San Francisco is bringing the Zeppelin back

The last time airships symbolized chic travel was about 10 seconds before the Hindenburg blew up in 1937. But Airship Ventures' new airship cruises in the San Francisco Bay Area want to bring retro-cool to new heights — around 1,300 feet to be precise.

The company's 246-foot Zeppelin NT is smaller than its flammable predecessors and has a semi-rigid, non-explosive helium-filled hull, managing a top speed of 35 mph. At $495 an hour, the rides aren't cheap, but they do compare favorably to helicopter and plane tours in the Bay Area. If your group can fill all 12 seats in the sleek gondola, you may get a discount. Even the bathroom has a window, so no missed views.

Airship Ventures plans to buy two more Zeppelins, basing the next one on the East Coast and a third on the airshow circuit. And please note: this is not a blimp. Airships include any ship that use lighter-than-air gases to gain lift. But this ship is a Zeppelin; it has a carbon-fiber rigid frame wrapped in treated canvas. Blimps are just a big gas bag with no internal frame. Besides, it's way cooler to say, "I'm a Zeppelin captain." Let's face it — it's hard out here for a blimp.

Via Airship Ventures