If you, like me, are a transplant to this city from a more northern clime, you might describe your first summer here with a mix of shock and awe. I moved to town in the midst of a perfect Atlanta autumn, and by the time July rolled around, well, I’d already changed my driver’s license. Native Atlantans, you may already know where to cool off. But I’m still hunting for places to take a dip. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Safety note: Not all of these swimming spots have a lifeguard on duty; they are “swim at your own risk.” Children should always be supervised and should learn water safety even before they learn to swim. Children aged 5 and older can take low-cost swim lessons through City of Atlanta’s Camp Best Friends, which runs through the summer; free water safety training and CPR is available for parents and caregivers of enrolled children.
Does the city offer free public pools?
Atlanta operates 12 neighborhood pools, and for the second summer in a row, admission is free. That means there will be crowds, so prepare to share the water with neighbors, especially at midday and on weekends. Look for one near you on the Parks & Recreation website. Hours generally run from 12:30 to 7 p.m., and days vary depending on the pool. Kids of all ages are welcome, and there are lifeguards on duty. The city also partners with privately operated pools at Chastain Park Athletic Club, Garden Hills, and Piedmont Park, all of which are open to the public but cost $5 a day for poolgoers over age two.
Can I swim at a hotel?
If you’re willing to pay for a little more luxury, several hotel pools offer day passes through ResortPass.com. Bonuses include extra services, great views of the city, and more privacy—though there are no lifeguards. The W Hotel Downtown Wet Deck’s outdoor pool is located on the 16th floor. Massage and spa options are available. Daily access is $60 for adults and $25 for children. The pool at the Omni Hotel at the Battery Atlanta overlooks the Braves stadium. You can’t quite watch a baseball game from the pool, but you’ll definitely hear it—and at 582 feet from home plate, you might even catch a fly ball from your chaise longue. A $45 pass (adults only) includes all-day access to the pool and lobby bar; poolside food and beverage service is available on game days.
Are there any pools for rent?
Swimply is basically the Airbnb of pools: Homeowners list their pools for rent by the hour or the day. Search offerings by distance, price, or number of guests. Some listings allow large groups, so this is a great option if you want to throw a party. (You’ll likely have to confirm the number of guests when you book, so be prepared.) Some also offer optional amenities like a grill or firepit. Homeowners set rules such as whether to allow parties, pets, or small children. Rates vary from $45 to $175 an hour, but most are around $50 an hour.
Which nearby lakes welcome swimmers?
Pine Lake, a tiny city near Stone Mountain, opens its lake to the public for nonmotorized boating, licensed fishing, and, in season, swimming. A raised berm designates the swimming area. To range past the ropes, swimmers must file a waiver. Pets are not allowed in the water. Clayton County International Park’s spring-fed lake has been turbocharged into a child’s paradise, with waterslides, a kiddie pool, and a water trampoline ($15 ages three and up, $13 ages two and under). Farther afield, West Point Lake, Lake Lanier, and Lake Allatoona—all managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—offer spacious swimming areas (most day passes are around $5 per car). Dogs aren’t allowed at most designated beaches, but there are lots of secluded sandy areas along the lakeshore where your pup can play.
Is it safe to swim in the Chattahoochee River?
Yes, but there are serious risks. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Jason Ulseth says, “In terms of safety, you have to think about it in two ways. One is water flows, and the other is water quality.” Buford Dam, at the base of Lake Lanier, schedules releases on weekday afternoons, which can raise water levels rapidly and make currents more treacherous, especially along the three miles south of the dam. Call this hotline for release schedules: 1-855-DAM-FLOW. As for water quality, Ulseth says the river’s 48-mile designated recreation area is usually clean and safe for swimming, but heavy rains can raise bacteria levels. His organization’s BacteriAlert program—a three-way partnership with the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service—constantly monitors water quality and posts the data online. If the levels are colored green, it’s safe to swim. (Pro tip from Ulseth: “When we have a heavy rain and the water looks like chocolate milk, that’s when bacteria’s high.” Wait a day or two for the water to clear before wading in.) Periodically, the program also monitors water quality in contributing creeks, which tend to have much higher levels of E. coli. While creeks are generally safe for dogs, humans shouldn’t wade in past their legs. Stay out if you have a cut or scrape.
A version of this article appears in our July 2022 issue.