Every year my boys and I make a summer bucket list, and a visit to Bartholomew Pool was the first item that we wrote down on this year’s list. The kids and I had heard a lot of hype about this new city pool, and it sounded so great that we were eager to check it out.
The newly renovated Bartholomew Pool (1800 E. 51st St.), boasts more fancy amenities than any other Austin municipal pool. The former pool at this location closed in 2009 because of cracks, but with neighborhood input, the design team came up with a really impressive aquatic facility. The new pool, which opened on June 6th, includes:
- A pool for little ones that has a few fountains for splashing and a little frog water slide (for ages 2-4) and also includes shade covers overhead. It also has a sloped floor, with the deepest part only being 2 ft, 6 inches.
- A fun pool for slightly bigger kids (4 ft) that includes shade covers and a lily pad bridge that kids can tackle if up for a challenge.
- A 25-yard lap pool with a diving board at the deep end (12ft).
- Two winding tube water slides (for kids who are at least 48 inches tall).
The first two weeks of summer break for my family started with swim lessons and other time-consuming activities, and I was beginning to feel like we might be the last people in Austin to actually get over to see this new pool. But I had also heard stories of massive crowds and long lines (sometimes with a wait of one in/one out at the gate). Yikes. So we went on Saturday morning right when the pool opened at 11 a.m. to try to beat the crowds. (A note about crowds: While it was nice to be one of the first people there that day, it actually felt really crowded by 11:45 a.m.)
My boys LOVED the pools! The younger boys really enjoyed the shallow pool for playing, and my oldest loved attempting the lily pad bridge in the middle pool as well as and showing off his newly-perfected swimming skills in the lap pool and testing out the diving board. My husband and I were both so impressed with the quality of these sparkly new facilities. (One thing to keep in mind for parents of multiple children of varying swim abilities — it is very hard to keep an eye on kids in different pools. Because of the number of people in the pools, you cannot sit in the shallow pool and still see your oldest on the diving board, for example. For me, I would really only feel comfortable having another adult with us to keep track of the kids. The pools are all very well staffed with lifeguards, but it’s something to keep in mind if your kids won’t want to stay together.)
But the one VERY disappointing aspect about our first visit to Bartholomew Pool was that the slides were closed. They are supposed to open at noon each day, but when we were there, the pool staff noted that they did not have enough life guards that day to open the slides. So many kids were sad about that! But it was an important lesson for us to remember that you have to be prepared for these types of things to happen at city pools. A woman I was chatting with said that she had tried to come earlier in the week, but the children’s pool was closed for fecal contamination. And another friend said that she had tried to go to three pools one weekday before finding one that was open. So I think it’s best to start with managed expectations and always have a Plan B (even if that plan is just playing in the sprinklers back at home).
What to Know Before You Go:
Pool Hours: Recreational swim is 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily and slides are scheduled to open at noon each day.
Admission: The fees are very reasonable considering how you can easily spend a day of fun at the pool. Do note that payment is CASH ONLY. Austin residents pay the following: Children (ages 1-11) – $1, Juniors (ages 12-17) – $2, Adults – $3, Seniors (ages 62 and up) – $1. Non-residents must add an extra $1 for each person for all age groups.
Food: There is an area of picnic tables near the front entrance. Food is allowed in this zone, and not in the grassy areas (but that wasn’t clearly marked nor enforced on the day I was there). There is an area for future vending machines, but it is currently empty. So pack your own snacks and drinks.
Seating: Besides the picnic tables, there are no other seats available, but there is a lot of grassy space around the perimeter. You can plan to bring a blanket or large towel to spread out to get comfy. And some folks brought along small folding chairs. There is some tree-lined space around the fence if you are lucky enough to squeeze into that area for shade coverage.
Parking: Parking is free and easy. The parking lot is very large, and I only heard of parking issues during the first week when crowds were huge.
Not allowed (as noted on the signs by the entrance):
- glass containers
- regular diapers in the pool (swim diapers required)
- alcoholic beverages
- If you have questions, you can contact the Austin Aquatic Staff at 512-974-9332.
Location: 1800 E. 51st St., Austin
Phone: (512) 974-1650
For more information, visit the City of Austin website.
You may also be interested in Bartholomew Park Splash Pad, which is located nearby!
Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 4, 6, and 8), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures. Heidi covers theatre, health and beauty topics on Austin’s LiveMom.com. And she is excited to be currently working on AustinSummerFun.com where you can find lots of ideas for keeping the kids busy this summer.