Wee Essentials: Great Spraygrounds, Splash Pads and Other Philly Parks Where You Can Get Wet

Who needs the pool when there so many other city options for FREE water fun? Read more

spraygrounds and splash pads, philadelphia

It’s that time of year, y’all: Long, hot summer days, and kids who are dying to be outside for every single moment of them. Several Wee readers have directed questions to us about our city’s spraygrounds, sprinklers and splash pads, so we decided to update the giant list of water fun that we created last year. Here’s is the 2016 Wee list of some of the greatest places to get an in on some FREE water action near you (without the hassle of a pool outing).

… Oh, but first: The official, city-listed hours for most city-run spraygrounds are generally 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends, “with varying schedules” — with definite emphasis on the “varying schedules” part. Hours of operation have been known to be sporadic, and do vary a lot park to park — especially in these weeks before July. So here, where we could, we’ve provided the latest known hours of operation, though some sprinklers are run simply by community volunteers, and don’t necessarily have set schedules. Alternately, some of the rec centers are still working on staffing issues, and can’t make promises about hours this early in the season. (In short? A quick call to the park or park rec center before you go might keep things from getting tantrum-y.) Also, it’s very helpful to follow your local park or parks on Facebook: Information tends to be updated pretty regularly there.

Anyway. Without further ado …

If you’re near: Art Museum 
Check out:
Sister Cities, 18th and the Parkway.
The water: Our family is sort of obsessed with this place because in addition to the active, cooling water jets that are embedded in the bluestone plaza, there’s also magical, shaded little wading/boat pond, and kids can splash and play, as well as float boats and other toys that you borrow from the park or bring from home. Also: The Logan Square cafe on-site sells ice cream, snacks, smoothies, sandwiches and more … plus, there’s a Rita’s stand most days on the plaza.
The hours: The boat pond is generally open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; the jets generally tend to run at the same hours, says the C.C.D. All is weather-permitting.

If you’re near: Fairmount
Check out Clemente Park and Playground, at 18th and Wallace
The water: There’s an awesome sprinkler system and ground jets, plus benches encircling the area, so it’s easy to watch the kids play. There’s also nearby Francisville Park (18th and Folsom), which also has a really great playground and a giant flower sprinkler. (Um, and a pool.)
The hours: Clemente — which starts running water once the schools are out (this year, that’s Wednesday, June 22) — reports that its regular hours for water play are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; they will have weekend hours, but aren’t 100 percent sure what they will be yet. (Last year they were noon to 5 p.m.) Your best bet is to call on a weekend before you go. The Francisville sprinkler isn’t on yet, but will be turned on June 23, once the pool opens for the season; the sprinkler usually runs from about 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with varying hours on Saturdays.

If you’re near: Queen Village
Check out: Shot Tower
The water: Shot Tower’s beautifully kept little sprayground with lots of ground fountains and a brightly colored rubberized ground.
The hours: The regular weekday hours are about 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. On weekends, the water is often on during the same hours, but it’s not a guarantee: The Friends of Shot Tower run the sprayground on weekends, and water is contingent on someone present to turn it on.

If you’re near: South Philly
Check out:
 Smith Playground at 24th and Snyder (Note: Not Smith Memorial Playground — that’s a different place!)
The water: Your classic splash pad — big, open, lots of water sprayers. Lots of grassy land outside the pad area for running around on, too.
The hours: No luck getting official confirmation yet this year for the season’s hours, but we can say that last year, the sprayground ran from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 5 p.m. no weekends, starting on July 1. (Before July 1, it ran sporadically between 3 and 7 p.m.)

If you’re near: Wash West
Check out: Seger Park at 10th and Lombard
The water: It’s a simple sprinkler system, but it definitely does the trick. Same with the Starr Garden playground sprinkler at nearby 6th and Lombard.
The hours: Seger’s sprinkler usually on when the park is open — weekdays that’s 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. — but on weekends, a volunteer from the neighborhood tends to turn it on, so it’s not a total lock that it will always be on, or be on during those hours. But it’s often running on weather-appropriate days. Starr Garden is basically the same thing — on hot days, it’s usually on, especially in the afternoons — though if it’s not, the park officials say that you are welcome to go into the rec center and ask to have it turned on.

If you’re near: Pennsport
Check out: 
Herron Park, at 2nd and Reed
The water: We’re talking sprinklers and jets, y’all, and plenty of space to run around in them. It’s an awesome park, and very helpful that that everything is fenced in on a flat space, so the kids can really roam far away and they’re safely within your eye-line. The park is also near Federal Donuts, which is nice for a treat.
The hours: The water at Herron has been turned on for the season, though the park is notorious for not having anyone around to pick up phones: Last year, until the end of June, the hours were between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. during the week, and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends, and this seems to be the case this year, as well. But sorry, guys — this one remains a bit elusive to us as far as official confirmation goes, as do official hours once July hits. We’ve got inquiries out, so stand by, we’ll check back in again soon!

If you’re near: Society Hill
Check out:
Headhouse Square, at 2nd and Lombard
The water: It’s a smallish but boisterous little splash pad/fountain right off the covered Shambles — there’s a rubberized ground and several jets that burst up from the ground. It’s a very popular spot on weekends during the Headhouse Farmers’ Market.
The hours: It’s usually on during busy daytime and evening hours.

If you’re near: Center City
Check out:
Dilworth Park, at the west side of Market and City Hall.
The water: A big chunk of the plaza space right in front of City Hall is covered in jets that spring up from the ground. The setting right in front of City Hall makes it extra cool, and there’s also a cafe right there, with sandwiches, snacks, and a bar (for you) between 5 and 7 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.
The hours: The Center City District says that most days they turn on the fountains around 10 a.m., and run them until 8 p.m.

If you’re near: West Philly
Check out:
48th and Woodland Splash Park, at 48th and Woodland
The water: A good-sized sprayground with a whole bunch of colorful sprayers in the shape of rainbows and cacti. Lots of water and fun at this one.
The hours: The folks at the rec center say that the park will be up and running by the end of this week, and that the hours are generally 1 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. on weekdays. The official weekend hours are listed as noon to 5 p.m., with hours varying. We recommend a call first on weekends.

If you’re near: Fishtown
Check out:
Shissler Rec Center at Blair and East Berks
The water: This is one of the handful of spraygrounds that’s opened just in the past few years, so it’s still fairly new and shiny. It’s basically your classic model — a bunch of jets that spurt up from big slate stones.
The hours: Shissler officials report that the water is running sporadically, but the set schedule is still up in the air at the moment. (We’ll check back in a few weeks.) I will say that last year, the water ran most weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on weekends, Saturday (only Saturday) from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

If you’re near: Mt. Airy
Check out: Mt. Airy Playground at Germantown and Sedgwick
The water: A classic sprayground with jumping water jets and plenty of room to frolic. Note: Not a ton of shade at this one, so go prepared for lots of rays.
The hours: Weekdays until the end of June, the water is generally running between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. (with a break between 5 and 5:30 p.m.) At the start of July, the water will be on starting at 11 a.m. most days, and stay on until 7 — sometimes later, if the crowds are big and the weather is hot. Weekends are more iffy, because — as is the case with ALL rec centers — a staffer has to be there to turn on the water. So weekends merit a call, probably.

If you’re near: Roxborough
Check out: Houston Rec Center Playground
The water: A classic, colorful sprayground with above-ground sprayers and in-the-ground jets .. the whole shebang.
The hours: Mondays through Fridays from noon to 8 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

If you’re near: Northeast Philly
Check out: Ferko Playground at Cayuga and J Street
The water: Another big, colorful sprayground with both sprinklers and jets inside a big park.
The hours: The regular schedule doesn’t start until the last week of June, says a Ferko official, and while it might be on sporadically until then, at that point, we’ll see a weekday schedule from noon to 6 p.m., with weekends running 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We could go on here, really — there are more great options a little further beyond Center City (like Sturgis in East Oak Lane; Panati in North Philly; the Waterview Rec Center in East Germantown; and more!). You can check out the massive list of city pools and spraygrounds (complete with phone numbers), or peruse this 2014 MetroKids roster, which also includes Jersey and Delaware.

Also! You might also note that many of the city’s playgrounds have misters that shoot fine sprays of water from a pole. You can keep your eyes peeled for those — but then again, Google Maps has a pretty thorough, fantastic list of everything watery: the single poles, spraygrounds, cement animals that spurt water, and so on.

And finally: Fitler Square folks and fans of the fabulous Markward Playground should know that park officials report the playground’s single-pole sprayer is still broken (it was last summer, too) … BUT next year, the playground is getting a total makeover.

Like our essential city guides? You might also want to see:
Philly’s best gardens and parks
The city’s coolest kid-friendly coffee shops
41 Spots for Indoor Play