There's no denying that when the first heat wave of summer hits Houston, it hits hard. And as every Houstonian knows, once it comes it's here for the long haul - sometimes well into "fall." This means it becomes crucial to find fun ways to keep the kids cool without locking them indoors. Luckily, there is no shortage of splash pads here.
These are our favorites, and they are all FREE. Most are open year round, but if you're visiting outside of summer months be sure to check the park website before heading out. And if you're looking for something on a larger scale, check out the amazing water parks you can visit around Houston.
Aron Ledet Park
This lovely Houston park is always worth a visit for its shaded trails and playground, but the splash pad is the cherry on top. Depending on the time of day, it is covered in shade by nearby trees. Note it is not fenced in.
Gateway Fountains at Discovery Green
Jet streams reach up to 14 feet at this Downtown Houston favorite. Infants and toddlers are required to wear swim diapers and water shoes are recommended. Public restrooms are available.
Ervan Chew Park Splash Pad
Aside from the splash pad, the park offers numerous amenities kids love. Guests can also take advantage of a dog park, picnic tables, soccer and baseball fields, and a playground, making the splash pad the perfect place to cool off after playing hard.
Hermann Park Splash Pad
Get ready for an entire water experience at the water playground at Hermann Park. The park boasts an adjacent sandy beach, palm trees and more, which makes it a splash-pad paradise. There is free parking in and around Hermann Park as well as paid parking lots in the surrounding areas.
Katherine McGovern Water Play Park at the Houston Zoo
What better way to cool off after a long day visiting the animals than at the water play park located inside the zoo? Kids can enjoy the traditional streams of water, a 'fill and spill' water tree, fountains, and ample space at this splash pad.
Jaycee Park Splash Pad
The Jaycee Park splash pad is the ideal place for cooling off after taking advantage of all the other park amenities, like a walking trail, basketball and tennis courts, and a playground. The simple pad features timed sprays and colorful butterfly artwork. There are port-o-potties available for guests to use.
Settegast Park Splash Pad
This park offers the traditional simplicity of a splash pad with some extra features that make it fun but not overly flashy. Some of the features kids are sure to love include the bell spray column and ground geyser, while parents love the safe rubber pad surface.
Tony Marron Park Splash Pad
If you're looking for a splash pad that satisfies the kids and gives you sweeping views of both the park itself and downtown, look no further than Tony Marron Park. Guests have access to public restrooms and drinking fountains, as well as a covered pavilion that's perfect for a picnic lunch.
Levy Park Splash Pad
The recently renovated Levy Park now includes a fun splash pad in the center of its enclosed play area. There are public restrooms on site and plenty of shade and tables for picnicking. The playground also has a rock wall and plenty of other climbables.
Emancipation Park Sprayground
At Emancipation Park, three splash pad areas are located on the property. One is located within the pool area of the park, and the other two are outside of the pool area. Each splash pad area contains water features that have water bubbling from the ground as well as directional sprayers.
The baseball-themed splash pad at Texas Avenue Park in Webster is a homerun. Photo courtesy of Webster
Splash Pad at Smart Financial Centre Plaza
The new water feature at Smart Financial Centre Plaza is ready for action this summer. Features that make parents happy include plenty of parking, seating, and restrooms. After 4pm the splash pad turns into a water feature show.
Hackberry Park Splash Pad
There are not just traditional water streams at this playground, but also turtles and lily pads that spurt water up in the air. These features plus bright colors and plenty of space to play make this splash pad a hit with kids and parents alike.
RiverPark Splash Pad
This well-maintained splash pad boasts colorful pipes, suspended fill-and-dump buckets as well as ample space to run and play. There are shaded benches surrounding the pad for parents to watch their little ones, and an adjacent park for the kids to play on before or after their water adventures.
Splash Pad at Constellation Field
Catching a Sugar Land Skeeters game? Be sure to pack a swimsuit for the kids. Constellation Field has a splash pad that overlooks the playing field and gives kids a chance to cool off and burn some energy while taking in some minor league baseball.
Note: Use of the splash pad is free with purchase of Sugar Land Skeeters ticket.
Marian Park Splash Pad
There's not just one area for kids to play at this water spray park, but three, making it a unique splash pad experience. Another perk - this one for the parents - is that there is plenty of shaded seating available around the play area.
The fun and colorful splash pad is set against the park's beautiful pond, which is always filled with ducks! There is lots of room to run around, that's for sure.
Little ones love playing at the Monroe Field Splash Pad in Seabrook. Photo by Ashley Jones
Texas Avenue Park Splash Pad
This is a truly unique splash pad fit to steal any baseball-loving kid's heart. Instead of the traditional water-themed sprays, baseballs spout out water here. There are even bases to run around, making this water play area a home run.
Monroe Field Spash Pad
The crown jewel of this splash pad in Seabrook is a pirate ship with a wheel that directs a water spray. This splash pad is great for little ones because the entire thing is fenced in, and there are plenty of shaded picnic tables at the edges of the splash pad for parents to hang out while kids run around in the water.
Brookglen Spray Park
Ample space to run around, a large, rainbow-colored dragon, dumping buckets, and animals that spray water from their mouths make this a water play area your kids won't want to miss.
Dolphin Lagoon at Clear Lake Park
Aptly named for the several dolphin structures spouting water, this spray ground is located near the boat ramps at Clear Lake Park and gives guests an extensive view of the bay. It also has plenty of shaded areas for parents to sit, public restrooms, and outdoor fitness equipment for those wanting to get in a workout while the kids play.
After a trip to the beach, you can head on over to the Menard Park splash pad where kids can get out any extra energy they may have while washing off the unavoidable layer of sand that comes with being on the beach all day.
An airplane in the middle of the pad is the defining feature of this spray park. Water shoots straight up from the ground, making it a good splash pad for younger kids, since there is no dumping water and very few frills. There's also plenty of parking, as well as places to sit and public restrooms.
Wright Cuney Recreation Center
The spray park at Wright Cuney is similar to the one at Menard Park, with water spraying up from the ground and dumping from buckets overhead. The Recreation Center also has a playground, covered picnic tables, and basketball courts.
Baytown Spray Parks
Prepare to make a day out of a trip to any of the City's six spray parks in Baytown, because barbecue pits, a playground, and plenty of trails make them all a perfect day-cation destination.
Spray Parks include Roseland Park, Bergeron Park, McElroy Park, Pelly Park, Central Heights Park, and Jenkins Park.
Kids cool off at the Shady Lane splash pad. Photo courtesy Houston Parks and Recreation
This includes North Houston, Northeast Houston, and Northwest Houston
Lents Family Park Splash Pad
Nestled in Lents Family Park East is a splash pad kids are sure to love. It spouts water from the ground and has sprays the kids can aim and control as well as pipe tunnels to run through. It's also gated, giving parents reassurance that their kids are safe.
May Valley Park Splash Pad
This wooded paradise of a park in The Woodlands features a splash pad under plenty of shady trees. Kids can run amok as buckets full of water dump from overhead and ground sprayers splash up and around.
Shady Lane Park Splash Pad
With an alligator head emerging from the pad surface and large boulders that spout streams of water, this one-of-a-kind, bayou-themed spray park is sure to thrill the kids. There are also multiple play areas, outdoor fitness equipment, and more offered here.
Sawmill Park Splash Pad
This splash pad located near Grogan's Mill features plenty of water features that will have your kids loving every moment they spend playing. Water sprays up from the ground, as well as out of large pipes and directional sprayers overhead.
Timarron Park Splash Pad
This splash pad has a pipe tunnel that looks like a frog, large flowers that spray water, and plenty of space to play. It also has seats around the splash pad for parents, convenient public restrooms, a covered pavilion, and a playground.
It's a bit of a drive into northwest Houston, but we promise it's well worth it. The lovely and shaded park recently had a splash pad installed. It's the perfect spot for a day or afternoon out. There is even a steam train that occasionally appears.
This splash pad may be simpler than others, but that doesn't mean the kids won't have a ton of fun running around it. Pipe tunnels that spray water at the push of a button and plenty of fountains and jet streams make it a hit among the younger set, and parents appreciate the seating surrounding the pad.
Nottingham Park Splash Pad
This splash pad has water shoots, fill-and-dump buckets, pipe tunnels, and tall sprays. There is also covered seating for parents to enjoy while watching the kids play, and a playground nearby for anyone needing a break from the water.
Burnett Bayland Park
The park, which is also home to a skate park, has lots of trees and picnic areas as well as sports fields, and an expansive splash pad surrounded by covered tables.
This post was originally published in September 2016
Top photo: Zube Park/Photo courtesy Harris County Precinct 3