The summer weather is finally here! I swear we went from 30 degree days to 90 degree days overnight. One of our favorite ways to spend the warm days is by visiting splash pads in DC. Not only is it a lot of fun for the whole family, but it’s also free! We have so many in Northern Virginia and DC so I thought I would round up a few of our favorites. This post is all about the 7 best splash pads in DC and Northern Virginia!
Top seven splash pads in DC and Northern Virginia:
Located in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood of South East Washington, DC. This might be my favorite of the splash pads in DC. It’s a bit of a drive for us, but you can easily spend the day there. It is a newly renovated area full of shops along the Anacostia River. You can get lunch at one of the fast-casual restaurants or bring a picnic. It’s very close to Nationals Park so it is great before or after a game.
There are two sections to the Yard’s Park. On the street level, there is a traditional splash pad with shooting fountains and a little section for younger kids with small jets of water. There is a second level that has a huge wading pool and waterfall called the Canal Basin and Waterwall. Although it is right up against the Anacostia, the water is not actually from the river (which is a VERY good thing) and is chlorinated DC City Water that goes through the fountain’s pump and filtration system (pH levels are monitored daily).
Along the lower level is The Great Lawn which is a large, open green space. There are plenty of shade trees and benches. It leads to the Riverwalk Trail Bridge (which is really fun to walk across), Diamond Teague Park, and Nationals Park.
There are always lots of things going on in The Yards Park and they even have free fitness classes so you will want to check out the events calendar before you go. The splash pad area is always open unless there are dangerous weather conditions. We usually drive and park, it’s reasonably priced and not difficult to navigate, but it’s also about five blocks from a metro so doable that way as well.
We used to live in South West DC a few years ago and I can’t believe the transformation it has undertaken in the few years since we left. The wharf area is completely different and is now a great place to visit. This is another place you could spend half a day to a day.
We typically start at the 7th Street Park where there is a shooting fountain. It’s a little different from the traditional ones that shoot straight up. This fountain shoots from two sides at different intervals. There are fun rocking horses in the fountain that Aiden loves to hop on and ride.
Once we are done with the fountains we usually change Aiden and walk to the swings along the Potomac River and head to the oversized games. They always have special events going on and often have crafts, programming, and performances for the whole family. There are also entertainment cruises and sailing/kayaking options, though we haven’t done any of those with Aiden.
The Georgetown Waterfront Park is simple but Aiden always has so much fun. It is along the Potomac River and there are always lots of airplanes and helicopters flying over which Aiden loves to see. The fountain is a long tunnel of shooting jets. There is lots of space to run around.
Georgetown is another great place to spend the day. There are many parks, shops, and restaurants. It is not really metro accessible so you have to drive but there is street parking and many parking garages. The biggest headache is navigating through tourists — there are usually a lot of people around.
This is our go-to local fountain. It’s the closest to us and is super low stress. It’s easy to come to if we are trying to kill a couple of hours of time. It is also one I am willing to visit on the weekends when splash pads are busiest. It is your typical fountain with water shooting straight up at different intervals. The water pressure is not too intense which is what I like most about it. There is a little park attached which is good for running around after playing in the fountains.
There are many shops and restaurants in Reston Town Center so sometimes we will come for lunch. We almost always stop at Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream on the way home. Parking is easy, we usually get a spot on the street along the park. There are also many parking garages.
My only complaint is that it is not always on. In fact, the hours are a little weird so I definitely recommend checking out the website to confirm the fountain is up and running.
This is a nice little fountain to visit in Loudoun County. We will come here sometimes if we want a little break from the Reston fountain (or if it isn’t open). I love that there is a lot of open table seating with umbrellas around the fountain. There are lots of shops around to grab a coffee or a snack.
This is a new one that we found this year and it is so much fun. It’s run through Fairfax County Parks and Recreation. I look at it as a free water park. There are so many fun water features and fountains. There are even water tables for the little kids.
Once you are done with the splash pad portion you can go out and play on one of the big playgrounds (be careful they get hot in the sun!) or go on the carousel.
Plan to come early on the weekends because it fills up quick and they do cap the attendance. We have had to wait in line but luckily it usually goes pretty quick. Keep in mind you cannot bring food into the splash pad and once you leave you may have to wait in line to come back in.
Lake Anne has two fountain areas. There is a nice park and small fountain splash pad at the Lake Anne Recreational Area. It works all the time and works by a remote sensor. We usually start off here and then walk over to Lake Anne Plaza. In Lake Anne Plaza there is an actual fountain where you will find kids wading around. We like to wade in the fountain and then walk along the dock and grab a beer at Lake Anne Brewhouse.
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General Tips for Visiting Splash Pads in DC:
- Although shoes are not required at all the splash pads listed above it is a good idea to have a good pair of water shoes. We love these and these because they are mostly closed toed but can get wet so they are great for impromptu adventures or places that have wet and dry activities.
- You will want to pack your bag for splash pad adventures. You will need a rash guard, sunscreen, towel, and extra pair of clothes. We found some lightweight towels in the dollar section of Target that are perfect for Splash Pad adventures. If you have a sand bucket or rubber ducks consider bringing them because if other kids have them your little one will most likely want to play with one too.
- Bring snacks (at a minimum). We usually pack a bunch of snacks, water, and a couple of peanut butter sandwiches just in case.
- Check the rules of the splash pad and hours before you go and be aware of any inclement weather that might be on its way. You don’t want to go someplace far away if a storm comes through.
- The best time to visit is on weekdays and the earlier the better, especially if you plan to go on a weekend.
- Plan to get wet. Dan always wears board shorts (we love these because they aren’t super obviously board shorts) and I bring things I am OK with getting wet. We both always bring a change of clothes!
Here is a highlight video of all the fun we’ve been having!
Have you visited any of these splash pads in DC and Northern Virginia or do you have any fun splash pads in your area? I would love to hear about them in the comments!
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