Fall is near, but the daytime temps continue to soar. Beat the heat at a local water park or splash pad where your kids can stay cool. From wave machines and wild water slides for big kids to spray zones complete with dunking buckets and giant gushers that will make little ones giggle, scroll down for our list of 18 spots to get delightfully drenched!

photo: City of Poway

Poway Community Swim Center

This Poway splash pad runs during open swim and family swim hours.

Family Swim mornings at the pool are on weekends (April – Oct.) from 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. It’s really a great deal - $11 Family (Resident)/ $15 Family (Non-Resident) and includes admission for 2 adults and 2 kids. The price also includes daily admission to the Swim Center from 1-5 p.m. Families are welcome to bring fins, masks, snorkels, rafts and other swim toys to the pool to use during Family Swim time.

Insider's Tip: There's not a lot of shade, so bring hats and extra sunscreen.

Admission prices are: Adults/$4 resident/$8 Non-Resident; Kids (1-17): $3 Resident/$6 Non-Resident; Senior (55+)/ $3 Resident/$6 Non-Resident

13094 Civic Center Dr.
Poway, CA 92064
Online: poway.org

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Waterfront Park Downtown

San Diego has its own version of Central Park: The Waterfront Park, located along the Embarcadero in Little Italy. It has 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: Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Mon., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

1600 Pacific Hwy.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: sandiegocounty.gov/parks/Waterfrontpark

Otay Ranch Town Center

Splish-splash outside the food court at this upscale mall in Chula Vista. Grab a bite from the food court (there are plenty of options!). You can sit on the grass to eat (bring a blanket or towel), then it's time to cool off at the splash pad. Even more, make time to do a little shopping before the festivities.

2015 Birch Rd.
Chula Vista, CA 91915
Online: otayranchtowncenter.com

Sweetwater Summit Splashpad

Whether your little splasher likes to get totally drenched by a bucket of water or just play in the spray zone, the Sweetwater Summit County Park's splash pad is tons of fun. For just three bucks kids can cool off in the summer fun. Even more, there's a campground, so if you plan ahead you can make a night of s'more activities!

Cost: splash pad, $3/person; parking, $3/car

3219 Summit Meadow Rd.
Bonita, CA 91902
Online: sdparks.org/content/sdparks/SweetwaterSummit

Horton Plaza Park

All hands in the water spray at these interactive pop jets in Horton Plaza park. Grab a cup of coffee or have lunch at this nice urban retreat. What's more, you can come back to watch a summer movie like Ralph Breaks the Internet.

900 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: hortonplazapark.com

Del Mar Highlands Town Center Fountain

Little guppies can splash about this fountain found on the lower level at Del Mar Highlands Town Center. Grab a cup of coffee or delicious frozen yogurt (nearby!) and sit down at the nearby seating to enjoy the kid fun! Even more, when done you can check out the just-opened One Paseo across the street with cute shops and good eats.

12925 El Camino Real
Del Mar, CA 92130
858-793-5757
Online: delmarhighlandstowncenter.com

Mountain Hawk Park

This is a hidden gem that's fun for younger kids. With both a playground and splash pad (for free!) your littles will have a blast. Also, there are plenty of hiking trails, a beautiful view and a gazebo to host a picnic. A great find if you're looking for something new!

1475 Lake Hawk Dr.
Chula Vista, CA 91915
Online: chulavistaca.gov/mountain-hawk-park

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 92009
760-268-4777
Online: carlsbadca.gov

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 (ages 16 and up); $2/child

11238 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92124
858-636-4837
Online: sandiego.gov

photo: Wave Waterpark

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.

Cost:  Over 42", $20.95/person; Under 42", $16.95/child; kids 2 and under free;

101 Wave Dr.
Vista, CA 92083
760-940-9283
Online: thewavewaterpark.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/day; $30/season

16005 Hilton Head Rd.
El Cajon, CA 92019
Online: sdcounty.ca.gov/hiltonhead

photo: LEGOLAND®

LEGOLAND®

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 towels and a change of clothes for the rides.

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

One LEGOLAND Dr.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
760-918-5346
Online: california.legoland.com

Sunset Park

Drive to this local North County park that's perfect for toddlers and big 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 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 92078
760-744-9000
Online: san-marcos.net

photo: City of San Marcos

Las Posas Pool

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.

1387 W. Borden Rd.
San Marcos, CA 92019
Online: san-marcos.net/parks-recreation/aquatics

photo: Great Wolf Lodge

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.

Good to know! Great Wolf Lodge now offers day passes––so you can enjoy the waterpark without spending the night!

12681 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
888-926-9653
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 92071
Online: santeelakes.com

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 92027
760-747-8702
Online: sdzsafaripark.org

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 92109
Online: www.sandiego.gov

 

––Aimee Della Bitta & Nikki Walsh

featured photo: Brian Smith via flickr

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