NYC's Free Swimming Pools: What to Know Before You Swim

Stay cool at the Liberty Pool at Detective Keith L. Williams Park in Queens. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks
Stay cool at the Liberty Pool at Detective Keith L. Williams Park in Queens. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

During the heat of summer, it's easy to find FREE swimming pools in NYC to dive into. What's a little more difficult, though, is making sense of their rules.

Read on for everything you need to know before you go to a FREE swimming pool in NYC and find more wet-and-wild ways to beat the heat in our Guide to Sprinkler Parks and Swimming Pools in NYC.

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Every summer, the New York City Parks Department runs FREE outdoor swimming pools in every borough. NYC's swimming pools opened for the season on Tuesday, June 29, and remain open daily until Sunday, September 11. Each pool has its own vibe depending on the neighborhood: Some are bustling with moms and tots in the wading pool, others are full of competitive swimmers sharing the lap lanes and still others attract groups of teenagers frolicking and splashing around. You can find a comprehensive list of outdoor public pools on the Parks Department's website, however, we also have a post about the best swimming pools in NYC for families in case you're looking for ones that are particularly kid-friendly.

A severe lifeguard shortage has already disrupted the vibe at some of our favorite wet romping spots this summer—popular programs like the Parks Department's FREE swimming lessons and adult lap sessions have been canceled in 2022. We've also heard of long lines at many swimming pools in NYC as capacity limits are enforced depending on the number of guards on duty. Our best advice: Call ahead to verify hours and pack a lot of patience.

No matter which pool you choose, they all adhere to the same rules. These regulations are strictly enforced, so don't count on slipping by on your good looks and charm.

Know Before You Go to Free Swimming Pools in NYC

  • All swimming pools in NYC are open to the public every day during the summer season from 11am-7pm, with a break for cleaning between 3-4pm. Some popular pools are now separating their hours into five swim sessions to allow more guests a chance to visit.
  • You must bring your own combination lock for the lockers so you can store your shoes, bags, and other belongings. The lockers aren't huge, so bring as few items as possible or a second lock so you can use two.
  • You must be wearing a bathing suit to enter the pool area. If you like to cover up, a plain white T-shirt is the only article of clothing allowed.
  • Babies and toddlers must wear swim diapers.
  • Rubber flip-flops or water shoes are the only kind of footwear allowed.
  • A book or magazine are the only things you can bring into the pool area outside of your person—no purses, no wallets, no phones, etc.
  • No water toys or flotation devices are allowed, so leave the swim wings at home.
  • You cannot bring your cell phone, camera, or other electronic devices into the pool area.
  • You cannot bring food or drink into the pool area, although many pools do have places for eating outside of the pool deck.
  • If you bring a stroller, you'll have to park it somewhere, most likely out of your sight and unsupervised so bring it at your own risk.

You can see all of the NYC Parks Department pool rules on its website.

If all of these restrictions sound like too much for your family, consider trying these private pools, which offer day passes.

Check out our Summer Fun Guide for more seasonal activities.

Originally published in June 2009.

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