Seattle’s new Hot Tub Boats: swingin’ in the rain

seattle hot tub rentalI live in Seattle. So I can state with authority that out here if you want hipster street cred you’ll be rocking at least some sartorial remnant of the ’70s — be it a pair of groovy shades, nut-hugger jeans, a polyester dress or booty cut-offs.

What else is reminiscent of the ’70s? Hot tubs, baby. And now, chilly (but oh so cool) Seattleites and visitors alike can have a relaxing retro outing thanks to a fab new indulgence: Hot Tub Boats. You and up to six friends (kids count) can bob around scenic Lake Union in a wooden, diesel boiler-fueled floating hot tub boat with full steering capacity and a throttle. All boats come with coolers, locked dry storage, water jets and safety equipment. They are also United States Coast Guard standard approved.

The boats are also available for longer-term rentals and purchase, and can be delivered to alternate locations such as Lake Washington for an additional fee. The company is anticipating a May launch.

Alas, getting nekkid and sipping Lancers is not permitted; we’re not animals here in Seattle. And everyone knows drinking and boating (don’t) mix. Even though you’ll have to leave the booze at home and cover up your bits, there’s still something about steamy water, nippy weather and floating on a lake that feels a little bit naughty. Far out.


Riviera Nayarit kicks off Mexico’s largest sailing competition this month

sailing Every other year, Mexico hosts their Nautical Extravaganza, a month filled with classic sailing and water sport competitions that take you to different Mexican cities. This year, the event kicked off on March 2 with the 30th Biennial San Diego to Vallarta Yacht Club race, which consists of sailors navigating their boats over 1,000 miles from San Diego, California, to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.

If you weren’t at the kick-off, no need to be upset, as the month is still young. Because the London Olympics are coming up, the most anticipated contest of the event is the Regatta Mexico Cup 2012 Olympic Edition, which includes seven sailing divisions and features over 1,500 international athletes, many of whom are preparing for the official summer Olympics.

For those who aren’t into sailing, the event also includes windsurfing, kite surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, whale watching, and beach volleyball as part of the fun. If you’re competitive, the Punta Sayulita Longboard and Stand-Up Paddle Classic will kickoff on March 9 in the picturesque surf village of Sayulita. The event attracts visitors and professional athletes from all over the world who come to enjoy the talent and scenery, partake in beach events, and also raise money for charity.

For more information on the competitions and events still to come this month in the Nautical Extravaganza, click here.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – White Water Rafting on the Tuolumne!

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 27 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Suit up, strap in, and get ready for this week’s Travel Talk! We’re going white water rafting down California’s mighty Tuolumne River on an action packed 2-day adventure. We’ll show you what it takes to navigate Class IV+ rapids and teach you all of the vocabulary that you’ll need in order to stay dry.

In this episode’s couch talk, we’ll delve into a little bit of the history behind America’s National Park System; what the first established park was, what the most frequently visited park is, and what terms the NPS uses to classify our many protected lands.

Think you’re ready? Click the link below to watch.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
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Links
Appetite wet for a real rafting trip? Then check out Oars.com for some of the best guided expeditions around the world.
Tuolumn-what? Get familiar with the mighty T!
Want more info on a National Park near you? Check out NPS.gov for information.

All images used under a Creative Commons license. All music used courtesy of Nonstop Music.

The Abbey Resort and Spa: Luxury on Lake Geneva

Billing itself as “the only full-service resort” on the shores of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, The Abbey Resort and Spa is one of those places where you can almost feel the ghosts of the past whispering around you. The resort was completely renovated in 2005, but its timber A-frame and low-slung bungalow style buildings look much as they did when it was built nearly 50 years ago, when the Midwestern elite made it their summer playground.

There’s plenty of nostalgia for the “good old days” here – the nearby Geneva Grand Resort proudly boasts that it was a Playboy Club in the 1960’s and 70’s. And money. Lots and lots of money. The houses that front Lake Geneva, the 9-mile long lake that is the centerpiece of the area, are multi-million dollar affairs that bear the names of families like Borden, Vicks, and Wrigley. Yet despite the vast wealth of the “haves”, those who aren’t descendants of the Midwest’s titans of industry can still share in the benefits of area. There are several public beaches and marinas, and every lakefront property is required to have a public walkway so that all area residents can enjoy a stroll around the lake. And in the towns of Lake Geneva and Fontana, more modest homes and affordable restaurants lines the streets where wealthy summer residents mingle with the local families who live here all year round.

For Chicago residents, getting to The Abbey couldn’t be easier. It’s about 80 miles from the city (50 miles from Milwaukee), but the Metra Rail will get you there in less than two hours from downtown. You’ll get off at the end of the line, at the Harvard Station, where a shuttle will pick you up and drive you the remaining 15 minutes to The Abbey. You can also request service from the resort to anywhere in Lake Geneva, making a car completely unnecessary.

The Abbey is family-friendly – there are childcare services, organized kids’ activities, free games like bags and croquet, two outdoor and one indoor pool, and a 2,000-square foot arcade complete with Wii system – but it’s also perfect for a romantic or relaxing retreat. The rooms have all been updated and feature pillow-top mattresses, LCD wall-mounted TVs, mini-fridges, and patios or balconies.

I saw a few families, but mostly couples in their 30’s to 50’s, during my stay. My room was comfortable and spacious and the bed soft and inviting. My only complaint was with the wi-fi service. It was free, but I had a very hard time getting a signal. When I did, I was bumped offline every 15 minutes or so, and web pages loaded very slowly. I can’t say if that would be the case all over the resort, or just in my location, but it was inconvenient when I needed to get some work done.

If you don’t plan on working while at The Abbey, you’ll find plenty of things to do to keep you busy. The resort rents bikes and fishing poles and there is a golf course nearby. The 35,000-square foot AVANI Spa offers treatments like facials, massages, body wraps, waxing and manicures. It features a pool, whirlpools, inhalation spa, steam room, sauna, sundeck, and spa menu for dining. Guests can also take advantage of the Spa’s fitness center or full line-up of exercises classes liking spinning, yoga, zumba, and pilates, which are geared towards any fitness level. I found there was always equipment available for use, the yoga class was just difficult enough to challenge me (but not hard enough to make me feel like an uncoordinated idiot), and the spa staff was always friendly but unobtrusive.

The resort borders a marina, but the small beach isn’t suitable for swimming. There is a nicer, sandy beach less than a five-minute walk off the property, or you can take the shuttle into Lake Geneva proper to visit the beach there. In town you can rent a boat or wave runner, water-ski, or take a cruise past the historic mansions around the lake. Nearby parks offer hiking trails and horseback riding, two wineries offer wine tasting (a wine festival is held in September), and there are farms where you can pick your own fruit just a few miles away. You can also soar above the lake in a hot air balloon or small airplane. In winter, locals hit the frozen lake for ice fishing and skating.

The Abbey offers an impressive variety of delicious food, all made from scratch in the resort’s kitchen. Meals are served at one of two restaurants, and there is a coffee shop, gazebo grill, cocktail lounge, and cigar bar. The resort also offers catering and meeting spaces, and hosts many weddings throughout the year. The weekend that I visited, a wedding was being set up on the lawn in front of the marina. For a resort-style destination wedding close to Chicago, I can’t think of a more beautiful place in the Midwest at which to get married.

To be honest, when I hear the word “relaxing”, I think “boring”. I prefer my vacations to be packed with sightseeing, learning, experiencing, and of course, eating and drinking. This makes me generally shun resorts where I think I’ll feel as though I’m held captive and at a loss for things to keep me entertained. I’m also very budget-conscious. Since I spend so little time in my hotel room, I don’t like to spend too much on it. And I can’t stand when resorts jack up their prices for food, drinks and activities just because they know guests will pay rather than head off-site. So I was a bit worried that The Abbey wouldn’t be my style. But I was pleasantly surprised.

One of the things that I liked about The Abbey was that leaving isn’t a hassle for guests without their own wheels. The shuttle will take you anywhere you want to go, and there a few restaurants and shops within walking distance of the hotel. And The Abbey doesn’t gouge its guests on food and drink just because it can. Management knows that it isn’t just the hotel guests who keep the resort in business, especially in the off-season. They aim to attract local customers too, and keep the prices reasonable so that everyone can enjoy The Abbey.

Despite any initial reservations, I found myself enjoying The Abbey immensely, and trying to convince my husband that returning for a “relaxing weekend” (in my case, meaning one chock-full of wine-tasting, boat tours, horseback riding, and cooking classes) at The Abbey would be the perfect fall trip. And as it turns out, fall is one of the best times to visit. Weekend rates start at $216 per night, and include free breakfast buffet and a 25% discount on spa services.

Disclosure: The Abbey Resort did cover the cost of my stay, but don’t think they had an easy time wooing me with spa treatments and Pelligrino. Freebies are nice, but they won’t make me forgive a hotel’s shortcomings. My review of the resort represents my own views and experiences as a guest and were not influenced in any way by fancy cheeses or free champagne.

America’s Cup Sailing: the top attraction in Los Cabos, Mexico

Commands like “forward grind” and “backward grind” are guaranteed to elicit a chuckle, but when you’re deep in the throes of a sailing race, the laughter is pushed to the back of your mind. At the Cabo Adventures America’s Cup Sailing experience, recreation is seasoned with competition. Head out onto the water in Los Cabos, Mexico, and test your mettle against other visitors to Baja California Sur. Don’t worry, experts will be on board to help you along. And, yes, they keep score against each other, so the fix is never in.

Cabo Adventures is among the most interesting attractions in Los Cabos, and the America’s Cup excursion is at the top of the list. Skip the party scene for a little bit to do something for your body. The entire staff consists of experienced race crews who are more than happy to orient you to the tasks of sailing and winning out on the windy seas.

Those interested in watching the hard work can certainly find ways to abstain from the manual labor of cutting across the water, but the real fun is in grabbing a handle and putting your back into the quest for victory.

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As you push back from the slip, the first part of the voyage consists of a safety briefing and a general familiarization of what you can expect. In addition to showing you where ropes connect and explaining what your roles will be, the staff picks up a board and diagrams the basic racing tactics you’ll execute when the games begin. A bit of tradition is thrown into the mix, as well, from the countdown to start to the encouragement of trash-talking (all in good fun, of course).

And then, the race begins.

As part of your Cabo Adventures experience, you’ll race twice. The notion that each boat will claim victory once is wishful thinking for some, as the crews do keep score. If one of the men aboard your boat has suffered a recent losing streak, expect him to pull out all the stops to bring that disappointment to a close. Adding a bit of contention, one craft is named for Australia and the other for New Zealand. Old rivalries are perpetuated off the Cabo shore.

Throughout the competition, the staff is pleasant, helpful and understanding. You won’t be pushed; whips are not extracted from below deck to motivate you. The purpose, above all else, is to have a good time, and the team will help guide you through the challenges that await. It’s not easy, but you’ll be able to swap out with other guests during each race.

Once the second race has come to a conclusion, you’ll head back to the marina. Enjoy a cup of bear, stretch your shoulders and listen to the accented memories of the Australian, Kiwi and Mexican crew members. To call them experts is an understatement. Feel free to ask them about their own histories. They’ll talk willingly, but you won’t find boasting in these sea stories – just the untainted facts of professionals recounting the joyful pains of pursuing glory.

Oh, if you want a turn at the steering wheel, just ask.

From start to finish, the America’s Cup Sailing team was nothing short of a pleasure to be around. They are able to deliver a high-touch, insightful experience without even approaching obsessive or overbearing. The point of the excursion is to experience something you wouldn’t back home. They grasp this and make it a reality. Without a doubt, it has the potential to be the highlight of your Los Cabos vacation.

Back on land, check out a few of the other attractions that Cabo Adventures offers. A glass dolphin tank sits right in the lobby, and there are opportunities to swim with them, too. Special programs exist for kids, and there’s a “Dolphin Trainer for a Day” package that allows you to get your hands dirty wet with the staff.

If you’re headed to Los Cabos, this is the first attraction you should add to your itinerary.

Disclosure: The Los Cabos Tourism Board picked up the tab for this trip. But, if you know me, you know I don’t do anyone favors. The opinions are definitely my own.