The best splash pads and fountains around Denver — The Know

Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). Find our previous Staff Favorites here.

The glorious return of summer swimming is not so glorious for parents of infants and young children, who tend to spend most of their time at pools and natural bodies of water making sure their kids don’t sink to the bottom.

Yes, baby pools, floaties and hyper-attentive adults can (and should) make a difference. But so can kid-friendly fountains and splash pads, or water-based play areas at parks. They don’t require constant vigilance — a blessing for parents who are solo-wrangling more than one child — and they’re almost always public and free.

Before either of my kids (now 5 and 8) had taken swimming lessons, my wife and I enjoyed watching them toddle about while soaking themselves in 4,000 square feet of hidden fountains on the south side of Wynkoop Plaza, just outside of Union Station. Bonus: There’s food and drink nearby, and the people-watching is unparalleled outside of the 16th Street Mall. (1701 Wynkoop St.)

Living in Northeast Denver, we also enjoy splashing around Central Park, the 80-acre green that inspired the newly renamed neighborhood of Central Park (formerly Stapleton). Their circular, concrete gateway to the south conceals high-stepping fountains that send peals of laughter through the assembled kids, while the Dr. Seuss-inspired playground features a mister (and, if they’re working, a couple of kid-operated water pipes). (8801 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.)

These are just the ones within 10 minutes of my house. The suburbs offer even more elaborate splash pads, such as Arvada’s Ralston Central Spray Park (5850 Garrison St.), with nearby picnicking options and restrooms. Lakewood’s Surfside Spray Park (5330 W. 9th Ave.) caters to young kids with a pair of splash pads (one of them for older kids).

Out shopping with cranky children? Hit up the fountains outside Westminster Promenade, Orchard Shopping Center or Aurora’s Southlands Mall, and bring a towel. Visiting Boulder? You can’t leave without swinging through the Pop Jet Fountains along the Pearl Street Mall. Still thirsty? Read up on dozens more splash pads and fountains in the metro area at milehighmamas.com.

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