The 14 Best Free Pools in NYC for Families
It's summertime and if you want to go all-in on the wet-and-wild fun, take note: FREE pools in NYC open on Tuesday, June 28, the day after public schools let out. With more than 50 free pools in NYC to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the right outdoor swimming pool for your outing. We've done the legwork, though, rounding up our picks for the most family-friendly of the FREE pools in NYC. These local swimming pools are all places we've visited personally or have come highly recommended by families we know. Read on; it's time to dive in!
Find more cool places to play this summer in our Guide to Swimming Pools and Sprinkler Parks in NYC.
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Most FREE pools in NYC are open from 11am-7pm daily, weather permitting, with an hour-long break from 3-4pm each day for cleaning. To limit capacity, some pools have begun dividing their hours into five separate sessions. Call ahead to verify hours, and read our post about rules at FREE pools in NYC. 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 mid-September. One note on summer swim programs: The city announced this week that its popular FREE swimming lessons have been canceled for the season due to a lifeguard shortage.
Best Free Swimming Pools in Manhattan
1. John Jay Park & Pool – Upper East Side
John Jay is an oasis in the middle of Manhattan—and one of its most popular public pools in NYC. 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 FREE pools in NYC that allows diving.
RELATED: Top Beaches Near NYC for Toddlers
The Hamilton Fish Rec Center offers a wading pool for little kids alongside the Olympic-size version for older kids and adults.
2. Hamilton Fish Recreation Center – Lower East Side
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. Tompkins Square Park Mini Pool – East Village
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 Asser Levy Rec Center includes two outdoor free pools in NYC, plus playgrounds and basketball courts.
4. Asser Levy Recreation Center Pool and Playground – Murray Hill
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.
5. Dry Dock Playground – East Village
This spot has the same vibe as Hamilton Fish but just one smaller pool. Its lifeguards have a reputation for toughness, which means less roughhousing by teens in the water. Dry Dock received some new amenities, like lounge chairs and cabana-style structures, a few years ago as part of the Cool Pools program.
An Olympic-sized wading pool is one of two splash zones at Highbridge.
6. Highbridge Pool – Washington Heights
Editor's Note: Highbridge Pool's wading pool has been closed for repairs. It's unclear when it will reopen.
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 offers a shallow wading zone for tots along with gentle sprinklers for frolicking.
Brooklyn's Best Free Swimming Pools
7. McCarren Park Pool – Williamsburg
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
8. Red Hook Pool – Red Hook
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.
9. Sunset Park Pool – Sunset Park
Located in the picturesque park of the same name, this Olympic-sized pool is always popular. When you're done with your fun in the sun, head to nearby Industry City for yummy eats and plenty of family-friendly fun—and industrial AC.
10. Douglas & Degraw Pool – Gowanus
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 largest of the free pools in NYC: Astoria Park Pool.
Top Free Pools in Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island
11. Astoria Park Pool – Astoria, Queens
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.
12. Faber Pool – North Shore, Staten Island
Out of the eight FREE pools in Staten Island, 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.
13. The Floating Pool Lady – Hunts Point, the Bronx
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.
14. Haffen Park Pool – Baychester
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 2022.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the NYC Parks Department.