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Manhattan's Coolest Pools for Summer

By Patrick Hedlund | May 28, 2011 10:35am | Updated on May 30, 2011 10:46am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

MANHATTAN — As New Yorkers get ready for another steamy summer, there's no better way to escape the concrete jungle than to take a plunge.

And who knew Manhattan had so many spots to enjoy a dip?

From rooftop retreats with skyline views to Olympic-size lagoons with room for the whole family, the borough is chock full of public and private pools to satisfy everyone during the sweatiest months.

Manhattan Plaza Health Club

The pool is one major perk of joining this Hell's Kitchen health club, where a third-story atrium complete with retractable roof includes a 75-foot swim spot. Surrounded by lush greenery, the pool is open to members year-round, but non-members can pay $35 for a day pass to dip their toes in the water. The club is also offering a special summertime deal running from Memorial Day to Labor Day ($350), giving members access to the pool, gym, tennis courts, rock-climbing wall and spa facilities. Since day passes aren't available on the weekends, membership may be the best bet for a splash-filled summer.

Manhattan Plaza Health Club, 482 W. 43rd St., 212-563-7001. Weekday day pass $35, summer membership $350.

Hamilton Fish Park

Lower East Siders have escaped the heat at this downtown pool since it opened in 1936. The free, Olympic-size location and adjacent wading pool offer one of the largest locations in the city to take a dip. So it's no wonder the U.S. swim team used it as a training ground prior to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.

Hamilton Fish Park pool, 128 Pitt St., between East Houston and Stanton streets. FREE

Hotel Gansevoort

With one of the swankiest rooftop pools in Manhattan, this Meatpacking District hotspot attracts plenty of hard bodies to the 14th-floor swim spot. Visitors can sun themselves on a deckchair while taking in sweeping views of the Hudson River, or grab a drink at the adjacent Plunge Bar. Considering the trendy location, is it any surprise the pool features underwater music?

The Gansevoort's new sister hotel on Park Avenue also offers a watery respite, with Empire State Building views from the pool deck's 20th-story perch. But be warned: both are reserved for hotel guests. However, from May through the end of September, the Gansevoort Meatpacking offers a $299 day package that includes pool access, one poolside cocktail from the bar, and a spa treament featuring a 30-minute massage, 30-minute facial and manicure/pedicure.

Hotel Gansevoort, 18 Ninth Ave. (212-206-6700) $250 day pass; Gansevoort Park Avenue, 420 Park Ave. South (212-317-2900), guests only.

Thompson LES

While the rooftop pool at this popular Lower East Side hotel is only open to guests, it does make an exception for private events. The third-floor space also features a bar and room service delivered straight to your deck chair, offering views of the surrounding tenement-lined streets. Art-lovers will also notice an underwater tribute to Andy Warhol in the form of a filmstrip-style image of the famous pop artist gracing the pool's bottom. The pool opens for the season beginning Memorial Day weekend.

Thompson LES, 190 Allen St., 212-460-5300. Call for a quote for private party pool access.

Asser Levy Recreation Center

For a more family-friendly experience, the Asser Levy Recreation Center on East 23rd Street features a large, 120-foot-long pool that's free to the public. Activities at the center to help you work up a sweat include a fitness room, basketball and handball courts, though paid membership is required to access the full array of options. Public pools open across the city on June 29.

Asser Levy Recreation Center, 501 Asser Levy Place (at the FDR Drive). FREE

John Jay Park

This 145-foot pool with adjacent diving area has attracted Upper East Siders since it was built 70 years ago. Situated on the East River at 77th Street, the tree-lined pool area offers a welcome refuge for local swimmers and first-time visitors alike. Expect the crowds to swell in the hot and humid months ahead, as John Jay is free and a popular destination for families.

John Jay Park pool, 77th Street east of York Avenue, 212-794-6566. FREE

Jackie Robinson Park

At the foot of this Harlem park sits a massive outdoor public pool, originally built in 1936 as one of only a handful to be included inside a city park. The pool and its accompanying recreation center provide a hub for uptowners along the length of the green space, which runs from 145th to 155th streets between Edgecombe and Bradhurst avenues, and includes basketball and volleyball courts, baseball diamonds, two playgrounds and an outdoor bandshell.

Jackie Robinson Park pool, 146th Street and Bradhurst Avenue, 212-234-9606. FREE

Highbridge Park

Tucked amidst the trees surrounding this Washington Heights green space are a pair of large public pools both measuring a whopping 220 feet in length. The pools were another pet project of legendary city builder Robert Moses, who oversaw construction in 1936, when it cost swimmers 20 cents for adults and 10 cents for children to get wet. Nowadays, the pools — the second of which is about half the size of its neighbor — are free and open to the public.

Highbridge Park pool, Amsterdam Avenue and 173rd Street, 212-927-2400. FREE

The Empire Hotel

This Upper West Side rooftop spot takes swimming to new heights, with a host of poolside features including private cabana rentals. Located next to Lincoln Center and a block from Central Park, this 12th-floor pool deck is the crème de la crème of outdoor options. While reserved for hotel guests only, the cabanas feature flat-screen televisions, personal refrigerators, iPod docking stations and daybeds. Get those swimsuits ready, because the pool opens on June 1.

The Empire Hotel, 44 W. 63rd St., 212-265-7400.The pool is reserved for guests, who can book a private cabana for $125 for a full day, or $75 for a half day.

Soho House

The perks of joining this members-only club in the Meatpacking District include use of the rooftop pool, with drinks and meals served at your lounge chair during the summer, and panoramic views of the neighborhood from the sixth-floor deck. Guests are welcome to take a dip as long as they come with a current member, and yearly memberships begin at $900 for those under the age of 27. For jet-setters, a $2,400 yearly membership also provides access to Soho House’s sister locations in Los Angeles and London.

Soho House, 29-35 Ninth Ave., 212-627-9800. Membership $900 to $2,400 per year (or befriend a current member to get in as a guest).