Santa Monica Swim Center

Best Swimming Pool, August 2004

When we need to get wet, we require so much more than water. The Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, with its newly renovated locker room and its two well-maintained pools (a 25-meter and a 50-meter), has long been the standard-bearer for lap swimmers who seek a clean outdoor place to practice their flip turns. But lately our favorite spot is the  Santa Monica Swim Center , an elegantly designed facility that replaced a damaged municipal pool that was more than 50 years old. For serious swimmers, the center’s Olympic-size pool offers both short-course (25-meter) and long-course (50-meter) lap swimming. Not far away is a ten-lane instructional “splash” pool, whose shallow depth (four feet maximum) is perfect for teaching youngsters to paddle. The place is sleek, organized (note the signs specifying fast, medium, and slow lanes), and downright beautiful, with blue, black, brick red, and green tiles and a sort of modern deco motif. The only downside—limited public parking nearby—can be easily remedied with the purchase of a Splash Pass ($40 for Santa Monica residents, $80 for nonresidents), which covers 20 swims and includes a permit to park in one of the Santa Monica College lots next door. On weekends, when entrance fees are discounted for families, many people come and stay all day (you’re allowed to bring picnics—just no glass bottles), and on summer theme days, usually the third Saturday of the month, there are special activities for children.