The New York City Parks Department offers FREE swim lessons for children and adults all year round, but you have to apply through an online lottery for each session. The FREE winter swimming lessons are on the horizon, and the lottery for registration opens Saturday, December 22, 2018, at noon.
Read on for the details on where to swim for free, or check our directory of paid kids' 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 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 and Cheap After-School Programs for NYC Kids
Get ready to be a great swimmer at NYC Parks swim lessons.
Winter Swim Program Details
The Parks Department offers winter swim sessions after school and on Saturdays FREE of charge at select indoor city pools. There are Saturday lessons for toddlers ages 1½ to 5, Saturday and weekday lessons for kids ages 6 to 17, and Saturday and weekday lessons for adults. See the full list of participating pools by borough on the Parks Department's website. Important note: If your child is age 1½ to 5, you are required to be in the water with them during lessons (one caregiver per kid). Children absent from more than two consecutive lessons will be dropped from the class.
While lessons are FREE, participants must be members of the recreation center where the swim lessons take place. So, if you have to accompany your child in the water (remember: that's the rule for children ages 1½ to 5), you and your child will both need a recreation center membership. Find out how to become a member on the Parks Department's website. 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.
The winter beginner swim lessons will take place January 7 – March 21, 2019. Spring beginner swim lessons will take place March 25 – June 6, 2019, and registration for the spring session opens at noon on March 11, 2019.
How to Register
Enter the online lottery for the session you'd like to join. Register separately for each child, and remember to submit only one application per child, since duplicates are automatically deleted from the lottery system. 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 the first time—and if you're placed on a waiting list for a session, know that spots do sometimes open up!
Line up for winter swimming with NYC Parks.
See below for upcoming dates to note for free swim registration:
Winter Session: Monday, January 7–Thursday, March 21
Registration lottery begins: Saturday, December 22, 2018 at noon
Registration lottery ends: Saturday, December 29 at 11:59pm
Acceptance notice emailed by Sunday, December 30
Spring Session: Monday, March 25, 2019 – Thursday, June 6, 2019
Registration lottery begins: Monday, March 11, 2019 at noon
Registration lottery ends: Monday, March 18, 2019 at 11:59pm
Acceptance notice emailed by Thursday, March 21
Summer swim lesson schedules will be posted in 2019.
Upcoming and Additional NYC Swim Sessions
The Parks Department offers swim lessons free of charge at indoor pools year-round. 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
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 in the water by an adult who is a member of the recreation center. Visit the website to enter the online lottery.
Free After School Learn-to-Swim Lessons
Indoor pools across the city offer swim classes for ages 6 and up after school on select 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 winter/spring session runs from January 2 through May 18, 2019. Registration is open to all applicants on a first-come, first-served basis and will end on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Kids must be able to swim 50 yards 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 the upcoming session, registration runs Monday, December 10 at noon through Wednesday, December 26 at 5pm, and for the following session, registration starts Monday, February 25 at noon and closes on Wednesday, March 13 at 5pm.. Call 718-760-6969 ext. 0 to register.
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 every season.
Photos courtesy of NYC Parks