"Ew," you say, as the sweat oozes down your back. "I don't do public pools." Oh yeah? You gonna drop $60 to hang out with people staying at the Holiday Inn in Midtown? Or $300 at the Ganesvoort? Oh that's right, your friend Alex's friend Nico has a pool in his building, and he was supposed to invite you last weekend but he moved it to next weekend. While you wait for him to call, we'll be at the public pool, like an American. Here are a few things to consider before you head out for a free dip.

Choose Your Destiny: Kids Or Queues

The larger the pool, the less time you'll spend in line, but the more children you'll be surrounded by. This is just Life, and the existential cost of public pools. If your core temperature is at Channing Tatum Covered In Hot Fries And Sriracha, then you probably just want to forgo the romance and jump in the water. Hamilton Fish in the Lower East Side, Astoria Park Pool, or Sunset Park Pool should do the trick. But if you're looking for a more refined experience, say, with a diving board, John Jay Pool or Tony Dapolito is where it's at. Go early, and if possible, on weekdays.

Bring A Lock

Everyone is required to bring their own small padlock (and it must be a solid lock, not one of those dinky ones you used in middle school) to keep your belongings safe in a locker. You will wait in line for 30 minutes before discovering this fact, then walk dejected and dry to a convenience store to buy one. It costs around $4 and will last you all summer.

Leave The Times At Home

Finding a space to lay out can be tough when it's super-crowded, but summer reading at a public pool is just as pleasant as anywhere else. Just don't bring your newspaper: it'll get confiscated. Bring that 50 Shades Of Mauve manuscript your uncle has been foisting on you all spring.

Pack Light

The lockers that you use to store your belongings are pretty tiny—large enough for a purse or tote or small backpack but definitely not big enough for your "day bag" or your second set of clothes you're planning on wearing at the farmer's market later. Put the sunscreen on at home, forget the Ziplock bag of brie and be surgical about your entry/exit.


Public pools probably aren't going to make you sick: they're cleaner than some private pools and were rated "pristine" in a surprise, gotcha New York Post investigation last year. A trip to the public pool isn't supposed to be an "epic journey" where the fate of your day swings on the axis of Fun. If the line wraps around the block, or the schoolbus that just came from the Popsicle Land field trip just let out, or if they're cleaning the pool and won't let anyone in (from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.), just head to another pool. There are 64 of them, and you own them all.