When you have small children, the dog days of summer are hot and LONG! Packing things up for a day at the pool is exhausting, and by the time you get there, it's almost naptime. Instead, skip the pool, and take the kids to one of these easy-to-access, free Northern Virginia spraygrounds!When I had three littles, I always searched for free and easy things to do before that sweet, sweet afternoon nap. My only choices to withstand the Virginia summers (other than the pool) were to entertain the kids inside for hours on end (shudder), go to an indoor playground (otherwise known as a petri dish), or find a shady park (nearly impossible). I would have loved to have this comprehensive list of free Northern Virginia spraygrounds. Unlike the pool, many of these spraygrounds are open before Memorial Day. Plus, there's not much to pack because you don't need floats and pool toys (maybe just a bucket or two). Best of all, you don't have to squeeze yourself into a demoralizing bathing suit to get in the water with the kids! Everyone wins! Old Town Square (Fairfax) [caption id="attachment_7873" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Courtesy, fairfaxva.gov[/caption] The splash pad in Old Town Square is located at Old Town Hall in downtown Fairfax. It features 15 water jets that shoot up from the ground with a full spectrum of colors (really pretty at night)! Open daily Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Our Special Harbor (Springfield) [caption id="attachment_7872" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Courtesy, fairfaxcounty.gov[/caption] This is one of the coolest free Northern Virginia spraygrounds! Located at Fairfax County Park Authority’s Lee District Park, the fully accessible complex features Chesapeake Bay-themed attractions including a spraying osprey nest, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers, and a lighthouse. The beach area is quieter and great for really wee ones; it's got softer bubblers and interactive water tables. There's also a computerized water maze and dumping crab basket, and if all that isn't entertaining enough, nearby there's a fully accessible tree house and accessible Tiki Village playground. Definitely worth the trip! Opens May 26 -- check the provided link for hours! Reston Town Center (Reston) [caption id="attachment_7871" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Courtesy patch.com[/caption] On the west side of the town center, at Reston Town Square Park (intersection of Market St. and Explorer St.), is an interactive fountain where the kids can play and splash around. Reston Town Center has lots of shopping, dining, movies, and free, outdoor entertainment so bring a change of clothes and make a day of it! Open from April through September -- check the provided link for hours!
Mosaic District (Merrifield) [caption id="attachment_7870" align="aligncenter" width="564"] Courtesy Pinterest[/caption] This shopping, dining, and entertainment district has interactive fountains with lots of areas for kids to dart and weave in and out of the water. Mosaic District also offers free summer movies at night, story times at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, and Saturday morning cartoons, all outdoors. Call 571-282-3518 to check for fountain closures. Village at Leesburg (Leesburg) [caption id="attachment_7869" align="aligncenter" width="626"] Courtesy, villageatleesburg.com[/caption] Village at Leesburg (VAL), a retail, dining, and living community, has a Village Pop-Up Fountain, bubble machines, and some small play equipment, and it's open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seasonally. The fountain is at Village Market Blvd., conveniently located near Rita’s Italian Ice. Open now for the summer season!
One Loudoun (Ashburn) [caption id="attachment_7868" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Courtesy, oneloudoun.com[/caption] One of the free Northern Virginia spraygrounds that has lots of diversions is in One Loudoun, in front of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theatre. There is a fun, computerized interactive playground to keep older kids busy, and there are lots of covered tables and seating for Mom! Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Loudoun Station (Ashburn) [caption id="attachment_7874" align="aligncenter" width="637"] Courtesy Loudoun Station Facebook[/caption] The newest splash pad in the area is at Loudoun Station. The interactive fountain and a really cool play area is in the development’s District Park on Central Station Drive off Shellhorn Road.
Lansdowne Town Center Water Feature (Leesburg) [caption id="attachment_7867" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Courtesy foursquare.com[/caption] Lansdowne Town Center has a splash pad with more than a dozen spray spots. Check it out on the plaza, where the center hosts free concerts on summer nights. Open daily! Drew Park (Arlington) [caption id="attachment_7866" align="aligncenter" width="643"] Courtesy parks.arlingtonva.us[/caption] Arlington County has some of the best free Northern Virgnia spraygrounds. What's great about them is the kids can move from playground to sprayground and back again, until they're ready for naptime! Drew Park is open daily except for Tuesdays. Hours are: Monday 2–8 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Thursday 2–8 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday noon–8 p.m. Restrooms are accessible only when the community center is open. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hayes Park (Arlington) [caption id="attachment_7865" align="aligncenter" width="565"] Courtesy parks.arlingtonva.us[/caption] This circular, walled sprayground in a large park has multiple water streams and circular sculptures, one shaped like planet Earth. And bonus: There is a restroom nearby! Hours are: Monday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Tuesday 2–8 p.m.; closed on Wednesday; Thursday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Friday 2–8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday noon–8 p.m. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Lyon Village Park (Arlington) [caption id="attachment_7864" align="aligncenter" width="577"] Courtesy parks.arlingtonva.us[/caption] This sprayground has bright colors, water jets on the ground, and a tall structure that also sprays out water. The sprayground is closed on Thursdays. Operational hours are: Monday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Tuesday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Wednesday 2–8 p.m.; Friday 2–8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday noon–8 p.m. There are no restrooms, and parking is very limited (and two hours maximum). Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Virginia Highlands Park (Arlington) [caption id="attachment_7863" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Courtesy parks.arlingtonva.us[/caption] This large, circular sprayground has multiple water jets and structures, including some vertical ones that spray sideways and two tall ones that spray downward. The sprayground is open daily 10 a.m.–8 p.m., there is a restroom, and there's plenty of parking (big bonus!). Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Are you going to kick back in the shade and watch your kids wear themselves out for naptime at one of these free Northern Virginia spraygrounds? Tell us about it in the comments!