Spring will soon be in full bloom and summer is around the corner! Get out and soak up that beautiful San Diego sunshine at our favorite local water parks and splash pads. These water wonderlands let little minnows do everything from toddling in puddles to racing down wild water slides! Read on for where to get wet and wild.

Tierrasanta Pool and Play Area

This local pool is a great neighborhood option for families and it has water fun for all ages. Younger kids like to crawl and toddle around in the shallow kiddie area with (less than) a foot deep of water. Bigger kids will love going up and down the tunnel slide. Even more, for those who pass the swim test, the main pool (deep end) slide is a hot spot. You'll also find a changing room and bathrooms here.

Insider's Tip: If you get to the park early, the littles can burn energy at the playground.

Cost: $4/adult; $2/child

11238 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA
Online: sandiego.gov


photo: Wave Waterpark

The Wave Waterpark

Ride the waves at this waterpark in Vista. Whether your little swimmer likes to float along the lazy river, ride the wave machine or plunge down the Riptide Slide, they're sure to have fun. Even more, you'll find a kiddie spray area and a large pool. Also, if you need refuge from the sun, score a cabana day rental. Further, the mermaid class and day camps keep kiddos busy. Also, good to know, you'll find restrooms with showers and a changing area to wash off and get dry before you head home.

Insider's Tip: Check for discount tickets via Groupon and other savings sites.

Season: Reopens May 25, 2019
Cost:  Over 42", $20.95/person; Under 42", $16.95/child; kids 2 and under free;

101 Wave Dr.
Vista, CA
Online: thewavewaterpark.com



If you're planning a trip to LEGOLAND®, a $30 upgrade gets you into the water park too. And we're here to tell you it's well worth it. Toddlers engage with animals squirting water in the Splash Zoo. Or slide down the wide mini-slide in DUPLO® Splash Safari. For bigger kids, in addition to the Joker Soaker Zone, build-your-own-raft lazy river and Orange Rush slide ride, the CHIMA water park is a hit. Mini builders can make a boat and test it down a water track or slide down a crocodile's mouth and cool off in the Lion Wave Temple pool. 

Insider's Tip: If you can swing it, leave a full day for the water park. However, if you do both Parks in one day, bring a change of clothes for the rides.

Cost: admission, $95/adult; $89/child; water park, an additional $30/person
Hours: vary; check the website

Carlsbad, CA
Online: california.legoland.com

Hilton Head County Park

Ahoy Matey! Let your little one splash around this pirate-themed spray park on a hot summer day. The park has a large open space and grass, which is perfect for the crew. Even more, the large playground nearby has tons of swings. Pack a lunch or bring a bbq, you'll find shaded picnic tables and a bbq spot. Also, on the weekend bring money for the ice cream truck.

Insider's Tip: There isn't a lot of shade or trees, so bring your own umbrella if you plan on spending the day here.

Cost: waterpark, $3/child
Hours: daily, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (May-Oct.)

16005 Hilton Head Rd.
El Cajon, CA
Online: sdcounty.ca.gov/hiltonhead

Sunset Park

Drive to this local North County park that's perfect for toddlers and bigger kids alike. There are two playgrounds: one for the littles and one for big kids. Half-pints can run to the spray ground by the covered tot playground to cool off. You'll also find a big field to run around on and restrooms too. Plus there's a super cool snakehead that kids can climb on.

Insider's Tip: Bring a picnic lunch––there are covered picnic tables to have a feast on and a place to dispose of hot coals.

Cost: free
Hours: sunrise to sunset

909 Puesto Del Sol
San Marcos, CA
Online: san-marcos.net


Don their swim togs and lather on the sunscreen for a g'day at this Australian-themed water park. You'll find many attractions for younger kids, from the outdoor water playground and waterfall pool to the lazy river and mini water slide area. Also, littles can wear life jackets and there are plenty of lifeguards. Likewise, the thrill-seeking bigger kids can race each other on the Taumata Racer slide and splash down one of the six waterslides with a 60-foot drop. Big or small there's plenty for everyone to do.

Insider's Tip: If you want to splurge and purchase a cabana it's shaded, private and a good meet-up area.

Season: May 25th to Oct. 28
Cost: $37.99 plus/adult; $32.99 plus/child
Hours: vary; check the website

2052 Entertainment Circle
Chula Vista, CA
Online: aquaticabyseaworld.com

photo: City of San Marcos

Las Posas Pool & Sprayground

Splash it out this summer at the Las Posas Pool and splash ground. Wee ones can play in the funneled water play area without getting too wet. You'll also find swim lessons for kids with friendly lifeguards. Shade is limited so get there early to snag a spot. After water time, kids can let out more energy at the large grassy park next door. 

Insider's Tip: The parking lot fills up quickly, so try to arrive earlier in the day.

Cost: $4/person
Hours: Sat. & Sun. 12:30-4:30 p.m. Pool will be closed: Nov. 12, 22, 23 and Dec. 22 through Jan. 2, 2019

1387 W. Borden Rd.
San Marcos, CA
Online: san-marcos.net/parks-recreation/aquatics

Alga Norte Aquatic Park

Beat the heat at the Alga Norte Park Aquatic Center. Not only is the 25-yard warm instructional pool good for half-pints, there's a splash pad too. You'll find life vests available and lifeguards on duty. Further, there are plenty of changing rooms and warm showers and you can sit in the lounge chairs under the shade while your little one frolics about.

Insider's Tip: In the summer (for an extra $10/person) kids can climb the obstacle courses in the Inflatable Zone. 

Cost: $5/adult; $3/youth; $2/spectator
Hours: see website

6565 Alicante Rd.
Carlsbad, CA
Online: carlsbadca.gov

photo: Great Wolf Lodge

The Great Wolf Lodge

Want to give the kids a break from the sun? Why not head indoors to the warm waters (84 degrees to be exact) of the Great Wolf Lodge for howling-good fun? Let the kids climb the water tree house, Fort Mackenzie. Or the whole fam can laze around on the indoor winding lazy river. For more adventure, try the slides together on River Canyon Run. Even more, for the littles, the Cub Paw Pool is splash-tastic fun.

Insider's Tip: On check-out day you can use the facilities all day. There are locker rooms to change in before heading home.

12681 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA
Online: greatwolf.com/southern-california

photo: Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes Sprayground

Head to Santee Lakes for a picnic lunch, then get the crew ready for splash and play at their small (but big on fun) spray ground. You'll find water shooting up and buckets coming down. Then, stroll the lake, feed the ducks and enjoy sunny San Diego. We recommend swim shoes or flip-flops to protect little feet from the hot ground. If you plan ahead you can stay overnight in a cabin on the lake!

Insider's Tip: If you visit Santee Lakes often, there is an annual parking permit available for $75.

Cost: weekdays, $2/child; weekends, $3/child; parking, weekdays, $4/vehicle; weekends, $6/vehicle
Hours: check website

9310 Fanita Pkwy.
Santee, CA
Online: santeelakes.com

Waterfront Park Downtown

In 2014, San Diego made a splash with their own version of Central Park: The Waterfront Park, located along the Embarcadero in Little Italy has since become a family-favorite destination for locals. The 12-acre park is just a stone's throw from the bay and is decked out with tons of innovative ways to entertain kids including a splash pad and slide––but it's the giant fountain, with its many jets, that is the park's main attraction. The fountain floor is rough and grippy so kids can run and play without moms worrying about them slipping. A safe setting where kiddos can splash and play and you can enjoy the city's waterfront views — we'll happily add that to our list.

Insider's Tip: There’s a giant grassy area right by the fountain where you can lay towels, have picnics and enjoy the waterfront views. Also, if you want to have a birthday party downtown, the picnic area near the children's playground can be reserved.

Cost: free
Jet hours: daily, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

1600 Pacific Hwy.
San Diego, CA
Online: sandiegocounty.gov/parks/Waterfrontpark

photo: Beth Shea

San Diego Zoo Safari Park's Cool Zone

Cool down when you're out at the Safari Park. Little ones (and bigger kids too!) can get super hot walking around all day, so head to the Savannah Cool Zone for some splash time. You'll find water spraying and big, slippery play critters that spout water: a turtle, a lion and a crocodile. On a warm day, your tyke is sure to dry quickly as you continue your adventure, but we suggest going all in and wearing a swim suit for this essential pit stop.

Insider's Tip: In addition to changing into a bathing suit, bring a towel if your kids plan on getting soaked.

Read our guide to exploring the Safari Park here.

Click here to buy your tickets. 

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
Escondido, CA
Online: sdzsafaripark.org

Wet 'n' Wild Waterpark

Spend the day in the warm Cali sun at this Palm Springs waterpark. Entrance is free for tots two and under and while bigger kids (mainly six and up) love the giant slides and big drops, there's also plenty for toddlers to do. You'll find a large shallow end of the wave pool (Riptide Reef), a large multi-level water playground. Also, they can hop on the tube with you on the lazy river (with a life vest on!). There are dive in movies, too, which can make for a fun evening out for the whole crew.

Insider's Tip: If you love the desert and plan going there more than once this summer, then the season pass is totally worth it.

Note: Re-opens March 16, 2019

Cost: $33.99/person; $12 parking
Hours: vary; check website

1500 S. Gene Autry Trail
Palm Springs, CA
Online: wetnwildpalmsprings.com

Mission Bay Park

This expansive park features long stretches of shallow beach next to grassy fields and biking paths. Perfect for athletic families, here you can swim, rollerblade or run. Have an adventurous school-ager at home who loves water sports? Try renting a tandem kayak, stand-up paddleboard or water-trike at one of the many rental facilities around Mission Bay. If your munchkins are more into lounging in the sand and playing in the shallow water, stop by one of the eight park areas designated for swimming. At the end of the day, gather along one of the fire pits by the water’s edge to roast s’mores.

Insider's Tip: Although limited, parking is free if you find the right spot.

2688 E Mission Bay Dr.
San Diego, CA
Online: www.sandiego.gov

––Aimee Della Bitta & Nikki Walsh


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