While "Olympic-sized swimming pool" is a valid plan for one's lottery winnings, more short-term solutions are available for aquatic summer fun. At some downtown hotels, new programs allow city residents to splash alongside hotel guests. The hotels and restaurants mentioned below offer varying degrees of pool access, along with fringe benefits such as movie screenings, cabanas and craft cocktails.
Alto at the Ace Hotel (600 Carondelet St., 504-900-1180; www.acehotel.com) — The Instagram-ready rooftop restaurant, pool and terrace have a dramatic view of CBD skyscrapers, manicured foliage and faux-rustic lightbulbs hanging over lounge chairs. In addition to hotel guests, the pool is open to patrons of the restaurant, which specializes in summer snacks like skewered meats and cheeseburgers. The whimsical craft cocktail menu has a vibe that rooftop bar manager Josh Hall describes as "Weekend at Bernie's meets Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil."
The Country Club (634 Louisa St., 504-945-0742; www.thecountryclubneworleans.com) — Though it gets crowded on summer weekends, this saltwater pool and hot tub adjacent to a restaurant can't be beat for grown-up sunbathing and margarita-drinking with occasional dips in the water. For the best experience, stop by during the week to rub elbows with off-duty bartenders and waiters and varying brands of Bywater residents, or take advantage of discounted pool entry after 5 p.m. ($8).
Loews New Orleans (300 Poydras St., 504-595-3300; www.loewshotels.com/new-orleans) — Sun-averse types can enjoy the 50-foot heated saltwater pool in the hotel's Balance Spa with a membership to the spa and fitness area. At $45 a month (with a three-month commitment), it'd be a good trade-in for an existing gym membership. The Swizzle Stick Bar (504-595-3405; www.cafeadelaide.com) on the hotel's ground floor has a reliably quirky mix of locals and tourists for post-pool drinks and chats.
The Roosevelt (130 Roosevelt Way, 504-648-1200; www.therooseveltneworleans.com) — Feeling Gatsbyish? Spend the afternoon in glamorous repose in a cabana at the Roosevelt's pool. Cabana rentals are open to hotel guests and locals, and though they aren't cheap ($175-$350), they accommodate eight people and have amenities such as a personal cocktail waiter, fresh towels, fruit plates, a fridge stocked with Red Bull and water and lagniappe like frozen pops. Goofy giant chess and checkers sets on the pool's spacious terrace help pass the time.
W Hotel French Quarter (316 Chartres St., 504-581-1200; www.wfrenchquarter.com) — Every Sunday through Labor Day (except during Essence Fest weekend), 10 would-be swimmers can purchase a day pass ($25) to swim at the compact courtyard pool at the W. At just under 6 feet deep, it's the perfect depth for floating. The hotel's monthly "dive-in movies" present a classic film for swimmers; watch its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wfrenchquarter) for updates.
If You Must Sneak In
Under the strain of long, sweltering summers, New Orleanians have long taken matters into their own hands by sneaking into hotel pools with guests-only policies. Gambit does not condone trespassing. But as a completely hypothetical thought experiment, we suggest the following tactics for accessing hotel pools without permission.
• Dress the part. Wear your swimsuit under your clothes, as many hotels don't provide a locker room near the pool area. Carry a backpack rather than a less discreet beach tote.
• Count on the deference of staff. Woe to the hapless front desk employee who accidentally second-guesses a VIP guest; as long as you exude confidence, it's unlikely anyone will request credentials.
• Build your confidence by calling ahead. Ask what floor the pool is on and if you need a keycard to get in.
• No key? No problem. Linger outside the door to the pool area until someone comes out. (This also works on key-activated elevators; if you're nervous, act flustered and rummage through your bag as if in pursuit of an errant key.)
On the way in or out, buy a drink at the hotel or pool bar as a thanks. It's just good manners.