17 Splash Pads and Spraygrounds to Beat the DC Summer Heat
Great news for DC families who languished last summer without public water play: Splash pads and spraygrounds are back in 2021.
DC isn't called a swamp just because it was built in a flood-heavy area. Anyone who lives in or has visited the DC area during the summer months knows the weather is hot, humid, and sticky. And while heading indoors to explore the area's museums or indoor play spaces was a great option during those pre-pandemic days, the current opening phase indicates jumping into some water, outdoors, with social distancing and masks, is among the safest and best ways to keep cool.
And since time doesn't always permit a daylong excursion to one of DC's many public pools, splash pads and spraygrounds offer a welcome and quick cooldown and some summer fun.
To help locate one in your area, we've put together a list of our favorite splash pads and spraygrounds in DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. Check out our picks and escape the swamp-like temps and enjoy outdoor fun with the entire family.
Remember: Unless noted, all splash pads listed are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and are free. Always check venue websites before you go for additional information, including closures.
Splash Pads and Spraygrounds in Washington, DC
The Canal Basin sprayground at Yards Park is a treat for young and old. Photo by Sam Kittner courtesy of Capital Riverfront BID
355 Water St. SE
Whether families are looking to just get their feet wet or completely drenched, this spot has something for everyone. The multilevel fountain has water flowing from the upper level to the lower, creating a waterfall effect into a splash pool. No worries though, the water is less than a foot deep and safe for the youngest of splashers. Kids staying up past bedtime can enjoy the light show when it gets dark. Visit the Yards Park website for opening times and rules of play.
Corner of Wisconsin Ave. and K St. NW
Georgetown isn't just for college kids. In addition to its beautiful labyrinth and gorgeous rain garden, the focal point of this park is definitely the fountain. Families can enjoy the large arcing water spray that reaches from the Wisconsin Avenue end to the Potomac riverfront. Kids can enjoy splashing around in the iconic fountain while parents enjoy the Georgetown Waterfront scenery. Bonus: The fountain is lit in the evenings.
801 Taylor Street, NW
Set in an otherwise traditional park, this splash pad is perfect for the smallest of splashers. Plenty of fountains large and small adorn the concrete space, which is enclosed to prevent little ones from wandering off. Not a lot of shade is offered among the colorful sculptures spewing water, however, so an umbrella is advised. Open daily, 10am-8pm.
200 M Street SE
Not to be confused with the Canal Basin at Yards Park, the Canal Park Fountain offers two fountains to splash in, in addition to a unique summer program for kids. Fingers crossed that on Wednesday mornings, starting in June or July (if DC continues to have the virus under some control), kids can participate in the Kids in the Canal program. In years past, and hopefully again this year, Kids in the Canal features a different theme each week, from music, to science demonstrations, to magic shows.
1100 Michigan Avenue NE
This playground splash pad is so much more than meets the eye. The design focuses on two themes: a mini village with mountains, playhouses and a farmers' market, as well as transportation section with trains, cars, and boats. The splash pad itself includes a lighthouse and boat, a climbing hill, musical instruments, shade structures, and more. Kids love the sensory equipment, and the picnic area and bathrooms inside the recreation center make it a comfortable spot for parents, too.
5200 Sherier Place NW
Leave it to the nation's capital to turn everything into a history lesson. This park’s theme is centered around the Potomac and the American Indians who once lived in the area. From a mountain climbing wall to slides and swaying bridges, the park is perfect for pre-school aged children. The splash pad offers a water slide, fountain, and three raised fish that dump water onto the children. The park also provides a shaded pavilion, restrooms and free parking.
1299 Neal Street NE
The splash pad at this recreation center is simple but large. Four huge colorful bands spray kids, and families can also explore the large park, which offers two sections separated by age groups. The parking lot is located on the Neal Street side, while street parking is available on the Montello Avenue side of the park. Note: This park is open from 3:30pm to 9pm during the week and from 10am to 4pm on the weekends
14th and Girard St. NW
This cool-down spot is perfect for those traveling by Metro. A quick stroll from the Columbia Heights metro stop and families can enjoy all this great park has to offer. In addition to the spray area, the facility offers picnic tables, chess tables, and—most importantly—clean bathrooms. While not as fancy as some of the others listed, this easily accessible place provides quick relief from the hot city.
Splash Pads and Spraygrounds in Maryland
9. Interactive Fountain—Silver Spring
916 Ellsworth Drive
Get ready to get wet! The colorful mosaic-patterned fountain contains jets that shoot water at different intervals and with heights that thrill even the shortest of splashers. This fountain is a favorite in the downtown area, so it can be crowded, especially on the weekends. Unlike other fountains, this one turns on mid-spring and stays open through the fall, from 10am to 9pm. The plaza often hosts live music for children on Wednesdays, and in the evenings for adults. Check the venue website for schedule and rules for enjoying this downtown attraction.
10. Fountain on the Square—Rockville
12 N Washington Street
This fountain is located in the heart of Rockville and provides nonstop fountain fun. A large circle surrounds the 20 jets that continuously shoot water into the air, at heights that are about the size of an average adult. Kids can dry off while climbing the rocks on the nearby turf area, and parents can shop at the many stores that surround the square. This splash area is next to a street, so parents do need to pay extra attention while visiting the splash pad. Plenty of parking, a covered pavilion, and vibrant atmosphere make this one of Maryland's most accessible cool-down destinations. The fountains are turned off during special events, so it's best to check the website for updates.
The South Germantown Splash Park features a 280-jet water maze. Photo courtesy of the park
18056 Central Park Circle
Splash park admission for ages 2 and older: $5.50
This popular splash park is not to be missed. Kids can explore the 280-jet water maze with a waterfall, water bucket drops, slide, and spraying animals. There are also smaller fountains for younger splashers. With plenty of shade and the option to pay for a round of mini golf at the adjacent course, this cool-down spot provides all-day fun.
Splash Pads and Spraygrounds in Northern Virginia
12. Virginia Highlands Park—Arlington
1600 S. Hayes Street
This nearly 20-acre park offers fun for the entire family. The splash pad has a water cannon, mini waterfalls, and bucket splashers and was designed with conservation in mind. A built-in recirculation system saves 82,000 gallons of water a month, making this spot one you can feel good about while enjoying a break from the heat.
13. Drew Park—Arlington
1600 S. Hayes Street
Located next to Charles Drew Community Center, this park includes a splash pad and other great features. The water shoots up from the ground, and there is a tall flower soaker that shoots water during different intervals. Hoops also spray water at alternating intervals, which means kids can spend their time guessing from where they will get soaked next. After children are done cooling off, they can enjoy the swings, or climbing ropes at the playground.
Our Special Harbor Spray Park is accessible to kids of all ages and abilities. Photo courtesy Kim Nguyen
14. Our Special Harbor Spray Park —Alexandria
6601 Telegraph Road
This fantastic spray ground is fully accessible and has something for splashers of all ages. The Chesapeake Bay-themed spray ground has fun features that include a spraying osprey nest, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers, and a lighthouse. For a quieter experience, the beach area provides more subdued fountains and a water table. The computerized water maze and dumping crab basket are perfect for older and more energetic children. The rules of this park are a bit more strict: For safety, children (15 years and younger) must wear aquatic shoes or sandals with a manufactured back strap at all times, except for nonstanding, nonmobile, babies; adults can wear flip-flops. Admission is free for families; however there is a daily fee for groups. Check the website for full details.
15. Fairfax Corner Fountain—Fairfax
11900 Palace Way
Located near the Fair Lakes area, the Fairfax Corner fountain is popular with families, especially those with little children. Sprays vary from short to a bit higher, but the space is manageable for little ones and offers some shaded spots for watchful parents. Wednesdays can include a kids' concert or program; details can be found at the venue's website. When it's time to dry off, kids can enjoy the mini train that travels around the complex. Bring some dry clothes and make a day of it shopping or enjoying the many restaurants in the area.
16. Interactive Fountain at Reston Town Center—Reston
Reston Town Square Park, in Reston Town Center, offers two fountains: one to just watch and the other to play in. Mercury Fountain, the big fountain, is strictly for viewing pleasure. But on the west side, at Reston Town Square Park, the interactive fountain lets kids splash around and cool off. It's wise to bring an extra set of dry clothes for the fountains at shopping centers if you want to make a day of it splashing, shopping, and dining.
Who would't enjoy the water jets at the Potomac Yard Interactive Fountain? Photo courtesy Kim Nguyen
17. Potomac Yard Park Interactive Fountain—Alexandria
Last but not least, Potomac Yard Park. Situated between two playgrounds, the splash area is so much more than just a spray ground. Thirty-six water jets shoot H2O between two troughs, which also feature lights for evening playtime. The fountains are programmable, with sensors controlling the height of the water while taking wind speed into consideration. In addition to using fancy technology, the fountain has a water treatment system to keep things clean, and supports the Eco-City Initiative by treating and recycling the water. Summer fun and Mother Earth friendly? Cooling down never sounded so perfect.
Places featured in this article:
Canal Basin at Yards Park
Petworth Spray Park
Canal Park Fountain
Palisades Playground and Splash Park
Joseph Cole Recreation Center
14th and Girard Street Spray Fountains
Interactive Silver Spring Fountain
Fountain on the Square
South Germantown Splash Park and Mini Golf
Virginia Highlands Park
Our Special Harbor Spray Park
Fairfax Corner Fountain
Interactive Fountain at Reston Town Center
Potomac Yard Interactive Fountain