[UPDATED: August 1, 2012]
Cooling off in local sprinklers or pools is a rite of summer in the city. But nothing beats the fun of taking a day trip to a nearby water theme park, where families can spend the whole day getting wet and wild.
There are many water theme parks within driving distance of NYC. In fact, Splish Splash on Long Island—which is considered by many folks (including my son) to be one of the best water parks in the country—is just a 90-minute drive from midtown Manhattan. Bonus: You can see it from the the Long Island Expressway, so you can't get lost on the way there!
The 96-acre park has two dozen rides, ranging from tame kiddie pools to dark tunnels of terror. Plus there are other attractions like two wave pools and a bird show.
In addition to being super-cool (in both senses of the word), Splish Splash is immaculately clean and comfortable. The water is pristine and there's a surprising amount of shade. My son and I recently went on our first trip there with a bunch of his friends, and to say we were impressed is an understatement. We closed the park, and my six-year-old and his pals have been begging to go back again before the season ends.