Come On In, the Water’s Fine

Downtown Hotels provide the perfect setting to cool off in style.
Illustration by Paddy Mills

Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.

Are you ready to take the plunge? This summer brings ample opportunities for locals eager for a relaxing day of swim and sun. There’s a New Orleans neighborhood spot with a vibe suited for you, no matter your taste. Once only available for hotel guests, many of the city’s best pools offer day passes complete with access to drinking, dining and partying fun.

For those seeking opulence and elegance, no need to look farther than the Windsor Court Hotel. Day passes for the 65-foot saltwater pool are offered for $60. The Waterman Poolside Bar serves finely crafted cocktails and a carefully curated selection of wine and beer. From sandwiches to salads, Jamaican blackened wings and Mexican street corn, there’s something to satiate everyone.

Venture into the French Quarter for a day poolside at the W on Chartres Street. Passes begin at $45 with slightly higher weekend rates. SoBou — the W’s restaurant and bar operated by the Commander’s Palace family — offers diverse dishes from cracklin’ crusted boudin to duck-and-sweet-potato beignets and a cochon de lait Cuban. SoBou’s bar chefs craft some of the city’s best cocktails. For an unforgettable experience, come for Sunday’s “Legs and Eggs” burlesque brunch and stay to linger at the pool. Spend $30 with SoBou and on-site parking is free.

In the Central Business District, there’s a lot happening at the NOPSI Hotel pool. While day passes and cabana rentals are available, this glamorous rooftop site hosts weekend evening events. Shake your bikini-clad booty at “Friday Night Heights,” with rotating DJ’s spinning dance tunes. Cool down at “Saturday Sessions” with live jazz music or indulge in the “Stereo Sunday” pool parties featuring throwback tunes from the ’80s and ’90s. NOPSI’s Above The Grid rooftop bar includes signature cocktails, with food available from the Public Service restaurant. Tickets for these special events are just $30.

After an $80-million investment in the Warehouse District, the Ace Hotel’s Alto has been making waves since its opening in 2016. From the beginning, the Ace welcomed locals to its rooftop pool daily from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m. with a $30 pass. Sunsets are celebrated on Saturdays from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. with DJ sets and Sunday’s “Sessions in The Sun” beginning at 3 p.m. The Alto bar is a favorite hangout, with daily happy hours from 5 to 8 p.m.

Nearby on Baronne Street, the new Virgin Hotel’s Pool Club offers $25 day passes for non-hotel guests Monday through Thursday. While the pool is reserved for hotel guests on weekends, everyone is welcome for their poolside soirees featuring seasonal libations and live music from big names like Boyfriend. Chef Alex Harrell’s fare elevates the rooftop pool experience as well.

On St. Charles Avenue, the Chloe Hotel welcomes guests to their lush, garden pool setting with the feel of a private Uptown home. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., visitors can take a cooling dip and enjoy refreshing cocktails and light bites poolside, like the signature shrimp étouffee dumplings.

Just a few miles away geographically, but a world apart philosophically, is the Drifter Hotel, an unconventional, retro motel whose reputation has been largely built on its pool scene. Open to “Day Trippers” and “Moon Dippers,” two-hour swim sessions are offered between 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. for as little as $5. Day passes and annual memberships are also available. The Pool Bar serves fresh frozen cocktails and Japanese beers and sake. With up to 65 guests at a time in the clothing optional pool, the scene here can get wild.

New Orleans’ oldest pay-to-play-by-the-day public pool is the famed Country Club in the Bywater. For over 40 years, the historic raised Creole home has provided an oasis for letting it all hang out. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., amenities include a large saltwater pool, a hot tub and sauna house. Weekdays, the cabana-style pool bar hosts happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m.

Come on out! The water’s fine and there’s lots of “only in New Orleans-style” pool fun to be had this summer.


Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.