With this seemingly endless sweltering summer heat, finding fun places to frolic in cool water is a gift.
And fortunately, Middle Tennessee has plenty of free and affordable places to get wet and enjoy a family fun cooldown.
These days there more and more of these “spraygrounds,” also known as “splash pads” and “splash parks.” They are popular with parks organizations because they are considered safer than traditional swimming pools since the surfaces are textured (less chance of slipping) and because there is not much standing water (minimizing drowning hazards).
These water-centric playgrounds, which are free or super affordable, have also become popular with families, offering cool (literally and figuratively) water experiences with nozzled geysers, water curtains, slides, overhanging buckets that dump water, pop-up fountains, spray cannons and other interactive water features that delight little ones and provide good fun for teens and grown-ups too.
As Opryland USA signage used to say, “You will get wet!”
• The Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department has two of these outdoor splash parks, one outside the Franklin Rec Center at 1120 Hillsboro Road and a bigger one next to the Williamson County Indoor Sports Complex at 920 Heritage Way in Brentwood.
Both are open seven days a week. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for seniors (ages 55 and older) and youth (ages 3-17). Children ages 2 and younger are admitted free. There is also a Splash Pass for $40 that gives you 20 visits to these parks and the county pools this summer. https://www.wcparksandrec.com/
• Charlie Daniels Park’s free Ava's Splash Pad sprayground is one of the most elaborate water playgrounds. It is at 1075 Charlie Daniels Parkway in Mt. Juliet. http://www.mjparksandrec.org/167/Parks-Recreation-Department or 615-758-6522
• Splashtown at 611 Nolan Drive in Smyrna has two slides, an outdoor pool, a small lazy river and a play area for young children. Admission is $5 for children 12 and under, $5 for seniors and $6 for adults. 615-459-9773 or https://www.townofsmyrna.org/departments/parks-and-recreation/town-parks-facilities/pool-and-splash-pad
• The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville is not technically a splash park, but it has become a popular destination for cooling off with its geyser-like fountains that represent Tennessee's 31 rivers. The fountains run daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at this park at 600 James Robertson Parkway, where you can also learn some Tennessee history and geography during your cooldown. Tnstateparks.com
• The new Cedars of Lebanon State Park splash pad is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The free splash pad, which includes several fountains and two tipping buckets, sits on the former swimming pool site at the park. Tnstateparks.com
• Other free splash pads are at Metro’s Watkins Park at 616 17th Ave. N., across from M.L. King Magnet School, and Kirkpatrick Park at 620 S. Ninth St. in East Nashville (Nashville.gov/parks). And there are also splash parks at Gregory Mill Park in Smyrna, L.L. Burns Park in Kingston Springs and Port Royal Park in Spring Hill.
Just FYI: Unfortunately, Metro Nashville’s Cumberland Park Sprayground on the East Bank is not operating this summer.
• Metro Parks has several community pools (Cleveland, Looby and Rose community centers) that have open swim times in summer and do not charge admission. The regional recreation centers, including Coleman, Hartman, Hadley and East, have indoor pools that are open year-round. See Nashville.gov/parks or call 615-862-8400. Or call individual centers for pool hours.
• Williamson County also has outdoor community pools at the Franklin Recreation Complex, 1120 Hillsboro Road; Fairview Recreation Complex, 2714 Fairview Blvd.; Longview Recreation Center at Spring Hill, 2909 Commonwealth Drive; and Williamson County Recreation Complex at Nolensville, 7250 Nolensville Road. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for seniors (ages 55 and older) and youth (ages 3-17). Children ages 2 and younger are admitted free. There is also a Splash Pass for $40 that gives you 20 visits to these pools this summer. https://www.wcparksandrec.com
• Some of our Tennessee state parks have free lake swimming. There are swim beaches at Montgomery Bell State Park, Rock Island State Park and Long Hunter State Park (Bryant’s Grove). Tnstateparks.com
• Murfreesboro Parks has planned several “Splash Out” events for children 12 and under (with a parent or grandparent) with the Murfreesboro Fire Department spraying hoses 1:30-3 p.m. at various locations. This year's dates are July 7 at Barfield Crescent Park and July 21 at Old Fort Park. 615-893-7439
• Franklin Parks has a popular Kids Day series with a “Water Day” from 9 a.m. to noon July 20 at Pinkerton Park with all sorts of water fun, including water balloons, relays and games. 615-794-2103
A few things to know
• Most of these pools and splash parks allow you to bring your own food and drinks.
• With this heat wave, some of the facilities hit their capacity and are forced to have people turned away or stand in line, particularly on hot weekend days. So if you are heading out to jump in, go early.
• Check hours and details on the websites before you go.