Your guide to Washington, D.C., area pools

June 11, 2013

When Sheila Way, 43, had the opportunity to bid on a rarely available membership to the Lee Graham Pool four years ago, she channeled her inner “Price Is Right” contestant.

“I did a little poking around online, thinking, ‘What do people pay for a share?’ ” Way says. “What is it? Like $100? Is it $5,000? You know, just to get an idea.” Then she had to figure out what she’d be willing to pay.

Taking into consideration the fact that Lee Graham is within walking distance of her Falls Church home and that she would be able to resell the membership one day (as the current owner was), Way determined that her magic number would be $1,000. “Somebody else could come up with a round number like $1,000, but I wanted to outbid them,” she says. “So I added $50.”

When all the bids were in, Way had the top bid — by 50 bucks.

Although many pool clubs have bidding wars for memberships and multiyear waiting lists, it’s not too late to find places to swim this summer. Whether you are looking for a family pool, a party pool or lanes for swimming laps, the promise of escaping the D.C. summer heat can still be yours.

For families

Like many of their suburban neighbors, the Ways — Sheila, Jim, 43, and their kids Phoebe, 8, and Alex, 6 — belong to the kind of summer pool club where the family can barbecue dinners at night and spend the days splashing around with friends, and where the kids can even compete on a swim team. Scattered through neighborhoods across the Washington area, some clubs are easier to join than others.

Two clubs that are still accepting members this summer are the Woodley Pool, tucked away in a wooded neighborhood in Falls Church, and Seven Locks Swim & Tennis Club in Bethesda, which has recently undergone a ton of renovations.

If your dream club is full, there might still be hope. Some clubs offer August-only memberships, but they don’t always advertise them.

Of course, there are also fun public places to take the family. For a day of swimming and sliding in Northern Virginia, check out the Great Waves Waterparkin Alexandria or the Ocean Dunes Waterparkin Arlington. In Maryland, visit Gaithersburg’s Water Park at Bohrer Park.

For luxury-seekers

For those who prefer an adults-only environment with poolside food and beverage service, towels provided and even synchronized swimmers at holiday celebrations, the Penthouse Pool Club on the roof of Vida Fitness U Street is your place. “It’s kind of like an oasis. It’s a getaway,” says member Scott Thureen, 45.

Memberships are still available for this summer, but they are going fast. There’s good news for those who don’t live close to U Street: A second Penthouse Pool Club will be opening at the Yards development along the Capitol Riverfront next summer, club owner David von Storch says. Memberships will go on sale beginning February 2014.

For party people

In Washington, the words “pool party” are synonymous with the Capitol Skyline Hotel. You can buy a summer membership starting at $325 for individuals or a day pass (Monday-Saturday $15, Sunday $20). During the week the pool is more family-friendly, but when the weekend rolls around, it’s time for bars, grills and local celeb DJ Ghost.

For a change of pace, check out the popular Saturday Splash Pool Parties for $20 per person at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel through the end of August.

For a free swim

Well, it’s not “officially” a pool, but the popularly nicknamed Capitol Hill Splash Park at the Yards Park is a favorite of the Moms on the Hill. “Kids that are 5 and under are just crazy about it,” says Lacy Wilhoit, manager of park programming and marketing. The 11-inch-deep pool, located two blocks from the Navy Yard Metro, includes a waterfall with a path to walk behind it.

Speaking of free: In the District, all public pools are free to residents with ID, and 19 of the Department of Parks and Recreation’s 40 aquatic facilities have outdoor pools. One of the most popular, Banneker Pool, features a new “flower shower” fountain this summer.

For athletes

Swimmers who train year-round will usually stick to favorite indoor pools such as the District’s Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown and the Takoma Aquatic Center, but they’ll also migrate to outdoor pools once or twice a week to enjoy the heat, says D.C. Triathlon Club swim coach Julianne Miata.

D.C. outdoor public pools with lanes include the East Potomac Park Pool, the Harry Thomas Sr. Pool and the Rosedale Pool.

You could also get a summer pool membership or 12-month fitness membership at the Washington Hilton if you prefer a private pool.

Outside the District, the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington has outdoor pools for laps in Arlington, Silver Spring and Bethesda.

For open-water swimmers

For the competitive swimmers among us — whom Miata says are “ever growing” in numbers in the region — WaveOne Swimming hosts open-water practice swims in the Potomac River on Thursday nights. Starting at the National Harbor pier, they mark off a 300- to 400-meter course for one hour of swimming, followed by food and drinks at a restaurant.

“We have an impeccable safety record,” says WaveOne Swimming founder Dennis Crean.

“We’re always pleased when the same number go out and come back in. We’re batting a thousand there,” he jokes.

For seniors

Proud home of the D.C. Water Wizards — a senior swim team that competes in the D.C. Senior Games and in the National Senior Games — the District has pools to accommodate all.

For anyone who has difficulty getting in and out of the water, 10 of the District’s facilities have chair lifts, including Banneker, Wilson and Takoma. Nine more pools will have lifts installed by the end of June. Banneker and Takoma are also among the 16 pools that have zero-depth entry, where you can walk straight into the pool rather than using stairs.

Any District residents 60 or older who would like to take water aerobics classes can do so for free through the Body Wise program, provided by DPR and the University of the District of Columbia. The classes — offered at the indoor Wilson and Takoma aquatic centers — incorporate exercises such as side lunges, leg lifts, push-ups against the pool wall and weight training.

For those seeking sanctuary

Let’s be honest. On a hot sunny weekend in June or July, it’s going to be tough to find a quiet pool to be alone, so your best bet is to visit pools at off hours. That said, the Liaison Capitol Hotelis offering a Weekend Refresher program on Saturdays and Sundays: rooftop yoga from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., continental breakfast at the Art and Soul restaurant and a pool pass for the day — all for $50.

As the day progresses, the pool probably will get more and more crowded. But they plan to serve alcohol-infused fruit on the patio, so maybe you won’t mind the noise by then.

Find your pool: Hours, prices and contact information

Krulik is a freelance writer.

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