America’s 10 Must-Visit Lap Pools
Paul L. Underwood
August 9, 2017
The benefits of a good swim are well known — all the upside of running or other aerobic exercises, minus the downside of a long grind on a hard surface (i.e., fewer orthopedic injuries).
What’s less established are the benefits of a good swim in a beautiful, inviting or just plain jaw-dropping lap pool. But we suspect you’d be willing to give it a try just in case — especially since seeking out a new place to swim can help you stave off the boredom of doing another round laps.
Here, dive into the country’s 10 must-visit lap pools — guaranteed to give you a boredom-free swim.
1. THE INDOOR POOL AT THE INTERCONTINENTAL, CHICAGO
Photo Credit: Intercontinental Hotel
Built in 1929 — just as the Roaring ‘20s were giving way to the Great Depression — this junior Olympic-sized pool has been hosting swimmers since the building was part of the Medinah Athletic Club. (Johnny Weissmuller — aka Tarzan — trained here.) Its Jazz Age glamour, including hand-painted Spanish tiles, has been painstakingly preserved. Best of all, you don’t need to book a room to go — you can get a membership to the spa or spring for a day pass.
2. RIVER HOUSE POOL AT PALMETTO BLUFF, BLUFFTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Photo Credit: Palmetto Bluff
A low country stunner overlooking the May River, this 50-meter, three-lane pool near Hilton Head and Savannah is perhaps the most relaxing location on our list. (Helpful on that front: No kids allowed.) It’s a saltwater pool, which is believed to help with everything from asthma to inflammatory diseases, and supposedly can help induce sleep. Be sure to relax your muscles at the adjacent Jacuzzi.
3. BARR POOL AT SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, DALLAS
Photo Credit: Southern Methodist University
This isn’t the most famous pool in Texas — that would probably be Barton Springs, the naturally cold public pool (created by natural springs) open year-round in downtown Austin. This isn’t even the most famous pool in Dallas — that would be the one at The Joule Hotel, whose infamous clear bottom extends 8-feet past the edge of the building. But this is still a rare thing — an Olympic-caliber lap pool that’s fully open to the public.
4. BAY CLUB AT THE GATEWAY POOL, SAN FRANCISCO
Photo Credit: Bay Club
Looking for an outdoor pool in downtown SF? Join the club. Literally: the Bay Club, which runs this, billed as the only downtown aquatic center without a roof. It’s the lone exclusively members-only pool on this list, but it’s here for its impossibly convenient location — it’s close to plenty of amenities (including tennis courts) and the Ferry Building, with an unrivaled view of the Bay Bridge. Also convenient: It’s heated.
5. THE ANNENBERG COMMUNITY BEACH HOUSE, SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
Photo Credit: Annenberg Beach House
Rare is the public pool that also hosts art exhibits. This is that pool. It was originally part of an estate owned by Marion Davies, a gift from William Randolph Hearst, her lover (and inspiration for “Citizen Kane”). It opened to the public eight years ago, and is home to a boisterous pool scene just footsteps from the beach. Pro tip: Stay for the nightly sunset swims, which are adult only.
6. MANHATTAN PLAZA HEALTH CLUB, NYC
Photo Credit: Manhattan Plaza Health Club
This is the other members-only pool on this list, though it offers day passes on weekdays. New Yorkers know a pool like this is a rarity in the Big Apple: It’s 75-feet long with a retractable roof and a Hell’s Kitchen location that’s accessible for nearly everyone (so long as the subway’s actually, you know, working). FYI: It also offers scuba lessons, if you’re looking to expand your aquatic repertoire.
7. JOHN C. ARGUE SWIM STADIUM, LOS ANGELES
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks
Another mind-blowing public pool in Southern California: The pool from the 1932 Summer Olympics is available for use. (Including John Williams’ Olympic fanfare on your swimming mix is pretty much a must.) The Expo Park location is family friendly, but note: Afternoons are reserved for recreation, not laps.
8. OMNI GROVE PARK INN, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Photo Credit: Omni Hotel
This massive resort is nestled under the Blue Ridge Mountains and contains an 18-hole golf course, a 55,000-square-foot sports complex and a historic on-site hotel. But you’re ignoring all of that for the stunning underground lap pool, which eschews chlorine (it’s supposedly safer that way) and includes underwater music (to keep you in beast mode).
9. INDIAN SPRINGS, CALISTOGA, CALIFORNIA
Photo Credit: Indian Springs
To keep in shape for the long days and nights of wine ahead, consider staying at Indian Springs. It’s home to a century-old mineral water pool, fed by onsite geysers. (In case that’s not special enough, the pool’s also one of the biggest in the Golden State.) Those looking for a less intense experience can head to the appropriately named Adult Pool nearby. In either case, you can enjoy poolside drinks and even ice cream. (Waiting an hour is entirely up to you.)
10. CHELSEA PIERS, NYC
Photo Credit: Chelsea Piers
This indoor six-laner feels generous by Manhattan standards, but what will really catch your eye is what’s outside: a stunning view of the Hudson. A day pass runs $60, and includes access to all of Chelsea Piers’ facilities, including the track, basketball courts and the rock wall, which is open year-round. Hit the adjacent whirlpool, then head to the sundeck, where you can watch the sunset as your muscles cool down. We can’t promise it’ll help your recovery, but it can’t hurt, right?
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About the Author
Paul L. Underwood
Paul is a writer based in Austin, Texas. He tweets here, he Instagrams there and he posts the occasional deep thought at plunderwood.com. He’s probably working on a run mix as you read this.