Say what you will about Metro unreliability, political pandering, and Beltway gridlock, if there’s one thing DC does unbelievably well, it’s public pools. And with Humidgeddon 2k11 lingering over the DMV like a massive sweaty cloud, there’s never been a better time to kick back at one of our city’s 18 free chlorine oases.
With so many watery ways to escape the heat, DC’s pool scene can sometimes feel like a giant high school cafeteria, as each tends to attract certain cliques of people who come to sit, sunbathe, and splash among likeminded individuals. To help readers better identify the distinct personalities that gather at these shimmering hot spots, we slid on our swimmies and headed to five of the most popular public pools to survey the landscape.
Francis Pool—2500 N Street, NW
Your scene if: You just worked out at the WSC in Dupont or are still detoxing from last night at Nellie’s.
Vibe: Speedos tend to outnumber board shorts here and really well-groomed guys often lower their designer shades to check out the surrounding male eye candy. Despite the kiddie pool with easy ramp access for new swimmers, don’t bring your tots here for two reasons: a) this place is morning-recap central, with lots of guys boasting about their last-night’s exploits using serious potty mouth, and b) a footpath from the adjacent park runs the length of the pool, inviting maniac predators to stop and stare at swimmers.
(VIDEO) Harry Thomas Community Center—1743 Lincoln Road, NE
Your scene if: You don’t take yourself too seriously—or want to be around those who do.
Vibe: Much more family-friendly than flirt-forward, this is not the kind of place where people primp for an hour before unveiling their bathing suits. In fact, you might be one of the only ones sunbathing if your idea of going to the pool doesn’t include going in the pool. Harry Thomas is attached to a recreation center offering exercise classes, free computer labs, a baseball diamond, and tennis courts—making this one of the most community-minded of DC’s community pools.
(VIDEO) Volta Pool—3400 Volta Place, NW
Your scene if: You don’t want commoners breathing your air.
Vibe: This pocket-sized piece of (very valuable) real estate is hidden between 34th and 35th streets for a reason: Those who live in the neighborhood probably don’t want too many people to know about it. If your Georgetown or Glover Park condo doesn’t have rooftop pool access or you don’t already belong to a private club, you’re in luck: Volta looks like a private club. The 25-yard waterway is kept immaculately clean by a round-the-clock staff and the lifeguards do a commendable job putting up with undisciplined kids and their doting mothers. Oh, and if you happen to get hit by an 8-year-old who drives his Power Wheel into your leg at the playground outside, it’s your fault and you should probably watch where you’re going.
(VIDEO) East Potomac Pool—972 Ohio Dr. SW
Your scene if: You’re training for a triathlon or like to sleep.
Vibe: DC’s most serene public pool is also the most swim-friendly. “The Bathhouse” is tucked off the beaten path at Haines Point, and the fact that you have to drive or bike here not only keeps the crowds down, but the pool’s lack of a kiddie area (its most shallow end is 3 feet) makes for a great place to pass out. Gallaudet students sign to each other while sunbathing; upper-crust golfers tee off on the course nearby, three swimming lanes attract lots of skull caps, spandex, and serious swimmers; and a set of sprinklers by the exit of the locker room hoses you down like a carwash to ensure that the pool stays relatively clean. Happen to be training for a triathlon? This is your place: bike to Haines Point, run around the peninsula, and swim laps in the Olympic-sized pool’s 50-meter lanes.
(VIDEO) Banneker Pool—2500 Georgia Ave. NW
Your scene if: You’re a Howard student or
a hipster others might characterize you as a hipster.
Vibe: Disregard the fact that the water looks like it’s been Photoshopped to toxic-blue levels; that it generally hovers around 80+ degrees; and that, if you take a good look at what you’re wading through, you might find a Band-Aid—this is easily our favorite place to swim in DC. Pool meets party here: WPCG sings out of a tinny ’90s boombox; lifeguards signal the start of adult swim by synchronizing tricks off the two diving boards; and if you don’t recognize that bikini-clad coed from the Econ 101 class you had across the street, chances are you’ll recognize half of the sunbathers from Wonderland or the Giant.