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Waking, Walking & Wonderful in Boston (Pool #556)

Updated: Dec 25, 2023

23 November 2022

A last-minute, temporary hiccup in our plans to spend an extended American Thanksgiving weekend with friends in New Hampshire had my wife and me landing at Logan Airport Tuesday night and heading to a nearby Cambridge hotel instead of trekking up to the Granite State. While I haven't spent a lot time in the Boston area, I've made the occasional business trip and few pleasure trips, on which I've sampled many of the great, publicly accessible pools in this fine city, a major, northeastern American city that, I think, beats all others north of DC in terms of pools.

Previously, I've swum at:

  • Harvard's Blodgett pool (#246) - summer of 2016, though my first time there was back in 1984 or 1985

  • MIT's Zesiger Competition pool (#305 in 2017) and the Wang Alumni pool (#430 in 2019)

  • Boston University's main competition pool (#431 in 2019)

  • The West Suburban YMCA on the outskirts of town (#501 last December)

(Boston area pools - click to view larger photos)

As great and as accessible as those pools are, I wanted to grab a new pool and the Wang YMCA of Chinatown has a free day pass for your first visit (and allows two more visits at $15/per for non-members):

(Wang YMCA of Chinatown Boston - click to view larger photos)

This location offered me a gorgeous ~40-minute, one-way stroll from Cambridge, across the Charles where I could catch the dawn, then scullers and a sunrise coming back, along with ambling through Boston Common (filled with people walking their pooches):

(Crossing the Charles River - click to view larger photos)

From the Swimmer's Guide listing, I wasn't expecting anything of the grandeur of the university pools in the area, but I submitted my review to build on the first two that mentioned the friendliness of the staff. They just made the small gestures that made you feel welcome - thanking me for finding them when I arrived (!!), the lifeguard smiling as I got there and wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving as I left, and the front desk staff asking me if I had a good swim on my way out.

The pool is subterranean and a basic, five-lane, 25-yard affair, but clean, not too warm (maybe 82F), and with everything a swimmer wants.

I had expected it to be too crowded to do a great workout, but I shared a lane with one swimmer for maybe 20 minutes and then had it to myself for the remaining ~45 minutes of my 3,500-yard workout. About the only downside to the pool was that the diagonal slant of the ceiling threw off my ability to stay centered in the lane when swimming backstroke. I kept running into the lane, even when I consciously knew what was happening, and tried to tell my brain to ignore the ceiling. I eventually got it working correctly, but was amazed at how a little thing like that could screw me up!

All in all, it was a fabulous way to start the day. The walk to & from the pool reminded me again how much I do like this city, how human-sized it mostly is (e.g., compared to the skyscraper-laden cities like NYC or Chicago), and how I need to spend more time here in the future.


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