On a hot — or even just lukewarm — summer day, there's often only one thing that will please everyone: water play. And that's what free spray parks are all about. They also tend to be open for more days of the week and for longer hours than public parks' wading pools.
Here's a guide to spray parks in greater Seattle area; most are open at least on weekends starting on Memorial Day weekend. Try them all this summer, and let us know if we missed your favorite! (Also find our guide to South Sound spray parks.)
Tip: Always check the hours of the spray park on the website link; many don't open until 11 a.m. or even later. Find a full list of Seattle Parks & Recreation spray parks, wading pools and beaches, and their hours, on the Seattle Parks website. (Seattle's spray parks are open daily May 27–Sept. 5, when temperatures are above 70 degrees. Times vary by location.)
North Seattle spray parks and fountains
At this centrally located park (right next to a skate park and kitty-corner from the Ballard Public Library), kids can run through water jets set into the pavement (toddler-friendly), play on the lawn or scooter on the paths. There is an awesome candy and ice cream store at the edge of the park (Sweet Mickey's), and Ballard's many fun eateries are steps away (try happy hour at Skillet, two blocks away). Note: Some homeless folks do tend to hang out in the park. It's open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Find it: 5701 22nd Ave. N.W., Seattle
Just off I-5 in North Seattle, this shady park is a big draw, and for good reason. Beyond the newish spray park, it boats a fantastic two-part playground (for toddlers and older kids), hiking trails, a great hill to roll down and more. Only drawback: The lot can fill on hot days; but street parking is fairly easy to find. It's open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Find it: 12718 1st Ave N.E., Seattle
Find a small but wonderful fountain on the Thornton Place plaza in northeast Seattle (just south of Northgate Mall). Order bubble tea or a crepe from Jewel Box Cafe and set up at a table with an umbrella; you can read or work while the kids play. There's also a giant chessboard on the plaza, more eateries including a ramen spot and a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, and a Regal Cinema.
Find it: 321 N.E. Thornton Pl., Seattle
The water feature on the plaza outside the PCC Natural Market at Green Lake Village — benches with water cascading over them — is beloved by parents and kids alike, and it's toddler-friendly as well. Pick up a snack at PCC, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt or Kitanda Espresso and Acai (gluten-free cheese bread sandwiches!), sit at an outdoor table, and let the kids play. Green Lake is two blocks away. Tip: Free 1.5-hour parking in PCC's underground parking garage with a PCC purchase.
Find it: 427 N.E. 72nd St., Seattle
South Seattle and Capitol Hill spray parks and fountains
The newish state-of-the-art water feature at Jefferson Park is part of Beacon Mountain, an ecologically oriented playscape. Kids will also love the steep and deep tube slides and biking paths; parents will love the view of the Sound and the Olympics from the park. The spray park is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Want more family fun?
Join ParentMap eNews for a weekly round-up of the hottest adventures around the Sound!
Head to Rainier Valley for playtime at this unusually shaped spray park (tall, Flintstone-like towers spraying water) in the lower area of Judkins Park, near the children's play area. The park also has picnicking spots, trails, a skate spot and a multi-use sports area. Combine with a visit to Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), a half-mile away, or with playtime at the wonderful all-abilities park, Seattle Children's Playgarden. The spray park is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Find it: 2150 S. Norman St., Seattle
Located on the east side of Capitol Hill, Miller Park's spray area (the Ron K. Bills Fountain) features granite blocks that mark off the points of the compass and a small circular play space. There are also sports fields, and a community center with basketball court and game room. The spray park is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Find it: 330 19th Ave. E., Seattle
Note: Pratt Park spray park is closed for renovations for the summer of 2017.
With an apartment complex located adjacent to Pratt Park, the park is busy, especially in the summer months. Beyond the spray area, find a playground, basketball court and picnic tables. Pratt Fine Arts Center is located next to the park, and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center is a short walk away. Tip: Broadcast Coffee Roasters is at the northeast corner of the park.
Located in the heart of this artsy-industrial neighborhood, recently upgraded Georgetown Playfield boasts a fenced area, lots of big shade trees, swings, play equipment and a spray park with many kinds of spray features. Also find a half basketball court and artificial turf soccer field. Tip: Stellar Pizza is just north of the park. (The spray park is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.)
Find it: 750 S. Homer St., Seattle
Long called the 37th Avenue Park, John C. Little went through an upgrade and renaming in recent years. Beyond the spray feature, it also has a playground, picnic shelters and even a community garden. (The spray park is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.)
Find it: 6961 37th Ave S., Seattle
Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union fountains
The big Kahuna of spray parks is Seattle Center's famous International Fountain, open year-round, and — on hot days and during festivals — crawls with kids who stand and run (usually screaming) under the fountain’s powerful water jets. You can hang out on the sidelines and enjoy the show, including music that the jets are seemingly choreographed to the music. Pick up lunch at the Seattle Center Armory, and don't miss the thrilling Artists at Play playground, near EMP Museum, which will finish off the job of thoroughly exhausting your kids. (Note: The fountain is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m., but occasionally closes for cleaning; check this link for updates.) Tip: Younger and more timid kids might prefer the Dupen Fountain (aka Fountain of Creation), with its bronze sculptures and wading-pool-like feel. Find it near Key Arena.
Find it: 305 Harrison St., Seattle
The series of fountains at Lake Union Park is just one of the draws at this awesome public space. Kids can also explore boat-building at Center for Wooden Boats (or rent a boat, free rides on Sunday), visit MOHAI (free for kids ages 14 and under, and always free on first Thursdays), or hop on the Seattle Streetcar for downtown destinations. (The fountains are open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.)
Find it: 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle
West Seattle and Burien
Kids love the bucket dump at this spraypad located in this smallish park in West Seattle. There's also a playground, tennis courts and more. The park is situated in a cozy residential area with lots of big, shady trees. (The spray park is open daily from 11 a.m.–8 p.m.)
Find it: 1100 S.W. Cloverdale St., Seattle
The spray fountain in Burien's Town Square is open daily from late May to late September. The park is also an ideal spot for a picnic, and features gorgeous views of Mount Rainier. Tip: Family-friendly Elliott Bay Brewing is across the street from the park; and a farmers market sets up at the park every Thursday from mid-May to mid-October, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Find more to do in Burien.
Find it: 400 S.W. 152nd, Burien
Snohomish County spray parks and fountains
Hazel Miller spray park at Edmonds City Park
This new spray park opened in 2016 and has already become a North Sound favorite. Located at woodsy Edmonds City Park next to a play structure (also new), it includes a 55-gallon bucket, water cannons, arches that spray water and a toddler-friendly area where kids can play in water. Looking for a fun area where kids can build small dams to affect water flow. Conveniently, picnic tables are located nearby. The park also boasts a ballfield, trails and more. Starting on May 27, the spray park will be open from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily through the season.
Find it: 600 3rd Ave. S., Edmonds
This new spray park in Marysville opened for the season on May 23. This free park features water jets, spray cannons, rotating sprinklers and more fun for the kids. It is open daily through Labor Day, although it may stay open longer in September, depending on the weather.
Find it: 514 Delta Ave., Marysville
Willis D. Tucker Park spray pad, Snohomish
It's worth the drive to play in the giant spray pad at Snohomish's wonderful Willis Tucker Park. Watch out for the dragon soaker! Reader Sandra Lamb recommends exploring the "awesome playground and sand pit area," too, and says it has soft grass for picnics or to to run around and play on." Note: It opens the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
Find it: 6705 Puget Park Dr., Snohomish
Forest Park, Everett
Everett's Forest Park boasts an awesome water playground with 16 interactive water features and an area designed just for toddlers. You could plan an entire day trip: Forest Park also offers a playground, a free petting zoo (open after June) and even a swimming pool. It's open daily May 26 through Sept. 24.
Find it: 802 E. Mukilteo Blvd., Everett
Daleway Park, Lynnwood
This recently renovated spray park in Lynnwood also features nature trails and picnic areas. It's open June through Labor Day.
Find it: 19015 64th Ave. W., Lynnwood
The big draw at this older spray park is the large, mist-spraying green dragon. It's open June through Labor Day.
Find it: 18510 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood
Eastside spray parks
Located in one of the Eastside's most culturally diverse neighborhoods, this park is absolutely worth the drive. Beyond the super-appealing Northwest-themed spray park (a climbable orca, spitting frogs and clams), find a playground, walking trails, covered picnic shelters and even a nine-hole golf course. Crossroads Shopping Center, with ethnic eateries, quarter rides for kids and free entertainment on the MarketStage, is a short walk away. Note: The spray park usually opens Memorial Day weekend and is open daily after that.
Find it: 999 164th Ave. N.E., Bellevue
Grass Lawn Park spray park, Redmond
One of the Eastside's most popular parks, Grass Lawn has extensive fields, kid-friendly biking trails, picnic areas, great playgrounds for little and big kids (including a two-story climbing structure), and of course, the spray park. Tip: Find more to do in Redmond in our neighborhood guide.
Find it: 7031 148 Ave N.E., Redmond
Redmond Town Center's outdoor areas went through a recent upgrade to make them more play-friendly and safe, with a pedestrian zone that encompasses the splash pad, as well as pavement games and picnic benches. Tip: Find more to do at Redmond Town Center and beyond in our neighborhood guide.
Find it: 7525 166th Ave. N.E., Redmond
Next time you're on the Plateau, give this park a try. Located in the Lower Commons park, the button-operated spray park is next to a play structure, so your kids can choose between wear-'em-out options. Note: If you park in the city hall lot, it's a bit of a hike.
Find it: 801 228th Ave S.E., Sammamish
Kitsap County spray parks and fountains
The crazy-cool fountains at Harborside Fountain Park, just down the stairs from Bremerton's ferry terminal, got a serious plumbing makeover in 2016 and are open for business again. And they are absolutely worth the one-hour ferry ride from Seattle. Your kids will have hours of fun wading in the series of copper-ringed, volcano-like fountains (when will they explode next?!). Non-wading parents can sit at nearby tables and chairs; however, shade is scarce. Tip: Combine it with a trip the free Puget Sound Navy Museum, two minutes away, or, just a short walk farther on the pier, the USS Turner Joy (guns, engine room, control panels, more).
Find it: Bremerton-Seattle ferry landing
South of Seattle
(Note: Check out our complete guide to South Sound spray parks.)
Readers alerted us to this splash and spray park located at Tukwila Community Center, with fish spouts to aim, fountains and car-wash-style play areas. It's open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily.
Find it: 12424 42nd Ave. S., Tukwila
The colorful water-spray features make Auburn's one of the most popular spray parks in the region. When kids are done with water play, they can climb on the accessible Discovery Playground, or head to White River Valley Museum to explore the interactive exhibits, or Mary Olson Farm (open seasonally).
Find it: 910 Ninth St. S.E., Auburn
The fountain in Kent's Town Square Plaza has an unusual feature, a 13,000-pound granite ball sculpture, which can be rotated in its base. Kids and adults alike enjoy giving it a spin.
Find it: 2nd Ave. N., Kent
Editor's note: This article was originally written in 2014 and updated for 2017.