Cool Pools, Great Stays
Aah, the sheer bliss of summer.
Swimming pools--the ultimate summer chill-out spots--provide fun, relaxation, and refreshment from the heat. You'll find many of the best pools around at hotels throughout the South. Check in to one of these spots, and you're in for a treat. From classic luxury to family fun, each offers a unique oasis. Dive in.]
Left: Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando features two over-the-top pools.
At this luxurious resort, plan your entire stay around the water, which seems to be everywhere you look. From the glorious lakeside infinity swimming pool to the indoor pool in the spa to the waters of Lake Oconee, you can spend your entire vacation staying cool and wet. On the lake, guests water-ski, fish, kayak, and canoe.
Left: The infinity pool at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge looks as if its water spills into the lake.
Left: You'll find spacious balconies and granite baths in the 251 guest rooms at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, outside of Atlanta.
The one at Hotel San José in Austin measures 8 x 24 feet and never exceeds more than 5 feet deep.
That's a modest size, smaller than most backyard pools and only a fraction larger than the ones you blow up. Still, this pool rates as one of the coolest places to be in all of the Lone Star State. Surrounded by tall stalks of bamboo and Southwestern succulents, this dipping hole provides a Zenlike escape from the sweltering three-digit temperatures you endure in the Texas summer. Folks hang here with their canine companions, who are also welcome in the pool. Guests chill in the water while sipping wine or Shiner Bock beer. The vintage tables and chairs in the attached courtyard, where you can sit back and relax, offer some of the most happening seating around.
Crushed granite pathways connect the 40 rooms of the property, the lobby, the outside bar, and the pool. This hot spot captures what hip travelers love about the Texas capital--it's ultracool and edgy while remaining down-home and comfy.
Guest rooms come in several floor plans, from spacious suites with balconies to European-style efficiencies with shared baths down the hall. The low-lying platform beds, a basic mattress on wood slats, are covered with Indian-print bedspreads, while the polished concrete floors are softened with cowhide rugs. The place is sparse. Truly, though, that minimalism adds character, something the San José in no way lacks.
Left: The pool steps at Austin's Hotel San José make a great place to chill out.
The first and only Nick-themed lodging in the world, the hotel features two interactive water spots: The Oasis and The Lagoon. Both are huge--like regular dipping holes on steroids--with colorful waterslides, sand play areas, water toys, climbing nets, and splash zones. There is even a 400-gallon dump tank that fills with water and randomly unloads on unsuspecting guests. Every day, visitors enjoy poolside activities, including games, contests, and challenges. Hosts and hostesses on microphones yell "Who's ready to play?" to keep the crowd wild. The louder, the better is the rule.
It's fun to the extreme.
The property, designed with kids in mind, features two- and three-bedroom suites with separate living rooms and kitchen areas. The kids' quarters, which offer bunk or twin beds, are done up with images of cartoon characters on the wall. Plus, Nickelodeon Family Suites provides video game systems in the rooms--a major selling point for rug rats. Adult bedrooms come a bit more traditional, although by no means stuffy. And don't bother bringing anything but flip-flops, sunscreen, and your swimsuit--that is all you'll need.
Left: Meet some of the most popular Nickelodeon characters at the Nicktoons Café.
The springs have been enticing travelers since the resort's founding in 1766. Visitors "take the waters" to soothe aching joints and tired muscles. Steam rises from the 98-degree water year-round, creating a comfortable indoor sauna surrounded by palm trees and arched windows that filter the light.
The elegant pool house, which reflects the stately Jeffersonian redbrick style of the resort, sits adjacent to the spa, where you can also get treatments using the water from the hot springs. Outside the pool house is a traditional swimming pool complex, which includes a children's wading hole and snack bar. Here is where you head in the sweltering summer.
When it's time to stroll back to your room after a leisurely day of soaking, you'll find the classically decorated rooms vary in size but are all as lovely as the property. Twenty-two Presidents, including Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Reagan, and Clinton, have chosen to visit The Homestead, tucked beautifully in the Allegheny Mountains. We can see why.