It's pretty hot outside, but the water inside the swimming pools in NYC is mighty fine. Did you know there are more than 60 public swimming pools scattered around the five boroughs (not counting the swanky rooftop pools and hotel facilities)? Here's our comprehensive list to the squeaky clean—and totally free—swimming pools NYC has to offer. While we don't condone sneaking a flask past the locker room, we've suggested some postbathing spots to rehydrate with summer drinks while munching on some tasty bar food and snacks.
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The best swimming pools in NYC
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 on your way back to the N.
This seven-lane pool, which sits atop a movable barge, has found a long-term home in the Bronx. The Floating Pool 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. On your long trek back to the train, grab a picnic table at MOgridder's BBQ for some juicy charred meat fresh off the fire.
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 can 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 for one of 16 beers on tap.
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 ($6) and some feta-topped Greek-style french fries ($7) a few blocks west at Souvlaki GR.
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 with a signature cocktail at Seamstress.
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. After all that splashing around treat yourself to some sangria and Spanish tapas at Beso before boarding the ferry.
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 super clean 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 for a Senegalese specialty like the tomato-based thiebu djen fish stew.
One of the city’s massive WPA-era projects, the Red Hook Pool offers lap hours on weekdays (7 to 8:30am, 7pm to 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 for ages 18 and up, 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.
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 The 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.
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 there isn't overcrowding, patrons are let in during timed 45-minute sessions. (You have to queue up for a wristband, so be prepared, as lines have been long.) To make your wait more bearable, sip a glass of vino at Pier 1's Brooklyn Bridge Garden Bar. For more information, visit Brooklyn Bridge Park's website.
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 ($17.25) at nearby Blue Ribbon Bakery.
Grab a rooftop drink
You might think you’ve been transported to this restaurant’s namesake city once you step inside and smell the aroma of meat sizzling on the grill. The menu full of traditional Argentine dishes—and plenty of beef—is a carnivore’s dream come true. Dig into empanadas stuffed with fillings like ham and cheese or mozzarella and onions ($7.95 for two) to start the meal. Chorizo sauteed with onions and peppers ($9.95) or sweetbreads in a white wine and shallot sauce ($19.95) might tempt you, too. If you stick to the grill for your main course, you’ll choose from every cut of beef you can imagine or a mixed grill of short ribs, skirt steak, sausage, blood sausage and grilled sweetbreads ($50.95). You’ll probably want some papas a la provenzal, or fries with garlic and parsley (included with entrees or $5.95 for a side). Finish the night with flan ($7.50) or a crepe topped with dulce de leche and a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($11).
Venue says: “Lunch Special 20% off Monday-Friday 12-4. Enjoy the most affordable wines and best service in all of Manhattan!”