Finding a free or cheap place to swim in Louisville can be a challenge. Although Louisville is located on the Ohio River and has numerous manmade and natural lakes within a short drive, many of these lakes lack public access. For Louisville transplants who came from other regions, it can be surprising to find there is so little public access to water. In addition, over the years the Metro Louisville government has closed a number of community pools in favor of ubiquitous “splash parks.” These water parks are much cheaper to maintain, don’t require a lifeguard, and have little risk of liability. But they also help guarantee that thousands of Louisville children never have the opportunity to learn how to swim. How sad!
So where to swim in/near Louisville? Here are the Tisdales’ favorite watering holes.
1. Falling Rock Park (also called Joe’s Quarry), LaGrange KY
Privately owned, Falling Rock quarry started off as a scuba diving site, and it’s been open to “floaters” (floatation devices are required for all swimmers) for the last few years. At $10 a head, it’s a little pricey – but what you get with admission is pretty unbeatable:
- No children – only 18+ are allowed in (bonus!)
- No public intoxication – alcohol is officially banned, but as long as you are discreet and not a jack ass, you can drink without problems
- Free food – often folks who run the place cook of free hot dogs, beans, burgers, etc.
- Free grill you can borrow – just bring your own charcoal and food
- Free inflation of your floaties
- Your personal spot – pull your car up to the spot you select and camp out for the day. Most spots are semi-private with trees and giant rocks separating you from other swimmers, so you feel like you get your own slice of paradise for the day.
Heads up: If you go, don’t be surprised if you get verbally harassed by the owner using a bull horn if you break any rules (i.e., dive off restricted areas or try to swim without a floatie)
. He may give you a pejorative nickname and insult you for breaking the rules. But it’s his place. He can do what he wants.
2. Galt House pool, downtown Louisville KY
With 1,400 guest rooms, the Galt House is Louisville biggest hotel by far. Which means sneaking into their pool is usually pretty doable. The pool, located in the East Tower on the third floor, requires a hotel key to get through the gates, but there are almost always guests coming and going, so it’s easy to sneak in. The pool has the best view of any hotel pool in Louisville: it overlooks the Ohio River. So you can buy a drink from the pool bar, grab a lounge chair, and watch the barges go up and down the Ohio as you sip.
If you’re not into pool crashing, the Tisdales recently learned one-day or one-week memberships are possible. Just join the Galt House gym, and the pool is included! It’s just $5 a day or $10 for the week. Not bad!
3. Louisville Turner’s on River Road, Louisville
Hands-down the weirdest place to swim is Turner’s. It isn’t the pool itself that’s weird. It’s Turners, which has circus, juggling and aerial acrobatics classes for kids through adults, plus boat docks, a private club with karaoke, cocktails and food, and a bowling alley. Turners is really a throwback. Not sure to what, but it’s definitely not something you’d expect to see in the 21st century.
It’s $150/year for membership. But if you just want a place to swim, you can get in for $8 a head. Turner’s is never crowded, and they actually have a diving board (!) in the deep end (12 ft deep). Beer is pretty cheap: $2.50 for a domestic in a can for nonmembers ($2 for members).
4. Deam Lake, Borden, IN
Just a 25-minute drive north of Louisville, Deam Lake offers swimming, boating and camping. It’s just $7 per car load for entrance, making this among the cheapest places to swim – especially if you pile all your friends into one vehicle. There are just two cautions here: weekend afternoons it can get pretty crowded, so the Tisdales like to arrive by 11 a.m. to beat the crowds. And a few years ago rangers started enforcing no swimming beyond the buoys (no lifeguards on duty). If you get caught, you will get a ticket, unless your powers of persuasion are greater than Mr. Tisdale’s.
5. Ralph Wright Natatorium, University of Louisville
Mrs. Tisdale thinks that indoor pools shouldn’t make it to this list, but Mr. Tisdale disagrees, so for the safe of marital peace, Mrs. Tisdale is including this facility on the list. If you want to swim laps, the Ralph Wright Natatorium at the University of Louisville is a 50-meter pool with a diving board. If you have ever taken even one class at UofL, you are considered an “alumnus,” so you get the alum rate of $4 per swim. Non-alums can get in for $8. They also offer monthly or yearly membership fees.
Got other cheap/free places to swim in Louisville? Leave a comment and the Tisdales will investigate!