The New York City Parks Department offers FREE aquatic programs for children under 18 all year round, as well as adults, but you have to apply through an online lottery for each session. The FREE summer swimming lessons are on the horizon, and the lottery for registration for all three sessions opens Monday, June 11, 2018, at 7am.
Read on for the details on where to swim for free, or check our directory of paid kid swim classes, and mommy-and-me swim lessons for babies and toddlers, including those in Brooklyn and in Queens.
Swimming lessons are held at indoor recreation center pools throughout NYC in the spring, winter, and fall, while the Parks Department's summer programs are hosted by the city's outdoor pools.
You can register your child for every session, or just one. What you don't want to do, is to try to register at multiple locations for the same session. This is not school ranking, folks. The system will remove your application as a duplicate if you apply for more than one spot.
RELATED: Free Summer Sports Programs for NYC Kids
Get ready to be a great swimmer at NYC Parks Swim Program.
Details on Summer Swim Programs
The Parks Department offers three summer sessions FREE of charge at select outdoor city pools, meaning it's a great summer vacation activity to fill up the day for kids out of school. There are lessons for toddlers ages 1½ to 5 years old, for school-age kids ages 6 to 17, and for adults. There's also an advanced swimmers' lesson session at the very end of the summer for kids ages 6-17 who want to improve their stroke game. See the full list of participating pools by borough on the Parks Department's website.
Note: There is also a competitive summer swim team available through NYC Parks, and it too is FREE. In-person registration opens Thursday, July 5.
The three summer beginner swim lesson sessions will take place in roughly two-week intervals from Friday, July 6 through August 17, followed by the advanced five-day session. Classes are held every day of the session. Children absent from more than two consecutive days will be dropped from the class.
Enter the online lottery for the session you'd like to join (or all three). Winners are chosen at random, and the Parks Department will email you if selected. You'll be added to the waiting list if you don't make it in that first time. Register separately for each child. Note: For any child ages 1½ to 5, you are required to be in the water with them (one caregiver per kid).
The lottery opens Monday, June 11, 2018, at 7am, but each swim session has a different registration cut-off date. See below:
Session 1: Friday, July 6–Thursday, July 19
Registration lottery ends: Sunday, June 24 at 11:59pm
Acceptance notice emailed by Tuesday, June 26
Session 2: Monday, July 23–Friday, August 3
Registration ends: Monday, July 9 at noon
Acceptance notice emailed by Wednesday, July 11
Session 3: Tuesday, August 7–Friday, August 17
Registration ends: Monday, August 13 at noon
Acceptance notice emailed by Wednesday, August 1
Advanced Swim Lessons: Monday, August 20–Friday, August 24
Registration ends: Monday, August 13 at noon
If you don't make it into this season, mark these upcoming lotteries on your calendar to try again! You might also be placed on a waiting list for the current session, and spots do sometimes open up. The fall swim lesson schedules will be posted toward the end of the summer and will take kids through the winter holiday season.
Upcoming and Additional NYC Swim Sessions
The Parks Department offers off-season lessons free of charge at indoor pools. While lessons are FREE, you must be a member of the recreation center where you'd like to swim. If you must accompany your child in the water (ages 1½ to 5), you also need to be a member of the recreation center. However, if your child is old enough to swim on his or her own, you do not need to buy a membership. Membership is FREE for children under 18, but there are fees for adults. That means children old enough to swim on their own (ages 6 and up) can learn at no cost. Find out how to become a member on the Parks Department's website.
Below are the programs that are usually on offer. Locations and schedule info are available on the registration page. If you run into registration issues, call Citywide Aquatics at 718-760-6969 ext. 0.
Free Saturday Learn-to-Swim Lessons
Off-season Saturday learn-to-swim lessons are organized into three age groups: 1½ to 5, 6 to 17 and everyone else. Children ages 1½ to 5 must be accompanied by an adult, who is a member of the recreation center, in the water.
Free After-school Learn-to-Swim Lessons
Indoor pools across the city offer classes after-school on weekdays, usually starting at 4pm. Visit the website to enter the online lottery.
Free Swim Team
More advanced swimmers can hone their skills by joining a competitive team. These sessions emphasize technique, endurance, speed, and sportsmanship as participants train for the Borough Cup Championship. Tryouts are held on an ongoing basis, but the in-person summer registration opens July 5, 2018 on a first-come, first-serve basis at participating training pools. Kids must be able to swim 25 meters in reasonably good form to try out, and are required to submit a completed application and a copy of their birth certificate. Fill out the online form and you'll be able to schedule a tryout. Questions? Call Citywide Aquatics: 718-760-6969 ext. 0.
Free Adapted Aquatics Instruction*
This program for people with special physical needs offers adapted workouts for those suffering from ailments resulting from injury, disease or aging. It's offered at a handful of sites, and at outdoor pools during the summer. *Please note that the lottery dates and session times are slightly different than those posted above, so keep that in mind as you plan ahead. For summer 2018, registration runs Monday, June 11 at 9am through Friday, June 22 at 5pm. Call 718-760-6969 ext. 0 to register.
The Parks Department also offers learn-to-swim lessons during some school breaks. There's no lottery, instead you contact the recreation center of your choice to vie for a spot.
For more information about the Parks Department's swim programs, call 718-760-6969 or visit the website.
This article was originally published in 2009 but is updated with each season.
Photos courtesy of NYC Parks