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. Fall swimming lessons are on the horizon and the lottery opens on October 3.
Read on for the details on where to swim for free, or check our directory of paid kid swim classes or mommy-and-me swim lessons for babies and toddlers.
The Parks Department's swimming lessons are held at indoor recreation center pools throughout NYC in the spring, winter and fall. Summer programs are hosted by outdoor pools.
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.
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. Find out how to become a member on the Parks Department's website.
The Parks Department begins its online lottery for Fall swimming sessions Monday, October 3. The lottery for the first session, which runs Monday, October 17-Thursday, January 5, ends at 11:55pm on Monday, October 10.
Results will be emailed by Thursday, October 13. Locations and schedule info are available on the registration page.
The Parks Department also offers a Winter and Spring session. If the Fall Session doesn't work for your family, consider registering for one of the other sessions. Registration dates are as follows:
- The Winter Session runs Monday, January 9-Thursday, March 23; registration opens Monday, December 26, 2016 at noon and ends on Monday, January 2, 2017 at 11:55 p.m. Results emailed Friday, January 13.
- The Spring Session runs Monday, March 27-Saturday, June 10; registration opens Monday, March 13, 2017 at noon and ends on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 11:55 p.m. Results emailed Friday, March 31/
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.
The Parks Department also offers learn-to-swim lessons during some school breaks so keep that in mind. 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.
Top photo credit: egarc2 via Flickr.
This post was originally published in 2009 and is updated annually.