Now that our days are scorchers, the best solution is to just get wet. Luckily, the Tampa Bay area’s many spraygrounds, public pools and splash zones offer ways that are free or nearly so.
There are also attractions, such as Busch Gardens, ZooTampa at Lowry Park and the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, that have water play areas tucked among their other features. After shelling out a lot for admission, it’s nice to give the kids a respite on a hot day. Just remember to pack some water shoes.
Free play areas
Some of the newer water play areas include the St. Pete Pier, which opened one year ago this month. It has a fun splash pad located near the St. Petersburg Museum of History and Spa Beach, which both front Second Avenue NE. The wide-open water area has fountains that kids can play in, and at night, there are lights and music. For parents there are free lounge chairs and umbrellas next to the fountains and a nearby concession stand.
Tampa’s newer riverfront parks, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, 1001 North Blvd., and WaterWorks Park on the Riverwalk came with fun splash pads, joining the sprayground of dancing fountains at Curtis Hixon Park along the riverfront. The WaterWorks feature is particularly fun to watch as kids gather under a giant yellow bucket that fills and tips over to soak them so they can scream.
Carrollwood Village Park, 4680 W Village Drive, was completed at the end of 2019. In addition to picnic shelters, a dog park and outdoor chess boards and pingpong tables, there’s a skate park and splash pad for kids.
The terrific sprayground at Del Holmes Park in St. Petersburg is open until Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Note that the sprayers are motion activated, so don’t think it’s not open if you don’t see water going. You’ll find the park tucked into a shady, tree-covered neighborhood at 2741 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg.
WaterPlay at Zephyr Park, 38116 Fifth Ave. in Zephyrhills, has fountain jets, soaker cannons, falling buckets of water and arches shooting water. The 34-acre sprayground is downtown and is the site of the Alice Hall Community Center. The water play area is open 9 a.m. to dusk.
Kiwanis Sprayground next to Highlander Pool in Dunedin is still limiting the number of people at the popular splash pad, but it has increased capacity to 60 people at a time, and it no longer requires advanced reservations. 903 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin. 727-298-3266.
Sims Park offers some relief from the heat in its popular splash pad at a park that is home to frequent festivals and special events in downtown New Port Richey, and parents can keep watch from shaded benches nearby. 5443 Main St., New Port Richey.
Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation has 10 interactive splash pads in its park system that run on two schedules per year: April to October and November to March. Find locations and times at tampa.gov/parks-and-recreation/activities-recreation/aquatics.
Low-cost water play
Public pools have come a long way in recent years, adding waterslides and kiddie pools in addition to Olympic-sized lap lanes. Admission is typically less than the cost of an iced coffee at Starbucks. Some of the best:
North Shore Aquatic Complex is considered St. Petersburg’s premier pool. Located on the waterfront, it is open year-round with diving boards, a zero-depth entry for kids, a giant flume slide and splash pad. 901 North Shore Drive NE, St. Petersburg. 727-893-7727.
Clearwater Beach Family Aquatic Center has lap-swimming lanes and a children’s play area that provides squirting water fountains, a “raindrop” waterfall, a slide and basketball goal to play some hoops in the pool. 51 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater. 727-462-6020.
Childs Park Pool has a huge waterslide and often runs summer admission specials and $1 Splash Days. 1227 43rd St. S, St. Petersburg. 727-893-7730.
Skyview Pool has diving boards, a deep-end corkscrew slide and an adorable kiddie play area with a mushroom that rains down water like an umbrella and a bullfrog waterslide, squirting interactive bicycles and a squirting rocking whale. 9040 54th Way, Pinellas Park.
Roy E. Jenkins Pool was constructed in 1929 and originally known simply as the Davis Islands Pool. Beautifully appointed with an Art Deco-style tile mosaic after a 2014 overhaul, which also included lap lanes, swim-up benches and zero-entry children’s activity pool with a variety of water features. 154 Columbia Drive, Tampa. 813-250-3355.
The Suncoast YMCAs have a number of elaborate aquatic areas and very affordable options. Find locations at ymcasuncoast.org/ and also tampaymca.org. Many have waterslides as well as low-cost swim lessons.
The Bryan Glazer Family JCC has an enormous aquatic center with two pools, a spa and a splash pad for kids 8 and under. For membership information, visit bryanglazerfamilyjcc.com or call 813-575-5900. 522 N Howard Ave., Tampa.
Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the famous mermaid shows, is Florida’s only spring-fed water park. The area’s oldest attraction is more than 70 years old but it has embraced the newest technology because the park often reaches capacity before noon in the summer. You can sign up for alerts by texting the keyword “Weeki” to 82149. The park also updates its Facebook and Twitter pages. Considering what a bargain it is to get a sandy beach, flume rides, volleyball, river rides, a kiddie pool area and mermaid shows for one admission, there are often cars lined up by 8 a.m. waiting for it open at 9, so get there early. Admission: $13, $8 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free. 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. 352-592-5656. weekiwachee.com.