Post Overview: Public Pools NYC
The arrival of Summer in New York City brings forth a plethora of new ways to enjoy the city. Rooftop bars, outdoor dining, parks and ice cream shops are filled to the brim as locals look to make the most of the weather.
But sometimes the heat can grow to be unbearable, in fact 2022 was the fifth-hottest summer in NYC on record. So where do locals go to find reprieve from the blistering heat? They hit the public pools in NYC in droves!
Indeed, the concrete jungle has its fair share of swimming pools weaved into the city’s fabric. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation does an admirable job running 79 free public swimming pools, and there’s plenty more private pools in NYC.
But who has time to review 100+ pools in New York? Don’t worry, in this article I’ve grouped the best 15 of them to help you and hit the water that much quicker. I’ll also sprinkle in some water fixtures (that are great for kids) to help you cool down when you can’t make it to a NYC swimming pool.
Are you ready to get to the good stuff? Because I am!
Tips for visiting public pools in NYC
Most of the public pools in NYC have similar guidelines, I’ll outline a few below. Just remember, look up the specific rules to the public NYC swimming pool you’re heading to in case I missed anything.
Hydrate: This isn’t a rule so much as it’s a suggestion. A lot of folks think that because you’re in the water you’ll be protected from dehydration. This isn’t true! Your body is still sweating in the heat so drink plenty of water, which is the only liquid allowed at most public NYC pools (and the pool is not a bathroom).
Bring a lock: You’ll be surprised at how strictly this rule is enforced. Most public pools in NYC have strict rules, limiting what you can bring with you out to the pool area. No backpacks, shoes, clothes, keys or phones are allowed – they have to stay in a locker. The staff will also turn you away if you don’t have a lock to secure your belongings, so bring one from home to avoid being turned away.
Wear sunscreen: Do I sound like your mom yet? NYC public pools give out free sunscreen, but you can put some on at home and be ahead of it. Here’s the only sunscreen I recommend. I’ve been using it exclusively for the past 8+ years and can’t recommend it enough.
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Free Public Pools in NYC
#15. Sunset Pool (Brooklyn)
The Sunset Pool is in Sunset Park which is in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, like that’s not confusing!
To get to the NYC swimming pool you’ll have a short walk through the park, which is charming and offers stunning views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
You might be tempted to hang out under the shade of a tree but trust me, you’re not going to want to miss the Sunset Pool. It’s one of the biggest public pools in NYC, standing at an imposing 42,000 square feet.
You might think the size might make it easier to get in, but folks travel from across the city to get to the pool. Lines are not uncommon, especially on the weekend, but well worth waiting in for one of the best pools in NYC.
The park also has a spray-shower water feature that kids can run through to keep cool if they’re not comfortable in the water.
Address: 7th Avenue &, 43rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11232
#14. Marcus Garvey Park Pool (Harlem)
Ten blocks north of Central Park is Marcus Garvey Park, a longtime haven for the residents of Harlem. The park is also home to one of the best public pools in NYC.
Located on the north side of the park is the 12,000 square foot pool. You’ll often (especially in the evenings) come across folks swimming back and forth, doing laps and getting in some exercise.
Although kids are allowed, more than one parent has expressed concern that their children would run into someone swimming laps so they choose to visit other public pools in NYC.
Compared to most public pools in NYC, the bathrooms and changing rooms at Marcus Garvey Pool are in great standing. Not to mention the staff is some of the best you’ll find at a public New York City swimming pool.
Address: Marcus Garvey Park, 6316, Mt Morris Park W, New York, NY 10027
#13. Lasker Pool (Central Park)
Swimming in Central Park isn’t only for the fish, thanks to Lasker Pool you can take a dip too.
Unfortunately Lasker Pool is closed until 2024 due to ongoing renovations to the Harlem Meer Center on the north end of Central Park. I couldn’t leave it off the list as it’s been a long time favorite and when it reopens will be the newest (therefore cleanest, least rundown) public NYC swimming pool.
I won’t speculate too much as to what the pool will look like when it’s done, but in the past there have been two pools. One was a wading pool and the other was an Olympic size pool, but the Central Park Conservancy may choose to change that going forward.
The central location (no pun intended) will make Lasker Pool one of the best public pools in NYC regardless of what it looks like. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be able to say they swam in Central Park, at least once?
Address: In the Center of Central Park between 106th and 108th Streets (basically on the northernmost edge)
#12. Lyons Pool (Staten Island)
A trip to Lyons Pool has become a bit of a summer-time tradition for me. I hop on the free Staten Island Ferry, waving to Lady Liberty as I float on by, and walk for about 10 minutes before arriving at the NYC swimming pool.
Its location makes it one of the lesser-crowded public pools in NYC, with a lot of folks refusing to make the trip. Don’t take me wrong, crowds are a given but it has a less chaotic feel compared to swimming pools in Manhattan.
As an Olympic size swimming pool it’s a popular destination for those hoping to swim laps. Then when you’re done just hop on the ferry and wave goodbye to Staten Island until next time!
Address: Lyons Pool Recreation Center, 6 Victory Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10301
#11. Sheltering Arms Pool (Harlem)
North of Columbia University is Sheltering Arms Pool, one of the best swimming pools in New York City.
It’s one of the best maintained public pools in NYC and has clean bathrooms, security keeping an eye on the lockers and tables and chairs where you can take a break from the water.
There is one caveat, though. The staff at Sheltering Arms can be brash, especially during the shift change. They try to get everyone out rather rudely so they can clean the pool before it reopens at four.
Then again, it only ruins the experience if you let it. This isn’t the only public swimming pool in NYC with staff that’s been accused of being uninviting but it’s free and so long as you follow the rules you’ll be okay.
Address: 1350 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027
#10. John Jay Pool (Upper East Side)
The John Jay Pool provides swimming on the bank of the East River, only the FDR Highway stands between the two bodies of water. Opened in 1940 the pool has been a summer-time destination for generations of New Yorkers.
Clean and well-kept it’s one of the best public pools in NYC. There isn’t a day when the sun is out that it isn’t littered with chipper kids, sun-soaking retirees and everyone in-between. It’s an oasis in the concrete jungle.
There’s also a spraying water feature that provides hours worth of entertainment for kids.
My biggest piece of advice is to arrive early, when you can. There’s an “after-work” rush beginning at about 4:30PM that will bring the pool to capacity, then you’ll be stuck in line waiting for one of the best public pools in NYC.
Address: 77 Cherokee Pl, New York, NY 10075
#9. McCarren Park Pool (Brooklyn)
McCaren Park Pool is enormous, running nearly 330 feet long and 151 feet wide. The 50,000 square foot pool can accommodate nearly 1,500 swimmers and has a capacity for over a million gallons of water.
The pool was reopened in 2012 after an expansive 30 month, $50 million facelift and has been an annual attraction for locals since. Lines are to be expected, it’s one of the best public pools in NYC at the end of the day.
You’ll find it on the east end of McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
So it should come as no surprise it’s one of the most popular public pools in NYC. Folks flock to Brooklyn from across all five boroughs eager to take a dip with their friends and family.
Address: 776 Lorimer St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
#8. Astoria Pool (Queens)
The Astoria Pool is one of the best public pools in NYC thanks to its stunning view of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. It feels quintessentially New York, being surrounded by buildings of brick and mortar yet being so full of life.
Even bigger than the pool at McCarren Park, it feels like all of Queens migrates to the pool on a hot summer day like desert animals flock to a watering hole. It’s not just a break from the sun, it’s vital to the neighborhood’s health.
Unfortunately Astoria Pool is closed during the summer of 2023 for renovations. The water features near the pools will remain open though, in case you have restless kids at home in need of cooling off.
Address: 19th Street & 23rd Drive, 19th St, Astoria, NY 11105
#7. Hamilton Fish Pool (Lower East Side)
Lower Manhattan is lucky to have Hamilton Fish Pool, one of the best public pools in New York City. The Olympic sized pool is to locals what a hot rock is to a lizard, eager to soak up sunrays.
With the gorgeous Hamilton Fish Recreation Center standing in the background kids and adults alike frolic in the water. Constructed in 1936, it’s impressive that the public NYC pool has provided almost a century’s worth of fun.
The bathroom is a distance away from the pool, which is my only complaint. Other than that Hamilton Fish Pool is one of the best public pools in NYC!
Address: Hamilton Fish Park, E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
#6. Red Hook Pool (Brooklyn)
Red Hook Pool, I present to you the crown of best public NYC swimming pool. If I’m honest there isn’t any one thing that makes Red Hook Pool stand head and shoulders above the rest, it just does everything well.
For starters, it’s clean. Nobody likes going swimming in a public pool in NYC where they think they might walk away with a disease. At Red Hook Pool the water is clear and the bathrooms are well-kept.
The staff is also better than what you’ll find at other public pools in NYC. Can they be stern – no doubt! But I have yet to see or experience anything that would make me label them as rude or unprofessional.
And lastly it’s not terribly busy. Sure, the 100° days will bring folks out by the busload looking for a reprieve from the heat, but most times of the day you won’t have to wait in line. For these reasons Red Hook Pool is the best public pool in NYC.
Address: 155 Bay St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Public Pools in NYC (Admission Required)
#5. Riverbank State Park Aquatic Complex (Harlem)
Riverbank is a state park, so it’s not managed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. This means you’ll have to pay to swim, luckily it’s cheap.
General admission for those 16 years and older will run you $2 per person, while kids 5-15 years old and seniors are only $1. This helps it remain one of the best public pools in NYC for families since you don’t have to break the bank.
There are a few things to keep in mind though, for starters, there are “kid ratios.” For every three children there mst be one adult, and for every toddler there must be one adult. If you’re thinking of bringing all your kids + your friends kids and your nieces and nephews, be sure to bring some backup to keep an eye on them.
And unlike public pools in NYC ran by the department of parks and rec, Riverbank State Park’s pool closes at 6PM. Luckily it opens early for senior and lap swimmers, take a peek at their schedule online before heading their way.
Address: 679 Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10031
#4. Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center
Although it’s ran by the NYC Department of Parks & Rec, the Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center requires a membership before granting you access to their pools.
For an adult the price tag is $150 a year, granting you access to one of the best public pools in NYC along with their gyms, classes and sports programs and game rooms. The membership is for all of the City’s Department of Parks and Rec’s recreation centers, not just Flushing Meadows.
Membership is free for anybody under 24, you just have to register at any of NYC’s recreation centers.
The membership is worth considering because the #4. Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center is indoors. This means you have access to the best public pools in NYC, regardless of the weather.
Address: 131-04 Meridian Rd, Queens, NY 11368
I debated on not adding QCNY to this list, at the end of the day it’s a spa and not necessarily a public pool. But I figured the information could help someone looking to take a dip so I opted to include it.
You’ll have to purchase a day pass, either one labeled as just “entry” or “entry + massage.” An entry pass will grant you access to the different saunas, steam rooms and of course one of the best public pools in NYC. The entry and massage pass just adds in a massage for a little extra pampering.
Located on the north end of Governor’s Island you get stunning views of Manhattan as you relax in the water. There’s even seating in the pool so that you can soak comfortably.
There’s also the added benefit of enjoying one of the best public pools in NYC without running or splashing kids, too. That’s not to say it’s quiet, it’s a popular spot but it’s a completely different experience when compared to other public pools in NYC.
For the most relaxing experience I recommend visiting on a weekday, early in the morning. You get to enjoy the spa before the crowds and truly unwind.
Address: Governors Island, 112 Andes Rd, New York, NY 10004
#2. Indigo Hotel
A popular secret to accessing the best swimming pools in NYC is getting day passes for hotels. Thanks to Resort Pass you can unlock private pools in NYC that you’d otherwise have to rent a room for.
The biggest home-run in this field is Hotel Indigo in Williamsburg that has a stunning rooftop pool. At the time of writing day passes for the pool start at $55. I know it may seem like a lot, but it’s a fraction of the price of other hotel pools in NYC.
It’s not necessarily huge or flashy, but just being on that rooftop has a way of making you feel like a VIP. I suggest all New Yorkers experience a rooftop pool at least once, just to be able to say you did it.
Address: 500 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
#1. Asphalt Green
Asphalt Green is a sports complex in Battery Park City and home to one of the best pools in NYC. You can choose to become a member, but you also have the choice of a day pass for $35.
They have a separate lap pool and free swim schedule so folks aren’t running into each other as they swim. Asphalt Green also offers swim classes, both for kids and adults, so the whole family can join in on the fun.
One of the best things Asphalt Green has going for it is consistency. Their facilities are consistently clean, the pool is warm and it’s available rain or shine because it’s indoors.
Since it’s one of the best private pools in NYC it does a great job upholding a level of care that public pools in NYC just can’t afford to.
Address: 212 North End Ave, New York, NY 10282
Public Swimming Pools in New York City (Post Summary)
- Asphalt Green
- Indigo Hotel
- Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center
- Riverbank State Park Aquatic Complex
- Red Hook Pool
- Hamilton Fish Pool
- Astoria Pool
- McCarren Park Pool
- John Jay Pool
- Sheltering Arms Pool
- Lyons Pool
- Lasker Pool
- Marcus Garvey Park Pool
- Sunset Pool
NYC Public Pools (Helpful Map)
And there you have it, our list of the best public pools in NYC. As always, don’t hesitate to let us know if we missed anything. Cheers!