MAKE A SPLASH
One way to cope with summer heat and a houseful of bored kids is to visit a local parkwith water features. Many splash pads and water-themed parks are free, but even those that do charge are rarely pricey -- and a small entrance fee can help thin crowds. So, gather the kids and head to one of these very cool (and cooling) playgrounds with high ratings on sites such as Yelp and Facebook.
W.J. THOMAS SPLASH PARK | CARROLLTON, TEXAS
Entry is free at this large, interactive splash park in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. It includes nearby picnic tables and a large deck where parents can watch the action. The park is open until Oct. 15, with water features from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
ALTADENA PARK | PHOENIX, ARIZONA
This free park has a traditional playground with a splash pad right next door. Parents who have posted reviews appreciate the shaded areas and seating options but note that there are no restrooms. The splash pad is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, until Oct. 1.
AIDAN'S PLACE | LOS ANGELES
While the water features at Aidan's Place in west LA are not extensive, it is a fully accessible playground for children with disabilities. It includes elevated sand play, slides with rubberized surfaces, and a series of water misters. The free park is open 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
DAGG PARK | NORTH KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
This North Kansas City park offers five acres of fun, including two playgrounds and a spray park. The zero-depth-entry water park has an ocean theme, with a palm tree, dolphins, and a sting ray. It also has designated play spaces for kids under 5 years old. The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will stay open as long as weather permits. Note: The park is closed for maintenance until 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.
ANCIENT PLAYGROUND | NEW YORK CITY
Located in Manhattan's Central Park, the Ancient Playground is a recently reconstructed destination that includes two user-activated water features. While not so ancient itself, the park's main play area has elements inspired by the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art's Egyptian collection. The free park is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
TY WARNER SPRAY PARK | WESTMONT, ILLINOIS
The Ty Warner Spray Park in the Chicago suburb of Westmont does have an admission fee of $3 for residents and $5 for non-residents, but reviewers say the water-shooting cannons, water walls, and multiple spray spouts are worth it. Visitors recommend getting there early to snag a picnic table with an umbrella. The park is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
SEATTLE CENTER INTERNATIONAL FOUNTAIN | SEATTLE
The International Fountain was created for the 1962 World's Fair and has been redesigned to be more accessible. Visitors can venture into the free fountain's bowl and explore the water-spraying silver dome at the center. The fountain is also eco-friendly, as all the water is recycled. The fountain is on while pre-recorded music plays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and a cascading waterfall runs 24 hours a day.
SURFSIDE SPRAY PARK | LAKEWOOD, COLORADO
Just west of Denver, the town of Lakewood is home to Surfside Spray Park. The park charges a nominal entry fee of $1 per person of walking age, but reviewers credit the fee with keeping crowds small. The fully enclosed play area makes it easier for parents to keep an eye on kids, too. The park is open 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Sunday until Aug. 12.
BOSTON COMMON SPRAY POOL | BOSTON
The oldest park in the United States, Boston Common has tons of modern, kid-friendly features, including the Frog Pond Spray Pool. The free park also features an expansive wading pool and a 30-foot spray flume -- perfect for warm summer days. The pool is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Labor Day.
WESTGATE SPLASH PARK | WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA
Westgate, located near the Westgate Community Center in West Palm Beach, offers nine water features such as water cannons and tipping water buckets. There's also a traditional playground nearby, as well as plenty of amenities. The park is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. until Dec. 1.
ORTEGA PARK | SUNNYVALE, CALIFORNIA
The 18-acre Ortega Park offers everything from tennis courts to a rock climbing wall, but the water play area has visitors gushing. From water blasters to a gigantic squirting flower, it doesn't hold back on the water features, so be forewarned -- kids do tend to get soaked. The park is open through October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
HAPPY VALLEY PARK | HAPPY VALLEY, OREGON
Aptly named Happy Valley Park is home to a spectacular splash pad featuring 16 water sprays and no standing water, making it safe for all ages. There are traditional play areas as well as a toddler park. The free park is open 8 a.m. to dusk.
NIETO PARK | HOUSTON
This Houston splash park gets bonus points for having rubberized surfaces to make falls less bruising. Nieto Park is designed to mimic a beach, and has pipe tunnels and artificial trees that spray water. There are also shady areas perfect for parents. The free park is open dawn to dusk.
TWIN HICKORY PARK & RECREATION CENTER | GLEN ALLEN, VIRGINIA
Designed to be used by kids 12 and under, Twin Hickory Park & Recreation Center in the Richmond area has a whimsical water play area that is computer monitored and treated as needed, with water flow activated by a motion sensor. The free "sprayground" is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily until the end of September.
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK | NEW YORK CITY
New Yorkers seeking a water-filled fun day can head over to the Pier 6 Water Lab in Brooklyn Bridge Park. If the kids get tired of dashing around the water jet field, there are several other sections of the park to explore, including one called Slide Mountain. The free Water Lab is open from about 10 a.m. to dusk and does not open when it rains.
BURGWIN SPRAY PARK | HAZELWOOD, PENNSYLVANIA
Plenty of water features highlight this Pittsburgh area spray park. Burgwin Spray Park is one of the newer attractions in Hazelwood, having opened in 2015. Built on the site of the former city pool, it has in-ground features as well as buckets and plenty of sprayers. The free park is open through early fall from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
PIRATESVILLE SPLASH PAD | HARTSVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA
This pirate-themed splash pad does have a nominal entrance fee ($4 for children, $2 for adults), but it has plenty of features, including a pirate ship water slide. Be sure to bring cash, because the admission booth doesn't take credit cards. The park's regular season runs until Aug. 20 Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
OUR SPECIAL HARBOR SPRAY PARK | FRANCONIA, VIRGINIA
A fully accessible water park, Our Special Harbor Spray Park features a lighthouse, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers, and a spraying osprey nest. A beach area includes water tables and small bubblers, as well as a computerized water maze. Open through Labor Day, the park offers free general admission, but children must wear aquatic shoes or sandals.
WABUN AREA WADING POOL | MINNEAPOLIS
Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis features a wading pool and a spraying rock formation. The pool is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through late August, and the park includes many other attractions to enjoy once the allure of water play has worn off.
HERITAGE PARK | FARMINGTON, MICHIGAN
Heritage Park, located in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, has a free splash pad, fountains, and sprayers to keep kids cool. In-ground jets operate on sensors to save water, and the free park has plenty of above-ground buckets, too. The park is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
BARBER PARK SPRAYGROUND | GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA
This spray park has free admission, a concessions stand, and plenty of shaded areas. The park operates until Aug. 27 (and reopens the following weekend and Labor Day) from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
MORTON SPRAY PARK | OMAHA, NEBRASKA
Morton Spray Park in Omaha is a sun-themed splash pad featuring dumping buckets and sun-shaped sprays. One area caters to smaller children with gentler water features. The park is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Labor Day.