Parenting  |  Things to Do

7 Best Free Spraygrounds and Splash Pads To Keep Your Kids Cool All Summer Long

Water, water, everywhere.

Canal Basin water feature at Yards Park. Photo courtesy of Capitol Riverfront BID.
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Sometimes your kids need some serious water play, but you don’t have the time for a trip to the pool or beach. These seven spraygrounds and splash pads will keep children wet and amused for as long as your schedule permits.

Canal Basin at Yards Park

Just under a foot deep, the spacious basin is a safe depth for little ones and shallow enough for parents who want to wade in without getting totally soaked. If you do want to get doused, there is a waterwall and a set of fountains–which double as a light show when it gets darker–at one end. Bonus: it’s just around the corner from Ice Cream Jubilee, so you can stop in afterward for a cone. Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day 7 AM-10 PM.

355 Water St., SE


Turkey Thicket Playground

The train-shaped jungle gym and farmers market play area are undeniably awesome, but the splash pad steals the show. It’s decorated with a lighthouse and a boat, so your little one can pretend to be captain or one of the dolphins following the ship. To add further appeal, there’s a shaded picnic area nearby and a bathroom inside the rec center. Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day 10 AM-7 PM.

1100 Michigan Ave., NE


Georgetown Waterfront Park

Perched on the Potomac, this epic fountain is sure to delight. Your tot can run under arcs of water while you stay on dry ground. When you’re done, you can head to Ladurée for macarons or Baked & Wired for cupcakes, because you all deserve a treat. Open 24 hours.

Corner of Wisconsin Ave. and K St. NW


Virginia Highlands Park

There’s a Seussian quality to this fanciful and colorful sprayground. Flowers are fountains, mushrooms send up geysers, and twisty trees dump buckets of water. Keep an eye out for the water cannons, which spray without warning. Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day 10 AM-8 PM.

1600 South Hayes St., Arlington


Interactive Fountain in Downtown Silver Spring

Set in the center of the plaza, the mosaic-patterned fountain is a favorite gathering place for families. While one parent browses the farmers market on Saturday mornings or grabs a coffee nearby, the other can oversee some watery high jinks. The geysers shoot up to impressive heights (well, impressive to someone three feet tall), so expect to stay a while. Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day 10 AM-8 PM.

916 Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring


Drew Park

Wanna get misted? Run through the rings for a quick cool down. Plus, there are jets of shooting out of the ground and the low wall running along one side. If that’s not enough for your child, let them go wild on the park’s feature-packed playground. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day; Monday and Thursday 2-8 PM; Wednesday and Friday 10 AM-3 PM; Saturday and Sunday 12-8 PM; closed Tuesday.

3514 22nd St. S., Arlington


Our Special Harbor Spray Park

The Chesapeake Bay comes alive in this imaginative and interactive spray park. There’s a spraying osprey nest, boats to board and a Chessie the sea serpent fountain. Head’s up: children aged 15 years and younger must wear aquatic shoes or sandals with an enclosed heel or strap-on back, while adults can get away with flip-flops and immobile babies are exempt entirely. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 11 AM-7 PM; Wednesday 11 AM-5 PM; Saturday, Sunday, and holidays 9:30 AM-7 PM.

6601 Telegraph Rd., Alexandria


Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.