By Ron Bernthal
New York City’s Manhattan Island is surrounded by water, but finding a place to swim on anisland with more concrete than sand can be a daunting experience. New York-based travel journalist Ron Bernthal tells you where to find the coolest, cleanest swimming pools on the streets and rooftops of Manhattan.
It is a sweltering Saturday morning in the concrete jungle, and it seems that most New Yorkers have deserted Manhattan for the beaches of Long Island or the Jersey shore. Or, perhaps they have fled north, to the cooler climes of the Hudson River Valley or to the mountains of the Catskills. Wherever they have gone, they won’t return until Sunday night, which means you have the city to yourself…no museum or theatre lines, plenty of good tables at all the restaurants, and thousands of yellow air-conditioned taxis all trolling the hot avenues for the few sweating pedestrians.
You still have lots of places to visit before the weekend is over, but you would do anything for just a quick refreshing dip in a swimming pool, just one dive into 12 feet of cold water, where you would let yourself drift downward to the coldest spot on the bottom, and enjoy the cool silence of the pool’s deep blue depths.
Submerging yourself in a Manhattan swimming pool is easy if you have chosen a hotel with a pool, or don’t mind mixing with the locals at the outdoor public pools. Some hotels accept non-guests for the cost of a day pass, large fitness centers may also have non-member day rates.
So, if you’re ready to take the plunge, but don’t know where to start, here are some choices.
Crowne Plaza Times Square Hotel (1605 Broadway; 212-977-4000; www.crowneplaza.com )- A 50-foot indoor pool on the hotel’s 15th floor, it’s open Monday-Friday, 6am-10pm, Saturday, 8am-8pm, and Sunday, 8am-6pm. Cost: $25 for non-hotel guests.
Hotel Gansevoort (18 Ninth Avenue; 212-206-6700; www.hotelgansevoort.com) – An upscale hotel in the trendy “Meat Packing” district, the rooftop pool is glass-enclosed, heated, and features underwater music and beams of colorful light. Open every day, year round, 7am-11pm. You must be a hotel guest, or know one. Special summer weekend rates are available.
Hotel QT (125 W. 45th St; 212-354-2323;www.hotelqt.com) – This is a lobby pool with underwater music, terraced lounge seating, and a cool adjacent bar. Open 24 hours a day, every day, for hotel guests only. Special summer weekend rates are available.
Le Parker Meridien Hotel (118 W. 57th St; 212-245-5000;www.parkermeridien.com) – A beautiful pool on the rooftop sundeck, with views of Central Park, non-guests may purchase an all-day pass for $50, which includes access to a well-equipped workout facility and exercise classes. Open Monday-Friday, 7am-11pm, Saturday-Sunday, 9am-8pm.
Mandarin Oriental (80 Columbus Circle at 60th St; 212-805-8800;www.mandarinoriental.com) – This 75-foot indoor lap pool is on the 35th floor, and has floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views. Pool hours are Monday-Friday, 6am-9pm, Saturday, 7am-9pm, and Sunday, 7am-7pm. The pool is available for hotel guests only, room rates are high, but the mesmerizing lobby bar and well-equipped fitness center are well worth the splurge.
Millenium Hilton (55 Church St; 212-693-2001; www.hilton.com ) – A great base for touring lower Manhattan, the hotel offers a 40-foot glass-enclosed indoor pool, with a connecting fitness center and sauna. Pool hours are Monday-Saturday, 5:30am-10pm, Sunday, 7am-10pm. For hotel guests only, special summer weekend rates are available.
Millennium UN Plaza Hotel (One United Nations Plaza at 44th St; 212-758-1234; www.millenniumhotels.com) – A lovely 40-foot indoor pool on the 27th floor offers great views of the United Nations and East River bridges. The pool, for hotel guests only, is open every day, year round, 7am-10pm. Check with reservations for special summer weekend rates. If you are not staying at the hotel, a day pass to the pool can be purchased at the hotel’s health club for $35 per person.
New York Marriott at the Financial Center (85 West St; 212-385-4900; www.marriott.com) – Two indoor pools, one for adults and a children’s pool, are complimentary for guests, and only $20 for a non-guest day pass. This downtown property offers swimming Monday-Friday, 6am-9pm, Saturday-Sunday, 8am-9pm.
The Peninsula Hotel (700 Fifth Avenue; 212-956-2888;www.peninsula.com) – The hotel’s pool is open Monday-Friday, 8:30am-9:30pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 8:45am-6:30pm, and offers such in-pool exercise classes as Aqua Run and Aqua Kick Aerobics.
For hotel guests only, but this pricy hotel does offer summer weekend packages.
Sheraton Manhattan (790 Seventh Avenue; 212-581-3300; www.starwoodhotels.com) – An indoor, 50-foot, heated pool is open Monday-Friday, 6am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday, 8am-8pm. The pool, and an on-site health club, is open to guests only, but the hotels offers lots of weekend packages throughout the year.
Skyline Hotel (725 Tenth Avenue; 212-586-3400;www.skylinehotelny.com) – This West Side hotel offers a heated, indoor pool on the penthouse floor of the West Wing. It is open Monday, 6pm-10pm, Tuesday-Friday, 5pm-10pm, Saturday, 1pm-6pm, and Sunday, 9am-6pm. For guests only, check reservations for special weekend rates.
Trump International Hotel & Tower (One Central Park West; 888-448-7867;www.trumpintl.com) – A 55-foot lap pool can provide the perfect break from the city heat, but you must be a guest, but this business-oriented property does offer discounts for summer weekend stays. Pool hours are Monday-Friday, 6:30am-9:30pm, Saturday-Sunday, 8am-8pm.
In addition to the above hotel pools, there are also New York City public pools, with 11 outdoor and 6 indoor pools in various Manhattan neighborhoods. All NYC public pools are free, and open from June 29 through Labor Day, 11am-7pm. (www.nycgovparks.org). Branches of the YMCA of Greater New York (www.ymcanyc.org) often have indoor pools, and the huge Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex (23rd Street & Hudson River, 212-336-6800; www.chelseapiers.com), offers a $50 day pass to nonmembers, which includes the pool and other sports activities.