Best swimming pools to cool off this summer in New York City
We break down New York City’s top summer swimming pools where you can escape this season's unbearable heat with a refreshing dip.
Mon Jul 16 2012
It's hot outside; good thing the water at New York City's public pools is fine. There are more than 60 public swimming holes scattered around the five boroughs (not counting the swanky rooftop and hotel pools). And since we don't recommend trying to sneak your flask past the locker room (you're only allowed to bring water, a towel and bound summer reading material with you), we've suggested postbathing spots to rehydrate with a summery cocktail or refuel with a yummy snack.
The Olympic-size lanes, ample waterside lounging and WPA-era Art Deco interior have made it a city favorite for decades. But before you dive in, be sure to check out the sights: The summer oasis, located between the Robert F. Kennedy and Hell Gate Bridges, offers a spectacular view of the Upper East Side, quite the setting for laps anytime. Afterward, grab a mug of Spaten Oktoberfest ($6) at the nearby Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden (29-19 24th Ave between 29th and 31st Sts, Astoria, Queens; 718-274-4925, bohemianhall.com) on your way back to the N.
- Astoria Park, 19th St at 23rd Ave, Astoria, Queens
Douglass and DeGraw Pool
This small spot attracts a rotation of neighborhood kids, but it stays quiet, especially during midday hours. Benches and a concrete canopy by the wading pool, as well as ample deck space around the perimeter, make it a perfect spot to perch with a good book. But be sure to leave your Kindle and New York Times at home; electronics and newspapers are prohibited at all city pools. When you’ve finished your chapter, pick up a slice of pie from bakeshop Four & Twenty Blackbirds (439 Third Ave at 8th St, Gowanus, Brooklyn; 718-499-2917, birdsblack.com).
- Thomas Greene Playground, Nevins St between DeGraw and Douglass Sts, Gowanus, Brooklyn
- Daily 11am–3pm, 4–7pm.
This seven-lane pool, which sits atop a movable barge, has found a long-term home in the Bronx. The Floating Pool Lady features all the amenities of any land-based body, including locker rooms, with the added benefit of a waterfront view. Neighborhood kids make up the bulk of swimmers, as the closest subway stop is more than a mile's walk from the park.
- Barretto Point Park, (Intersection of Tiffany St and Viele Ave)
Situated off the FDR Drive on the Lower East Side, this Olympic-size pool is one of the biggest in the city, attracting neighborhood residents and kids, as well as swimmers from all over lower Manhattan. Though there’s no deck furniture, a wide band of concrete surrounds the pool, so there’s ample space to roll out a towel, stretch out, and watch the ebb and flow of the masses. Postpool, grab a chicken souvlaki ($5.50) and some feta-topped Greek-style french fries ($5) a few blocks west at Souvlaki GR (116 Stanton St between Essex and Ludlow Sts; 212-777-0116, souvlakigr.com).
- 128 Pitt St, (between E Houston and Stanton Sts)
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. Say cheers to summer after you dry off, with a citrusy, rye-based Camomila cocktail ($14) at Jbird (339 E 75th St between First and Second Aves; 212-288-8033, jbirdny.com).
- 77 Cherokee Pl, (at 77th St )
- Price band: 1/4
Sitting at the northern tip of Central Park and overlooking the Harlem Meer, Lasker doubles as an ice-skating rink in the winter. During the summer, this superclean oval lagoon offers plenty of space for adults, tourists and neighborhood children to soak. Despite the prime park location, there isn’t a lot of shade, so load up on SPF beforehand. After, head west to Le Baobab (120 W 116th St between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd [Seventh Ave] and Malcolm X Blvd [Lenox Ave], 212-864-4700) for a Senegalese specialty like the tomato-based thiebu djen fish stew ($10).
- 10826 East Dr (at Central Park N), enter the park at 110th and Lenox Ave, 10026
- Critics choice
This newly renovated chlorinated mecca sits at the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, making it a beacon for North Brooklyn dwellers. With a 37,571-square-foot swim area, in addition to plenty of poolside space for beach-chair and towel lounging, you’ll be able to scope out hundreds of stylish hipsters, neighborhood families and curious tourists looking to stay cool. Just be prepared for a wait: The pool’s been drawing major crowds—as well as some scuffles—since its late-June debut. Postdip, swing by Bar Matchless (557 Manhattan Ave at Driggs Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; barmatchless.com) for one of 16 beers on tap ($6) and mac and cheese ($5–$9).
- 475 Lorimer St between Bayard St and Driggs Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Pop-up pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park
This temporary lagoon with eye-catching glimpses of the Manhattan skyline is 3.5 feet deep and can fit 60 swimmers at a time; to ensure that there isn't overcrowding, patrons are let in during timed sessions. (You'll have to queue up for a wristband—be prepared, as lines have been long.) Check out our photos from opening day, and for more information, visit Brooklyn Bridge Park's website. To make your wait more bearable, grab a shack dog ($7) at Pier 2's new Brooklyn Beach Shack, just make sure to alot some time to let that frank settle before you take your swim.
Red Hook Pool
Another one of the city’s massive WPA-era projects, the Red Hook Pool offers lap hours on weekdays (7–8:30am, 7pm–dusk). You’re required to register online or poolside prior to your session, but participation is gratis and on-site aquatic specialists are available to record your lengths. Those racking up the most laps win prizes like T-shirts at the end of the summer. Best of all, lap swims are 18 and over, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to squeeze in a workout without a crowd of tots. If you go on the later side, reward yourself with a PBR ($3) or two at neighborhood staple Sunny’s Bar (253 Conover St between Beard and Reed Sts, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-625-8211).
- Red Hook Park, Bay St at Henry St, Red Hook, Brooklyn
- Daily 11am–3pm, 4–7pm.
While swimming spots like the Astoria Pool got rid of their springboards eons ago, you can still practice your swan dives into the deep end in the West Village. Though its 100-by-50-foot imprint doesn’t offer the expansive space of its Olympic-size counterparts, there are still lanes for laps, and the Keith Haring mural painted on the back wall helps make for an artier aquatic experience overall. Once your legs are tired from bouncing on the board, indulge in a chorizo-and-cheddar-filled Blue Ruben ($16.50) at nearby Blue Ribbon Bakery (35 Downing St at Bedford St; 212-337-0404, blueribbonrestaurants.com).
- 3 Clarkson St, (at Seventh Ave South)