Water playground, oversized sprinkler system, spray park. Whatever you call them, splash pads have been as hot as the temperatures this summer. These aqua-centric play areas offer bubbling fountains, spray tunnels and even squirt guns — anything that’ll help keep you cool. Just don’t mistake a splash pad for a pool.

So what’s the difference?

“There’s no standing water,” said Greg Stoks, managing director of Aquatix by Landscape Structures, a splash park design company.

Splash pads have become wildly popular in and around the Twin Cities because they can be less costly to build and maintain, and they’re fun for the whole family.

Most splash pads are designed with three distinct users in mind: tots, teenagers and families. The youngest users prefer bubblers or low sprinkler features, while older children tend to gravitate to the interactive features, such as dumping buckets.

“I like that my kids of different ages can enjoy it,” said Mindy Daitchman, a St. Louis Park mom who spends some afternoons at Oak Hill Park splash pad.

Daitchman gets to enjoy the splash pad, too, because she can relax.

“It’s not like a pool where I have to be worried,” she said. Here are our picks for fun-soaked splash pads in the Twin Cities.

Here are our picks for fun-soaked splash pads in the Twin Cities:

Burnsville Lions Playground

The splash pad area in Cliff Fen Park, top, has up to 15 water features that spray, sprinkle, splash and soak. Movable spray hoses, water domes and dancing fountains are some fun ways to stay cool. The nearby playground boasts a giant jungle gym and rock walls.
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/ydchegap

Oak Hill Park

This 2,350-square-foot splash pad in St. Louis Park has a spray tunnel, bubble hoses and water nozzles. Kids can enjoy standing under large flower showers and water nozzles. (Parent alert: The seats across from the nozzles are in the splash zone.) It’s adjacent to a playground, picnic area and public restrooms.
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/ybqtzpwu

Andrews Park Splash Pad

Features at this Champlin park include flower showers and frog-faced sprinklers. Climb aboard a replica boat, but beware the leaks (large fountains spraying from the floorboards) and dump-bucket masts. Land ho! The splash pad is also located next to a large picnic shelter and concession stand, perfect for snack time.
Hours: 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/y9979nqo

Round Lake Splash Pad

Kids can sit under raining palm trees or set sail on the pirate ship spray playground at this Eden Prairie park. It’s close to a large playground, shaded seating area and a free beach.
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/y7hw7zag

Nicollet Commons Park

Is it an outdoor spa or splash pad? Either way, it features a lazy river, waterfalls and frog statues that spit water. The stone splash pad is by the Burnsville park’s amphitheater, which hosts concerts and movies.
Hours: Sunrise to sunset. More: tinyurl.com/ybwu3lkm

 

Honorable mentions

Minnesota Zoo: Splash around with life-size wildlife statues. Free with admission. Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/yb7m6qv4

Highlands Park: This Cottage Grove splash pad offers free activities every Friday. Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/ydy476xc

Phalen Beach: Don’t want to jump in the lake? Try this splash pad instead. Hours: 1-7 p.m. More: tinyurl.com/y9eotxfg