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On hot days and summer nights, take thyself to the nearest aquatic center. (Flamingos not included.) Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels
On hot days and summer nights, take thyself to the nearest aquatic center. (Flamingos not included.) (Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels)

Our 5 Favorite Places to Swim in the Bay Area

Our 5 Favorite Places to Swim in the Bay Area

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Get ready, Bay Area—this summer is looking to be a scorcher. In 2018 already, heat records continue to be broken. When the summer heatwave hits, if you aren’t in an air-conditioned building, it’s going to be brutal.

Thankfully the Bay Area is full of pools—or, as most city governments call them, “aquatic centers”—and swimming holes. Before you spend an hour or two dressing your kids in every type of flotation device available at Target, review this list of our favorite watery destinations.

Beachgoers wade into the water at Lake Anza in the East Bay's Tilden Regional Park
Beachgoers wade into the water at Lake Anza in the East Bay’s Tilden Regional Park (Mark Andrew Boyer/KQED)

Lake Anza

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Tucked away among the trees and hills of Berkeley’s Tilden Park is Lake Anza, a man-made lake with beautiful wilderness views and a sandy beach. The lake itself might be cooler than an indoor pool, but on hot days, it’s fantastic. Even if you don’t want to swim, the hike around the lake is full of gorgeous scenery readymade to post on Instagram.

The El Cerrito Swim Center after hours
The El Cerrito Swim Center after hours (Courtesy of the El Cerrito Swim Center)

El Cerrito Swim Center

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The birthplace of Credence Clearwater Revival hosts a small, kid-friendly water park called the El Cerrito Swim Center. This block-long facility contains both lap and recreational pools, a full-size splash park, and a large slide. It even has heated floors in the locker rooms. The center has two issues, the first being that it’s only open for recreational swim little more than seven hours a week. The second is that it’s not uncommon for the pool to reach capacity, leaving dozens standing outside the pool in their swim trunks, waiting several minutes for a spot to open.

The Morgan Hill Aquatics Center and its huge water slides
The Morgan Hill Aquatics Center and its huge water slides (Courtesy of Morgan Hill Aqautics Center)

Morgan Hill Aquatics Center

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I have three words for you: giant water slides. Huge ones, just like at the expensive water parks! Morgan Hill did it right when it built its aquatics center. Don’t believe me? Take the online tour. It’s open practically all day on the weekends for recreational swimming, with quite an expansive splash area. But it’s not without its downsides: it can take a half hour or more to get in, and outside food is prohibited. Also, there’s a limited amount of chairs—if you don’t grab one, you’re stuck sitting on hard, dry grass.

The Marinwood Pool on a calm, sunny day
The Marinwood Pool on a calm, sunny day (Courtesy of the Marinwood Community Services District)

Marinwood Pool

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Deep in Lucas Valley is this quaint, community-supported pool. There are two water slides, but beyond that there are no frills. Yet it’s such a pleasant place that it’s worth a drive from San Francisco. Like Tilden Park, if you don’t want to get wet, you can just enjoy the beautiful scenery. Best of all, it’s open for recreational swim every afternoon in June.

View of Johnson's Beach from the Russian River
View of Johnson’s Beach from the Russian River (Courtesy of Johnson's Beach)

Johnson’s Beach

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Say you want to take a wine country trip with the family but don’t want to force the kids to spend all their time at wineries. If you happen to be by Guerneville, you and your family can head to Johnson’s Beach and play around in the Russian River. There you can partake in any kind of water activity — inner tubing, kayak, paddle boating — but you need to be aware of the rules, like no outside alcohol or pets. This would be quite the year to go, as the beach turns 100 this summer.

Looking for more suggestions? How about the pool at Mills College and Lions Pool in Oakland, or the Bayview-Hunter’s Point YMCA, or Honeybee Pool in Rohnert Park? But for any of these destinations, remember to leave early in order to avoid traffic — it’s still the Bay Area, after all.


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