Best Place to Swim Laps 

Richmond Swim Center

This two-year-old, Olympic-size swim palace can accommodate everyone from serious athletes to paddlers. For one thing, it's huge: six to eight lanes of lap swimmers can peacefully coexist with a lifeguard class and two kids' classes and still leave a big space reserved for aqua-aerobics. The vaulted space has plenty of natural light thanks to skylights, windows, and glass doors that can be opened to provide fresh air. The whole facility was designed thoughtfully to work as a community pool, from the cushy nonslip floor in the locker rooms to the bleachers and plastic couches where parents can lounge and watch the kiddies splash. Maybe it's those giggling toddlers -- and teens -- that make the vibe here so friendly. You won't find many of the crabby Type A's who rule the Berkeley swims. The Swim Center also has the best schedule around; you can do laps from 7 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays during the school year, and from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Starting June 21, the schedule expands and a new outdoor pool opens.

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