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Perhaps I'm part Wicked Witch. It doesn't matter if it's the ocean, a thunderstorm or even the shower - I'm just not crazy about getting wet. So when my children were younger, any pool-going desires they had needed to be satisfied by the backyard, blow-up variety. But by the time my oldest was 5, it became perfectly clear a green plastic tub shaped like a turtle, even when coupled with a Slip 'N Slide, was no longer going to cut it as our family's aquatic center. The public beaches, while a scenic option, seemed a little overwhelming, especially with three young kids in tow. And my husband and I weren't quite ready to make the pricey commitment to joining a private swim club.
We were in search of an option for daily passes, a slide or two and a concession stand that carried Creamsicles. Oh, and trained lifeguards, so I wouldn't have to risk getting wet.
The many public pools in Dane County all fit the bill nicely. Just be sure to check the individual websites for detailed information on hours of operation and fees.
325 Olin Ave., Madison
After nearly 20 years of debate, Madison's summers became a whole lot cooler on June 12, 2006 - the day the Goodman, the city's first municipal swimming pool, opened to the public. And the wait was well worth it. Because with two waterslides, an eight-lane lap pool with diving boards, and tons of spots, both sunny and shady, for its 1,000-person capacity to lounge, it's a real liquid jewel. The pool also has family changing rooms, sand play areas and cabanas with free WiFi. The Goodman offers numerous options for swim lessons, including parent/child classes and classes for adult beginners. Perhaps I should really rethink this whole getting-in-the-water thing.
7762 County Road PD, Verona
I'm guessing the Goodman family really valued swimming, as yet another Madison-area pool proudly bears their name. This one's located on the Jewish Community Campus just southwest of the city. While bustling with Camp Shalom swimmers during weekdays, this 5,500-square-foot outdoor pool is open to the public in the evenings and on weekends and holidays. The facility has six 25-meter lanes that make it a great place for triathletes in training. And its zero-depth entry makes it a breeze for both young kids and others in search of easy accessibility to partake in the fun. From an environmental perspective, the pool boasts a unique saltwater generator, thus eliminating the need for large amounts of liquid chlorine, as well as a solar heating system that uses 45 panels to help warm the water.
No hot dogs at the concessions stand, though - not even Hebrew National. Due to kosher dietary laws, it's a strictly dairy bar with plenty of frozen novelties to go around.
920 Linnerud Dr., Sun Prairie
In many ways, Sun Prairie's public swimming facility is more water park than traditional pool. With features like a rainmaker, three aqua fountains and numerous overhead water sprays, there is often just as much playing as swimming going on here. With an 18-foot drop slide, a 210-foot waterslide, two kiddie slides and water basketball, this place can really give the Dells a run for its money. But for those who are more interested in lap swimming than horsing around, the center also features a separate "competitive" pool area with eight regulation 25-meter lanes.
For the water-averse like me, there is plenty to do on dry land, too. For kids, there is a playground with a super-fun wet sand area. And for Giselle Bundchen wannabes, a few sand volleyball courts. Come early to grab your spot in one of the two available shelters - it's first-come, first-served.
Monona Outdoor Pool
1013 Nichols Rd., Monona
Monona Mayor Bob Miller has proclaimed 2012 "The Year of Water." While I think his civic intention is to generate awareness around H2O management and use, it's still the perfect summer to consider visiting the city's terrific 300,000-gallon outdoor pool. Equipped with a waterslide, two diving boards, eight 25-meter lap lanes and a wading pool for kids under 45" tall, there is something for everyone. The pool also features the sophisticated intrigue of an adult-only evening swim (8:30-9:30 p.m.) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as water fitness classes like Aqua Zumba and Aqua Bootcamp for grownups who want to stay in shape while the little ones splash about.
If Mother Nature isn't cooperating, just hop on over to the indoor pool at Monona Grove High School. It's open to the public year-round, and the water temperature is always between 81 and 82 degrees. Tempting, even for me.
2400 Park Lawn Pl., Middleton
Lakeview Park, 6200 Mendota Ave., Middleton
One way to get to know 724 (pool capacity) of your neighbors in the "Good Neighbor City" is to meet up with them at the Walter R. Bauman Aquatic Center, better known as the Middleton Pool. This facility features a zero-depth entrance, an eight-lane competition pool and a separate diving well. There are also two awesome 134-foot-run waterslides, interactive water play equipment, a sand playground and concessions.
If you and your little ones tire of the 11,510 square feet of water surface or the 345,580 gallons of water at Bauman, you may want to check out Middleton's Splash Pad. This concrete surface, nestled in the city's Lakeview Park, is decorated with Rube Goldberg-esque nozzles and sprayers that will refresh and delight kids of all ages on a really hot day. When either you or your rugrats are drenched enough, there is plenty more to do at the 80-acre site, including hiking, two dry-land playgrounds and picnic shelters.
4350 Mounds Park Rd., Blue Mounds
If getting back to nature is a major draw for your aquatic experience, a trip to Blue Mound State Park, the only Wisconsin state park that hosts a swimming pool, may be in order. Opened in 1972 due to a lack of swimming opportunities in the area, the L-shaped pool, 75 feet long on each side, is filled with almost 200,000 gallons of water.
This heated facility has a poolside chairlift, powered by water pressure, to assist guests with physical limitations. Turning 90 degrees at the top of its travel, it's perfect for easy deck and wheelchair accessibility. And there's a wading pool with a maximum depth of 16 inches, too.
There is little question that the best part of visiting this pool is the chance to take in the surrounding beauty of the park. Perched upon the highest point in southern Wisconsin, you'll have spectacular views. And with over 20 miles of hiking trails, off-road biking opportunities and terrific campgrounds (including a rustic cabin for visitors with disabilities), a visit to the pool can easily turn into a wonderful weekend away for the whole family. Even for those who risk melting if they get wet.