Chicago Park District Swimming Pools: One of the things I totally take for granted

Chicago Park District Swimming Pools: One of the things I totally take for granted

In typical Chicago fashion SUMMER hit us this afternoon with all the force of a wet towel in the face. Yesterday was spring, the day before that was winter. Today BAM! SUMMER!

86 degrees and I left the house this morning wearing a black turtleneck. Every year SUMMER takes me by surprise. Even if I read the weather report, I am in serious denial about ever being able to leave the house without a coat. I didn't even layer! Black turtleneck all the way.

Not that I'm complaining. I love it.

Anyway, all this hot weather has me thinking about swimming. Did you know that Chicago has a whole bunch of free swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor?  Take THAT you suburban snobs who have to join expensive country clubs!

curie park.jpg

Curie Park, image courtesy Chicago Park District

My husband would like to point out at this juncture that there is also an enormous natural body of water to the east. People swim in it and there are beaches. But -- and I know this is weird -- but as much as love going to the beach, I don't like going in the water in Lake Michigan. All those bacteria levels and closings off and on throughout the summer just give me the willies. Not to mention, I am a gigantic cold-water wimp. The Lake doesn't warm up enough for me until August and THAT is peak bacteria season. Oh, and also, I hate the greasy feeling of sunscreen. I wear it because I have to -- I am one of the pastiest people you will ever meet. But if I can have fun in the water without having to lube up like a roast chicken, then all the better. 

But -- hey -- just so you know, there IS a lake. There are lots of fun, free beaches. We even have one 1/2 mile away at the end of our street. AND it has a playground. WIN! SUMMER!

So for bacteria-avoiding, cold-water hating, sunscreen-resenting wimps like me, Park District to save the day!

ALSO in typical Chicago fashion, there are tons of great options for free open swimming and free swimming lessons but finding out WHEN and WHERE and HOW TO REGISTER BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE is not an easy task.

OK, now I know a lot of you both of you are saying "Tell us something we don't know, lady! Everyone knows about the park district!"

And, yeah, that's mostly true. But listen to this: when I was pregnant with my firstborn a fellow graduate student, who already had a child in Kindergarten, told me all about the park district classes and pools and exercise rooms, AND THIS WAS UTTER AND COMPLETE NEWS TO ME. I was in grad school when I got pregnant with Aislin. I spent all my time working, studying, and doing therapy for free. I didn't really know anyone with kids. My friends who DID have kids all moved to the suburbs. I was SO grateful for this information! So, indulge me.

This is the Chicago Park District website. Isn't it pretty?

And here is the link to the main swimming pool site.

The Park District has an impressive array of swimming options: both indoor and outdoor pools, spray parks, open swim, baby swim, youth swimming lessons, teen life guarding classes, ADA pools, adults-only hours, and lap swim. Some of these classes are free, and the ones that are not are really quite reasonable.

When I was hugely pregnant with my first child I used to go to the Adult Swim at Welles Park and float around in the water. She was born in July and I spent most of June with hugely swollen ankles. Thanks to the free park district pool, I was able to get a few hours relief each week. It was heavenly.

Of course the only other people at Adult Swim on a weekday afternoon are octagenarians. There were a few raised eyebrows at me, my bikini (too cheap to buy a maternity swimsuit that I was only going to wear a few times) and rotund-iness. But honestly I was just too pregnant to care.

If you have children, there is lots of swimming to be had for children and families. My older daughter has been in swimming lessons at the Park District right next door to her school since January. Her swimming skill has improved drastically! And did I mention that since swimming is a life skill, these lessons are FREE!?! I think the kids have to be six before they can do the free group lessons. Next year, when she's in first grade, she'll be doing swim team which is also free. She is very excited.

My younger daughter wants NOTHING to do with the water. She likes to sit on the edge and dip her toes in, but she has no interest in being submerged. I'm in no rush with her though. We will check out the Spray Parks at River Park and Adams Park this summer. That's probably more her speed at this point. 


Adams Park

One more click and you can find the locations and schedules.

Unfortunately, the schedules posted on the CPD website are not always the most recent. And even when they are, they aren't always accurate. I can't tell you how many times I have packed everyone up with swimsuits and snacks, headed to the pool, and arrived there to discover that the Family Swim that was supposed to be happening at that hour, was, in fact, not.

The best thing to do is to go to the pool, in the flesh, and question the clueless teenager working the desk in excruciating detail. Sometimes that works. Sometimes you just end up at the playground and try again another day.


Leave a comment
  • I've had the same experience where I rangled kids into their suits, packed everything up and arrived at the pool to be shut away because it was adult swim. The frustration has kept me away since.

    But, my children need to learn to swim and they can't learn if they are never in a pool. So, I will try again this summer.

    The spray parks are my favorite, especially River Park. It is fun for all ages, and less stressful for the parents.

  • In reply to bethprystowsky:

    I have to admit that I am jealous of my friends who belong to the Lincolnwood Pool. It is family swim, all day every day. Next year I may try to join when I don't have a little one taking a 2-hour nap every afternoon.

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  • What I wouldn't give for free access to a pool. Take advantage! :) It is so, so important to know how to swim well and while swim lessons are a great place to start, it's the swim team that will give your kids better strokes, strength, speed (which they love), and confidence (you can feel better about that). The murky waters of lakes freak me out, too. If a kid goes under, you just can't see them like you can in a pool. Ever since I (a pretty strong high school swimmer) nearly drowned in the ocean (caught up in the undertow and didn't know how to get out--since then I have read you must swim on a 45 degree angle toward shore, or swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current and then swim to shore) on Spring Break, I am par-a-noid about large bodies of water and kids. Great info!

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