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.
Thu Jun 20 2013
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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); opening day is June 27, 2013. 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 some postbathing spots to rehydrate with a summer drink or refuel with a yummy snack. For additional information on all oudoor city pools, call 311 or go to nyc.gov/parks.
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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 stein 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
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
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 ($6) a few blocks west at Souvlaki GR (116 Stanton St between Essex and Ludlow Sts; 212-777-0116, souvlakigr.com).
- 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. After you dry off, say cheers to summer at Jbird Cocktails (339 E 75th St between First and Second Aves; 212-288-8033, jbirdny.com).
- FDR Dr between 76th and 78th Sts
- 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.
- Central Park, enter park from Central Park North at Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave)
- Critics choice
This 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, which was renovated and reopened in 2012, draws major crowds. Postdip, swing by Bar Matchless (557 Manhattan Ave at Driggs Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; barmatchless.com) for one of 16 beers on tap.
- Lorimer St between Bayard St and Driggs Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Pop-up pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park
This temporary lagoon returns after a 2012 debut with eye-catching glimpses of the Manhattan skyline. It's 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 45-minute sessions. (You'll have to queue up for a wristband—be prepared, as lines have been long.) To make your wait more bearable, sip a glass of vino at Pier 1's Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar (brooklynbridgewinebar.com). For more information, visit Brooklyn Bridge Park's website.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 2, enter park at Furman St and Old Fulton St, Dumbo, Brooklyn
Staten Island's largest public pool is also one of NYC's oldest—it was one of 11 pools built by the Works Progress Administration in 1936, to provide employment during the Great Depression. The main pool can accommodate up to 2,800 swimmers at a time; there's also a separate diving pool and a collection of spray showers for kids to run through on hot summer days.
- Murray Julbert Ave between Victory Blvd and Hannah St, Staten Island
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. 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 at neighborhood staple Sunny’s Bar (253 Conover St between Beard and Reed Sts, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-625-8211, sunnysredhook.com).
- Red Hook Park, Bay St between Clinton and Henry Sts, Red Hook, Brooklyn
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
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