South Florida's water parks and wet playgrounds provide cool summer fun
Lounge in a Lazy River.
- Rapids Waterpark
South Florida Water PlaygroundsPALM BEACH COUNTY
Calypso Bay in Seminole Palms Park
151 Lamstein Lane, Royal Palm Beach
Weekends 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.(water play area only). Adult, $10; child (under 12), $8; toddler (ages 12), $3, including water diaper; under 1, free. Reduced rates after 3 p.m.
Coconut Cove at South County Regional Park
11200 Park Access Road, Boca Raton
Jun. 2-Aug. 21, 10 a.m.6 p.m.daily. Thrugh labor day weekend, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends only. Adult, $10; child (under 12), $8; toddler (ages 12), $3, including water diaper; under 1, free. Reduced rates after 3 p.m. Season passes available.
Rapids Water Park
6566 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach
May 12- Sept. 3 10 a.m.7 p.m. weather permitting. Admission, $31.95; children under 2, free.
Lion Country Safari, off Southern Boulevard, west of Florida's Turnpike. 2000 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee.
Cool off at this water playground that includes 23 interactive water play stations. Included with park admission of $22.99; ages 3-9, $17.49; plus tax; 1 and younger, free.
Palm Beach Zoo, 1301 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach.
Don't forget to bring the kids' bathing suits when you visit the zoo. Changing tents are nearby, and seating is provided for those who wish to relax and watch. The fountain closes at 4:30 p.m. and during bad weather.
Adults, $12.95; ages 3-12, $8.95; 2 and younger, free.
6200 Royal Palm Blvd., Margate
Through Jun. 2, 12 p.m-6 p.m. weekends only. Jun. 2, 12.p.m- 8 p.m. daily. Admission, $4; under 4, $1; under 2, free.
Caporella Aquatic Center
9300 NW 58th St., Tamarac
Features include a zero-depth entry, 25 yard x 25 meter, eight-lane pool with double tornado slide, children's water play area (Sprayground), plus picnic pavilion, concession stand and fitness center.
Daily Fees: Adult residents $3., nonresidents, $3.50; Senior/Student/Military resident, $2, nonresident, $2.25; Children 12 & younger resident, $1.75, nonresident,$2.
Castaway Island at T-Y Park
3300 N. Park Road, Hollywood
Weekdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Weekends 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. $6 per person
Croissant Park Pool
245 West Park Drive, Fort Lauderdale
Water playground with two slides, water spraying apparatus. Free admission.
Cypress Park Pool
1300 Coral Springs Drive, Coral Springs
Weekends 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Mon. Tues. 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Closed Wed. Thurs. 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Fri. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Cost: adults, $3; children, $2.50.
Manatee Spray Playground
West Lake Park, 751 Sheridan St., Hollywood
Water-spray play area (not a pool) keeps everyone cooled off when the South Florida temperatures are heating things up. Included with regular park admission on weekends and holidays of $1.50.
Markham Park Safari Island
16001 State Road 84, Sunrise
A more traditional swimming venue, the recreational pool has depths varying from three to 12 feet. The island also includes a waterfall designed with children in mind. $3.50 per person.
Paradise Cove at C.B. Smith Park
900 N. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines
Through Oct. 29, daily, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. $8 per person.
Pembroke Falls Aquatics Center
1361 NW 129th Ave., Pembroke Pines
Weekends only, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Resident adult, $4; child (under 12), $2; nonresident adult, $6; nonresident child (under 12), $4.
Plantation Central Park Pool
9151 NW Second St., Plantation
The complex boasts two Olympic-size pools, each 50 meters by 25 yards, and a 500-square-foot water playground for toddlers. The water playground is zero-depth with a spongy matte surface and a colorful combination of water play equipment for children. It is situated on the pool deck within a fenced area.
Residents: adults, $4; children, $2; nonresidents: adults, $7; children, $4.
Splash Adventure at Quiet Waters Park
401 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach
Weekdays, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. no sessions. Weekends. 9:30 a.m.- 5:20 p.m. sessions included.
Sunrise Civic Center Aquatics Complex
10610 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise
Mon.-Fri. 2:30 p.m.- 8 p.m. Family pool only. Weekend sessions: 9:30 a.m.- 12 p.m., 12:15 p.m.- 2:45 p.m., 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m- 8 p.m. Resident adult, $1.25; resident child (17 and under), $1; nonresident adult, $6; nonresident child (under 17), $3.
Tropical Splash at Central
Broward Regional Park, 3700 NW 11th Place, Lauderhill
Two interactive water playgrounds: one for small children with climbing features and small slides, and one for bigger kids with two spiral slides, water guns and a dumping bucket; and an ADA-accessible instructional pool. The pool goes from zero-entry to almost four feet. Admission, $4.50
Bucky Dent Aquatic Center
2250 SW 60th St., Hialeah
Tues. and Thurs. 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. Weekends 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. $9 adults. $6 kids.
Flamingo Park Aquatic Center
11th Street and Jefferson Avenue, Miami
Water Playground Sessions: Mon. Sunday 6:45 a.m. 9 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 8:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Adult resident, $4; adult nonresident, $6; resident child, $2; nonresident child, $4.
Grapeland Water Park
1550 NW 37th Ave., Miami
Opened in May 2008. Four pools including a lazy river. Park designed by Miami artist Romeo Britto. Open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission: Age 14 and older residents, $7; nonresidents, $10. Ages 4-13, $5. Seasonal passes are available for residents at $80 per person or for nonresidents at $120 per person.
Larry and Penny Thompson Park
12451 SW 184th St., Miami
Slide and beach, $4, adult; child (317), $3; senior (over 62), $2. Must be at least 4 feet tall to ride the slide. Beach-only admission available $3 adult; $2 child(3-17); $1.50 senior (over 62).
McDonald Aquatic Center
7505 W. 12th Ave., Hialeah
Wave pool, lazy river, wet tot lot
Mon.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat.&Sun, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Residents: adults, $4, ages 4-17, $2; 3 and under, free
Non-residents: adults, $9; ages 4-17, $6; 3 and under, free
Milander Aquatic Center
4800 Palm Ave., Hialeah
25' x 50' pool, water slides, activity pool, wet tot lot
Mon.- Fri., 12:30-5:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Residents: adults, $4; children, $2; non-residents: adults, $7; children, $4
7030 Trouville Esplanade, Miami Beach
Open pool for swimming and laps, activity pool with water mushroom, slide, climbing apparatus and water wheels to regulate water flow; covered tot lot next to activity pool. Residents, free with ID; Nonresidents: adults, $6; children, $4; 2 and younger, free.
Salty's Pirate Playground at Miami Seaquarium
4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne
A children's wet/dry playground area with a pirate ship featuring water blasters, cargo nets, punch bags, padded areas and a spiral slide. General admission, $31.95; ages 3-9, $24.95.
Thomas Sasso Pool and Aquatic Center
12502 NW 11th Ave., North Miami
Summer schedule: Mon.-Fri., 2 - 6:45 p.m.,Sat.-Sun., noon-6:45 p.m. 3 years and up, $2. Under 3 years.
Splash 'N Play at Pinecrest Gardens
11000 Red Road, Pinecrest
Free admission. Open daily from 9 a.m. until an hour prior to sunset. Available for children ages 3-12.
2701 De Soto Blvd., Coral Gables
Tues.- Fri. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Weekends 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Adult $10. Children(12 and under) $5.50
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Before You Go
Scout for coupons. Visit park websites, scan newspapers, and be on the lookout at local stores. Some parks offer group discounts for parties of 25 or more. Check park web sites for details. Some larger water parks, such as Rapids or Wet & Wild offer promotional discounts on soda cans in summer.
Pick a day. Crowds converge on weekends and whenever the sun's out and the temperature is high. Groups can increase crowds on weekdays, but generally speaking, Mondays through Wednesdays have the lightest attendance.
Make a plan. Check out the park map online at park web sites to plan meeting spots, and figure out which slides your kids can do, based on height restrictions and personal preferences. If you've got different age groups, plan to go with people who have like-minded kids, so that one or two adults can watch the little ones while the bigger kids do what they like together.
What to Bring
Dress the part. Leave the valuables home. All you need is a well-fitting, comfortable swimsuit (you don't want anything coming off mid-ride!) and a towel. Water shoes are important too, says Tammy Barkey of Kings Park, NY "because the pavement gets really hard on your feet." Most parks don't permit cut-off shorts or clothing with buckles, zippers or buttons that might damage slides.
Think twice about lugging that cooler. Food and glass bottles are normally not allowed in and most parks have a concession stand or two or more for lunch within the park. If you want to bring your lunch to save money or for a special diet, you'll have to leave a cooler in the car, so pack extra ice to keep food cool in a hot car. Picnic areas are usually located outside park entrances and offer a nice spot for a mid-day break.
When You Get There
Get a locker. They're small, but they'll do for storing money, sunscreen or any other small items you don't want to leave at a ride entrance. Some are one-time use; others can be opened throughout the day but require an additional deposit. If you don't want to leave your money in the locker, bring a waterproof wallet that zips into a bathing suit or is worn around your neck and can tuck neatly into your bathing suit. You won't be allowed on most water slides wearing anything that can slip off mid-slide or, worse, pull tight and choke you.
Practice pool safety. Chlorine and pH levels are tested regularly; at Wet 'n Wild in Orlando, FL, for example, the water is tested throughout the day by the pools department to ensure it is at safe levels, according to David Wright, director of marketing at Wet n' Wild. Warn children against swallowing pool water, and bring plastic swim diapers for infants and toddlers. Keep an eye on your children, and be watchful of water depths which can change at each attraction.
Need a life jacket? Inflatable water wings aren't allowed in most deep pools, but some parks allow kids to use them in the shallow play areas. If you or a companion isn't a seasoned swimmer, life jackets are recommended, and are usually available for free or a deposit.
Arrive early and head for the big rides first. If you get there when gates open, you'll probably get to ride the most popular attractions before the lines grow too long. Save things like wave pools, lazy river rides and pool-play areas for later in the day. Often, particularly on weekdays, the groups clear out by late afternoon, and ride lines shorten.
Debbie Geiger is a freelance writer and mother. She lives in New York.