Boston has a lot of cool fountains that can be great fun for families in summer. But I've learned the hard way that not every fountain is suited for preschoolers.
A few years back, when one of my sons was 4, I took him and his brothers to the Christian Science Plaza fountain along Huntington Avenue. To me as a parent, it was a wise selection: awesome fountain, I didn't have to walk far from the parking spot, and bathrooms were nearby in the Prudential Center. But my 4-year-old kid was horrified by the fountain and how big it was. It took him a half hour to even wander up to the where the water shot out of the ground, and soon after he got soaked and was freezing. It was not the best choice for a young child.
With that thinking in mind, here are some gentler, preschooler-friendly fountains and spray parks in Boston:
Copley Square Fountain (Copley station, Green Line). This older fountain rests in the shadow of the looming Hancock Tower and across the street from Boston Public Library. It is not unusual to see dozens of people dipping their feet into the running waters, and young kids can even go knee-high in the pool. Recent work at the park may limit access to the fountain.
Sculpture fountain in Norman D. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square (State Street station, Blue and Orange lines). This is an underrated fountain in the city, as it appeals to wide variety kids who have different tolerances for splashing water. Children can run around the outer bench ring and not get wet, dip their fingers or toes into the water plumes coming out of the ground (see photo above), or dash right through the main bronze-and-glass fountain and get soaked.
Rose Kennedy Greenway fountains (Aquarium station, Blue Line). There are four good fountains for young children on the Greenway, all within walking distance of each other:
- Canal Fountains near the North End. The gentle running water of these close-to-the-ground fountains welcome younger kids, who can spend hours there trotting back and forth across the spouts. It's amazing how engrossed a toddler with a beach pail can get here.
- Labyrinth Fountain at Armenian Heritage Park. Youngsters and adults will get a kick out of walking along the winding stones of this interesting park, which features a small fountain bubbling at the center.
- Rings Fountain near the Aquarium. This fountain quickly became a landmark in downtown Boston when it opened, as it's easy to see from a distance thanks the jets of water that shoot up from it. For that reason, only brave preschoolers will like going into the fountain, although it's great fun just to watch the action from a safe distance, too.
- Chinatown Stream near Essex Street. The stream isn't really a fountain, but certainly invites kids to wade into the water. It is rocky, so make sure young ones are comfortable climbing around. P.S. Get off at South Station on the Red or Silver lines to walk to this Greenway attraction.
Public Garden fountains (Arlington station, Green Line). A series of four small fountains dot the perimeter of the lagoon here. Kids can easily climb into the fountain basins and run around in the shallow water.
Bremen Street Park spray deck (Airport station, Blue Line). This huge park in East Boston features a circular spray fountain. There are also a bunch of playgrounds and swings just a short walk from the spray deck.
Artesani Park spray deck. Located on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton along the Charles River, this park features a wading pool with tall fountain spouts and a newer spray deck, the latter of which if far better for preschoolers. There's plenty of free parking here, too.
Waltham spray parks. This city has a surprising amount of spray decks (nine at last count). The best one is Fitch Spray Park at Ash and Crescent streets, which features an array of odd shapes and layouts that can keep young kids busy.