The Best Free Swimming Pools in NYC for Families
It's summertime, and the livin' is easy—beaches, spraygrounds, and awesome days at the playground await. If you want to go all-in on the wet-and-wild fun, take note: NYC's FREE outdoor public pools open citywide on Saturday, June 26, the day after public schools let out.
Even better news: All of the city's pools are primed to reopen, and with more than 50 outdoor pools to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming. We've done the legwork, though, rounding up our picks for the most family-friendly free swimming pools. These are all places we've visited personally or have come highly recommended by families we know. Read on; it's time to dive in!
Most New York City pools are open from 11am-7pm daily, weather permitting, with an hour-long break from 3-4pm each day for cleaning. Call ahead to verify hours and read our post about public pool rules. There are many of them, and some might surprise you, like you must have a lock to get in, even if you don't plan to use a locker, and no water toys or electronic devices are allowed poolside. The city's outdoor pools are open until Sunday, September 12.
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Best Free Swimming Pools in Manhattan
1. John Jay Park & Pool – Upper East Side
FDR Drive between 76-78th Streets, Cherokee Place
John Jay is an oasis in the middle of Manhattan—and one of its most popular public pools. It's clean and safe, plus there's a snack bar and a river-themed playground with sprinklers and fountains. It's also one of the few public pools that allow diving.
The Hamilton Fish rec center offers a wading pool for little kids alongside the Olympic-size version.
2. Hamilton Fish Recreation Center – Lower East Side
Pitt and Houston Streets
Considered by many to be the best public pool in the borough, Hamilton Fish has certain attributes that make it a standout. There are two pools: an Olympic-size one for adults and big kids (56 inches and taller) and a wading pool for younger children. These types of kiddie pools can be hard to find in the city. Plus, these watering holes happen to be quite clean with cool water and attentive lifeguards. There's also a nice little park nearby with sprinklers, a play area, and places to picnic and relax in the shade.
3. Dry Dock Playground – East Village
10th Street between Avenues C and D
This spot has the same vibe as Hamilton Fish but one smaller pool. Allegedly the lifeguards are tougher, which means less roughhousing by teens in the water. Dry Dock is got a fresh coat of paint, plus new amenities like lounge chairs and cabana-style structures to keep you cool in 2019 as part of the Cool Pools program.
4. Tompkins Square Park Mini Pool – East Village
Avenue A between 7th and 10th Streets
This shallow pool (it's just 3-feet deep) is perfect for children. There are also two fantastic playgrounds nearby, and wonderful neighborhood eats, making Tompkins a great all-day outing.
The Keith Haring murals above the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center pool are a draw for art lovers. Thrill-seekers love to dive here. Photo courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation
5. Tony Dapolito Recreation Center – West Village
1 Clarkson Street between Seventh Avenue South and Hudson Streets
This spot gets pretty crowded in the summer, but it's great for older kids because diving is allowed. There's also an indoor pool, which like all indoor pools, is still shuttered and requires an annual fee. Art lovers appreciate the cool Keith Haring mural here, too.
The Asser Levy Rec Center includes two outdoor pools, playgrounds, and basketball courts.
6. Asser Levy Recreation Center, Pool, and Playground – Murray Hill
FDR Drive at 23rd Street
In addition to a fairly large outdoor pool, plus a wading pool for tots, there's a playground, basketball courts, and a game room. The indoor pool here is housed in a 1908 Roman Revival Bathhouse with a fountain and skylights, but, alas, remains closed due to COVID.
RELATED: Best Water Parks Near NYC
An Olympic-sized wading pool is one of two splash zones at Highbridge.
7. Highbridge Pool – Washington Heights
173rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Highbridge Park
Pretend like you're In The Heights at this pool, which plays a starring role in the blockbuster from local resident Lin-Manuel Miranda. Its Hollywood turn is far from the only reason to visit. Highbridge boasts not one but two Olympic-sized pools on its premises. While older kids and teens roughhouse in the main, deeper pool, you and your younger kids can splash away in the Olympic-size wading pool, with a maximum depth of 2 feet. I also appreciate the outdoor, co-ed lockers and showers, which means not having to send my too-old-for-the-ladies room son into the men's room alone. When you've had your fill of the water, take a stroll down to the High Bridge and enjoy the breathtaking views.
The McCarren Park Pool as seen from above in 2014. Photo by Tobias Hutzler
Best Free Swimming Pools in Brooklyn
8. McCarren Park Pool – Greenpoint/Williamsburg
Lorimer Street and Driggs Avenue
This pool has a beautifully restored historic bathhouse building and entry arch, plus a recreation center. We love the family changing rooms and a shallow wading end for the tots. When you're waterlogged, find a bite at these nearby Williamsburg restaurants.
The Red Hook Pool has a kiddie play area and an Olympic-size pool. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks
9. Red Hook Pool – Red Hook
Bay and Henry Streets
This Olympic-sized pool in Brooklyn is a neighborhood hot spot, near handball and basketball courts and a soccer field. It can get pretty busy in the summer, but there's also an enormous wading pool with sprinklers that's a bit calmer for younger kids.
Plan a visit to the lovely Sunset Park Pool.
10. Sunset Park Pool – Sunset Park
Seventh Avenue between 41-44th Streets
Located in the picturesque park of the same name, this Olympic-sized pool is ever-popular.
11. Douglas & Degraw Pool – Gowanus
Thomas Greene Playground, Third Avenue and Nevins Street
A great local spot, this neighborhood fave tends to be a little less busy than other city pools and also features a wading pool and a shaded sundeck for littles. There's a park and playground nearby with picnic tables and sprinklers. (And don't miss the roof deck at the awesome ice cream shop two blocks away.)
Queens boasts the city's largest pool: Astoria Park Pool.
Top Pools in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island
12. Astoria Park Pool – Astoria, Queens
19th Street and 23rd Drive
Located right on the water and near the Triborough Bridge (er, the RFK Bridge—we're never going to get used to that!), this park boasts the city's largest public swimming pool. Surrounded by concrete bleachers, it was constructed in 1936 and is 330 feet long, about the length of a city block! The pool has distinct roped-off sections, including a wading area for little kids.
13. Faber Pool – North Shore, Staten Island
Faber Street and Richmond Terrace
Out of the borough's eight public pools, this one in the 4-acre Faber Park is close to the parking lot (assuming you're lucky enough to find a spot). The green space has great views of the water and New Jersey beyond, plus a playground and basketball court. The larger Olympic-sized Lyons Pool is a runner-up, but it gets crowded thanks to its location near the Staten Island Railway, buses, and the Ferry terminal.
The Floating Pool Lady is permanently docked at Barretto Point Park.
14. The Floating Pool Lady – Hunts Point, the Bronx
Barretto Point Park, Tiffany Street and Viele Avenue
You'll need to take the Bx46 bus from the subway to get to this pool, or better yet, drive. However, once there, you'll find a beautifully landscaped riverside park with amazing views of Manhattan and various islands (including Rikers!), a pier to promenade, a cute playground, and rolling hills for picnicking. And then there's the pool, which is located on a barge that's docked right on the East River. As they say, only in New York. It's an intermediate-sized pool.
15. Haffen Park Pool – Baychester
Ely and Burke Avenues
Named for the first borough president of the Bronx, Louis Haffen, the park features several recreational facilities, including the pool complex, which recently got a little TLC and some fresh amenities. There's a 25-yard main pool, a wading pool, and shower facilities. Also, enjoy playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, and baseball at the nearby sports fields.
A version of this story was first published in 2017; it has been updated for 2021.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the NYC Parks Department.