Checking off the Central Texas swimming pool bucket list

7 splashy spots to consider before summer’s end


It all started with a diving board.

My 5-year-old daughter, Kona, took her first tentative plunge into the deep end of a swimming pool during a May visit to Houston and became completely hooked on the walk-bounce-splash rhythm that a diving board provides.

The only problem? None of the pools near our Southwest Austin neighborhood have one.

When we went online to do some swimming pool research, we discovered a treasure trove of public options featuring everything from snaking slides to leisurely lazy rivers to the crispest spring-fed water. And yes, plenty of diving boards.

We decided to create a bucket list of seven pools, spanning from Round Rock to Kyle, that we wanted to visit by summer’s end. We figured visiting them all would take us a couple of months. We did it in nine days.

In addition to the fun we had logging splash-filled hours poolside, our experiment gave us the opportunity to catch up with friends — and make new ones — in various local neighborhoods.

While by no means comprehensive, our list provides a good sample of what’s available when it comes to swimming pools in the Austin area.

A few notes: Most pools are cash only, so hit the ATM before you go. Hours listed are for recreational swim; check individual websites for lap swim times and other information. And because the lifeguard shortage is still impacting some of Austin’s public pools, it’s a good idea to call to confirm hours before you go.

Rock’N River Family Aquatic Center

This Round Rock pool may not have a diving board, but it has so many water features — 40,000 square feet of water-filled goodness, to be exact — that walking in makes you feel as if you’ve stumbled into Schlitterbahn. Giant buckets that dump large quantities of water on your head? Check. Beach-style entry that leads to hulking, water-filled playscape? Check. Rainbow-shaped sprinkler that squirts you as you cruise down the lazy river? Check. Two towering water slides? Check. In other words, kid heaven. And if you work up an appetite, head to the concession stand for snacks and drinks.

Favorite feature: A surprisingly speedy frog slide that entertained both of our daughters for nearly an hour.

Great for: Kids of all ages.

Insider tip: The pool is next door to Dell Diamond. Combine your pool visit with a Round Rock Express game for a perfect summer afternoon.

Info: 3300 Palm Valley Blvd., 512-671-2737, www.roundrocktexas.gov/pools. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday through Aug. 24. Closed Wednesday. The pool will remain open on a more limited schedule through Sept. 1. Cost for Round Rock residents is $6 for adults, $5 for ages 17 and younger and seniors. Nonresidents are $7 for adults, $6 for children and seniors.

Barton Springs Pool

I used to visit Barton Springs, the 68ish-degree 3-acre spring-fed pool inside Zilker Park, nearly every weekend, but I hadn’t been back since having kids. As Kona and I made our way down the steps toward the panorama of teal on a cloudy morning, I was nervous. Would she understand the incredible gem that this is? Or would she simply think it was too cold, too slippery, too weird? As we walked along the edge, she saw a picture of the Barton Springs salamander and asked about it, affording me the opportunity to give her some background about Austin’s beloved endangered species. Then, like Polar Bear Club wannabes, we plunged in. It was cold. It was slippery. And it was, as Kona said as we were getting out, “kind of weird. But cool.”

Favorite feature: The fake ducks that hang out near the diving board.

Great for: Sunbathers, endurance swimmers, people-watchers, adventurous kids and adults. Really, it’s a must-do for anyone who lives in, or visits, Austin.

Insider tip: The Zilker Summer Musical — “Oklahoma!” — runs Thursday-Sunday through Aug. 16 at the Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theatre in Zilker Park, directly across from Barton Springs. Go for a swim, then catch the musical, which starts around 8:30 p.m.

Info: 2201 Barton Springs Road, 512-476-9044, austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool. Open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily except Thursdays, when the pool is closed from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for cleaning, through Oct. 31. Guards are on duty and admission fees are charged starting at 8 a.m. The pool remains open on a more limited schedule year-round. Cost for Austin residents is $3 for adults, $2 for teens and $1 for ages 1-11 and seniors. Children younger than 1 are free. Add a dollar for nonresidents.

Bartholomew Pool

This Mueller-area pool reopened in June after a five-year, $5.7 million renovation, and it is awesome. Of all the pools we visited, it was Kona’s favorite, because it combines all the elements of a great swimming pool experience: diving board, 25-yard lap pool, two smaller pools (one with beach entry for little kids that goes to 2 feet, another for older kids that goes to 4 feet), tube slides and various water features. We rotated between every area and never got bored.

Favorite feature: A “lily pad bridge” for older kids to wiggle and wobble their way across.

Great for: Everyone.

Insider tip: If you can, go on a weekday to avoid the crowds of people eager to try out this new pool.

Information: 1800 E. 51st St., 512-974-1650, www.austintexas.gov/department/bartholomew-pool-project. Open for recreational swim from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Aug. 24. Cost for Austin residents is $3 for adults, $2 for ages 12-17 and $1 for ages 1-11 and seniors. Children younger than 1 are free.

Northwest Pool

We loved the laid-back vibe of this Northwest Austin pool, nestled inside Beverly Sheffield Northwest District Park. The large, shallow kiddie pool was perfect for our 2-year-old, Mirielle, and Kona appreciated the many open-swim areas ideal for diving for rings or practicing underwater somersaults. Bring a cooler so you can take a break and enjoy some snacks at one of the picnic tables.

Favorite feature: The diving board and huge deep end, perfect for teaching yourself some new tricks.

Great for: Lap swimmers, kids, families.

Insider tip: Spend an extra hour or two exploring Beverly Sheffield park, which includes basketball courts, tennis courts, trails, a playground and more.

Info: 7000 Ardath St., 512-453-0194, www.austintexas.gov/department/northwest-pool. Open for recreational swim from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Aug. 24. The pool will remain open on a more limited schedule through Sept. 7. Cost for Austin residents is $3 for adults, $2 for ages 12-17 and $1 for ages 11 and younger and seniors.

Kyle Pool

Located in Kyle, about 30 minutes from downtown, the Kyle Pool is understated yet totally satisfying, particularly if you’re taking kids. We were barefoot when we crossed the scorching parking lot into the pool area, so the cool waters of the kid-friendly shallow ledge that leads to the deeper end of the pool offered a welcome relief. The pool has two slides (one was closed for maintenance during our visit, the other one was fast and fun), several water features, lap lanes and lots of shaded lawn chairs and tables. There are no vending machines, but you are welcome to bring coolers and snacks.

Favorite feature: This probably sounds weird, but we couldn’t get enough of the outdoor showers, where you stand under a vintage-style yellow shower head and pull on the dangling ring to release a flood of water that doesn’t stop until you let go.

Great for: Kids, lap swimmers, families.

Insider tip: Before you head out of town, stop by Texas Pie Company (202 W. Center St., 512-268-5885, texaspiecompany.com) — motto: “Life is short, eat more pie” — for some pecan or chocolate fudge pie.

Info: 1300 W. Center St. at Gregg-Clarke Park in Kyle, 512-268-5326, www.cityofkyle.com/recreation/general-information. Open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through Aug. 24. The pool will remain open on a more limited schedule through Sept. 1. Cost for Kyle residents is $3 for adults, $2 for teens and $1 for ages 4-12 and seniors. Non-residents are $4. Children 3 and younger are free.

Big Stacy Pool

One word: Free. But even if this spring-fed pool, located just south of downtown, weren’t free, it would still be well worth the cost of admission. And it gets extra points for being open year-round. It’s fairly no-frills and several lanes are taken up for lap swimming, but it’s a great place to take a dip, practice your strokes or play a game of “Ring Around the Rosie.” There’s also an area for sunbathing.

Favorite feature: Did I mention it’s free?

Great for: Lap swimmers, kids, sunbathers.

Insider tip: The parking lot here can be a pain, so park on the street to avoid the mess.

Info: 700 E. Live Oak St., 512-445-0304, austintexas.gov/department/big-stacy-pool. Open for recreational swim from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily in summer. The pool remains open on a more limited schedule year-round. Admission is free.

Deep Eddy Pool

Of all the pools in Austin, Deep Eddy is my favorite. From its blue-and-green-hued mosaic mural to its perfect-temperature water — think refreshing but not breath-stealing — it is classic Austin. In fact, it started as a swimming hole in the Colorado River and was once the centerpiece of a resort before becoming what it is today. The large, sloped shallow area is perfect for little swimmers, while the lap pool is ideal for those seeking a workout. The pool can get busy, but it’s also big, so it rarely feels as crowded as other spots. This is another place that every Austinite should visit at least once.

Favorite feature: The hill leading down to the pool, great for drying off on a towel while watching the action below.

Great for: Everyone.

Insider tip: Deep Eddy sometimes offers “splash movies” at dusk. The next movie will be “Despicable Me 2” on Aug. 2.

Info: 401 Deep Eddy Avenue, 512-472-8546, austintexas.gov/department/deep-eddy-pool. Open for recreational swim from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Aug. 24. The pool remains open on a more limited schedule year-round. Cost for Austin residents is $4 for adults, $3 for teens, $2 for children younger than 12 and $1 for seniors.



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