Fall is upon us, but before we bid summer farewell, we wanted to take one last look at summer travel — where we went, how we got there, and what we did. We’ve uncovered some interesting trends, learned the best days to go to the airport … and found the nation’s favorite ice cream spots. Here’s what Lyft’s data tells us about how we summered in 2023.
Where we went
It’s a great American tradition to take advantage of the summer sun — but where did Americans choose to spend their one and only summer 2023? National parks? The Grand Canyon? The beach?
Lyft data showed that water was the secret ingredient to 2023 success. Of the eight places that saw the largest uptick in ride activity between Memorial Day and Labor Day, all of them were on a waterfront. (Yes, Lake Tahoe counts.)
That may seem obvious, but coastal towns haven’t always dominated the summer to this degree. Destinations in landlocked New Mexico and Montana both made the list in 2021 and 2022, only to fall off in favor of Portland, Maine, and Panama City, Florida. And this year’s top three destinations were all in the north. Considering that this summer was the 15th warmest on record, could it be that Americans are starting to purposely travel to cooler climes come June? We’ll have to wait and see if this trend cools off, or not, next summer.
So that’s where we went. But almost as important: When did we go there? After all, if you want to avoid long airport lines, it’s best to go when people aren’t traveling. Let us suggest you avoid June 25 to July 1 and instead travel between July 2 and July 9, which, according to the number of Lyft rides to or from an airport, appears to be the quietest week of the summer to fly. But, hey if you choose not to fly on Independence Day — we get it. A packet of peanuts hardly beats a freshly grilled hot dog.
What we did
As the chart above shows, going to the beach was the most summery activity this year: Half of all rides to the beach occurred over the summer. Parks, movies, and ice cream places were also particularly summery destinations, as well as tanning salons and gyms — presumably in pursuit of that perfect beach body. Meanwhile, there were fewer trips to wintery destinations, like ice rinks and the alpine outfitter Arc’teryx.
Speaking of beaches, ever wonder what time you need to get there to snag prime real estate? According to Lyft data, if you get to the beach by 12:30 p.m., you will beat 75% of the Lyft-riding crowd.
One of the big events of this summer was Barbenheimer: the same-day release of Barbie and Oppenheimer on July 21, 2023. Lyft data showed a 100% increase in rides to movie theaters that week and a spike in new riders as well: The pink section of the chart represents riders who had not yet taken a Lyft ride to a movie theater in 2023.
What we ate
We also celebrated summer with that traditional warm-weather treat: ice cream! More than a third of ice cream trips occurred during the summer months. And if you’re looking for la crème de la cream, you’ll want to know the scoop shops that attracted the highest percentage of their city’s total ice cream rides. Top of that list? Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Washington, D.C., which accounted for 38% of ice cream drop-offs over the summer. D.C. residents will have to explain its appeal … but our guess? That irresistibly fuchsia Brambleberry Crisp.
The next most popular was Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream in Seattle, Washington, which emphasizes local sourcing of ingredients and sustainable ethical business practices. And third, Little Man Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado, which offers flavors like Red Eye and Turbulence (its neighborhood used to be the home of Stapleton Airport).
Surely, ice cream is sweet. But could consuming ice cream make you sweeter — as a person?
Our results indicate so. Riders left 38% higher-than-average tips on their way back from an ice cream store. Even anticipation of ice cream seems to play a role: Tips were 25% higher on rides heading to one.
When we dragged ourselves home
Lyft riders stayed out at the bars an average of six minutes longer — heading home at 12:46 a.m., instead of the annual average of 12:40 — during June, July, and August. Although six minutes might not sound like very much, it adds up. If people order a drink every hour, and there are at least 10 people in each bar, that means the bartender makes at least one additional drink every night of the summer. A back-of-the-napkin calculation suggests that over the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and the roughly 70,000 bars in the United States, there are roughly 7 million more drinks made every summer.
Cheers to those who stayed out just a little bit later — summer doesn’t last forever, after all.