Best Splash Pads for Kids in San Francisco

Jump into summer fun at our favorite splash pads in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of the City of Castro Calley
Jump into summer fun at our favorite splash pads in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of the City of Castro Calley
7/28/23 - By Sandra Lee

Splash pads are such an excellent way to cool off during the summer. Most are at kid playgrounds, and parents love these free and easy spots where it's almost guaranteed for little ones to have a blast without going to one of their favorite beaches. Splash pads are perfect for toddlers that aren't quite swim-ready yet, not to say that kids of all ages can't have fun. 

We've rounded up our favorite splash pads and parks where kids can jump, splash, and beat the heat all for free, and also included some not-to-be-missed water parks for when everyone needs a day in the pool to cool off. Don't forget to pack a change of clothes and some snacks for an afternoon of serious water fun! 

For more summer fun on a budget, explore awesome free things to do in San Francisco this summer with kids, and dive into our Ultimate San Francisco Kids Summer Vacation Guide.  


Best Splash Pads in San Francisco

Best splash pads in San Francisco: Mission Playground
Splash and play in the middle of San Francisco. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Parks and Recreation

1. Mission Playground — San Francisco

With 100,000 square feet of open space, this sublime playground recently underwent renovations with tons of new features like a clubhouse, pool with lockers, pathways, and shaded areas. The fountains spray mist and spray water. Kids can also hang out in the city's only outdoor pool. 

2. 24th and York Mini Park — San Francisco

Another park in the sunny Mission neighborhood, this mini park is not only beautiful, adorned with murals, but has a mosaic serpent play structure sprouting water from its tail, making it a fun water feature for kids to cool off. 

Best Splash Pads in East Bay

RELATED: Best Swimming Lessons for Kids in San Francisco

Best splash pads in San Francisco: Cannery Park 
Make it an afternoon of water fun. Cannery Park photo courtesy of Mapquest

3. Cannery Park — Hayward

Open through Labor Day, this popular Hayward splash pad is pretty big, making it a good one for an afternoon of splashing. Little ones can press the big red button for all sorts of water fun. Kiddos also dry off at the rope climbing playground next to the splash pad. 

4. Central Park — San Ramon

Not only does the playground have multiple slides, a rock climbing wall, and a climbing net, the splash pad has umbrella water sprayers and a faux creek where little ones can waddle and splash. There is plenty of shaded areas for parents to relax while the kids play. 

5. Emerald Glen Park — Dublin

Check out this beautiful splash pad through Labor Day, with rainbow arches, a fun green tunnel, and rocks to climb and slide. There is also a pretty cool art installation at the entrance that reflects the wave patterns of the splash pad. If the kiddos aren't ready to go home after a morning of water play, Dublin's water park, "The Wave," has two pools, water slides, and a splash zone. 

6. Castro Valley Park Splash Pad — Castro Valley

On those hot days when the East Bay reaches 90+ degrees, a big splash pad like the one in Castro Valley is a welcome outing. The red button activates the water features, which include geysers and giant sprayers on padded turf. When the kids need to dry off, the multiple playgrounds are just the ticket to continue the fun. 

7. Meadow Homes Spray Park — Concord

East Bay families love this splash pad for its fun pirate shipwreck design, multiple water features, and tons of shady spots for a picnic after a morning of water play. Open through the last week of September—the park has an area dedicated to toddlers, tweens, and even teens, so everyone has a place to play. The park gets crowded on a hot day, so plan accordingly. 

8. Blue Goose Park — Brentwood

This farm-themed splash park is a fun one, complete with sunflower sprayers, a water tower, and a barnyard play structure. There is also a fairly big rope-climbing structure and rock-climbing wall for older kids that want something a little more challenging. The splash park is open until the end of October. 

9. El Cerrito Splash Park — El Cerrito

A great spot to hold a birthday party, the El Cerrito Splash Park is a favorite for Bay Area parents and part of the El Cerrito Swim Center. This large park has multiple water features like dumping buckets, misting tunnels, and water jets. While it's not free, drop-in is just $5. Note there is no lifeguard on duty and no pool access. 

Best Splash Pads in North Bay/Marin

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Best splash pads in San Francisco: Hamilton Pool in Novato
Cool off at this pool adjacent splash pad at Hamilton Pool. Photo courtesy of

10. Hamilton Pool — Novato

While the community pool offers open swim passes for less than $10, the adjacent splash pad is perfect for little ones with a play structure, slide, and tons of water sprayers for those hot summer days. Kids can waddle and splash, while older kids or seasoned swimmers can swim in the big pool. There are plenty of shaded areas for parents to keep an eye on both. 

11. Allan Whitt Park — Fairfield

The City of Fairfield has its own aquatics complex, complete with a lazy river, slides, and a six-lane activity pool. Kids will love the Playland Lagoon, a mini water park just for them with climbing structures, slides, and plenty of water dumping buckets. The grassy area right next to it has plenty of picnic tables and relaxing areas, making it a great spot to hang out when the kids need a snack break. Admission is just $5 for kids, and $6 for adults, making it a super affordable day at the pool. 

Best Splash Pads in Peninsula

12. Stafford Park — Redwood City

Adjacent to the playground, this small water park is an easy afternoon outing for when the kids need to burn off some energy, but the weather is just too hot to be out all day. Open through the end of September, this splash pad has water sprayers and is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Note that the water features shut off at 5pm. during the Music in the Park concert series. 

13. Fountains at Stanford University — Palo Alto

Did you know kids can play in the fountains at Stanford? The fountains are chlorinated regularly, making this a time-honored tradition for Bay Area families that know about it. The Red Hoop Fountain and Sunken Pool are the most popular ones, and great for kids that want to play in the water but not necessarily sprayed. There are a ton of great food options nearby as well. 

14. Stulsaft Park — Redwood City

Look for the big colorful crayons and you'll know you're at this fun splash pad in Redwood City. Kids can run around on soft ground while blue, yellow, and red crayons spray water. There is also a playground with slides, climbing structures, and swings. 

RELATED: Top Indoor Playgrounds and Play Spaces in San Francisco

Best splash pads in Rinconada Pool in Palo Alto 
Splash under the mushroom at Rinconada Pool. Photo courtesy of the City of Palo Alto

15. Rinconada Pool — Palo Alto

The Palo Alto Swim Center has a fantastic public pool and program dedicated to learning to swim, but it also has a very cool splash pad perfect for kids. Mushroom fountains and stationary pedal bikes that shoot water are interactive and sure to help cool off on a hot day. It's not free, but only $15 for a family of 4. Bathrooms, changing rooms, and shaded areas are all available. 

Best Splash Pads in South Bay

16. Seven Seas Park — Sunnyvale

The ocean-themed park is a mini adventure for kids and is worth a trip. The splash pad is huge and super fun. Plus, it has a climbing rope, a metal structure, and a wonderful pirate ship where all swashbuckling abilities can play. Shady spots are plentiful, although parking can be a bit tricky as there is not a ton of space. Get there early, as it does get crowded, and prepare for the kids not wanting to leave. 

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Best splash pads in San Francisco: Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Francisco 
Run through the water in the middle of San Jose. Photo courtesy of @SJCityParks

17. Plaza de Cesar Chavez — San Jose

Right smack in the middle of downtown San Jose is this cute splash pad where kiddos can cool off on hot days in the South Bay. While it's not a big splash pad with tons of water features, water shoots off from the ground, making this an exciting treat after a walk around downtown.

18. Ortega Park — Sunnyvale

Sunnyvale has some great splash pads, and if Seven Seas Park is too crowded, Ortega Park is just as fun. Huge flowers spray water from above, bubbling geysers, and plenty of puddles where kids can splash and run all day. The playground nearby is a good place to dry off before heading home. 

19. Hellyer Park — San Jose

An upgraded playground at this park has a cargo net climbing course, swings, bridges, and slides, but the splash pad is where the kids will want to hang out when it's hot. The splash pad opens and turns on once the temperature reaches above 70 degrees, and in the South Bay, that's all summer long. With sprayers, water jets, and sprinklers, kids can play all day long, and parents can hang out in the many shaded areas. 

20. Lakewood Park — Sunnyvale

The outer space-themed splash park in Sunnyvale is out of this world. Kids can get sprayed by a spaceship structure or run around the padded ground looking for puddles. Parking can be tricky here, so be prepared to park a few blocks away. 

Best Water Parks in the Bay Area

Sometimes you might want something more entertaining than a splash pad, so this is where water parks come in. The Bay Area has some fantastic ones that cater to all ages, with enticing slides, wave pools, and splash pads for toddlers. 

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best splash pads in San Francisco: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor 
Jump into the biggest wave pool in the region. Hurricane Harbor photo courtesy of Six Flags

21. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor ​— Concord

With water slides, a long lazy river, and the biggest wave pool in the region, Hurrican Harbor has something for everyone. For the most comfortable day at the pool, private poolside cabanas and picnic groves are all available for rent. 

22. Water Oasis at Gilroy Gardens ​— Gilroy

Gilroy Gardens is more than an amusement park for little ones. The Water Oasis is an attraction all on its own, with a huge wading pool with sprayers, slides, and giant water buckets. Families can rent cabanas under the palm trees, spend the morning splashing and sliding, and then hit up all the rides and entertainment the rest of the day. If you are a Great America pass holder, the Water Oasis (and Gilroy Gardens) is free to enter! 

23. South Bay Shores at Great America ​— Santa Clara

Speaking of an amusement park with an awesome water park, South Bay Shores is another water park that families flock to every summer. With tide pools, lazy rivers, slides, and the Otter Trotter splash pad, there is water fun for every age. Rent a cabana or get there early and grab a chair, as it gets crowded quickly. Or, opt to go on rides and play games in the meantime. Gilroy Gardens pass holders can get in for free! 

24. Raging Waters ​— San Jose

With 23 acres of family-friendly fun, this San Jose water park is one of the best in the Bay Area. Wave pools, lazy rivers, and a family raft ride are just some of the big attractions that kids can enjoy. Little ones can hang out in the Little Dipper, with bubble pools, waterfalls, and slides. 

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Best splash pads in San Francisco: The Wave in Dublin 
Surf into The Wave. Photo courtesy of The Wave

25. The Wave ​— Dublin

This Dubin water park opened in May 2023 and has gotten much-deserved buzz from families. It has a great splash pad for kids that includes water jets, slides, and a tilting bucket, and big kids can hang out at the Slide Towers with six mega slides or the lap pool for the day. 

26. Antioch Water Park ​— Antioch

With slides galore, the Antioch Water Park uses colored wristbands to determine who can get on what slide based on height. Lifeguards are on duty all day, as well as life jackets for specific rides. Food is allowed onsite, so you can bring snacks when the family gets hungry. Note that Antioch residents get a discount on admission. 

27. Aqua Adventures ​— Fremont

This smaller park in the East Bay has a ton of slides in the Fortress of Fun, climbing structures, a lazy river, a splash pad, and several pools from 1-4ft. Cabanas are also available to rent, so you can comfortably enjoy the day in the sun. 

28. Great Wolf Lodge - Manteca

While this resort's water park is the main draw for kids of all ages, with tons of slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and splash pads galore, it's a great weekend destination as well. After a day of sliding and swimming, families can go bowling, play in the arcade, try rock climbing, and have a dance party before staying in one of their wolf-themed rooms for the night. 


Places featured in this article:

Cannery Park Splash Pad