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. Winter swimming lessons are on the horizon, and the lottery for registration opens Saturday, December 23, 2017 at noon through Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 11:59pm, so straight through the school holiday break.
The winter swim lessons will take place Monday, January 8, 2018 through Thursday, March 22, 2018. The mandatory water test for older kids will take place Saturday, January 6, 2018.
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 specifically 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.
Details on Fall/Winter/Spring Programs
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. 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.
Note: For any child ages 1½ to 5, an adult is required to be in the water. If you must accompany your child in the water, 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.
Register online during the open lottery times, and the Parks Department will email you if selected. Winners are chosen at random. Register separately for each child.
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 lessons are already underway, ending on Saturday, December 30.
Winter 2018 Swim Session
Online Lottery: Saturday, December 23, 2017 at noon through Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 11:59pm
Lessons: Monday, January 8, 2018 through Thursday, March 22, 2018
Spring 2018 Swim Session
Online Lottery: Monday, March 12, 2018 at noon through Monday, March 19, 2018 at 11:59pm
Lessons: Monday, March 26, 2018 through Thursday, June 7, 2018
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 team. These sessions emphasize technique, endurance, speed and sportsmanship as participants train for the Borough Cup Championship. Tryouts are held on an ongoing basis. Kids must be able to swim 50 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. *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.
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.
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 (begins at age 1½ on up to adults, and even an advance swim lesson for kids ages 6 to 17 years old, looking to move to the next level.) Entry the online lottery for the session you'd like to join. Winners are chosen at random, and the Parks Department will add you to the waiting list if you don't make it in that first time. The 2018 summer session dates will be released next year.
For more information about the Parks Department's swim programs, call 718-760-6969 or visit the website.
Photo via Bigstock.
This post was originally published in 2009 and is updated annually.