The Pier 6 Waterlab has been a favorite wet spot since it opened in 2010. Photo by Sara M
The Pier 6 Waterlab has been a favorite wet spot since it opened in 2010. Photo by Sara M

7 Play Fountains Where NYC Kids Can Get Totally Soaked

While all three of my kids love to go for a dip, heading to one of NYC's public pools requires advance planning and me donning a bathing suit. Often, our summer fun is more spontaneous. For those hot summer days when we're out and about or need a last-minute distraction, I keep this list of play fountains in the back of my mind.

A more immersive experience than standard sprinkler parks, these play fountains feature shallow pools of water for wading, plus jets shooting H2O sky high. They're the perfect place for kids to frolic and get completely doused without mommy having to go all-in—literally. Best of all? They're all completely FREE.

Here are seven fun play fountains in NYC where kids can get absolutely soaked.

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1. Elmhurst Park — Elmhurst, Queens

Grand Avenue between 74 Street and 80th Street
This beautiful community park opened to the public in 2011 bringing with it a much-needed spray fountain for kids. Water recirculates through various unpredictable spray valves dousing anyone who dares toy with its mist. If you're worried about cleanliness, take note: This spot was one of the first to comply with the DOH's regulations that recirculated water be purified on-site.

RELATED: Water Parks Close Enough to NYC for a Day Trip

2. Pier 6 Waterlab — Brooklyn Bridge Park

Enter at Joralemon Street and Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn Bridge Park's spectacular waterfront views are soothing, but when kids really want to cool off, they head to the super-popular Waterlab, one of four distinct play attractions on Pier 6. Man-made cliffs enclose a series of water areas where sprinklers shoot up, out, and all over, totally dousing kids. The water pools on a nice, squishy surface (which saved my clumsy toddler a few times). Head to the destination sandbox next door with its log cabins after the kids dry off, or grab an ice cream (and a beer) at Fornino, directly across from the splash pad. You'll find the bathrooms here, too.

RELATED: Pier 2 Uplands Debuts at Brooklyn Bridge Park

The play fountains on Governors Island are the perfect size for little ones. Photo courtesy of The Friends of Governors Island.

3. Play Fountains — Governors Island

Liggett Terrace
Located in the Liggett Terrace hedge maze, the trio of circular fountains features 90 programmable water jets shooting from the granite walls and is open daily. Parents can sit on the edges or grab a nearby lounge chair. While this season on Governors Island looks a little different than years past, there's still plenty of summer fun to be had on the isle.

4. Roberto Clemente State Park — Morris Heights, the Bronx

301 West Tremont Avenue
So, this pick goes against the no-pool rule, but consider this spot a step above your typical city pool. The state park's splash pad offers plenty of cooling mist for kids and adults alike to frolic. One drawback: There is an entrance fee, but at $1 per kid and $2 per adult, you can still treat the family to a relatively inexpensive afternoon of fun. In addition to a full-size pool, there's a kiddie pool with a shower at one end and an entire sprinkler area where kids can run through geysers and sprays in every shape and size imaginable.

5. Bosque Fountain —Financial District

Battery Place and State Street
Find this fountain for frolicking where the concrete jungle gives way to the beautiful oasis of Battery Park. Water jets from the surface in unexpected patterns keeping everyone guessing and soaking all who enter its mist. Do note, however, the fountain is closed the week of August 10 for necessary maintenance.

6. Splash Pad at Lakeside — Prospect Park, Brooklyn

171 East Drive
In summer, this two-rink ice-skating complex transforms into a roller-skating spot (Unfortunately, the rink is currently closed due to COVID-19.) and a 16,000-square-foot water play area. Forty-seven jets blast kids as a thin layer of water collect at their feet. Parents must sit on the sidelines—the under age 13 rule is definitely enforced.

RELATED: 50 Activities To Do With Kids Before School Starts

Kids love frolicking in the water play area at Teardrop Park. Photo by sharon_k via Flickr

7. Teardrop Park — Battery Park City

Between Warren Street and Murray Street, East of River Terrace
Located behind a Battery Park City high-rise, this playground can be tricky to find. But once you locate it, your kids may never want to leave. The super long slide (one of the longest in the city!) dumps kids in a massive sandbox. But in summer, the main attraction is the water play area, where geysers shoot up and douse everything in the vicinity, from the squealing kids to the surrounding rocks.

Play Fountains Not Open in 2020

The water play area at the American Museum of Natural History is an under-the-radar gem! Photo by Meg Stewart via Flickr

Arthur Ross Terrace — Upper West Side

Outside the American Museum of Natural History, look for a staircase near 80th Street and Columbus Avenue
We happily discovered kids can cool down on this 1-acre terrace adjacent to the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Grassy knolls line the sprinklers, and though there are only four jets cascading into the air, a gentle slope directs the water to the foot of the Rose Center, where it pools. Toddlers and big kids alike love wading and filling their buckets. Since this spot is little known, it's a much calmer experience than playing in nearby Central Park. I had trouble convincing my kids to leave! Bonus: There are shady picnic tables and benches lining the plaza. And, in case you're wondering, you can access this terrace without paying museum admission.

Domino Park Fountain — Williamsburg, Brooklyn

River Street between Second and Third Streets
A newcomer to the scene, Domino Park opened in 2018 bringing with it an ultra-cool play fountain. With a tiered seating area overlooking the fountain, parents have plenty of room to lounge and keep a watchful eye while the kids frolic among the 88 jets that make up the fountain. Interactive lights make this a fun spot to play on summer nights as you enjoy the sun setting over the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

Washington Square Park's huge fountain is a wonderful summer destination for kids. Photo by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr

Washington Square Park Fountain — West Village

In the middle of the park, from Fifth Avenue to Waverly Place between West 4th and MacDougal Streets
We've saved the best for last: Although it wasn't originally intended to be played in, the fountain in Washington Square Park attracts so many overheated kids and grown-ups every summer, the Parks Department doesn't kick anyone out (save for dogs). Here the water shoots skyward from the middle of the fountain, and then crashes back down into the wading pool. Kids who want to get drenched can stand in the streams, while toddlers can hang closer to the edges as parents keep a watchful eye from the dry steps. A word to the wise: It's best to wear shoes here. The water can be murky.

We should add that while we've seen kids (and dogs!) romp in the water at the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the artsy spray jets outside the Brooklyn Museum, neither of these are meant for playing. If you're caught, you could face a reprimand or even a fine.

This article first published in July 2015 but has been updated for 2020.

Ligget Terrace
Governors Island
New York, NY 11231

Splash Pad at the LeFrak Center
171 East Drive
New York, NY 11225

Arthur Ross Terrace
Central Park West and 79th Street
New York, NY 10024

Teardrop Park
New York, NY

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
New York, NY 11201

Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park North and Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Spiral Fountain
Battery Place and State Street
New York, NY 10004

Roberto Clemente State Park
301 West Tremont Avenue
Bronx, NY 10453

Elmhurst Park
57th Avenue and Grand Avenue
Queens , NY 11373

Domino Park and Playground
Kent Avenue at Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
Greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza
Prospect Park (at Grand Army Plaza) - 8:00 AM Pick
The Amazing Maize Maze at Queens County Farm
Queens County Farm Museum - 11:00 AM Pick
Parkour – Mixed Ages
Central Park - 11:00 AM Pick
Brooklyn Museum Reopens
Brooklyn Museum - 11:00 AM Pick
Hindu Lamp Ceremony
Brooklyn Bridge Park - 12:00 PM Pick
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