Where to Swim in NYC: Public Pools and Beaches

Published on Jul 19, 2012

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When you think of the concrete jungle, the question of where to swim in NYC is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind. But with NYC residents enjoying (ha!) our fourth major heat wave so far this summer, the thought may have crossed your mind as a way to cool down.

Now, many of you probably have your water-fun routines down by now (ahhhhh, New York! so many choices, so many different routines!). But just in case you're looking for some new cooling-off suggestions, here's a quick (non comprehensive) round-up of where to swim in NYC, the public pools and beaches edition.

These are our picks, but there are plenty of popular places such as Coney Island and Orchard Beach in Pelham Park that you should also consider.

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Where to Swim in NYC: Public Pools

McCarren Park Pool

The NYC public pool getting the most attention these days is, of course, The Williamsburg / Greenpoint McCarren Park Pool, a gorgeous Depression-era getaway, just reopened after a $55 million renovation, and the subsequent source of several hyped-up incidents involving teenage hooligans.

But young ruffians are not the reason why I haven't been there yet (the space, which used to house free concerts and other performances, really is spectacular); no, it's more the hour(s)-long line that has me biding my time until at least August, when some of novelty wears off, to check it out. That and the insane amounts of rules they've had to implement. More info here.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park Pool

In other new pool news, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, and especially Brooklyn Heights residents with little kids have been having a blast at the just-opened Brooklyn Bridge Park pop-up pool. Located on the "uplands" of Pier 2 (just south of Pier 1, the completed part of the ambitious project to turn the whole waterfront into a park), the Brooklyn Bridge Park pop-up pool is small, it's only 3-feet-6-inches deep, and they're letting in a modest 60 swimmers at a time, but a ticketed, "timed-session" system allows you goof around the Park proper until it's your turn, rather than stand on line. More info here.

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Tony Dapolito Pool on Carmine Street

Hudson Square, Tribeca, Soho, and West Village residents have easy access to perhaps NYC's best public pool, the shockingly uncrowded (usually) beauty at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center.

You'd think a pretty, semi-hidden space like this, complete with DIVING BOARD, would be mobbed, but for whatever reason, it never really gets too bad. This is your go-to Manhattan public pool. More info here.

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Where to Swim in NYC: Public Beaches

Rockaway Beach

I've become a Rockway Beach (pictured at top) addict these past couple of years, even as it's gotten more and more crowded (the secret, if it ever was one, is WAY out): the water is clean, the waves often fun, the sand soft. But really, if I'm being truly honest, the main reason I look forward to Rockaway Beach all winter long? Rockaway Taco.

Seriously, these are the best tacos in NYC, and you can get two of these fat babies, packed with-fresh-ingredients (my usual is one fish, one chorizo), PLUS an outstanding watermelon or pineapple mint juice, all for ten bucks. Pro tip: arrive at 11:00, right when they open, and there's no line, you can feast in the cool back garden, then hit the beach satisfied.

Totally worth however long your ride may be on the A train/Shuttle. More info here. And Williamsburg residents take note: there's now a "Rockabus" express bus service that takes you from North Brooklyn to Rockaway AND the less crowded (though taco-less) beaches of Fort Tilden.

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Long Beach

Upper West Side, Hells Kitchen, Garment District and Chelsea residents: Long Beach may be your move, though, warning, you do have to deal with the dreaded LIRR and Penn Station at either ends of your day. But Long Beach is an easy walk from the Long Beach station, it's wide and sandy and the water's lovely, and the train will only set you back about $18 bucks round trip. I went here a lot when I lived in an Upper West Side rental apartment, and Penn Station was just a few stops away.

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Sandy Hook Beach

Finally, there's the most remote and, subsequently, the most pristine of all NYC public beaches, Sandy Hook, which is so remote, in fact, that it's in New Jersey.

I've been to Sandy Hook a couple of times over the years, and it is, no question, a pretty place to spend a few hours, but it's expensive ($40 round trip for the ferry) and it will take up a chunk of your day traveling there: you first have to get to Pier 11, near South Street Seaport, then take the 45-minute ferry, then get the shuttle bus to the beach.

Bonus (or not): there's a nude beach in addition to the "family" beach at Sandy Hook. Some call Sandy Hook the best beach in the area. It's not my favorite of the 3 recommended here, but everyone has their own opinion--so check it out and decide for yourself! More info here.

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