When summer finally hits, Southland families are looking for water, water everywhere. There's hanging at the beach or playing in a pool, but fun places with splash pads and water features rank pretty high on a summer bucket list. Little kids, bigger kids, and even the occasional parent (yes, you!) can cool off on a hot day without tons of planning or tons of waste. Let's face it: playing in the water is just plain fun—and if you keep an extra towel in the car, you're always ready.
Check out some of these free water play parks and sprinklers around Orange County. Most are open Memorial Day to Labor Day, though we recommend calling to confirm before heading out, as water conservation efforts may sometimes be in effect.
Free Splash Pads
• Irvine Spectrum – Irvine
There used to be two water features at Irvine Spectrum; now there's only one, on the south end of the mall near Target. This pop-up water fountain is perfect for little kids, and the newish playground next door is fun, too. There are tables, chairs, and umbrellas close by for parents to watch and relax.
• Heritage Park – Irvine
Heritage Park has quite a few great highlights such as a beautiful lake, areas to picnic, clean bathrooms (inside the Community Center), and a pretty elaborate, two age group playground. This park gets even better when summer hits, because the water fountain is added to the list of things to do. The feature is a little more than a sprinkler, so plan for your kids to get pretty wet here.
• The District – Tustin
This quaint pop-up sprinkler is nice when you're willing to let your kids get just a little wet. There's just enough water to play without getting too drenched. Grab a snack in The District Mall, and take a seat in the extra comfy chairs. The play area is between Tilly's and Five Guys.
• Pioneer Road Park – Tustin
Like its name, this park was designed to transport you back to the pioneer days, with its log cabin and covered wagons augmenting its large playground area. Pioneer Park is probably best known for its water play features in the summer. The water area is pretty spacious, with several pop-up fountains and water cannons to spray. Plan to spend some time getting soaked here. The water play area is open 10am-4pm daily, May 27-Sept. 30, 2017.
RELATED: Water Parks and Water Slides for SoCal Kids
Afternoons are splashtastic! Photo courtesy of Sigler Park/City of Westminster
• Frontier Park – Tustin
Tustin built the water-play splash pad at this park in 2014 but had to shut it down soon after opening because of drought restrictions. Now it is up and operating for 2017, from 10am-4pm daily May 27-Sept. 30.
• Lemon Park Spray Pool – Fullerton
Lemon Park houses a slash pad with multiple features and endless opportunities to get completely wet. The water area is gated with high-shooting fountains to cover the entire pad. The park also has playground and picnic areas to hang out in after all the water fun. Stop by during water play hours from noon–5pm. Bathing suits are required at this one.
• Sigler Park Splash Pad – Westminster
This splash pad has continuous fountains that sprinkle, shoot, pour, and spray for a soaking water fun day. The adorable features are designed in bright colors and funny characters to add extra appeal. This park also has a playground for young and older kids. Water play hours are noon–5pm.
• Stanton Central Park Splash Pad – Stanton
The splash pad operates seasonally and reopens Memorial Day weekend in 2017. It has a train theme, like the rest of the park, and there's a train engine that has a slide and sprinkles water out its sides, as well as several other water features, The park itself, which opened in 2016, has a skate park, butterfly garden and large playground area. Water play areas are noon-5pm Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
• Crown Valley Park Sprayground – Laguna Niguel
This seasonal spray ground, which opened in 2016 as part of the park's overall remodeling, features about two dozen water features, including several overhead sprayers and cute, colorful animal sprayers. The spray ground is open 10am-4pm daily beginning Memorial Day weekend and continuing through Labor Day. The park's remodel also includes two new all-inclusive and accessible playgrounds with rubberized surfaces, one for younger kids and one for older kids.
If you want to pay for water play:
With summer comes the water at Crown Valley. Photo courtesy of Crown Valley Sprayground/City of Laguna Niguel
Atlantis Play Center – Garden Grove
The cost is minimal at this ocean-themed park with a fun splash pad. It opens for the 2017 season on June 6.
$2 per child (2 and under free)
Boomers Buccaneer Cove – Irvine
A pirate’s treasure trove five levels high houses slides, sprays, and buckets of water.
Chaperone Pass (for access to water area only, no sliding) $5
Weekends only, May 27-June 11
Daily, June 12-Sept. 4
Newport Dunes Water Playground – Newport Beach
A different kind of water park, this resort has a day use area featuring inflatable play structures on the waters of the Back Bay lagoon, no waves.
Summer rate: $25
Open daily 10am-6pm
Disney California Adventure – Anaheim
Worth knowing if you're visiting Disneyland anyway: You can cool off in Bug’s Land and (sometimes) on the World of Color landing.
Cost included in park admission
See park hours
Top photo: At Disney's California Adventure you can cool off at Princess Dot's Puddle Park in A Bug's Land. Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer courtesy of Disney
Originally published August 1, 2014