The following writeup appears in this month's Times Publications. Splash pads. They're fun, universally appealing, ubiquitous, and free. Good stuff, you guys.
Making a splash in the desert
I want my son, David, to have a blast; especially during summer vacation. For that reason, we make big plans. We prepare, gear up, and take trips.
But sometimes, we’re just not in the mood for all that fuss. Sometimes, we just want to get out for some simple, summery fun. Somewhere close, playful, wet (for cooling off), and, wait; what’s this? Free? Sign us up!
Turns out, one advantage to living in the desert is a wealth of unique and entertaining splash pads for kids. These play areas are great for kids of all ages, though they’re especially good for kids between the ages of toddler and about 10. They’re safe even for children who can’t yet swim. They’re splashy, obnoxious fun for kids, and they’re convenient for parents.
David and I grabbed some towels and checked out the splash pad at Chandler’s Espee Park.
Within seconds, he was playing with a gaggle of other drenched kids. Something about the combination of the outdoors and water makes all kids instant friends. Raucous games of water tag and jump-through-the-spray broke out, and half a dozen of them formed a shrieking procession running through the spray rings again and again. Everyone was having so much fun that “Play nicely” wasn’t a necessary admonition. My son and a few 10-year-olds took the younger kids under their wings, including a tiny but rambunctious 2-year-old and a small herd of 5-year-olds.
In addition to the tunnel of bright orange spray rings, the Espee Park Splash Pad (north of Knox Road, between Arizona Avenue and McQueen Road in Chandler) features a water tower with water cascading in thick waterfalls and sprays, three candy-cane-shaped water showers, and scores of ground sprays that shoot straight up. The sprays typically run for fifteen minutes, then shut off for five minutes for the pad to drain, during which kids can play on the adjacent playground (or, as some did, plop down and claim a spigot for when it turns back on). We went five or six cycles, then rounded it out with some playground time. He was drenched, happy, and ready to eat dinner and sleep. Not bad for a free outing.
Chandler, Scottsdale, and Tempe seem to be the hot spots if you’re looking for a splash pad. Each city maintains several splash pads.
In addition to Espee, Chandler maintains Chuparosa Park Spray Pad, on Dobson Road, between Queen Creek and Germann Roads; and at Desert Breeze Park, at 660 N. Desert Breeze Blvd., between Rural Road and McClintock Drive and Ray Road and Chandler Boulevard. Desert Breeze is particularly popular. In addition to its ground sprays, it features animal sculpture water features, including three dolphins and an elephant.
Tempe Beach Park boasts one of the most well-known splash pads in its one-acre splash park, which doubles as a lesson for kids on the water cycle. A metal circle of rain mist starts the cycle. The water turns into streams and cascading waterfalls (all fun to run through or stand beneath). In some areas, the water collects in a two-inch-deep ocean complete with whales to ride. With oceans to tromp through, arcs of water to duck beneath, and endless water toys (I mean, learning opportunities), it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular splash pads. An adult attendant watches the area, but always watch your kids as well.
Tempe also maintains splash pads at Jaycee Park; Esquer Park, and its newest, Hudson Park. Visit the city’s pool website at www.tempe.gov/pools for more information.
Across the Valley
Many splash pads are dedicated, unique play areas, but perhaps even more appealing to many parents are the ones erected in line with the errands and plans grown-ups already have planned.
If you’re tired from shopping and looking to tire out your shopping “partner,” for example, you can stop at the Scottsdale Quarter Splash Pad, located in the middle of the Scottsdale Quarter shopping area. The city district attracts parents (and any adult) with its dining, shopping and entertainment attractions, but a newer social hangout is “pool” side at the spray pad, where parents can meet up or just meet new friends on towels and on reclining pool chairs. The ocean-town vibe spreads through the area as kids towel off and head out for pizza, ice cream, or candy. Perfect shopping trip bribery.
Other shopping areas have put up splash pads as well, including areas at Desert Ridge Marketplace and Kierland Commons. Scottsdale also maintains seven park-area spray pads, many of which are in popular areas, such as the one at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park on Indian Bend Road. Fountain Hills has a pad as well.
Bottom line? You’re going to be out and about anyway, the summer is unrelenting, the kids could use some play time, and you could all use a break. Check out a splash pad near you.