Travel

I Tried Swimply, the Airbnb of Swimming Pools

You can rent your dream pool for a day-at a surprisingly fair cost.

Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply

At the top of my list each summer lies two items. The first: complaining about the ungodly smell of the NYC subway stations, which always manages to be twice as bad as I remembered from years prior.

The second: opening the group message and sending “Let’s have a pool day!” again and again and again without actually acting on it, because finding a good pool-although not truly difficult-feels like a pain in the ass. This cycle continues until Labor Day weekend arrives, at which point I can direct my attention away from being a pool-less plebeian and toward apple-picking season.

Thankfully, that laborious search for the best swimming pool-not just in New York City, but anywhere-may just be over.

Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply

What is Swimply?

Essentially the Airbnb of swimming pools, the Swimply app lets you rent from 25,000+ different private pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, and more across the US, Canada, and Australia. (And to quickly address a common question I’ve seen floating around-yes, Swimply is legit.)

While there are plenty of straightforward listings, you can get access to some pretty phenomenal swimming holes-for example, this enormous castle-slash-oasis or this dope waterfront mega-mansion.

Rentals range from $15 to a few hundred bucks per hour, which, split between a few friends, ain’t too bad-especially considering many pools allow for well over a dozen guests. Swimply also runs an online shop with gift cards, photographer rentals, and pool gear, including a truly enormous duck float which, at $100, may or may not be worth the photo opp-you be the judge.

Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply

How does Swimply work?

After you download the Swimply app and fill out the requisite sign-up info (which includes verifying that you’re at least 21 years old-sorry kids, this is Adult Swim), you’ll be directed to their main map, which allows you to search for available pools by location, date, time, and number of guests.

The Swimply app also includes the upcoming weather report so that quite literally nothing rains on your parade. Yours truly almost made the mistake of booking for a rainy Saturday afternoon, so this is a verified life-saver.

You can browse through all the hot single pools near you and get more details, including house rules, pool width and depth, on-site furniture, whether the pool is child- or pet-friendly, and available amenities (BBQ grills, pool toys, local shops/restaurants, et cetera).

The page will also list whether there’s a bathroom available-about 80% of listings offer toilet access, but at least you’ll know in advance if you’re shit out of luck (ba dum tss).

From there, all you need to do is show up and enjoy.

Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply

What’s the Swimply experience like?

In my case, most of the closest pools would have meant either a trek out to Jersey or deep into Brooklyn, so I went with a chill backyard hot tub and sauna combo nearby that cost $50/hour. (I booked three hours for $150-or about $75 per person for two-but looking back, two hours would have sufficed.)

Just before we were set to head over, my boyfriend couldn’t stop reminding me how weird it might feel to swim while our hosts sat inside, winding down on a Sunday night as two complete strangers hung out in their backyard. This was admittedly fair: Were I a host, I’d feel a little like that meme of Squidward gazing down from his window at Spongebob and Patrick enjoying their little day, and as a guest, I worried we’d feel like we were intruding on someone’s afternoon.

But ultimately, the experience was laid-back from start to finish. Our hosts were friendly, took just a few minutes to show us how the hot tub and sauna worked, and then disappeared back into the house. Barring the initial awkwardness of settling into somebody else’s space-much like one might feel in a shared-room Airbnb-we quickly adjusted and, within 30 minutes, found ourselves lounging comfortably and chatting in the hot tub between steams in the sauna.

In our case, our hosts had popped out for dinner by the time we left, so checking out was just a matter of going on our merry way. Overall, we had a good enough time taking a dip-and considering how miserably expensive most things in New York are, I’ve definitely spent more on worse outings.

Whether or not you feel satisfied with your own experience with Swimply, though, will probably vary based on a few different factors.

Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply

Things to consider before you rent on Swimply

1. Remember that you’ve rented the pool-not the entire house. Although it has a similar layout, Swimply isn’t Airbnb, and it’s up to each individual host to decide whether or not they want to leave their house during your rental period. Depending on what kind of experience you’re after, you might want to weigh your options. Want a quick day swim? Swimply’s your guy. Want a pool plus guaranteed privacy plus somewhere to take a post-swim nap? You’re probably better off booking a hotel or Airbnb with a pool.

2.¬†Depending on where you live, your options may be limited, so adjust your expectations accordingly. If you live in a dense urban area, I’d recommend dialling back your standards for “dream pool” just a bit. For example, my options were relatively few since I live in New York-a city not exactly known for its sprawling backyards or household swimming pools. But if you’re in a place where yard space is a little more common-say, Los Angeles or Miami-you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice. Whereas less urban areas may have less competition and lower costs for a lot of space.

3. Book far in advance. As it goes with most fun things, book as far in advance as possible, especially if you want to rent during the afternoon and/or on a weekend. For what it’s worth, it was much easier to book last-minute swim sessions after 6 pm or during the workweek. In general, though, do yourself a favour and make your reservation as soon as the thought of lounging poolside crosses your mind.

Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply
Courtesy of Swimply

Is Swimply worth it?

Final verdict: Maybe. At the very least, Swimply is a hell of a lot cheaper than building a pool in your own backyard, and a hell of a lot more attractive than sitting in a kiddie pool on your lawn or the rooftop of your apartment. But what it really comes down to is your locale and your group size.

If you live in a place where pools are relatively common and/or you’re interested in sunning and funning with more than a few friends, then you’re much more likely to enjoy Swimply. Even then, though, you may be able to find an Airbnb with a pool that sits within your budget and gives you complete and total privacy.

If you’re swimming with a small group or live in a concrete jungle where swimming pools (both private and otherwise) are harder to come across-your New Yorks, your Phillys, your Chicagos-Swimply becomes a little more enticing, but your options on the app may still be relatively few.

Overall, if you’re feeling a little bougie, I’d say splurge on a daytime dip; if you’re not picky and you’re just looking to do a cannonball without all the bells and whistles, a public pool will probably suit you just fine. And if all this option-weighing has stressed you out too much, there’s another option in which you just take our advice on how to throw an amazing pool party sans pool instead.

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Tiana Attride is a contributor to Thrillist.

Travel

Hollywood's Favorite Mountain Town Isn't Where You'd Think It Is

It's all hot springs and Hemmingway lore here.

Michael Godek/Moment/Getty Images
Michael Godek/Moment/Getty Images
Michael Godek/Moment/Getty Images

“Idaho is like the new Colorado, and Sun Valley is like the new Aspen,” a woman leaned over and said as we began our descent into Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho. “Everyone’s coming here now.”

Similar to Aspen-which has seen an unprecedented influx of transplants from around the country since the pandemic began-Sun Valley has served as Idaho’s venerable ski town ever since it was established as the country’s first designated ski resort in 1936. But those same snow-covered mountains people swish down all winter look awfully pretty come summertime, surrounded by the nearby Sawtooth Mountain range and set within the sweeping Wood River Valley.

Peter Jacobson/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Peter Jacobson/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Peter Jacobson/500Px Plus/Getty Images

Celebrities, artists, and fiercely passionate locals have long been a part of the fabric of this town ever since Ernest Hemingway was invited to live and write in the Sun Valley Lodge in 1939.

“Many celebrities were invited to come for free.” actress and Sun Valley resident Ali Larter told me at The Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) in April. “Hemingway was one of the first famous people to come and help build up what this mountain town was, and it’s become a part of what makes this valley the creative hub that it continues to be even today.”

Sun Valley’s cach√© remains alive and well, with its contingent of laid-back locals, cool bars, restaurants, and always-sunny Sun Valley vibes. While the secret about this idyllic mountain town may be out, Aspen, I can assure you, it is not. From spending some time soaking in the local hot springs to visiting a few of Hemingway’s favourite haunts, here are all the ways to enjoy Hollywood’s favourite mountain town, no matter the season.

Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images

Walk in Hemingway’s footprints or drink amid the flowers

With 50 peaks, 300 lakes and rivers, and 250-miles of trails, wherever you are in Sun Valley, adventure isn’t far behind.

A good place to get your bearings is the White Cloud Trail. One of the most popular hiking loops at a leisurely 2.5 miles, it’s a short walk or bike ride from the Sun Valley resort area. As you make your way along the trail, plan to stop by the Hemingway Memorial, which is a fantastic place to soak in some views.

About four miles down the Wood River Trail is the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, which makes for a lovely bike-ride destination. The garden is a beautiful place to spend a few hours, especially in the summer when numerous events take place, like tours, wine tastings, and cocktail evenings.

Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Spend the morning soaking in local hot springs or angling for rainbows

Just 10 miles west of downtown Ketchum on Warm Springs Road, Frenchman’s Bend is the best place to soak in local hot springs. This shallow spring has long been a local Sun Valley hot spot, though it’s very much not clothing optional, so skinny dippers beware.

But getting hot and pruny isn’t the only way to enjoy the water here. Stretching 137-miles long and running directly through Sun Valley, Big Wood River is a great spot to go white water rafting in nearby Stanley or try your hand at fly fishing.

If you’re angling to get out and catch those elusive rainbows, try a guided fishing trip or even a women’s intro to fly fishing clinic with Sun Valley Outfitters. Big Wood is known for wild trout, though Silver Creek Preserve is another excellent spot (and a Hemingway favourite).

Warfield Distillery & Brewery
Warfield Distillery & Brewery
Warfield Distillery & Brewery

Eat homey dishes in cozy settings

Sun Valley’s food scene rivals that of any big city, starting with coffee and a ham and cheese croissant at Konditorei. Otherwise head straight for The Kneadery for a country frittata and ultimate Belgian waffles topped with whipped cream in downtown Ketchum.

Walk it all off before heading to Warfield Distillery & Brewery, which serves up some of the best elevated pub food. The beautiful rooftop is perfect for drinking in the views over downtown Ketchum and Baldy mountain. Don’t miss the signature Warfield Burger and Bacon Blue Ridge Salad and save some room for the carrot cake if you can.

Set on a side street in downtown Ketchum, The Covey‘s hearth style, seasonally inspired menu more than delivers when it comes to homemade pastas and some of the best locally caught trout you’ve ever had. It’s also got a killer wine list and a gorgeous new outdoor garden to enjoy it all in. If push comes to shove, don’t be afraid to post up at the bar, where you can chat with some of Sun Valley’s coolest team of locals and longtime friends who own and operate this awesome spot.

Rickshaw
Rickshaw
Rickshaw

Rickshaw is the cozy [read: tiny] neighbourhood joint to satisfy all your Asian- fusion cravings. The Korean Fried Chicken (KFC), Chiang Mai Curry Noodles, and Green Papaya Salad are cooked to chef-kiss perfection. Just note that this place packs up quick and reservations can be tough to come by, so if you can’t get a spot, grab your food to go and post up for a picnic in any of the nearby parks.

One absolute can’t miss when you’re in Ketchum is the chance to guzzle down schooners at Grumpy’s, a true Sun Valley legend. You can sit out front and enjoy the chilli fries and beers, but you’ll be missing out on the indoor ambience of this time-capsule-of-a-ski-town dive.

Come nighttime, head to Pioneer Saloon for margaritas, pints at The Cellar Pub, a tipple and some of Tom’s Mom’s Meatloaf at the Sawtooth Club, before an obligatory lap at Casino.

The Gold Mine Thrift Store
The Gold Mine Thrift Store
The Gold Mine Thrift Store

Strike gold at the local thrift

There’s no shortage of high-end boutiques in and around the Sun Valley Resort and downtown Ketchum, but for a real taste of local goodness, Gold Mine Thrift Store is considered the ultimate choice for all your thrifting needs. There’re always gems to be found here and it’s an added bonus that all of the proceeds go towards The Community Library next door.

For all your gear and outdoor needs, head to the Elephant’s Perch; or for some great local reads, look no further than Chapter One Bookstore on a side street off the Main drag. Finally, The Farmer’s Daughter is the perfect place to pick up some cool, local home d√©cor and Idaho knick knacks.

Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley Resort

Sleep like a star at Sun Valley’s best hotels

The Sun Valley Lodge is the go-to spot for a five-star stay in Sun Valley. Dating back to 1936, it’s also the former residence of Ernest Hemingway, whose room here is said to still house his typewriter.

The hotel’s pool area and bowling alley are always buzzing with activity, but if you’re in the mood for some bonafide “me time,” head straight to The Spa at Sun Valley, where a spin inside one of their “Experience Showers” in the locker room is enough to make you a believer in the power of one really good shower.

Right across the courtyard from The Lodge, the Sun Valley Inn is a bit more rustic than its glamorous counterpart-but recently remodelled and offering access to all of the same amenities as the Lodge at a fraction of the cost, the Inn is a more economical way to stay in the resort area.

Just off Main Street in Ketchum, Limelight Hotel is the perfect, pet-friendly place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action. Word to the wise, snag a room with balcony views over Baldy, and don’t miss a chance to wind down with a dip in the pool and hot tubs.

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Michelle Gross is a travel, food and lifestyle writer who loves a small-town vibe. An alum of the University of Colorado Boulder, she spends a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors. This summer you’ll most likely find her on a paddleboard or on her porch in Beaufort, South Carolina.

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