Things to Do

8 Cool Places to Swim Near Washington

Whether you prefer pools, lakes, or bay beaches, here are great nearby spots to dive in.

Local Pools

Didn’t get a summer pool membership? You’re not sunk. Many area jurisdictions have community pools. Some favorites, open to both non-residents and residents: Olympic-size East Potomac Pool in Southwest DC, a no-frills facility that can be quiet on weekdays—and is free to District residents; Martin Luther King Jr. Outdoor Pool in Silver Spring, with a 50-meter lap pool, a diving area, and a “lazy river”; Bethesda Outdoor Pool, with adult, junior, and kiddie pools; and Ocean Dunes Waterpark in Arlington, which, besides a 500-gallon dumping bucket and slides, has a six-lane lap pool—and a fun mini-golf course.

Up on the Roof

A number of area hotels offer day passes or memberships. The newest in-ground oasis is at the Embassy Row Hotel, which recently renovated its rooftop. The 450-square-foot pool now has cabanas, lounge seating, and a rooftop restaurant (open Wednesday through Sunday only) along with views of the Washington Monument and National Cathedral. A limited number of day passes are available for $25. The pool is free after 5 pm.

For more pool options, public and private, see our Summer Pools Guide.

Nearby Beaches

Want to squish your toes into a sandy beach but don’t want to drive far? In an hour or so, you can be at Gunpowder Falls State Park Hammerman Area, a 1,500-foot-long beach on a wide section of the Gunpowder River. You’ll find changing rooms and showers, a concession stand, and a shady picnic area. (For less of a crowd, head to the north end.) The beach is also home to Ultimate Watersports.

Another close-by option is Hunting Creek Lake, a 44-acre manmade lake in Maryland’s Cunningham Falls State Park (14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont; 301-271-7574) where you’ll find paddleboat rentals and barbecue grills. Work up a sweat first by taking one of two short hikes—one is challenging, the other easier—to views of 78-foot-high Cunningham Falls spilling down enormous boulders.

Within an hour’s drive is perennial favorite Sandy Point State Park, which offers a beach on the bay, a grassy picnic area, playgrounds, boat rentals, and a view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.