Five Favorites: Swimming Pools

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courtesy of ‘dansteeves68′

Here in DC, we’ve got a good thing going: all of the District’s swimming pools are free and open to DC residents. Other cities make you purchase pool passes or pay each time you go to a pool, but because of the “DC Free Swim” program sponsored by Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, we don’t have to. And not only do we get free pool access, there are also free swimming lessons available at many pools. And whether you’re a triathlete looking to get a good workout, or you just want to splash around and pretend that it’s summer, there’s a pool for you. So what are you waiting for? Head out to one of these year-round DC pools today! Here are my picks for the best pools in the District:

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‘Bienvenidos maestros de British’
courtesy of ‘Daquella manera’
Number 5: Marie Reed Pool
Nestled away in the Adams Morgan/Kalorama neighborhood is the Marie Reed Pool. This certainly isn’t DC’s prettiest or newest pool, but it’s very convenient for area residents and offers a great place to swim some laps. It’s also a well-kept secret in the city, because I generally never have to wait for a lane, or even share a lane, when I swim there. And there’s swimming equipment like kickboards available adjacent to the pool for anyone to use.

Where Is it? Adams Morgan, 2200 Champlain Street NW (It can be hard to find– the pool entrance is directly beneath the part of the building that crosses over Champlain St)
When Can I Swim? Weekdays from 3 PM to 8 or 9 PM
What’s the Pool Like? 25 yards, 6 lanes, all lap swimming.
Who Else is Swimming? Neighborhood residents, lap swimmers.

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‘DC Pool’
courtesy of ‘pescatello’
Number 4: Turkey Thicket Aquatic Center
Turkey Thicket is one of the newer pools in the District; it opened in Brookland in 2005. It has a pool for lap swimming as well as a smaller kiddie pool, so it attracts a variety of swimmers. It is part of the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, which is a beautiful facility that includes a computer lab, tennis courts, a gym, a baseball diamond, and a basketball court. There are water aerobics classes offered pretty regularly, which changes the lane configuration, so call ahead to make sure it’s open for lap swimming.

Where Is It? Brookland, 1100 Michigan Avenue NE
When Can I Swim? Weekdays 6:30 AM-8 PM, Saturdays noon-5 PM
What’s the Pool Like:? 25 yards, 8 lanes
Who Else is Swimming? Recreational swimmers, some families and kids.

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courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’
Number 3: Takoma
The Takoma pool is another newer pool; it opened in 2005 as well. This pool is part of the Takoma Community Center, which includes basketball courts, a baseball diamond, an athletic field, and tennis courts. The pool is an Olympic size pool, but it’s divided into several sections so laps are only about 25 meters. It’s not too well-known and it’s a Metro ride away from the heart of the city, so the pool isn’t too crowded and it’s easy to get a lane to yourself. There’s also plenty of equipment, like buoys and kickboards, that you can use at no charge.

Where Is It? Takoma, 300 Van Buren Street NW
When Can I Swim? Weekdays 6 AM-9 PM, Weekends 9 AM-5 PM
What’s the Pool Like:? 25 meters, 8 lanes
Who Else is Swimming? Mostly serious swimmers… they’re all swimming faster than me, at least.

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‘The Natatorium’
courtesy of ‘Bill on Capitol Hill’
Number 2: William H. Rumsey Aquatic Center
I’d been going to Eastern Market regularly before I decided to do the whole triathlon thing, and I had no idea that there was a pool right there in the middle of it all. The William H. Rumsey Aquatic Center is a great family-friendly pool. There’s a kiddie pool, and the main pool is divided with an area set aside for families to play. This pool offers great lessons too, from water aerobics to swim instruction, and it’s all free. Plus, it’s one of the few District pools that is open on weekends! The only downside? Everyone knows about this pool, so no matter when you come (early mornings, early evenings, late evenings, weekend afternoons) you’ll likely be sharing a lane.

Where Is It? Capitol Hill, 635 North Carolina Avenue SE
When Can I Swim? Weekdays 6:30-10 AM, 1-5 PM, 6:30-9 PM; Saturdays 1-5 PM; Sundays 10 AM-5 PM
What’s the Pool Like:? 25 yards, 10 lanes, two lanes set aside for non lap swimming.
Who Else is Swimming? Combination of serious swimmers, people taking lessons, and families with young children.

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courtesy of ‘DC DPR’
Number 1: Wilson Aquatic Center
If you haven’t been to the Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown, you’re missing out. This is the nicest swimming facility I have ever seen. Not only is there a huge Olympic size pool, there’s a really cool children’s pool and play area, a diving area, and A GIANT HOT TUB. It’s brand new, the locker rooms are spotless, and if you’re not swimming, you can watch all the action from a second-story perch that overlooks the pool. There’s also brand new swimming equipment available to use, and one of those really cool spin-dry things that gets your swimsuit dry in 5 seconds!

This pool offers lots of lessons throughout the year, and though I’ve only been on weekends, it’s usually pretty busy. Nonetheless, it’s the best pool in the city, and your DC license gets you in for free. It’s worth the ride up to Tenleytown, because this pool outshines any other pool in the District by far.

Where Is it? Tenleytown, 4551 Fort Drive (literally next door to the Tenleytown Metro)
When Can I Swim? Weekdays 6 AM-9 PM, Weekends 9 AM-5 PM
What’s the Pool Like? 50 meters, 8 lanes, one lane set aside for non lap swimming.
Who Else is Swimming? Combination of serious swimmers, people taking lessons, and families with young children.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at)!

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