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Posted on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

Valentine's Day in Ann Arbor starts with the Oasis Hot Tub Gardens

By Richard Retyi

Valentine’s Day can be stressful to new and old relationships, but I’m here to offer a secret advantage. It’s not roses - boring! It’s not a romantic dinner destination - who wants to engage in intimate times after a full meal? And it’s not crafting something special for the one you love, because we know you suck at needlepoint. 

If you’re trying to make an impression and you need to knock one out of the park, look no further than The Oasis Hot Tub Gardens. Seriously.

Stop shaking your head. Like many of you I was a non-believer. When I thought hot tubs I thought honeymoon suites in Niagara Falls, my uncle’s place in Toronto and protozoa soup - all three pretty gross (no offense Uncle Sandor). I’d driven past The Oasis a thousand times but never seriously considered stopping. Year after year, they stayed in business, and, year after year, I decided not to pop in and take a soak.



Rich Retyi soaking at The Oasis Hot Tub Gardens

photo by Rachel Smith

While doing some research on the Hot Tub Gardens, I learned a lot of townies don’t seem to share my apprehension - like my girlfriend Rachel. Born and bred in Ann Arbor, Rachel was a two-time visitor to The Oasis, once for a birthday party in high school and once for a romantic getaway in college with a guy who is totally not cooler or better looking or in-general better than me, no matter what his Facebook page might look like or how high he ranks in Google search. I scoffed aloud at both of Rachel’s tales. A birthday party. At a hot tub garden? A legitimate romantic getaway? At a hot tub garden? A. Hot. Tub. Garden? What about tobogganing or getting a couples' massage?

“Getting a massage is weirder than going to the Hot Tub Gardens,” Rachel said. “Getting a massage is paying a stranger to touch all over you."

Fair enough.

So eight years after moving to Ann Arbor, eight years of driving past The Oasis and rolling my eyes, I finally decided to give the Hot Tub Gardens a chance. Rachel was all too excited to join me.



We hot-tubbed under the gaze of Cupid

photo by Richard Retyi

We hot-tubbed incognito on a Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. When making the reservation, I gave the receptionist my real last name but didn’t reveal my affiliation with, nor the fact that I was writing a feature about the Hot Tub Garden’s potential as a secret weapon in some lucky gentleman or lady’s Valentine’s Day holster.

When we arrived, we were escorted to the Santorini Garden, decorated in a classical Greek style with Ionic columns, a statue of Cupid and a roaring fireplace. We slipped into our stylish swimwear in the indoor changing room before heading outdoors - yes - outdoors - to the burbling hot tub. The majority of the tubs at The Oasis are outdoors, which makes sense once you’re neck-deep in 102-degree water sweating profusely. Despite temperatures in the low 20s, our garden was plenty warm. The in-house sound system with a variety of channel options (romantic, '90s rock, mariachi) piped through a speaker next to the tub, setting the mood for the evening. I chose the Valentine’s Day channel to start. Romance!

The experience was pretty great. When are hot tubs not enjoyable? In my preconceived thoughts, I imagined checking-in at a poorly-lit front desk and being led down a pink neon-lit hallway, trying not to bump into bathrobe-clad patrons with lazy eyes while stepping around random wet patches on the carpet, before being ushered into a dank room smelling of chlorine and desperation lit by a single, naked light bulb suspended in the middle of the room by a frayed cord, swaying back and forth in some unknown breeze. Not so. It was clean, the staff professional and it felt a lot more like an upscale spa than a massage parlor in Little Athens.



Hot tub professional Rachel Smith

photo by Richard Retyi

Bubble bath, alcohol and food are prohibited, but the Oasis offers a special at the front desk where you can get a bottle of sparkling grape juice and two glasses for $10, presumably to drink in the parking lot after your soak (or in your change room, I guess). All I brought was my notebook, my camera and my skeptical attitude but a great night was had. The company didn’t hurt either. Romance!

After the front desk called us on the tub-side phone to give us our 12-minute warning, we toweled off and enjoyed one last song on the Party Rock channel before gathering our stuff. I peeked into a few other gardens on the stroll back to the front desk - the Vancouver Garden (native soil!) and the British Isle Garden (trees!) - each as nice as the Santorini. We walked through the lobby where couples were still checking in and I was shocked by the number of vehicles in the parking lot (17!) on a random Tuesday. No wonder they’re still in business.

My final analysis: Trust me, romantic gentlemen and ladies. If you want to make an impression this Valentine’s Day, ditch the roses, forget about that sundae eating contest and make a reservation at The Oasis Hot Tub Gardens. Bring an extra towel and a good attitude and I promise it’ll be one of the best Valentine’s Days you ever have. Romance!

Richard Retyi is quite the romantic. Take his word for it. While not wooing his girlfriend with on-assignment excursions or writing his bi-weeklyish column Lie to Your Cats About Santa, he works at Ann Arbor digital marketing agency Fluency Media as their social media manager. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRetyi or read more of his stuff at Good luck this Valentine’s Day!


Kai Petainen

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : midnight

hey oasis... why don't you build a sauna? go look at Kangas Sauna in Thunder Bay, Ontario <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> they even have a 'conference sauna' <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> or... take a look at 'spa finlandais' for some ideas. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> i hope that gives you some ideas....


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

I think people are a little more concerned about swimming among left over DNA than they are some cheerio's pee.

Sarah Rigg

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

Pee, unfortunately, is one of the least gross things my lifeguard friend reported toddlers leaving in the pool...

Sarah Rigg

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

I always think it's weird how people who feel perfectly fine about swimming in a public pool or a pool at a hotel are grossed out by the hot tub gardens. Think about who makes the biggest ick at public pools: little kids. I had a friend who was a lifeguard horrify me repeatedly with tales of DAILY potty issues in the public pool she worked at. Oasis doesn't allow children. I'd much rather spend time in their clean, cholorinated tubs only occupied by adults than swim in a pool with a 3-year-old with a full bladder....

Simon Green

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Finally! A place I can wear my Three Wolf Moon shirt (at least in the parking lot).


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 2:16 a.m.

I'd need like 6 $9 crafted cocktails before I'd consider this. I will say jacuzzi suits are worth the money with out the phob. No time limit either.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.



Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

Gross.....just gross.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

not for me thanks, i thought this place went out of business. this does not sound romantic at all. in fact, it sounds like a major turn off. for those of you going, please wear full body suits.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

I'm Finnish. i want a Finnish sauna where I can throw water. I want it at 80 to 120 degrees. i want it hot. does anyone have one? please... i want to visit.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 6:24 a.m.



Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

Kai...I do. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. There's a handful of us who go over every week. It's about a 35 minutes drive. Must be member or a guest. Sauna ( on the lake) is open Wednesday and Saturday in winter, more in summer.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Part of my Valentine's evening magic...dinner at the Fleetwood, then Hot Tubing at Oasis, next off to the 8 Ball for drinks. Then I take that special lady to the Embassy for some romance int he sheets. Ahhh Yeahhh, works every time.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

We commonly refer to this place as the Poke n Soak, and nope we don't go there!

rusty shackelford

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Rich, have you been to this place? It's well worth a short road trip. Just, uh, make sure you go on the night that corresponds to the kind of time you want to have. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Joe Kidd

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

Cgerben raises a point that I agree with. I went their two times, many years ago. The areas were clean and well maintained, but I did notice some stuff, let's just say, biological &quot;flotsom and jetsum&quot; floating in that water. That and the automatic ambiance of the place is why I prefer not to go there anymore. That said, I would love to have a hot tub, but I have always felt they are way overpriced. Does anyone know why they are so expensive? I have seen all the parts and it does not look like they should cost so much. (Not talking here about the ones with the built in TV set lift). I have a perfect place for one too, but I just don't see it worth the money they cost.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

Not trying to be funny but search Craigslist and there are tons of people throughout the state practically giving these away. You just have to pick them up. Try it. You know, they moved in to a house and didn't want the up-keep (very minor) or the space that they take up.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

I liked Oasis so much I we bought our own hot tub where you can have booze and food. Installed outdoor speakers and a Chiminea. We call it Oasis East.

Richard Retyi

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

Well played iCraig. Well played.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.



Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

As a long-time Ann Arborite, it's not that this place is overlooked, it's that we don't want to think about it. Honestly, sitting in a bubbly concoction of other people's filth and lord knows what else can be seen as a romantic, let alone sanitary, night out? I feel diseased just thinking about it.

Richard Retyi

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Let me play both sides here. Before experiencing The Oasis, I too thought that spending money on a private hot tub experience was icky at best. I think I put it like this: &quot;I imagined checking-in at a poorly-lit front desk and being led down a pink neon-lit hallway, trying not to bump into bathrobe-clad patrons with lazy eyes while stepping around random wet patches on the carpet, before being ushered into a dank room smelling of chlorine and desperation lit by a single, naked light bulb suspended in the middle of the room by a frayed cord, swaying back and forth in some unknown breeze.&quot; But after an hour in the Santorini Garden for $39 - I'd DEFINITELY go back. It was clean, professional and a really good idea for a cool night out. I'm sure it's 100% cleaner than public pools or hotel jacuzzis. The second we stepped out of our garden, a cleaning person went in and started refreshing everything for the next guest.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

cbergen has a legitimate concern. If he didn't, and if it was as safe as Bear dreams, there wouldn't be a need for so much chlorine (or whatever it is they use these days). The showers are there so you can wash off the massive amounts of chlorine so it doesn't dry your skin out.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

your ignorance on the matter is showing profusely. Why do you automatically assume the worst on things? There are showers there, clean showers with amenities that people use &quot;BEFORE&quot; they enter the hot tub. I know many people who go to Oasis to enjoy a hot tub experience with friends. If you've never done it, you shouldn't put it down. But, people can smile at you ignorant protestations and imagine that you might be one of those who'd just jump right in and skip the self-cleaning part and so you expect everyone else to be equally guilty of such thoughtlessness. Poverty of character is what that is. Anyways, I've been in Ann Arbor about 20 years and Oasis, isn't overlooked except by the unknowing, unwilling and uninitiated. So, don't go, but don't mistake the place for what it's not, simply because you are phobic.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Looking forward to next week's installment: The Village Pharmacy: Just In Time.


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.