There are plenty of ways to cool off in the summer. You can hit the pool, grab an ice cream, go creek stomping…but one of our favorites is visiting the area splash pads and water fountains for fun and (mostly) free summer thrills. From all-ages fun at Yards Park to sensory-friendly splashing at Special Harbor Park, here are the best splash pads and spray parks to beat the summer heat in the DMV.
Free Fun in Washington, DC
Georgetown Waterfront Park
The water arcs above little ones’ heads, drenching the 50-foot space and anyone in it at the Georgetown Waterfront. Pass the time on a nearby bench, spread out a picnic blanket on the grass or join your kids as they play. All the while, enjoy views of water activities and boats on the Potomac or dry off on the River Steps with a perfect view.
Insider tip: Spend the afternoon on the waterfront and have lunch (or a snack) at center-of-the-action Nick’s Riverside Grill.
Where: Georgetown Waterfront Park, Wisconsin Ave. & K St. NW
7th St. Park and Fountain at The Wharf
If you want to sit and enjoy a view while your kids splash and play, head to The Wharf. This splash pad sits waterside so you (and your wee one) can watch the boats glide in and out of the harbor while you cool off. This splash park has water jets with changing color lights (ooohhh) and plastic ride on rocking horses (ahhhh). Restaurants, shops and, yes!, ice cream are all just steps away.
Where: The Wharf, 760 Maine Ave SW
Fun, free and fantastically beautiful, that’s what we say about this 5.5 acre treasure tucked along the banks of the Anacostia river in DC’s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Yards Park pulls out all the stops for a family-friendly summer outing with plenty of space to spread out, peaceful garden spaces, incredible views, and, oh yes, there’s water to play in! A fountain pours into a large canal where kids are free to splash and plunge. At 11 inches deep, the water is just high enough to keep kids safe and help parents stay relatively dry. A few blocks down from the popular Yards Park fountain, two more fountains dances at Canal Park on the Capital Riverfront for more splashing and water stompoing.
Insider tip: though there are some shaded areas with benches, the canal is open and sunny so bring a hat and extra sunscreen.
Where: Yards Park, 355 Water St. SE
The only thing better than swaying palm trees are ones that dump (banana!) buckets of water! This island-themed spray pad is part of the community pool making Langdon Park one of the few places in the district where you can splash and take a pool dip in the same location.
Insider tip: Langdon Park is one of 23 splash pads operated by DPR. For more information about DCR splash pads in each of the District’s wards, go here.
Where: Langdon Park, 2860 Mills Ave. NE
Petworth Spray Park
The Petworth Spray Park is a popular spot in DC’s Petworth neighborhood. A nice-sized concrete space (renovated spring 2021) is jam-packed with a combo of small and large fountains that manage to drench you from both above and below. The kids can’t seem to get enough, and parents can join in or sit back and listen to the laughter. Definitely think about bringing an umbrella, however, because shade is hard to come by here.
Where: 801 Taylor St. NW, Petworth
Free Splash Pads & Parks in the ‘Burbs
Fountains at The Plaza
Just a 35 minute drive from downtown DC, the Fountains at The Plaza are THE place to be on Mondays during summer months. That’s when Rocknoceros, the beloved DMV kid-friendly band, hits the stage at 11 a.m. Bonus: these performances are free! There is plenty of seating and picnic tables surrounding this splash pad. And for those looking for something to do post-splash, the plaza has a number of interactive, high-tech games. Need more reasons to make the trip to One Loudoun? The Yard Milkshake Bar should be opening any day now!
Where: One Loudoun, 20626 Easthampton Plaza, Ashburn, VA
Downtown Silver Spring Fountain
This fountain is located amid the bustle of Silver Spring’s popular downtown plaza. Its beautiful mosaic basin beacons little ones to spin through randomly spouting water jets. Surrounded by shops, restaurants and theaters, this is the place to make it an all-day affair.
Where: 916 Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring, MD
Our Special Harbor Spray Park
This spacious sprayground will feel like a staycation for your little one. The fully accessible complex features Chesapeake Bay-themed attractions including a spraying osprey nest, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers and a lighthouse. For those needed a more sensory-friendly experience, head to the beach area which is often quieter and features softer bubblers and interactive water tables.
Where: 6601 Telegraph Rd., Franconia, VA
Virginia Highlands Park
Many say this addition to Arlington County's string of splash zones (that includes Hayes Park, Drew Park, and Lyon Village Park) is the best, featuring water cannons, mini-waterfalls, bucket dumps and more. And with a water recirculation system in place that saves 82,000 gallons of water a month, it's also eco-friendly.
Where: Virginia Highlands Park, 1600 South Hayes St., Arlington, VA
Pay to Play Parks Worth the Expense
Ocean Dunes Waterpark
Want to try a water version of Disney World’s Space Mountain? You can do it at Ocean Dunes Waterpark, a feature of Arlington’s Upton Hill Regional Park, where you can slip down a 170-foot closed slide in complete darkness! Upton offers a nice mix of pristine wooded parkland and wild water fun, plus mini-golf and batting cages. Mix in a little civil war history to make this outing fun and educational!
Editor's Note: Kids 2 & under are free.
Cost: $8.50-10.50 (depending on height); $6.25/after 4 p.m.
Where: Ocean Dunes Waterpark, 6060 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA
Great Waves Cameron Run Park
If you’re looking to entertain both older kids and tiny tots, this might be the answer. Let the older kids loose to zip down the speed slides or body surf in the massive wave pool, while you relax with your toddler at Minnow Bay. Here you’ll find a shallow play pool, eight bubblers, a light cascading waterfall and a giant splash pad with a variety of colorful sprayers. There’s also flowing water, dumping bowls, twisting pipes and water tables. Whatever your water speed, there’s something here for everyone. It’s a win/win.
Where: Great Waves Cameron Run Park, 4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, VA
Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole
This cool spot has more than an acre of slides, flumes, sprays, showers, floatables, and interactive play features, circled by a river with a 2.5 mile per hour current that gently nudges tubes along. It’s also a short drive to a mini-golf course called Woody’s.
Where: Water Mine Family Swimmin' Hole, 1400 Lake Fairfax Dr., Reston, VA
South Germantown Splash Ground
On summer’s hottest days when you just wish someone would dump a bucket of cold water onto your head, try the Splash Ground at South Germantown Recreational Park. The large outdoor spray ground boasts a 280-jet water maze, mist-spraying faux rock formations; a waterfall-enclosed cave; and, yes, buckets brimming with cold water that randomly dump. You’ll also find smaller fountains for the less enthusiastic kiddos. There’s also tables with umbrellas for shade and a mini-golf area.
Insider's Tip: Grandparents get in free on Mondays.
Where: South Germantown Splash Ground, 18056 Central Park Circle, Boyds, ME
—Meghan Yudes Meyers and Ayren Jackson-Cannady