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Where to Cool Off: Seattle’s Best Splash Spots, Beaches & Wading Pools

Seattle summers are fickle. One day it’s overcast and cool, and the next we’re baking in our steamy, un-air-conditioned homes and apartments. But once that sun does start shining, it’s time to get outside and get serious about celebrating summer. When you tire of turning the hose on the kids in the front yard (no, sadly… it’s not enough to revive that brown, crunchy grass), grab your suits and head out to one of the city’s many water play areas to splash and play in style!

lincoln-park-wading-pool

Splash Pads & Spray Parks

With longer hours than wading pools and the perk of being open rain or shine (spray parks only close in the case of thunder and lightening), your summer fun with the kids doesn’t have to wait! All Seattle spray parks and splash pads (except Highland Park, opening in late June) are open as of May 25 from 11:00 am – 8:00 pm.

For an urban splash experience, try out the not-too-big splash pad at the Ballard Commons Park, complete with enormous spraying shells. It’s also right across from the library so you can have retreat to a cool book-filled corner if it gets a little too hot.

Ballard Commons Park
5701 22nd Avenue Northwest
Seattle, Wa 98107
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

If you need a park with a view, hit up the splash park at Beacon Mountain. Only a year old, this jewel of Beacon Hill is perfect for smaller tots and has lots of space for parents to soak up some rays and catch vistas of downtown and the Olympic Mountains.

Beacon Mountain Splash Park

Beacon Mountain in Jefferson Park
3801 Beacon Avenue South
Seattle, Wa 98108
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

After closing its wading pool in 2008, this lovely park that is nestled between West Seattle and Burien, will finally be reopening later this summer with a new and vastly improved spray park in lieu of its old wading pool. If your kids stop hopping through the water spouts long enough, they’ll note the fun (and scientifically accurate) planetary theme. (Check online for opening date info. Construction is almost complete!).

Highland Park
1100 SW Cloverdale Street
Seattle, Wa 98106
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: TBD June date – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Perhaps the most famous, and certainly the largest, fountain in Seattle, the International Fountain in the heart of Seattle Center (right next to Key Arena) is a show stopper for sure. Built in 1961 for the World’s Fair, the fountain has choreographed musical numbers with jumping jets of water that surprise even the most nimble of water-lovers. Maybe this will be the summer when your kiddos (and you?) finally touch the silver dome in the center of the fountain without getting a face-full of water? For a quieter fountain experience nearby, also try out the Fountain of Creation just northeast of the International Fountain in Seattle Center.

International Fountain Seattle

International Foundation at Seattle Center
12718 1st Avenue NE
Seattle, Wa 98125
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

As one of the four sparkling new splash pads in Seattle, this is an oasis of fun in the middle of south Seattle. The fountain-filled water area is located near playground at the north end of the park, so if the kids get tired of splashing, they can always hit the swings for a change of pace.

Georgetown Spray Park
750 S Homer Street
Seattle, Wa 98108
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Right on the water in the heart of South Lake Union is a lovely little splash pad that is the perfect refresher after a stroll downtown or lunch at one of the many new restaurants in this revitalized part of town. You can also cruise the nearby Museum of History and Industry or take an introductory sail at the Center for Wooden Boats. Or, just splash around, enjoy the fountains, the views of the Space Needle and the sea planes flying over head.

lake union spray park

Lake Union Spray Park
860 Terry Avenue North
Seattle, Wa 98109
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Miller Playfield hosts a cozy fountain with high spouts for brave kids and ground level sprayers for the more cautious.

Miller Park
330 19th Avenue East
Seattle, Wa 98112
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

splash pad

If you’re looking for a full day of summer fun, try out the North Acres Park between I-5 and Haller Lake. The playground was fully renovated in 2012 and the wooded area has gentle walking paths (perhaps the perfect spot for a game of water balloon tag?). And if Fido needs some exercise as well, bring him along; there’s an off-leash dog park. The spray park is a labyrinth, which adds new meaning to getting lost in the lazy days of summer.

North Acres Park
12718 1st Avenue Northeast
Seattle, Wa 98125
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Take a trip to the Central District for your best bet on a park that isn’t too crowded but still tons of fun. Pratt Park has a spray area with whimsical animal-shaped sprayers, lots of sun, and play equipment nearby.

child with water sprayer

Pratt Park
1800 South Main Street
Seattle, Wa 98108
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: May 25 – Sept 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Wading Pools

Once the mercury hits 70 degrees, the floodgates open and wading pools in almost every Seattle neighborhood are open for business. If you want to see your kiddos wade and wallow around like lazy hippos (or, more likely… hyperactive hippos), check out these favorite wading pools.

Note: A few old standbys are closed this season, so be sure to check the Seattle Parks and Recreation website for a complete list and to find the wading pool closest to you. If the weather is questionable, call the Wading Pool Hotline (206-684-7796); the hotline is updated at 9:30 am daily with open and closure information.

Volunteer Park wading pool

Located on the north side of Green Lake, this is the largest of Seattle’s wading pools, and probably the most popular. Cool your heels here after a spin around the lake, and you’ll be an instant part of the very large fan club for this summer time hot spot.

Green Lake Wading Pool
7201 E Greenlake Drive North
Seattle, Wa 98115
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily, June 22 – September 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Although it’s the smallest of the “Big Three” wading pools, the prime location of Lincoln Park along the lovely beaches of West Seattle make it a one of the most beautiful spots around for a quick dip. If you’re looking for an late afternoon/evening wade, this is your wading pool as it catches lots of late afternoon sunshine. And if you need total immersion, Colman Pool is right down the hill.

Lincoln Park wading pool

Lincoln Park Wading Pool
8011 Fauntleroy Way SW
Seattle, Wa 98136
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily, June 22 – September 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Although not technically one of the “Big Three” wading pools, it is one of the few other wading pools to be open daily throughout the summer. Magnuson is in the second largest park in Seattle and therefore boasts tons of other stuff to do (beaches, playground, butterfly garden, off-leash dog park) in addition to having a super-sweet wading pool.

Magnuson Park Wading Pool
7400 Sand Point Way Northeast
Seattle, Wa 98115
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily, June 22 – August 25, 2013
Time: 12:00 pm – 6:30 pm

This historic grassy park in Capital Hill is a bastion of green space in the city. In fact, if it weren’t for the amazing views of downtown and the Space Needle, this pastoral spot might have you forgetting you were in the city at all. So bring a picnic and plan on staying a while, even after you’ve had your fill with sploshing through the nice big wading pool.

Volunteer Park Wading Pool
1247 15th Avenue East
Seattle, Wa 98112
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily, June 22 – September 2, 2013
Time: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Super centrally located (just blocks from Molly Moons ice cream and Fainting Goat Gelato if you need a sweet summer treat), Wallingford’s wading pool is that “just right” size for a mid-week romp in the water. The pool is right next to the playground which has both a sandbox and “easy” slide area for tiny tots and a great climbing area and bigger slides for more advanced adventurers.

wallingford wading pool

Wallingford Park
4219 Wallingford Avenue North
Seattle, Wa 98103
Online: seattle.gov/parks/wadingpools_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, June 26 – August 16, 2013
Time: 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Beaches

One of the best parts of living in Seattle is that there is no shortage of family-friendly beaches. Some are great for sand castles, while others have interesting critters galore awaiting you under every rock. So grab your buckets and shovels and get to the beach!

Note: The City of Seattle has nine life-guarded beaches during the summer and offers free swim lessons from 12:15 pm – 12:45 pm daily for kids over 6.

Alki Beach volleyball

Head to Alki if you’re looking for a beach walk that just keeps going and going and going (for example, if a certain small someone needs to take a stroller nap and you’d like your walk to last more than 10 minutes). With 2.5 miles of paved sidewalks right along the beach, you’re all set. And, if you’re up for some beach volleyball, you can usually find that too!

Alki Beach
1702 Alki Avenue Southwest
Seattle, Wa 98116
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily (no lifeguard on duty)
Time: 4:00 am – 11:30 pm

At Discover Park, the largest park in the city, you have to hoof it to get to the beach if you park at the Visitor’s Center or other lots up on the bluff (you can get a beach parking permit at the Environmental Learning Center if you have kids under 8 or seniors in your crew), but the wooded walk (not stroller-friendly) is lovely and drops you off in a whole new world of beach-y wonder. Lots of driftwood for fort-making and the perfect spot for kite flying.

Discovery Park

Discovery Park
3801 Discovery Park Boulevard
Seattle, Wa 98199
Online: seattle.gov/parks/environment/discovery.htm

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily (no lifeguard on duty)
Time: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm

On a sunny day in Seattle, everyone seems to have the same idea: Get to Golden Gardens. Immediately. This park has a fabulous newly updated kids play area behind the community building, but even more alluring is the sandy beaches with gently lapping waves and fire pits for epic beach fires. Get here early to reserve a picnic spot. It is truly packed on sunny days, and with good reason.

Golden Gardens Park
8498 Seaview Place Northwest
Seattle, Wa 98117
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily (no lifeguard on duty)
Time: 6:00 am – 11:30 pm

Golden Gardens

If you like to dig in the sand while splashing, head down to Madrona Beach, just south of Leschi, where kids can turn on a spigot to fill a tile-lined river bed running through the beach into Lake Washington. Build dams, reservoirs, or a moat for your sand castle and then take a dip in the lake.

Madrona Park Beach
853 Lake Washington Boulevard
Seattle, Wa 98114
Online: seattle.gov/parks/park_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily (Lifeguard on duty June 22 – August 25, 2013)
Time: Weekdays, 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Weekends, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Although small in comparison to some of the other parks and beaches listed here, this spot in south Seattle is perfect for your little sun-bunnies. There’s a diving board for those who just have to cannon ball, and calmer waters for ones who want to wade. All this, and easy parking right next to the beach as well as a playground for more serious running around.

Mount Baker Beach
2521 Lake Park Drive South
Seattle, WA 98144
Online: seattle.gov/parks/beach_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily (Lifeguard on duty June 22 – September 2, 2013)
Time: Weekdays, 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Weekends, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Though a bit of a drive from the city center, Seward Park offers some of the best (and warmest) swimming in Seattle. Also, in case you stay longer than planned and your littles are in need of a nosh, there’s a snack bar close by for ice cream and hot dogs.

Seward Park

Seward Park
853 Lake Washington Boulevard
Seattle, Wa 98114
Online: seattle.gov/parks/beach_detail

Cost: Free
Dates: Daily (Lifeguard on duty June 22 – September 2, 2013)
Time: Weekdays, 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Weekends, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

A few notes in case your little ones happen to think the pools and splash pads are their very own drinking fountains:

Spray parks are chemically treated and filtered much like a swimming pool (water is re-circulated, which makes them a “greener” choice than wading pools), and will automatically shut off and rebalance themselves back public health standards. Bill Dougherty of Seattle Parks and Recreation would like remind us all, “not to wear your street clothes in the spray park, and to please not use it as a shower.” ‘Nuf said, Bill!

Wading pools are filled and drained daily; they are chemically treated, but not filtered throughout the day. They are hand-checked hourly to make sure the water meets health code, but there’s a whole lotta bodies in those pools, so best not to drink the water there either.

What’s your favorite spot to splish and splash when the sun shines on Seattle summer days? Let us know in the comments section below.

–Katie Gruver

Photo credit: Wendi Dunlap/Beacon Hill BlogEric Peacock via Flickr, Jeffrey Tripp via Flickr, Seth Stoll via Flickr, Seattle Municipal Archives, My Wallingford BlogWilliam Clifford via Flickr, Pfly, and Michelle Riggen-Ransom via Flickr

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