New Orleans’ sultry summers aren’t for the faint of heart. Like soldiers preparing for battle, we arm ourselves with sunglasses and styrofoam go-cups filled with frozen concoctions before stepping out of our air-conditioned cocoons to inevitably get drenched in sweat. Unlike other coastal cities, we don’t have too many nearby options for cooling off at beaches or natural waterways. Instead, we turn to swimming pools of all shapes and sizes to get a little respite from the summer heat. The inflatable backyard pool will do in a pinch, but New Orleans is home to plenty of beautiful historic buildings with swimming pools where you can soak in the city’s history and architecture while sipping on poolside daiquiris. Here are a few of our favorite historic spots for cooling off poolside this summer.
The Country Club
This spot in the Bywater has been a neighborhood favorite for over 40 years. The Italianate raised centerhall cottage was originally built as a private residence in 1884, but today houses a restaurant and bar with a lush outdoor pool area. The front of the building boasts an inviting front porch, and the interior was recently remodeled with stunning hand-painted murals, original artwork and custom lighting and furnishings. Grab a bite to eat inside before spending the afternoon in the backyard oasis with a saltwater pool, hot tub, sauna, and poolside bar. The Country Club is LGBTQ friendly, and typically filled with welcoming and bold personalities who will make you feel right at home. Pool passes are $15.
New Orleans Athletic Club
Photos courtesy of New Orleans Athletic Club
This club on north Rampart is steeped in history, and can tout itself as the second oldest health club in the United States. From humble beginnings in 1872 as the Young Men’s Gymnastic Club, the club moved to its current building – a classical revival beauty – in 1929. Swimming in the indoor pool at NOAC is opulent, with the pool located in a colonnaded atrium surrounded by marble and soft light from an overhead skylight. A swim in this pool requires a membership, but also gives you access to the entire gym, fitness classes, and other amenities for the less-athletic, including a pub and library.
Alto at The Ace Hotel
Photos courtesy of Ace Hotel, photography by Lauren Cowart
The trendy Ace Hotel is housed in a sleek Art Deco building in the Warehouse District that was originally built in 1928 as a furniture store. The historic building itself is remarkable: it has an easement held by the Preservation Resource Center, and the historic rehabilitation even won an award in excellence in historic preservation from the Louisiana Landmarks Society. The rooftop is the Ace’s crowning jewel, with a pool and bar where guests can catch skyline views while swimming, snacking and sipping. Appropriately-named Alto, the rooftop garden serves a seasonal menu of handcrafted food and drinks, including signature frozen drinks that will cool you off in the hot Louisiana sun. You can still use the pool if you’re not a hotel guest – as long as you eat or drink your way to a $20 bar tab. Alto is open daily from 10am-9pm, weather-permitting.
Photos courtesy of Sandstone Developments
One of New Orleans’ hippest new places to take a dip, the Drifter is a boutique hotel that recently opened on Tulane Avenue in a historic mid-century modern motorlodge. The newly-renovated motel was built in 1956 and features mid-mod architectural elements like geometric ironwork, louvers and decorative concrete breezeblocks. Today, the trendy hotel still evokes the look and spirit of roadside Americana, and an afternoon here might make you want to grab a Mai Tai from the bar and spend the afternoon listening to the Beach Boys beneath the palm trees – at least when the poolside DJs aren’t spinning their own tracks. This spot isn’t for the prudish sunbather, though; the pool is bikini-top optional. Pool passes are $5 on weekdays and $10 on weekends.
The NOPSI Hotel
Photos courtesy of NOPSI Hotel
This stately nine-story structure in the CBD was originally built in 1927 as the headquarters of the city’s utility company, and has been returned to its former glory with the opening of the NOPSI Hotel just last week. The renovation showcases the original terrazzo floors, vaulted arch ceilings, columns, and light fixtures re-created from molds of the originals. The hotel also has a rooftop bar and pool named Above the Grid, which is limited to hotel guest access by day, but opens its doors to locals starting at 5 PM every afternoon. Currently, the use of the pool is technically limited to hotel guests, but locals can still enjoy drinks at the bar, skyline views, and poolside people-watching. Keep your eyes and ears open, this new rooftop is bound to become a hotspot for New Orleanians this summer.