We know what sunshine and 65 degrees means to your sidekick. Time to hit the sprayground! And we’ll let you in on a little secret, too. The South Sound’s cornered the market on cool splash pad accessories. Light shows, museums and ginormous covered playscapes are just a few of the extras you’ll find for your ultra-adventurous kidlet. So before you reach for that plastic kiddie pool, read on for the inside scoop on the South Sound’s best water play areas.
Metro Parks Tacoma
You can’t go wrong with Tacoma’s king of sprayparks, Metro Parks Tacoma. It’s easy to rock a sunny day at any of their ten locations, scattered throughout the city. But here are a few of our favorite spots to help you plan your day:
Part of a 27-acre arboretum, this spray park is smack dab in the middle of downtown. And it’s a great place to start (or finish) a day exploring T-town’s museum district. Start at the splash pad, where you’ll find all kinds of spray-able features, that mirror sculptures more than sprinklers, before hitting the playground or horseshoe pit to change it up. Picnic tables are plentiful and the arboretum trees provide relief from the heat, so you and your sidekick can chow down and recharge. When you’re finally ready to get back to it, hit the trails on the self-guided tree walking tour and keep your eyes peeled for special oaks, hickories, maples and more!
501 South I St.
Tacoma, Wa 98405
photo: Metro Parks Tacoma
This city spray park is tucked into a neighborhood, so you can expect plenty of kiddos to gather there on bright and shiny days. The splash pad here will keep your kids cool, and the playground equipment will dry them out as they climb, swing and hop around on its many features. As for snacks, pull up a spot in the shade of a tree or park it on one of the many picnic benches that dot the play area.
801 N. Mason Ave.
Tacoma, Wa 98406
Parents can watch their tots splash, perched along the seating wall that surrounds the splash pad at Norpoint Park. It’s an easy to place to keep an eye on your Littles, even if they beeline it to the playground. Here they’ll find interesting, artsy equipment to climb, slide, zip and swing on if they need a change of pace. You’ll also find a few picnic tables in the area, so lunch is a must. But shade is a bit limited. A sun tent is the perfect accessory to pack if you’ve got it, but sunscreen works if you don’t.
4818 Nassau Ave. N.E.
Tacoma, Wa 98422
photo: Metro Parks Tacoma
There’s lots to love about this area fave that’s situated on the Sound, and the spray park is just the tip of the iceberg. Families will also find sports courts, a playground and picnic-able spots that make spending the better part of the day down here doable. Then, it’s time to stroll around the park’s lagoon. Its ¾ mile loop is just what the tot lot need before hitting the beach to finish off the day. On the shore, you’ll find all the typical PNW beach finds: plenty of rocks begging to be thrown into the water, seashells and tiny crabs scrambling to get back under overturned rocks. And if the orcas are in the area, this is a good spot to catch sight of them; they often make their way through this passage all summer long.
8425 6th Ave.
Tacoma, Wa 98465
SERA (South End Recreation & Adventure)
You can expect the SERA spray park to be busy on a hot summer day. It’s a South Sound family fave. But it’s not just the sweet water park (the newest in the city) and the engaging playground, that appeals to kids from preschoolers on through to tweens, that’s the big draw here. The STAR Center’s Treetop Play Area is what makes it. This indoor/outdoor covered playscape is the perfect pairing for your busy tot who gives the Energizer bunny a run for his money. It’s a giant play space akin to Playdate SEA, with an outdoor section to boot. And at $7 per kiddo it’s an affordable way to round out your day. Check the hours before you head down and bring socks (for indoor play) and closed toed shoes (for outdoor shoes) along too.
6002 S. Adams St.
Tacoma, Wa 98409
Note: Metro Parks Tacoma’s Spraygrounds are open now through Sept. 4, 2017 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., daily; Sept. 9-24, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., weekends.
photo: Point Ruston
Additional Splash-tastic Spray Parks
Grand Plaza and Children’s Spray Park
If you haven’t had the chance to stroll the shops and eateries at Point Ruston, planning a trip to their Children’s Spray Park is the excuse you need to check out this hip Tacoma strip. The spray park sits on the boardwalk, overlooking the Sound, and the views don’t get better than this. The Olympics and Mt. Rainier make stunning backdrops, as you sit on the steps watching your sidekick frolic in the jumping water that mimics salmon swimming upstream. Our favorite feature here has got to be the LED lights that turn on at dusk and stay lit until 10 p.m. They put on a colorful show in the same jumping water that just entertained your kiddos all afternoon. Plus, Point Ruston will be hosting a family-friendly concert series all summer long. On Saturdays, from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., families can take in the sounds of south end favorites, like Sweet Kiss Momma, Kim Archer Band and Sotaria Gibson. Sounds like a great way to end the day to us!
5005 Ruston Way
Tacoma, Wa 98407
Hours: Noon-10 p.m., daily
photo: Christy H. via yelp
Angle Lake Park
Pack a fishing pole when heading to this artistic spray pad in SeaTac, because the lake it sits next to is the perfect spot to test out your pole. This splash-tastic park is busy on the weekends when Seattle’s much-missed sunshine returns for the summer season, so get there early to find a parking spot and plan to stay for a while. There are plenty of spots for parents to park themselves along the sitting wall that borders the spray pad, and picnic tables are plentiful, too. A two-for-one water destination, Angle Lake is also open for swimming in the shallows off the sandy beach (but no life guards are on duty). So pack up all your beach essentials and make a day of it!
19408 International Blvd.
SeaTac, Wa 98188
Dates & Times: Now through Labor Day; 11 a.m.-8 p.m., daily
photo: Tukwila Parks and Recreation Facebook page
Tukwila Spray Park
Take a quick trip down to the south end of town to find the Tukwila Spray Park. It’s an easy way to spend a half-day, especially for the tot lot. The splash pad is just their speed because staying out of the way of the water cannons and dumping stations that draw the older kids to this hot south end spot is a cinch. If you plan to check it out, bring a blanket for sure, since benches are hard to come by, and some portable shade, if you’ve got it, since the only shade around comes courtesy of Seattle’s ubiquitous cloud cover. Around the other side of the community center, you’ll find a playground and skate park. So if your crew wants a change of scenery it’s just around the corner, literally. And don’t forget, this park is home to the summertime Peanut Butter & Jam Concert Series. The popular noontime concert takes place on Wednesdays in August and features your fave kindie rockers, so you can splash, dance and relax!
12424 42nd Ave. S.
Tukwila, Wa 98168
Dates: Now through Labor Day; 10 a.m.-8 p.m., daily
photo: Les Gove Park Facebook page
Les Gove Rotary Spray Park
Part of the larger Les Gove Park campus in Auburn, this is another day destination splash pad for Seattle families. Arches, overhead fountains and water cannons will keep your half pint busy when the sun is out. And plenty of picnic spots will give her down time when she needs to refuel. When she’s done, it’s time to dry off and explore the nearby, barrier-free Discovery Playground. Its cool design means anyone can play here (regardless of ability), so a lot of the equipment your sidekick can use will be new to her. And we know what that leads to—more play time! If your water baby’s still feeling adventurous after all that, change into street clothes and hit the White River Valley Museum (just across the parking lot), an informative boutique museum that’s just the right speed for Littles and their Bigs. Or check out the gymnasium drop-in program. At just $2 a pop, it’s a great add-on to your south end exploration.
910 9th St. S.E.
Auburn, Wa 98002
Which one of these spray parks or splash pads are you going to put on your summer must-try list? Leave your picks in the comments below.
— Allison Sutcliffe