Image: Tanked in Vegas
Courtesy of Golden Nugget
The Tank is a Las Vegas pool that surrounds a 200,000-gallon acrylic tank teeming with marine life, and a three-story enclosed waterslide tube shoots you through the tank in eight seconds flat.
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updated 12/30/2009 10:37:32 AM ET 2009-12-30T15:37:32

Sally Randall Brunger, creative director of men’s knitwear line The Brungers, traverses the globe for inspiration for her collections — and she knows a cool pool when she sees one. “I can’t imagine anything more fun after a day of meetings than to toss off my heels and dip into a pool where I can swim to the bar and order my favorite cocktail.”

For the notorious “it” girl from the glamorous ’80s club era, the pool at the Grace Hotel in Times Square fits the bill. The midtown hotel has one of the most talked about pools in New York City. With two swim-up bars, live DJs, and a projector screen, it’s at the heart of the action — complete with half-naked guests.

Pools are fast evolving from background scene-setters to the main attraction. The 21st-century pool has blossomed from mere swim spot to an imaginative work of art that flaunts a “wow” factor — be it a pool elevator, a whitewater slide, hidden grotto, or interactive aquarium. With all these bells and whistles, who cares about a diving board?

Of course, a buzz-worthy pool doesn’t just happen overnight. “The interesting aspects of cool pools are in the choice and use of materials,” says Cool Pools and Hot Tubs author Vinny Lee, “and its shape should complement the surroundings and landscape.”

“It’s all too easy to design a pool that looks good, but to make strong and powerful connections to a place, a climate, a landscape, an atmosphere or a feeling — now that’s cool because it’s unrepeatable,” says Marwan Al-Sayed, one of the designers of the pool at the stunning new Amangiri resort in the Utah desert, which is built around a natural stone outcropping.

Other pools are more of a novelty attraction. Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget Resort features a 50-by-30-foot aquarium stocked with fish, sharks, and stingrays in the middle of its pool; there’s even a waterslide tube that runs through it. But not all cool pools are the headline amenities of hotels. At the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, for example, guests can swim with 18-foot-long crocodiles (in the safety of an acrylic cage, of course), and in Brussels at the world’s deepest recreational pool, it’s the caves (some as deep as 108 feet) that lure water-lovers.

These 16 pools have personalities of their own, impressing thousands of visitors and serving as tourist attractions in themselves. With more tricks and rides, live creatures and local materials, and soul and character, their cool factors are sure to inspire more than just a dip — they may just inspire a whole vacation.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

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