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Summer Guide 2012

Chlorine dreams

Our favorite places to lounge poolside

Photo: Alex Boeckl, License: N/A

Alex Boeckl

Owning a pool is a pain in the ass – ask anyone who owns one. But nothing beats dipping into cool, clear water on a brutal summer afternoon. If you don't happen to own a house with a pool (and last we checked, most of our friends don't, even though everyone who lives north of Florida thinks we all have pools), or live in a shiny new condo complex with a community pool, you have to suffer, suck it up and find a public pool you can tolerate – or get creative. We spent a recent weekend pool-hopping and explored the various options for poolside lounging around town, and we list our favorite spots below. Some are open to the public, some aren't but tolerate some respectful intrusions, while others require you to … erm … pretend you're somebody important to get in.

Cady Way Pool
$4 day pass
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday;
12-6 p.m. Sunday; 2525 Cady Way, Winter Park
Although many of the Cady Way facilities tucked away in posh Winter Park Pines are for public use, the pool here is actually managed by the YMCA. That means you'll have to spend some money to enjoy a day by the massive blue pool, easily one of the most impressive ones we stopped by on our little tour of Orlando's chlorinated swimming spots. Mornings are often quiet, with a handful of lap-swimmers taking advantage of the lanes; during afternoons in the summer, however, you're more likely to run into families and kids playing ball on the lawn and splashing in the shallows. You might even find yourself in the middle of a Y-sponsored event, like the kids' swim meet we stumbled into when we visited.

Red Fox Lounge Pool
Free … sort of
8 a.m.-10 p.m.
110 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park
The cozy pool situated directly behind the Red Fox Lounge at the Best Western on Orlando Avenue has earned a cherished spot in the hearts of Orlando's deviant scene. And it deserves it. There's a bar right there, tended by a casual staff (who reserve the right to throw anyone out, so don't ruin it for everyone by being a dick), and anyone can walk right in during pool hours and claim a cushy lawn chair that looks like it belongs poolside in the backyard of a South Florida home. The pool is small (capacity is 25 people), but when the sun fries your brain, you could easily imagine that behind each hotel-room door there await sultry, dramatic characters worthy of this Melrose Place-like setting.

College Park Pool
Free to Orlando residents (during open swim)
1:15-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
12:30-6 p.m. Saturday & Sunday
2411 Elizabeth Ave.
If free and easy are your main criteria for picking a pool, College Park has you covered. Just show an ID proving you're an Orlando resident and you can access the pool during open-swim hours. Unfortunately, open swim frequently occurs right during prime time for the summer thunderstorms that dreamcrush most late risers' tanning plans. Seating is limited – only a dozen plastic lawn chairs litter the poolside deck – but there's one undeniable perk essential to summer pool excitement: There is a diving board. We repeat, there is a diving board. But there are also families and two lifeguards always on duty, so don't expect to get too rowdy.

Grand Bohemian Hotel Pool
Free, if you can pass as a hotel guest, but do buy a drink from the bar
6 a.m.-11 p.m.
325 S. Orange Ave.
The more wily and daring residents among us might make an attempt to fake their way into the Grand Bohemian, one of downtown Orlando's fancypants resorts. Cut through the lobby, take a ride up the elevator, chat up some guests at the bar – whatever your strategy is to get in, once you get there, don't forget that without a room key, you're nobody. So make sure to put your pinky up as you sip a pricey cocktail from the hotel bar, tip your bartender decently and try not to make too big a splash that could draw the attentive eye of the maître d'.

Loews Portofino Bay Pool
Free for guests
9 a.m.-10 p.m.
5601 Universal Blvd.
For the brave, the very brave, residents of Orlando willing to trek down to the theme park part of town, the Portofino Bay poolside experience is pretty stellar, with multi-level decks and plenty of people-watching. It's easy to blend in, but you'll likely have to pay for parking, especially at night. Still, if you're tired of seeing the same faces everywhere you go, and you're looking for a mild in-town adventure, there's potential at Portofino.

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