Field Trip: Astoria Pool

For the next couple months, I’ll publish a day trip suggestion on Sundays, and I am counting on readers to send suggestions. This contribution is from Tribecan Jolene Howard, who owns 87 on Walker, which has been closed for the pandemic. So in the meantime she and her daughter have been making tracks around the city.

NYC Parks’ Astoria Pool in Astoria Park, Queens

1 hour by subway (the N to Ditmars Blvd) including the .7 mile walk to the park (it’s pleasant and the same walk you’ve done if your kid ever ran track)

22 minutes by car (14 miles) (I have over the years found it easy to park on 23rd Avenue on weekdays, but cannot attest to it now)

Astoria is filled with good places to eat, but it is a little tricky right now with COVID. Try the local Greek favorite, Taverna Kyclades on Ditmars and 33rd Street or detour for octopus at family-run Stamatis on 23rd Street. It is one of the oldest Greek restaurants in the neighborhood. (In both cases I would call to check hours and seating options.)

The public restroom is well-maintained, crowds are light on weekdays, pool rules are many and enforced. NB: If you don’t read and follow the rules, you probably won’t get in.


  • Swimsuit. Visitors are not allowed in the pool without a proper suit. (Swim caps are NOT required.)
  • A white cover-up. Garments of any other color are prohibited. A white t-shirt is fine.
  • Water shoes/flip flops/slides. You’ll need to wear these in the shower that is required prior to entry in the pool. No other shoes are allowed poolside.
  • A mask. Masks are required in all areas of the facility except the pool.


  • A lock – you will be asked to present this before you enter the facility. If you have a keyed lock, be sure to bring something that allows you to carry the single key with you to the pool.
  • A non-breakable bottle of water or frozen water.
  • A book or magazine – only paper versions are allowed. Newspapers are NOT allowed.


  • Phone – none are allowed at the pool
  • Your wallet – there are no concessions at the pool, so you won’t need money to buy anything
  • Anything else you brought – it’s a small locker, so be judicious!

The pool opens at 11a and they clear the pool out for cleaning around 2:30p; it then opens again from 4 to 7p. The pool itself is divided into two sections – olympic length lap swimming is mostly orderly and thankfully pretty casual. The area for laps takes up about 20 percent of the pool, with the remaining split into six large sections and dedicated to non-swimmers. The pool depth gradually slopes from 6 inches to 4 feet and the water appears very clean – both are big plusses in my book. The water temperature on a hot day is quite delicious – cool, refreshing, and not at all cold. I counted 15 lifeguard stands – all occupied by watchful, whistling guards. NYC Parks is limiting capacity by 30 percent. I’m not sure how this squares with Cuomo’s 50 percent capacity limit on state parks (?). I counted about 25-30 people in each section and maybe another 50 people in the lounge chairs and stadium seating area on an August Monday. Considering that the facility was built to hold more than 6000 people, there was plenty of room to float, frolic and stretch out.

Only a few of NYC’s public pools have been opened this summer but luckily, Astoria Pool, the biggest one in the state, opened on August 1. Unless you count trips to JFK and Laguardia, I have not spent much time in Queens which is why I decided to use public transportation to explore this big city beyond Manhattan and make the most of the limited venues available to us during this weird summer of 2020. On top of that, I’ve mostly avoided NYC public pools … until now. So how did I end up in Astoria Park Pool, the largest of them all?

The pool’s sheer size (54,450 sq ft) combined with COVID-inspired hermitting our new collective shelter-in-place habit, makes a visit to this public pool so appealing. A WPA project, the pool hosted the 1936 Olympic swim trials and Olympic torch (along with the 1952 and 1964 trials) a few days after opening. Also pleasing are the peculiar and many pool rules. Like a Van Halen rider prohibiting brown M&Ms, it seems like some rules are in place to ensure that visitors are earnest and paying attention. There are so many rules to follow merely to gain entry – and surprisingly, the rules are enforced. Hooray for that. And Astoria, itself! Queens is widely acknowledged as one of, if not the most ethnically and culturally diverse areas of the US. The neighborhood of Astoria exemplifies this diversity. Greeks, Bangladeshis, Croatians, Maltese, Galicians live, work and own businesses in Astoria. Day trippers have abundant choices for lunch (or whatever the meal that one eats at 3pm is called) apres pool.

After your dip, explore the rest of the park (it is huge) and get lunch before you head home.



1 Comment

  1. I usually get norovirus from public pools, whether high-end hotel or rooftop pools or public pools. And with the Covid-19 pandemic still lurking around? No, thanks. I’ll pass.