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The best swimming pools for kids in NYC

When the summer heat is too much to bear, splash around with the family at these free swimming pools for kids

Photograph: Marielle Solan
McCarren Park Pool

RECOMMENDED: More outdoor activities for kids

Keeping your youngsters entertained all summer is no easy feat—especially in the stifling heat—but families can always count NYC's public swimming pools for a cool escape. Waterholes in all five boroughs open for the season on June 27, 2015, giving kids plenty of spots to splash around at no cost. Some of the best swimming pools for kids happen to be in NYC parks or right by Gotham's best playgrounds, making it easy to draw up an itinerary for some family summer day trips near the pool of your choice. Taking a dip is one of our favorite free things to do with kids, so pack up the suits and towels, slather the tots with sunscreen and dive in! Be sure to read these important NYC pool rules before you go.

Tip: Many city pools require visitors to bring a sturdy combination lock and may forbid items including food, glass bottles and electronics. Visit the NYC Parks website for details before you make the trip!

Swimming pools for kids in NYC

Astoria Park Pool

The Astoria Park Pool, nestled alongside the East River, has been a family favorite since its construction in the summer of 1936. The oldest public pool in NYC—and the largest, with a capacity of 2,178 swimmers—the scenic spot allows parents to float in the kiddie pool with little ones or swim in the deep end and check out the view.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool

Head to this pop-up pool to bob around with the kids while enjoying one of the best views in the city. A mere 3.5 feet deep, the popular attraction is ideal for young children and their families. The surrounding area's sense of community is reflected in the pool's 60-person capacity; the first-come, first-served swim lessons ($125 per weeklong session); and the close-knit atmosphere. After diving in, wind down on the nearby sandy beach and enjoy some made-to-order lemonade. Sangria, wine and craft beer are also on offer for Mom and Dad after 6pm.

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Douglass & DeGraw Pool

With separate adult and kiddie pools, this somewhat under-the-radar Brooklyn attraction is ideal for children of all ages. The environment tends to stay relaxing and peaceful. Grab your floaties and head to the baby pool, or take a dip with the big kids. The Double D pooltakes safety seriously; it's monitored by several lifeguards and requires you to bring a lock to keep your belongings safe while you enjoy the waves. Gather the whole family, smear on some sunscreen, and jump in!

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Dry Dock Pool

Families flock to this spot in warm-weather months to climb around on the tiny playground, shoot hoops on the basketball courts and—especially on summer scorchers—cool off in the pool. At just three feet deep, it's easy to keep an eye on little ones splashing around, and the clean water and attentive lifeguards make it even more parent-approved.

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Faber Pool

Parents who'd rather steer clear of the hoardes at Staten Island's larger Lyons Pool can opt for this medium-size watering hole. Getting there takes a bit more time, but families who arrive by car won't have to schlep their pool gear far from the parking lot. While tots paddle around, the trees around the pool's perimeter provide plenty of shade for watchful parents. Stay tuned for updates on a skate park in Faber Park, where adventurous youngsters will want to work up a sweat before taking a dip.

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Hamilton Fish Pool

Want to swim like the pros? This swimming area was used as a training facility by the U.S. Olympic team for the 1953 games. The large adult pool is designed for more serious swimmers, but little water bugs can take a dip in the adjacent smaller pool.

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Lower East Side

John Jay Pool

This Yorkville swimming hole is right at the edge of the East River, and visitors can spy Roosevelt Island from a pedestrian bridge linking John Jay Park with the East River Esplanade across the FDR. The 145-foot-long pool itself is lined with leafy trees, setting a bucolic scene for a dip or poolside lounge. At the diving area, kids can practice cannonballs, pikes, twists and jackknives with impunity. Even when the pool is at capacity on weekend mornings, it still feels spacious. Show up with your brood around 5pm on a weekday and you'll have the place mostly to yourselves. Unfortunately, though, there's no baby pool and little shade, which means you'll find an older and rowdier crowd.

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Upper East Side

Lasker Pool

A wade in this thawed-out ice rink overlooking the Harlem Meer in Central Park is a rite of passage for Upper Manhattan tykes. With a maximum depth of less than four feet, it's perfect for squirts who are wary of the deep end.

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Lyons Pool Recreation Center

The wide-open layout of this Olympic-size swimming pool makes for a less claustrophobic experience than many of the city’s other watering holes. The St. George Ferry Terminal is just minutes from the facility, so don’t sweat the schlep to Staten Island. Older kids get free rein over the 3.5-foot-deep main pool, while the younger set bobs around in the nearby shallow wading area. Take high-energy rascals over to the basketball-court–size sprinkler area to run off some steam as surrounding hoses spray them down.

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McCarren Park Pool

Critics' pick

Don’t fret over rumors of hours-long waits and hordes of overheated teens at this Williamsburg pool—since it reopened in 2012, the city has worked out some kinks and boosted the on-duty staff. Now, if you arrive early in the day, you’ll find a beautiful and spacious swimming pool with a safe, shallow area for youngsters and a deep end that reaches only three feet 10 inches. Families can also take advantage of a sand volleyball court and indoor rec center, complete with fitness equipment, basketball court and weight room. Stick around for kid-friendly films or concerts at sundown on the SummerScreen stage (Bedford Ave at North 12th St; summerscreen.com).

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