the true “vacation cities,” they selected destinations where at least 3 percent of the vacant units are flagged for “seasonal use.”
- To determine popularity growth and trends for the year, they weighted 50 percent based on growth in each city’s listing views in the first three months of 2017 compared to the same period last year.
- To take livability into account, they also weighted 25 percent for Walk Score to pinpoint locations with high walkability and nearby amenities, and 25 percent for population size.
These top ten cities are awesome places to visit, and they’re even better when you take the time to live locally. Join a community event, find a favorite breakfast spot, and explore the surrounding area. Ready, set, vacation!
Located between Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south, Dana Point has easy access to major SoCal cities, but stay right here for a fabulous vacation in the Golden State. Holding strong as number 10 on our list of the best places for vacation homes in America, Dana Point has a quiet, family-friendly waterfront, where locals and vacation-takers like you surf the Pacific and catch sight of whales close to shore.
The inside scoop: Almost 10 percent of Dana Point’s homes on the market last year were seasonal, which is high for a Southern California community. That means you’ll have plenty of options when you’re looking for a home sweet home away from home. Although the city’s overall Walk Score is a humble 50.9, the downtown area is very walkable. Wander through the historical Lantern District, where the streets are lined with palm trees, antique cars, and charming small businesses, including Best Friends Art Gallery and family-owned Infinity Surfboards.
Become a regular: When you wanna find a local eatery and taste your way through the menu, follow the fresh scent of limes to Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant & Organic Tequila. Located on the east side of the waterfront, this family eatery is proof positive that gorgeous, gourmet cuisine can be served in colorful and casual surroundings. Inspired by traditional Mexican art, the venue is almost as bright as the delicious array of margaritas made with the house’s own organic tequila.
Only in Dana Point: Whether your family includes curious kids or inquisitive grownups, the Ocean Institute is a priceless resource to have practically in your backyard. Spend a season learning about underwater wildlife in Dana Point Harbor, embark on whale-watching excursions, and tour tallships. The Institute was founded as the Orange County Marine Institute in 1977, and for the past 40 years the nonprofit has been a hands-on, scientific resource for all ages.
Atlantic City is as historic as it is electric. Neon lights glow from the famous pier-top amusement park, but make no mistake, good ol’ AC is a grownup playground. Now, settling into a slower pace after its glamorous heyday, this legendary destination is amazingly affordable, with a median sales price of $52,250. Whether you’re buying a vacation home or simply renting for the summer, you’ve got to get in on that.
The inside scoop: Atlantic City is a traveler’s city, and the 72.3-point Walk Score makes it easy to get in and around without a car. Sparkling casinos and a tall-tale history give it a rush of excitement and a sense of wonder. That’s just on the surface, though. Only 7.1 percent of AC’s real estate market is seasonal. You’ll be one of the few visitors to enjoy all the amenities of this destination with an event-filled entertainment calendar and exquisite dining scene (with a gorgeous view).
Become a regular: You can’t spend a season—or even a week—in Atlantic City without eating your weight in homemade manicotti at Angeloni’s II Restaurant & Lounge at least once. For over 40 years, Angeloni’s has set the standard for fine Italian dining and it’s a household name because of it. This hotspot hasn’t let all the acclaim go to its head, and it’s the perfect place to try everything, including rare vintages from the extensive international wine list.
Only in Atlantic City: You’ll want to stay long enough to attend the BeachFest Concert Series in July; P!nk and Brantley Gilbert are headlining the 2017 event. Watch an amazing summer sunset and walk the pier as people gather from all over the Jersey Shore for an unforgettable party. If you’re planning ahead for an autumnal escape, check the lineup for the Fall Jazz Concert Series presented by the Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation, Inc.
Orlando is home to more theme parks than any other city in the world. That fact alone makes it worth an extended stay. Plus, when you’re spending your days in alternative worlds and on wild rides, you’ll want a place to call your own. The City Beautiful may not be your hometown, but more than 256,000 Orlando residents will be your neighbors. So, get out on the town and get to know the locals and the many details that make this place unique.
The inside scoop: If you love nonstop family-friendly entertainment and warm weather year-round, reserving a vacation home in Orlando is an easy decision. The median vacation home selling price is $200,000. That’s a sweet deal for an oasis in the Sunshine State. Due in part to its layout around lakes and ponds, this locale has a low Walk Score, so consider booking a rental car in Orlando while you’re here.
Become a regular: If you need a dinner break after hanging out with Mickey and his pals or zooming around on broomsticks, eat your way through the vibrant menu of Latin and Spanish fusion food at Café Tu Tu Tango. Inspired by the street art and creativity of Barcelona, this international café features local artwork and impromptu performances. It’s truly a treasure.
Only in Orlando: Believe it or not, Orlando’s cultural scene extends far beyond the amusement parks. See the sights all at once from the top of the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, a 400-ft. observation wheel with genteel amenity options, like Champagne flights. When you look over all the lakes and ponds that make Orlando sparkle, you’ll know exactly why they call this place the City Beautiful.
Our top 10 list has a few visits to the Sunshine State, but Miami Beach is definitely the bluest. 54 percent of the vacation homes are right on the water. South Beach boasts breezy vintage vibes, and the north end of Miami Beach is known for its stellar surf breaks. If you’ve been looking for the opportunity to soak up some vitamin D and perfect your longboarding skills, this is it!
The inside Scoop: There’s no reason to pass this city up. With a Walk Score of 73.4 and a median closing price of $350,000, Miami Beach is win-win. Plus, 25.1 percent of units on the market are for seasonal use, so you’re more likely to find a vacancy!
Become a regular: A vacation home gives you the unique ability to keep up your usual lifestyle. Make a healthy habit of eating plant-based treats and fresh-pressed fruit juices at Under the Mango Tree. Just walking by will make your mouth water.
Only in Miami Beach: Playing on the waterfront is fun enough, but Miami Beach is practically begging to be explored. Experience the many things to do in Miami and take advantage of the 73.4-point Walk Score. Wander through the art deco buildings of City Center. On the south end of this downtown district, Lincoln Road is a half mile of boutiques and open-air shopping. Go ahead and treat yourself.
Located a short drive from the terminals of LAX, Manhattan Beach is easy to get to from almost anywhere in the world. If you’re flying in for the season, rent a car in Los Angeles, and take the scenic route along Vista Del Mar. With a name like Manhattan, it should come as no surprise that this small SoCal city is packed with luxury, although at a much slower pace than its NYC namesake. Watch the sunset from the pier or walk through the adorable downtown toward the ocean.
The inside scoop: Manhattan Beach might be a stone’s throw from the biggest city in California, but the community’s population of over 35,000 residents love their city’s neighborhood feel. From early July through Labor Day, Polliwog Park Amphitheater is the venue for free weekend concerts for all ages. Staying through August? Manhattan Beach is hosting the 2017 International Surf Festival August 3 through 6.
Become a regular: Start SoCal mornings right with comfort food. Bread pudding is the ultimate energy source for surfing. We made that up, but doesn’t it sound scientific? Make a morning ritual of brunch at Manhattan Beach Post and order all the brekkie pastries and proteins that strike your fancy.
Only in Manhattan Beach: MB’s Parks and Recreation department is nailing it. Join season-long activities for all ages, including yoga, tennis, watersports, and more. Weekend events, like the Summer Surf Movie Series, are free, and their classes are a very affordable way to stay active all summer long.
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment, and Santa Fe is downright magical. As real estate agent Michael Estrada exclaims, “You can find exuberant arts and culture festivals all over town, and there’s so much fascinating history, as Santa Fe offers a unique blend of Spanish, Anglo, and Native cultures. The weather is good and the food is great! It’s a perfect place for a vacation home.” If that doesn’t have you packing for an extended stay, wait till you see one of the region’s stunning sunsets.
The inside scoop: In addition to having affordable real estate rates and popularity growth of 20.8 percent, Santa Fe has pretty impressive stats. Canyon Road boasts more art gallery space per square foot than any other destination in the world. Although the city’s overall Walk Score is just 39, Canyon Road and the city center’s Plaza are very walkable. The natural surroundings and mystical heritage will inspire you, and there are plenty of opportunities to hone your craft, like glass-blowing classes at Liquid Light Glass.
Become a regular: There’s something special about New Mexican cuisine, and we’re convinced Santa Fe sprinkles it with magic dust. Feel at home in one of the many traditional and locally sourced cafes. Craving craft beer and food truck fare? Sidle up to the bar at Santa Fe Brewing Co., the forerunner of Santa Fe’s growing brewery community. And whatever you do, eat as much New Mexican red and green chiles as you can.
Only in Santa Fe: When you want to explore a world of art history in one place, you visit the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. And when you want to take home a one-of-a-kind masterpiece from around the globe, attend the International Folk Art Market in, you guessed it, Santa Fe! This year the cultural cornucopia will be in town July 14-16 on Museum Hill.
Located on the west side of the Old Tampa Bay, Clearwater is the perfect place to start a road trip through the Sunshine State, stopping in nearby St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando. And with clean, family-friendly beaches and nightly sunset festivals, Clearwater is also a great place to stay for as long as your heart desires. Although the year-round residents number just over 110,000, there’s plenty of personality to go around!
The inside scoop: In the last year, Clearwater has seen an 8.7 percent growth in potential resident views. Securely in our top five, this popular destination offers many seasonal homes right on the shore, and a median selling price of $174,250—a steal of a deal for ocean-front property.
Become a regular: Spend time at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Hope and Winter. These bonded dolphins were rescued by the Aquarium, where they received critical care for crab line injuries. Come meet these darling dolphins and learn how to care for their natural habitat—the Atlantic Ocean.
Only in Clearwater: Each October, the downtown waterfront hosts Clearwater Jazz Holiday, a family-friendly and LGBTQ-friendly music festival that has welcomed acts including Sheryl Crow and Earth, Wind & Fire. This year’s headliners include the Temptations and the Avett Brothers. Leaving after the summer? Join the Blast Friday food and wine festivities on the final Friday of each month.
North Miami has the best of two worlds: easy access to big, fun cities—Miami and Fort Lauderdale—and gorgeous nature preserves. There’s something here to keep everyone in the family entertained and active all summer long. Take up kayaking in the Oleta River, hike through the wilderness, or shop lovely antique boutiques. Or, of course, venture into the city for dusk-to-dawn nightlife. If you’re travelling by air, catch a flight to Fort Lauderdale and rent some vacation wheels.
The inside scoop: North Miami isn’t your average suburb. In fact, over 20 percent of the city’s vacant homes are on the waterfront. Scope out a beachy bungalow and pack your bags for blissful weather. The local Walk Score is a solid 64.4, so you will likely spend plenty of time walking on the sand or browsing boutiques on Antique Row along 125th Street.
Become a regular: Find a table and graze through the menu at Little Havana Restaurant, right next to Johnson & Wales University – North Miami. Cool college town vibes and family-friendly service add to an already delicious experience. Order a round of the house mojitos and Cuban empanadas to kick off a fun night with friends and family.
Only in North Miami: The beaches are clean and the coastal water is vivid blue. You can go from the river (at Oleta River State Park) to the sea in a few minutes flat. It’s a lovely drive—and an even lovelier kayak excursion.
Newport Beach is the epitome of Orange County chic, with its family-friendly atmosphere and luxury amenities. According to real estate agent Maryam Amiri, “You can find top-rated, clean sandy beaches and a variety of full-service resorts and restaurants. We also have one of the most popular spots for surfing and bodysurfing, called The Wedge.”
The inside scoop: With a median selling price of $1.85 million, Newport Beach is a splurge, but it truly does have a little bit of everything (except bad weather, of course). As Amiri points out, “if you’re not into watersports, there are also world-class golf resorts including Pelican Hill Golf Club and tons of other activities like bird watching, hiking and cycling. There’s something for everyone in Newport Beach!”
Become a regular: When you’re looking for a great place to relax after sailing the Pacific, or you’ve got to refuel post-surfing Corona del Mar, grab a table near the window at Bear Flag Fish Co. They serve gorgeous poke, tacos, and sushi in a crisp, casual setting, right on the beach. Try not to become a regular after tasting the Peruvian ceviche—just try!
Only in Newport Beach: No one does summer parties quite like Southern California, and OC Weekly’s Summer Fest is no exception. This year, the regional magazine brings the beat back to Newport Dunes June 17. It’s a celebration of everything SoCal: rock ‘n’ roll, food trucks, and plenty of sunshine. Traveling in late summer? Put the Pacific Food & Wine Classic on your calendar—August 19 and 20.
New Orleans offers the perfect blend of history, cultural diversity, community events, and amazing eats. Real estate agent Caren Morgan gushes, “There’s a ton of public transportation, great weather and, of course, the food. People come here to eat—the food is that good!” To put the sugar on top of an already delish beignet, NOLA real estate is very affordable: The median sales price is $230,000. Now, that’s easy!
The inside scoop: Morgan points out, “From the Crawfish Festival and Mardi Gras to the Jazz Festival and the Strawberry Festival, there is always something to do down here in New Orleans.” This may have something to do with the city’s 19.2% rise in listing views—year-round events make it easy for travelers to join the fun whenever they can get away.
Become a regular: New Orleans has a reputation for shenanigans, but there are plenty of opportunities to stay healthy and well-rested. After a late night on the town, wake up to a hearty breakfast and fresh juice at Two Chicks Café. They serve traditional breakfast foods with a fresh twist, like the Veggies Benedict topped with Cajun hollandaise.
Only in New Orleans: Just when you think summer couldn’t get any hotter, Satchmo SummerFest heats up the city with live jazz, barbecue and seafood, and lots of cultural dancing and demos. The party starts August 4th and runs all weekend. Kick up your heels!
Now that you know the best places for vacation homes with some market insights from the experts at Redfin, where are you planning to spend your next vacation?
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