The Pittsburgh area is loaded with kid-friendly pools, so finding the best one for your family can be a daunting task. To help you wade through the choices, here are some of our favorites, by region:
Best place to ride the waves
Settlers Cabin Wave Pool in Robinson Township is the best way to experience the motion of the ocean in Western Pennsylvania. For beginners, the waves break lightly near the entry point, perfect for splashing around. More adventurous swimmers can rent tubes and venture farther out. Settlers Cabin also offers a diving platform. Note that Settlers Cabin does not allow outside food or drink; all snacks must be purchased at the concession stand.
Biggest pool experience
There is no shortage of water real estate at Ligonier Beach, making the biggest pool in Pennsylvania worth the hour-long drive. Open since 1925, this 1.3-million gallon pool is 400 feet long and 125 feet wide with a huge fountain in the center. Space outside the pool abounds, with plenty of grass for setting up shop with your family. In a bygone era, that space housed a bandstand where the likes of Dean Martin and Perry Como performed. A restaurant and bar offer food and drink options quite different from most pool snack bars; regulars rave about the gourmet pizza, salads, and sandwiches— and yes, parents, adult drinks are served here. However, Ligonier Beach does have a strict policy against outside food and drink, including water bottles.
Best pool for parents
Chapel Gate Swim Club in O’Hara Township caters not just to the youngest members of the family; it also hosts activities to keep the parents happy and engaged. Among them, Friday night Chill and Grill happy hours that are also BYOM—Bring Your Own Meat. Adults can toast the weekend while taking advantage of grills provided by Chapel Gate. This members-only pool also offers one week of swim lessons for children as young as two for just $20 with membership. More experienced swimmers can compete on the Chapel Gate Gators swim team. A playground is accessible from the pool area and tennis courts and basketball courts are steps away.
Best city pool
Highland Park is home to a city pool without the city feel. An Olympic-size swimming pool, a kiddie pool and a spray park provide ample options for every age and skill level. The pool is just one of the reasons you should visit the top of the city on a summer day; Highland Park also boasts beautiful parks, playgrounds, trails, a reservoir with a top-notch track and the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
Most dog-friendly family pool
For many members of The Edgewood Club, the highlight of pool season is the last swim of the summer, when the pool goes to the dogs. The members-only club invites its members to bring their furry friends on the final day of the season to doggy paddle to their heart’s delight. (Dormont Pool also offers an annual doggie dip — scroll down for more information.)
Edgewood offers swim lessons, a swim team, tennis lessons, and basketball clinics. Kids needing a break from the heat can head into the club room, which is complete with a play room and children’s library that offers book and DVD loans, as well as a summer reading program.
Best place to learn to swim
The Hampton Community Pool offers dozens of options for swim lessons throughout the summer, open to both residents and non-residents at reasonable prices. Catering to all ages and skill levels, classes are available for infants as young as six months and progress up to advanced levels. Kids can also sign up for a recreational, non-competitive summer swim team program.
At the height of summer, this facility looks more like a water park than a public pool, with two water slides, a kiddie pool and a water play area with fountains and a splash pad.
Best for an all-day adventure
Allegheny County’s North Park Swimming Pool is part of the sweeping 3,000+ acre North Park, which includes a golf course, shelters and picnic areas, ballfields and some of the most scenic hiking trails in the area. The Olympic-sized pool itself is a popular draw, with a water slide, shallow end and ample green space for setting up shop with the family.
Don’t forget to bring cash, and leave your cooler at home; like many others on the list, North Park Pool does not allow outside food or drink, including water bottles.
Best pool for the tentative swimmer
Jumping right in can be very intimidating for young swimmers, but not at Mineral Beach in Finleyville. This South Hills pool off Route 88 gives visitors the chance to ease their way in at their own pace with zero-depth entry: a gradual slope leading from the side of the pool into deeper waters.
Mineral Beach has been around since 1924, making it a summertime tradition for many families. Parents who swam here as children are now introducing a new generation to the delights of this concrete beach.
In 1920, Andrew Philip used rocks to build a dam in a creek, forming a wading pool. The Dormont Pool vastly expanded and was given a concrete bottom a few years later. It has never missed a summer, successfully weathering the Great Depression, World War II, and financial setbacks along the way. In 2002, Dormont Pool was named a historic landmark.
The 1.85-acre pool is one of the largest in the state. Not surprisingly, it has been a favorite for families for decades; two sides of the pool are zero-depth entry for those opting to ease into the water. The pool also features a large twisting water slide for the brave, and a smaller duck slide for smaller swimmers. Life jackets are available as well.
Dormont Pool’s Labor Day doggie dip is open to the public, with a registration and fee per pup required.
Best pool for the swimming addict
Let’s face it, who really wants to stop swimming when September rolls around? The Oliver Bath House in the South Side is the only indoor public pool in the City of Pittsburgh, allowing you and your budding swimmers to stay in the water year-round. This pool is closed for the summer months, but will reopen in the fall when the other city pools close. The best part? A summer season pass to Citiparks’ outdoor pools includes admission to this facility year-round. Swim lessons are available for children ages 18 months to 15 years.
Best way to stay cool without taking the plunge
All of the pools listed have an admission fee or require membership, but you don’t have to pay for a refreshing cool-down this summer. For good free fun, or if swimming just isn’t your thing, visit one of Pittsburgh’s spray parks in neighborhoods throughout the city:
Beechview: Vanucci Playground, 1200 Orangewood Ave.
Hazelwood: Burgwin Playground, Johnston Avenue and Mansion Street
East Hills: East Hills Park, Wilner Drive
Shadyside: Mellon Park, Fifth Avenue
Troy Hill: Cowley Playground, Goettman Street
Warrington: 329 E. Warrington Ave., Beltzhoover
Have a favorite spot to make a splash? Tell us all about your favorite pools in the comments section.