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The City’s Best Pools for Beating the Last of the Summer Heat

Beat the heat at these pools—ranked from least to most exclusive

Photograph of Mason & of Rook by Ron Blunt.

Public Pools

While “municipal” doesn’t equate to “glamorous,” public pools are open to all for a low fee and maintained to a strict health standard. On the flip side, you may have to deal with crowds, occasional broken chairs, and kids screaming, “Marco!” “Polo!” A few options: DC’s Francis Pool has three pools of different depths (2435 N St., NW; 202-727-3285). Rosedale Pool has a kiddie section with ground jets (1701 Gales St., NE; 202-397-1315). Rockville Swim & Fitness Center has an eight-lane, 50-meter lap pool and a pool with a large slide, a spraying play structure, and water basketball (355 Martins Ln., Rockville; 240-314-8750). Warwick Pool, which opened last summer in Del Ray, comes with lap lanes and a beach entry (3301 Landover St., Alexandria; 571-312-8470).

Hotel Pools

A ritzier alternative is hotels that open their pools to non-guests. Pros: comfy chairs and poolside cocktails. Cons: smaller pools, pricier entrance fees, and Instagram-happy attendees. Options: Capitol Skyline Hotel (10 I St., SW; 202-488-7500; $45); Liaison Washington Capitol Hill (415 New Jersey Ave., NW; 202-393-7777; $25 weekdays, $35 weekends); and the Embassy Row Hotel (2015 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-265-1600; $16 to $50 a day). Or maybe you’d like to check into a local hotel for a mini-break. Those with great pools for overnight guests include Mason & Rook (1430 Rhode Island Ave., NW; 202-742-3100); Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar (2121 P St., NW; 202-448-1800), and the Inter­Continental at the Wharf (801 Wharf St., SW; 202-800-0844).

August Pool Memberships

Photograph of Forest Hollow courtesy of Forest Hollow Swim Club
Photograph of Forest Hollow courtesy of Forest Hollow Swim Club.

The local swim club seems like a nice neighborhood amenity until you discover the multi-year waiting list. There’s some respite in late summer, when clubs often invite the top of their wait lists to an August-only membership. While some limit membership to those who live nearby, others welcome anyone. A few with no geographical requirements and short or no wait lists: West Hillandale Swim Club (915 Schindler Dr., Silver Spring; 301-439-4208), Forest Hollow Swim Club (4330 Old Columbia Pike, Annandale; 703-750-9737), and Hollin Meadows Swim & Tennis Club (2500 Woodlawn Trail, Alexandria; no phone).

Party Rooftops With Pools

Want to throw a pool party but don’t have a pool? Some hotels—including Liaison and Mason & Rook—rent out their rooftop decks for events. Another choice is the Penthouse Pool and Lounge (1612 U St., NW; 202-939-2577), on the roof of Vida Fitness, with its red chaises, double day beds, and curtained cabanas set against artificial turf. Its counterpart, the Penthouse Pool and Lounge at the Yards (1212 Fourth St., SE; 202-554-0444), features a loungier vibe, with outdoor “rooms” decked out in navy. At both, you can also rent just a cabana rather than the entire rooftop.

Airbnbs With Pools

Photograph of Dupont Circle studio by Ray Cavicchio Photography/Dwel.
Photograph of Dupont Circle studio by Ray Cavicchio Photography/Dwel.

Hotels aren’t the only staycation options—you can check into an Airbnb with a stunning pool. Unlike at a hotel, you’ll have a full kitchen and separate bedroom, making for a restful place to come back to whether you play tourist or spend the day at the pool. One option is a sleek Dupont Circle studio with a wall of windows and a tranquil rooftop ($156 a night). Or grab friends to book a six-bedroom Dupont Circle house with a heated rooftop pool, several outdoor decks, a 25-foot waterfall, and koi ponds ($900 a night).

This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Washingtonian.