The original spray park in our area was the highly popular, musically synchronized International Fountain at the Seattle Center. But over the last 10 years, many more have sprung up all over the region. Below are some of our favorites.
When you go, bring a change of clothes, towels, sandals with nonslippery soles for the kids, snacks and a book for yourself – it's usually hard to pull the kids away.
International Fountain (Seattle Center) – Built for the World's Fair in 1962 and refurbished in 1995, the giant and very popular fountain is synchronized to music, has benches, grass and trees around it and sits northwest of the Center House – home to more than 20 take-out restaurants. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Ballard Commons Park (5701 22nd Ave. N.W., Seattle) – Opened with the park in 2005 as part of a neighborhood hub that includes the public library and the neighborhood center, the water feature offers a variety of sprays in both stationary and pop-up mode. Nearby is a skate park where little kids can marvel at big kids doing their tricks. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Water Play Area at Pratt Park (1800 S. Main St., Seattle) – Featuring colorful African art, the water play area includes two water columns, a water cannon and fanciful animal sculptures that spray water. On the site is a bronze plaque with an image of Dr. Lavizzo, first medical director of the nearby Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and a poem by Alice Walker. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Meridian Playground (4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle) – On the west side of the grand old Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, there's a large and quiet oasis of green grass, fruit trees and a delightful playground. The water feature that's part of the playground is deceptively simple – a pump that allows kids to send water into a sandbox – but the combination of water and sand is all it takes to entertain most little kids for hours. Keep your eyes open for the many bunnies that have decided to call the park home. Park hours: 4 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Rotary Centennial Water Playground (Forest Park, 802 E. Mukilteo, Everett) – Opened in 2007 inside Everett's 197-acre, wooded gem of a city park, the water playground includes 16 interactive water features, a fountain shaped like a whale's tale and a smaller water area for toddlers. There are benches and picnic tables nearby. While you're there, don't forget to visit the rabbits, ducks, pigs, goats and ponies at the little barnyard at the Animal Farm inside the park. When the weather turns chilly again, the Forest Park Swim Center has an indoor 25-yard lap pool and dive tank. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Crossroads Water Spray Playground (1600 N.E. 10th St., Bellevue) – Opened in June of last year, the water play area includes a giant orca, a Loch Ness Monster, large climbing rocks and a sinking ship. It is designed for kids of all ages and abilities, with wheelchair accessibility. Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Grass Lawn Park (7031 148 Ave. N.E, Redmond) – The splash pad and fountains at this park are right next to a creative new playground with a giant merry-go-round and giant swings. The kids can get wet and then catch a breeze. An added bonus, there are lots of large shady trees to lounge under. Hours: 10 a.m. to dusk.
Rotary Spray Park at Les Gove Park (11th Street S.E. and Auburn Way South, Auburn) – The Auburn Rotary Club and City of Auburn are justifiably proud that they converted an old wading pool into this state-of-the-art water wonderland. Opened in 2006, there are water cannons, a spraying arch, ground-level water jets that spring out of colorful circles and overhead pipes in weird shapes, including Silly Shower, Water Worm and Daddy Long Leg. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jefferson Park, South Park, Wapato Hills Park, McKinley Playfield (Tacoma Metro Parks) – All four of these Tacoma spray parks promise a fun way to cool off on a hot summer day. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For directions and features, visit www.metroparkstacoma.org.