“Heat wave!” sang Martha and the Vandellas. “It’s getting hot in here!” sang Nelly. “Hot, hot, hot!” sang Buster Poindexter. You get the idea—it’s a “hot town, summer in the city” (sang the Lovin’ Spoonful) and we all need to cool off, especially when the temperature starts climbing into the triple digits. There are beaches and hotel pools aplenty, but visitors and locals alike can also enjoy a variety of public pools across the city. These little oases are beloved to those who have discovered the best way to swim, tan, or relax with friends and family. In fact, these pools are so beloved that some Angelenos even try to keep them a secret. Not to worry - we believe in sharing the love, the sun, and all the tips on how to best cool off when the legendary SoCal sun is going full blast. Read on for the coolest public pools for L.A.’s hottest people.
LA84 Foundation/John C. Argue Swim Stadium
Located at the EXPO Center adjacent to the LA Coliseum, the LA84 Foundation/John C. Argue Swim Stadium (3980 Bill Robertson Lane, Los Angeles 90037) is the crown jewel of historic Los Angeles-area swimming pools. This is the post-2003 renovation name of the Los Angeles Swimming Stadium, built for the 1932 Summer Olympics. Generations of Angelenos have swam in this iconic location since back in the days when public transportation (in the form of the Red Car streetcars—see Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) brought swimmers from all over the city to this collegiate sports hub. The John C. Argue pool is now a modern aquatics center featuring both a family pool and a competition pool, which are in operation year-round.
Highland Park Pool
East of the Los Angeles River, a popular choice for cooling off in the summer is, of course, right in the middle of one of the most rapidly changing neighborhoods in the city. The Highland Park Pool at the Highland Park Recreation Center (6150 Piedmont Ave., Los Angeles 90042) offers a much more relaxed alternative for people in the northeast quadrant to the granddaddy of all local aquatic parks at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Located at the intersection of local main streets York and Figueroa, the pool is also a 10-minute walk from the Metro Gold Line Highland Park Station. Seasonally open only.
Griffith Park Pool
East of Hollywood, the fashionistas and creatives that congregate along the Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park/Atwater axis have long sung the praises of the Griffith Park Pool (3401 Riverside Dr., Los Angeles 90027). Located near the insanely busy intersection where Los Feliz Boulevard meets Riverside Drive and the Golden State Freeway, most drivers have noticed the delightful pool and its vintage building across from the Mulholland Memorial Fountain. Looking very much like a private facility, would-be swimmers shouldn’t be intimidated - the Griffith Park Pool is a public pool that welcomes everyone from families to the trendiest Silver Lake artist. In terms of location and ambiance, this is one of LA's most charming pools, but be aware that there aren’t a lot of shaded areas around the pool itself, so keep that in mind on days of extreme heat. (And flip flops are never an option if you care about the soles of your feet).
Hansen Dam Aquatic Center
If you’re looking for a completely different swimming experience - a resort environment with sand and landscaping and some of the best summer people watching in the city - head north to Lake View Terrace and LA’s largest public pool, the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center (11798 Foothill Blvd., Lake View Terrace 91342). Under the majestic San Gabriel Mountain foothills, families can enjoy picnics (it helps to arrive early for a good spot) by the “swim lake,” a water slide, a beach-like atmosphere without the hassles (and the occasional shark scare!) of the actual beach, and the kind of communal Summer vibes often associated with private swim clubs. Word to the wise: go over the strict facility rules before heading over.
Annenberg Community Beach House
Offering swim classes, pool hours, volleyball camp, yoga classes, chamber music, dance classes, cultural tours and more, the Annenberg Community Beach House (415 Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica 90402) sits atop five acres of beachfront and has historical roots in William Randolph Hearst, who developed the area for actress Marion Davies in the 1920s. The Beach House was originally a mansion with 100 rooms and a marble swimming pool, set to entertain actors on Santa Monica's Gold Coast. It later became a hotel known as Oceanhouse and the members-only Sand and Beach Club. The site reopened to the public as the Annenberg Community Beach House in April 2009 and combines elements of the historic Marion Davies Estate with new amenities to create a truly unique community destination that's open to all - no membership required. Check the schedule for pool hours, camps and classes.
Mar Vista Pool
It might seem peculiar to include the Mar Vista Pool (11655 Palms Blvd., Los Angeles 90066) on this list, especially since it’s so close to Venice and all the other coastal beaches. But when it comes to cooling off, there’s definitely sea people and pool people, so proximity to the ocean does not mean that far-Westsiders can't choose to enjoy the wonderful aquatic pleasures of a public pool. Part of the Mar Vista Recreation Center, this seasonal pool offers a nearby, more family-oriented alternative to the endless sand expansion, eccentric local entrepreneurs, and the muscle crowd that gives Venice Beach its unique, world-famous character.
BONUS POOL: Switzer Falls
These options are all open to the public and offer pools as an alternative to the often crowded local beaches. However, if you like your water non-oceanic but in a more organic, rustic setting, we suggest you check out one of the many local hikes offering access to that American institution, the watering hole. Our recommendation to start off? The majestic Switzer Falls hike in the San Gabriel Mountains, off the Gabrielino Trail. Be prepared for a tricky, sometimes challenging hike (and of course bring appropriate footwear, a hat, sunscreen, and water), but once you get to the pools and cascades - well, that’s the kind of SoCal Summer experience you can’t really get anywhere else.