First they banned running and horseplay, then swim toys and diving boards high and low. Sometimes it seems like the city’s municipal swimming pools have outlawed every kind of fun. (Thanks, trial lawyers!) But that’s okay. We’ve got splash pads, or spraygrounds or…you know, those foam rubber–floored aquatic nirvanas that have sprung up all over the city since making their debut in Hermann Park in 1990. They offer kids a more unrestrained, liberated form of water play with no risk of drowning, and no need for expensive lifeguards or constant parental vigilance. Splash pads also remain open for a greater portion of the year than pools (whose brief-ish season virtually ensures there’ll be lots of hot days when they won’t be an option).
Of the city’s 24 spraygrounds, most notable are the 14-foot geysers that erupt from granite-based Gateway Fountain at Discovery Green and the water-spewing tunnels and plastic palm tree at Hermann Park. More fantastic fountaining can be found at Ervan Chew Park. In 2010, the city filled in the swimming pool there, replacing it with a large sprayground convenient to a shaded playground, picnic area, and a fenced-in dog park. Small wonder it’s become the perfect spot for Montrose/Museum District birthday parties.
Elsewhere, brightly colored turtles and lily pads spew water and mist at the 1,200-square-foot splash pad at Hackberry Park, where cool geysers shoot water from the rubberized earth. True to its name, the Sunset Heights sprayground at Montie Beach Park has a seaside theme, featuring a water-spouting whale cavorting near a palm-studded desert island. And the immense Herman Brown Park on the city’s far northeastern side sports a frog-themed park complete with interactive push-button geysers and water jets erupting from a manmade stream.