Cincinnati has a wealth of public water features to keep people chill as the temperature rises: There’s a swimming pool or sprayground in nearly every neighborhood and they’re either free to frolic in or cost only a couple of bucks for admission. It ain’t no country club, but some have some pretty swanky features — water slides, climbing walls, concession stands and seating so you can sun yourself all afternoon.
216 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, zieglerpark.org // Hours: 7-9 a.m. lap swim daily; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. public swim daily. Cost: $4 adults and $2 children/seniors (over 55) daily admission; season passes provided on a sliding fee scale
Located in Ziegler Park, this renovated OTR pool is turning into not only a community hot spot, but also a hip place to see and be seen. Partly because of the location (across from Alumni Lofts in the former School for Creative and Performing Arts), partly because of the cost (daily admission is $4 for adults, with free passes allocated for qualifying neighborhood residents) and partly because of the features.
Helmed by 3CDC, this former Cincinnati Recreation Commission pool has undergone a significant makeover. “This pool is nothing like the pool that was there before,” says Emily Stowe, senior event marketing manager for 3CDC.
Originally a 3-to 4-foot deep, small pool, the new Ziegler has a zig-zag shape with three distinct sections. The first section is a zero-depth, wheelchair-accessible entry with a nearby water feature for toddlers. The central section consists of five, regulation 25-meter lap lanes, which are reserved for lap swim each morning. And the final zag is the deep end of the pool with a 1-meter diving board and rock climbing wall that arcs out over the water.
“You’ll see every type of person that you could possibly imagine sitting around the edge of the diving well and cheering on whoever it is climbing — sometimes it’s a 10-year-old kid climbing the rock wall and sometimes it’s a 55-year-old; you just see all different groups of people,” Stowe says. (If you make it to the top of the wall, expect a round of applause before you splash back down.)
Ziegler also offers swim lessons and activities like water aerobics. Pool chairs are available, but seating is first come, first served, so go early on the weekends if you’re looking to lounge.
There is a concession stand with Popsicles, soda, etc., and guests are allowed to bring in their own food (if you get a re-entry wrist band, you can also leave, grab food and come back without having to pay admission again). Note: No alcohol is served at the pool or allowed to be brought in, but Ziegler does have a liquor license for private events.
Cincinnati Recreation Commission
Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s neighborhood pools range from shallow-water pools built during the Great Depression to fancy waterpark-inspired summer spaces. Hours vary for each location, many offer swim lessons and lifeguard training, and most daily entry fees are $3 or less. To find a full list of pools and free spraygrounds, visit cincyrec.org.
Dunham “Otto Armleder Memorial Regional Aquatic Center” Pool — “Dunham is one of our destination pools,” says April Chappell, aquatics director for the CRC. Boasting later hours than most CRC spots and daily operations, the Westwood pool also boasts big features. There’s a zero-depth entry, toddler area, sprayground, climbing features, two large water slides and lap lanes. And, Dunham is the only CRC pool with a concession stand. Note: The CRC’s all-city annual pool membership fee does not cover Dunham (which costs about double the standard membership), but Dunham’s membership includes access to it and all other CRC pools. 4356 Dunham Lane, Westwood, cincyrec.org // Hours:12:30-7 p.m. Thursday-Tuesday; 12:30-5 p.m. Wednesday. Cost: $6 adults and youth, $5 seniors and $2 junior; $60-$150 (family) annual membership.
McKie Pool — Remodeled in the past five years or so, the McKie Pool offers a deep pool, wading pool and diving board along with a sprayground and pool decks. 1655 Chase Ave., Northside, cincyrec.org // Hours: 1-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 1-5 p.m. Wednesday; 1-5:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Mount Adams Pool — Nestled in a greenspace by the Playhouse in the Park, the Mount Adams Pool is a hidden gem. And with a maximum depth of 3 feet, it’s a waders paradise. “People who live in Mount Adams take a lot of pride in the pool,” says Chappell. “It’s kind of the ‘country club’ of our pools; that’s what we call it. That’s how the members treat it as well. We have people that travel across town to come to that pool. It’s just a shallow water pool, but it’s in a great setting.” 966 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, cincyrec.org // Hours: 1-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 1-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Oakley Pool — The CRC’s most recent remodel, the Oakley Pool is the only one that has a deep-water slide. It also has a diving board, sprayground and lap lanes. 3900 Paxton Ave., Oakley, cincyrec.org // Hours: 1-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 1-5 p.m. Wednesday; 1-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
These large and interactive water features are free, fun places to cool off if you don’t feel like getting fully submerged.
Smale Riverfront Park — Smale has multiple interactive water features, including the Fath Fountain plaza at the foot of Joe Nuxhall Way, with water jets that dance to light and music, and the P&G go Vibrantscape. The space’s flying pig sculpture was popular during the recent Homecoming music fest (you can climb up and hang out inside the pig), but there are also water pumps to play with and a man-made brook with stepping stones. 100 W. Mehring Way, Downtown, cincinnatiparks.com.
Yeatman’s Cove — The Otto Armleder Memorial Aquatic Fountain features spray jets and a gigantic Brutalist-style angular shower head, all in the shadow of concrete monoliths built by architect Louis Sauer in the 1970s. Parts of the sprayground are from Sawyer Point’s Concourse Fountain, a piece of interactive urban landscape architecture that also once featured a shallow pool (paved over in 2009). 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, cincinnatiparks.com.
Washington Park — The 7,000-square-foot water feature in the center of the park has more than 130 pop-up jets that can be synchronized to music and light (look nearby for instructions on how to select and play music). Open daily through October, this heat-buster also features waterfall steps and a Zen-like water boulder. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.