5 U.S. Beaches You Can Get to Without a Car

Beaches with a car - Chicago's Oak Street Beach
Flickr, Tom Gill

Summer may be winding down, but there are still a few weekends left to spend at the beach. Rather than sit in traffic or rent an expensive car, you can ride public transportation to many beaches in the U.S. Seasonal routes are especially likely to be popular, so go early and pack light.

Boston – CapeFLYER train to Cape Cod
Reintroduced this summer, the CapeFLYER train goes every weekend from Boston out to Hyannis, connecting to ferries for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and buses up and down Cape Cod. Fares are from $18 from South Station, with a few bucks’ savings if you buy round trip. You can bring a bike, get concessions onboard and get free Wi-Fi. The train will run through Columbus Day, October 14.

Chicago – El train to Oak Street Beach
Not everyone thinks of this city smack in the midwest as a beach town, but thanks to Lake Michigan, there are more beaches around Chicago than Bermuda. There are many to choose from, but Oak Street Beach is the most central with the most spectacular skyline view. It’s a few blocks from the El train at Clark and Division, though a bus up Lake Shore Drive will get you there closer. Beaches are free and open until Labor Day, but you can enjoy the water views year round. CTA fares are $2.25, with deductions for transit cards.Los Angeles – Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica
While it’s a major car city, there are ways to get to Santa Monica and Venice Beach from downtown Los Angeles without wheels. The Big Blue Bus serves all of Santa Monica and connects to Venice Beach as well. Fares are just $1, with day passes available. LA Metro has rapid buses to Venice Beach, with fares from $1.50. A new light rail line will connect Santa Monica to downtown LA, getting you on the beach even faster.

New York – A train to Far Rockaway
New Yorkers are lucky to have lots of options for sand and swimming, from Brooklyn‘s Brighton Beach to Long Island‘s Jones Beach, and Rockaway Beach in Queens has long been an urban favorite. While it suffered a lot from last year’s superstorm Sandy, it’s back in a big way, with many boardwalk concessions reopened and a new boutique hotel. A $2.50 subway fare gets you there on the A train, and there’s also a weekend-only ferry from downtown Manhattan if you’d like a more scenic (and spendy, at $20 one way) ride.

Washington, D.C. – DC2NY bus to Delaware beaches
While a bit much for a day trip, budget bus company DC2NY offers seasonal shuttles to Delaware‘s Rehoboth (one of Dr. Beach‘s favorites in the country) and Dewey beaches from Washington, as well as Wilmington and New York. The trip takes about 2½ hours, leaving Friday night and weekend mornings through Labor Day. Fares are $39 each way, but you do get Wi-Fi, a power outlet and a bottle of water.

What are your favorite beaches to visit without a car?

Hotel News We Noted: July 13, 2012

nantucket hotelIt’s Friday the 13th! Let’s hope nothing too scary happens today. How the time has flown – it seems hard to believe that we’re nearly halfway through summer. While July is often a slow month, the hotel world has stayed hot, hot, hot with openings, trends and promotions. Here’s what we’ve got on tap for you this week in “Hotel News We Noted.”

Hotel Opening: The Nantucket Hotel & Resort
The quintessential summer town has a new resort; The Nantucket Hotel & Resort opened officially yesterday and has an equal emphasis on the luxe and family-friendly. Featuring both guestrooms and family suites, a casual eatery with a decadent lobster-stuffed burger and two heated swimming pools, this is a great option for families looking to escape for a week or two. The 60-room hotel starts at $395 for regular rooms and $660 for family suites, with a special opening promo of 20 percent off for three nights in a one-to-four bedroom suite.

Social Hotel News: Hotel Tonight Goes European (and Canadian)
One of our all-time favorite travel apps, Hotel Tonight, has expanded in the past few weeks with the launch of a London edition. The app-only product, which offers (as you would guess), discounted hotel rooms for “tonight” is now in more than 40 cities, including Toronto and Vancouver. I used the app to book a last-minute hotel room in Newport, Rhode Island, over Memorial Day, paying just $99 for a great suite at the adorable Architect’s Inn, when rates were well over $300 at most other places. Easy to use and usually a pretty good deal, this is one of our top app picks and great news for those looking for London hotel rooms in this admittedly very busy summer overseas.

Hotel Perk: Ride In Style
We’ve heard about gratis BMWs and the one-off Aston Martin rental, but Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have gotten some cool perks for transportation of late that are a bit more out-of-the-box. Fairmont properties around the world offer guests the use of BMW Cruise Bikes to hop on and explore, but Fairmont Miramar Hotels & Bungalows in Santa Monica offers Dregs 37 Ditch Surf skateboards. For guests staying in one of the 32 bungalow rooms, the skateboards (or long boards) are available to cruise around Venice beach, the pier, Third Street Promenade and anywhere else you’d want to go. Guests looking for a high-flying mode of transportation can head to The Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver or The Fairmont Empress, Victoria. The hotels share a Helijet that is available to transport guests to and from each respective location in 35 minutes. Fairmont has also expanded its complimentary chauffeured car service with BMW to its hotels throughout the United States. Awesome perks!

Hot Hotel of the Week: Kura Hurlanda
It’s been a busy week and we just got around to watching “The Bachelorette” last night, where we got an insider’s look at Kura Hurlanda Lodge in Curacao. We’re planning a whole feature on hotels of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” but we couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of this Caribbean gem. Did you see the tree house mansion used in her date with Jef? How romantic! If you want to live like Emily, they’re offering two different Bachelorette packages, starting at $1,696.

Megabus branches out to Cape Cod

If you’re still planning a summer escape and want to save some gas money, here’s some good news: Megabus will now send some of its blue, double-decker buses to Cape Cod. Known for offering fares as low as $1 and having free Wi-Fi onboard, Megabus will now make two daily round trips from New York to the Ocean Street Docks in Hyannis, Massachusetts (with a stop in Providence along the way). From the docks, travelers can hit a nearby beach, find sailing and fishing charters, or connect to island ferries for trips to places such as Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

Fares are still up for grabs as low as $5 in July, but the cheap seats probably won’t last long. Travelers who don’t live in New York can connect to the hub from locations all along the East Coast and in some Midwestern and Southern states – just be prepared for a potentially long road trip (the route from New York to Providence alone takes over five hours).

If taking to the skies is a better option, JetBlue also began seasonal service between New York and Martha’s Vineyard last week. The airline will send up to five weekly roundtrip flights on the route throughout the summer, with roundtrip fares being offered for as low as $147.

[Photo by Laura Padgett / Flickr]

Daily Pampering: Escape to White Elephant Loft in Nantucket from $6,000

white elephant loft nantucketThe holidays are a stressful time. Whether you’re cooking a feast for the family or the only adult stuck at the kids table, the holidays are nothing if not memorable. And every year, you say you’re not going to do again… and every year, you do… But this year, why not try something different?

Cook the bird, make the stuffing, crush the cranberries and then get out of town! This daily pampering isn’t just luxurious, it’s necessary for your mental health after the holidays.

Leave the chaos and head for The White Elephant Loft in Nantucket. The quintessential New England island glows during the holiday season and the entire town dresses up for Christmas, with Santa Clause arriving via Coast Guard vessel and carolers lining the streets.

Check into The White Elephant Loft and unpack in a luxurious three-bedroom loft, let the staff treat you to breakfast each morning at Brant Point Grill, a four-course meal prepared in the loft, and a Saturday Champagne Reception at the White Elephant spa with hors d’oeuvres, and dinner after at Brant Point Grill.

The price for this daily pampering: $6,000 for up to six people, Dec. 1-4 or Dec. 2-5. The package also comes with $25 towards any $100 or more spa treatment.

The price for reclaiming your sanity after the holidays: Priceless

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Hotels keeping up the pace with new technology

iPod docking stations are so last year. Today, hotels are making a more concerted effort to upgrade their guest rooms and common areas with the newest technology that keeps guests connected, educated, and often times inspired, during their stay. While many hotels bring in iPads to keep their guests entertained, other hotels are getting super-sexy with some unique high-tech initiatives.

Check out the Royal Mansour in Marrakech. The property was created completely by Moroccan artisans and craftsman trained in the traditional arts of carving, silk weaving, and mosaics, but the hotel added cutting-edge technology throughout. For example, every guest room has a touch screen wall that enables guests to control lighting and temperature levels (tres chic!) and in case you tire of the personal butler service (although we can’t imagine why you would,) there is a ‘Do Not Disturb’ button on your wall for ultimate privacy.

Guest rooms at Pavillon des Lettres in Paris are perfect for the aspiring storyteller. Opening this autumn, Pavillon des Lettres is a small 26-room upscale hotel with a novel idea: guest rooms that are devoted to a letter of the alphabet that corresponds with a famous writer. (Think: H for Hugo or B for Balzac.) Passages from the writer’s books will appear above the bed and a hard copy of the book can be found on the nightstand. C’est magnifique! Closer to home, the quaint New England island of Nantucket is getting into the high-tech crazy. Nantucket Island Resorts offers Flip Video Camcorders for guests to use at each property, so you can record the sunsets, the hikes, the storms and the endless display of Nantucket baskets that parade around the island every summer. (Hint from this New Englander: Grab a seat at the White Elephant at sunset and capture the boats coming into the dock – it’s one of the best, and most unique, New England moments). You can enter a one-minute video clip in the Flip Out on Nantucket Sweepstakes for the chance to win a grand prize Nantucket vacation worth $15,000.

We couldn’t do a post about high-tech hotels without mentioning one of the newest and techiest hotels to hit the New York scene: Andaz Wall Street and the newly opened Andaz 5th Avenue. Thanks to technology, guests skip the front-desk altogether and use mobile tablets to check in with the hotel’s floating ‘hosts’. Have a rough day? Enjoy a glass of wine while you check-in. In a hurry? Check-in from the elevator on the way to your room. Guests just swipe their credit cards and a room key is created on the spot. Genius!

Gadling readers: What new technology would you like to see in hotels?