Since I’ve been working and swimming in Toronto pools for most of my life I thought I’d share some reviews of the various pools I’ve swam at over the years.  I’ll add more as I remember one’s I may have missed or if I visit new ones.

University of Toronto Athletic Centre

This is the pool I use regularly.  It is free for University of Toronto students or community members who pay a yearly or monthly membership free.

50 metre pool: One of the few 50 metre pools in Toronto and if you’re a serious swimmer this pool is a delight to swim in.  There are very few time slots where the bulkhead isn’t separating the pool into two 25 metre pools.  Swimmers in this pool know exactly what lane they fit in because there are a number of lane speeds to choose from slow, medium slow, medium fast and fast.

When the bulkhead is placed in the middle one side is used for lane swimming, the other for recreational swimming.  Since it is such a deep pool they have various heights of diving boards, some of which are open during recreation swim.

Extras: There is a wheelchair lift.  The staff are trained to understand the various needs of people with disabilities and do their best to accommodate them in the pool.  There is also a wet sauna in the change rooms and a small, warmer ‘teach’ pool on deck.

Benson Pool

This is a 25 yd pool that is part of the original Athletic centre.  I have few positive things to say about this pool.  Funny thing is I swim in it regularly because they have a women’s swim which is far less busy.  It also has more swim times and fits into my schedule when I’m in a bind.  The pool is a bit warmer but it’s a cold walk from the change rooms where you have to pass the towel desk and up a flight of stairs.  Unlike the 50 metre pool, there is a shallow end (albeit a very small one).  This is also the pool where the deep aquafit classes take place.

Hart House

I’ve been teaching and swimming at this 25 yard pool for over 10 years.  I like it but it only has 3 lanes which NEVER come out.  The key to this pool is to avoid it at busy times because swimmers are serious and never stop to let you in.  During down times it’s a lovely pool to swim in.  The pool is beautiful and full of history.  It was only in 1979 that woman were allowed into Hart House.

Like the Athletic Centre, Hart House is free for students at the University of Toronto.  Community members can become members of Hart House but the criteria is you must have a university degree (any university).  Memberships at Hart House and Athletic Centre are separate.

Bonus: The pool is open 365 days a year.  The Wednesday aquafit class is taught by me!


Metro Central and North York

I was an employee and member of both these YMCA’s for many years.  I have fond memories of working there.  I am a bit out of the loop but at one point there was a time of the day which was a little bit quieter in the pool  (9-11am and 2-3pm).  At other times, the pool is packed.  The pool is often split with lane swimmers, programming and kids recreation swim.  It’s a beautiful pool with gorgeous lighting and a real community feel.

The training pool is used for a variety of programs and has a moveable floor.  The pool can go to a depth of 6 ft or right up to floor level to accommodate wheelchairs.  The pool is also warm enough for water therapy.

Bonus: There is always 1 lane open for lane swimmers.  The pool is open 365 days a year.  There are wheelchair lifts.  Excellent children programming and a wide variety of aquafit classes.  The North York YMCA is now open 24 hours.

Toronto Parks and Recreation

Toronto is lucky to have a number of pool available at low entry fees.  Some facilities are nicer than others.  Expect crowds and people in the wrong lanes. Expect strange smells and not the most pristine cleanilness at certain times.  Certain pools are up for being closed with the city’s new ‘saving costs’ initiative.

Joseph J. Piccininni

This is the pool I’ve been swimming at when I want to stay in my neighbourhood rather than going ‘down’ the hill to the university.  It’s a warm pool and I have a special attachment to it as it was my daily pain relief close by when I had Sciatica.
There are only two lanes available during lane swim (slow and fast) which is frustrating because slow people swim in the fast lane and the slow lane is packed with people going in all sorts of directions.

Bonus:  There is a woman’s only time which is available for women and their children. Woman can wear clothing and Hijabs. The outdoor pool is one of the few outdoor pools that is heated and is 44 metres long!

Douglas Snow Aquatic Centre

I have a long history with this pool.  It was the first pool I took swimming lessons at (this was before it was renovated to become the aquatic centre it is today). It was where I got my first job as a swim instructor.  I spent many early morning at swim practice with the swim team I swam with.
Even with my long history at Douglas Snow I’m still not a fan.  The lane swimming is chaos. no matter what time.  For kids it’s great, there’s a slide, tarzan rope, big floatation devices to climb.  There’s also a hot tub.  Expect huge crowds and there are some really rude patrons.

Bonus: It’s the only 50 metre pool in North York that’s open to the public.

Cummer Park

I don’t have much to say about this I’ve only swam here when I was staying at my parents and need my pool therapy during my Sciatica experience.  The pool was packed at all the lane swim times.  The aquafit classes are taught by some of the best instructors.  This is where I get my yearly training for aquafit.

Wallace Emerson

This is a designated therapy pool.  It’s hot as hell.  I used to teach 6 classes a week at this pool but had to stop because I’d feel faint and nauseous.  The deck is like a sauna.  It’s mostly used by people with joint issues.  Not recommended for people with heart problems.

Jimmie Simpson

I was taking a course in the multipurpose room  at Jimmie Simpson.  I think I was paying more attention to the pool which it overlooked than the course! This facility has got to be the cleanest community centre I’ve been to in Toronto.  The pool is gorgeous.  It’s got natural lighting, high ceiling, the perfect temperature, organized swimmers in their right lanes.  It doesn’t get better than that.

Bonus: Because it’s a priority centre, all programs are free!