Making A Splash

Cost Effective Water Play In San Diego

I’ve mentioned before about the drought that California is currently in. It’s a doozy to be sure and one that’s unlikely to go away any time soon. Even with an El Nino currently in the forecast for this winter (meaning California is likely—fingers crossed—to get water playmore rain than we have had in years), scientists have made the statement that it takes just about as long to come out of a drought as it does to get into one. While this isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it does mean that the people of southern California will need to be water conscious for awhile longer. This isn’t a bad thing; on the contrary, because we’re anticipating the holy grail of drought-landscapes, it means that our state is on the right path to finding our mountains lush with green landscape once again.

But what does that mean for right now?

As parents, it’s likely that you spent last weekend with a raised eyebrow as southern California was plastered in torrential and unseasonal downpours. Of course, these rains are something that those in the Midwest are used to this time of year, but for those of us used to sending our kids outside on a hot summer day, it left much to be desired. While some basked in the freak summer storm, taking refuge in the water, others thought ahead, finding ways to conserve the water before it even hit the ground. Even if you didn’t happen to load up on buckets full of water (a practice the news urged many Californians to do), that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the comfort of some nice H2O as we head into the hottest months of the year.

The Sprayground, Santee, California

Santee Sprayground from San Diego Essential GuideA combination of a playground mixed with water play, the Sprayground in Santee Lakes is an excellent way for you and your little ones to cool off this summer. With surrounding views of Santee Lakes, the place is great for families to spend the day picnicking, while enjoying a great view of the lake in the background. Boasting fountains, jets, and tipping buckets filled with water, the Sprayground will help you and your kids cool off during the later summer months. Grab a swimsuit, some waterproof slippers (the pavement does get hot), and some sandwiches and spend the day getting drenched.

Cost: $2.00/child
Parking: Paid parking, not included
Summer Hours: Monday-Thursday 8am-7pm and Friday-Sunday 6am-7pm
Location: 9310 Fanita Pkwy. Santee, Ca 92071

Hilton Head Park, El Cajon, California

Hilton Head Splash Pad from San Diego County WebsiteLocated in El Cajon in southern California, Hilton Head Park boasts an aquatic playground at only $3.00 per person. Bring the family and pack an umbrella so that you can spend the day in the shade, while the kids run around and play in the water jets and cool off. On the weekends and very hot days the park becomes very crowded, meaning that space may be an issue. Also, be mindful that many preschool groups do come for field trips during the week, meaning that the park might be extra crowded on those days, too. If you plan on coming, arrive early and scope out a spot, allowing your friends and family to enjoy the cost effective waterpark all day long.


Cost: $3.00/day
Parking: Free but limited in the summer months
Summer Hours: Daily 11am-5pm

Location: 16005 Hilton Head Rd. El Cajon, CA 92019

Waterfront Park, Downtown San Diego, California

Relatively new to the city, the Waterfront Park is located in Downtown San Diego, just across from Little Italy and the bay front.Waterfront Park San Diego from San Diego County Website It’s an excellent option for those wishing to cool off for free during the summer. At no extra cost to you, the twelve-acre park boasts plenty of innovative water play with a splash-pad, slides, and water fountain that both you and the kids can enjoy. Not to mention that included in the huge space is a shady area, covered in grass that can be reserved for use at the Waterfront website. Spend the day splashing around in the water, before hiking into Little Italy and enjoying some of San Diego’s tastiest Italian and even Mexican-fare. The park does fill up during the summer months, making it ideal for you and your family to load up early on for prime parking spots.

Cost: Free
Parking: Free, but will cost if you pay in “Pay To Park” spaces
Summer Hours: Daily 6am-10pm
Location: 1600 Pacific Highway San Diego, CA 92101

Just because we’re locked into one of the driest years we’ve ever had doesn’t mean you need to forfeit all water play for you and your little ones. If you’re looking for other ways to spend the summer with your kiddos, head to this list here, which is filled with free treats for you and the family. What other tricks do you have for spending time in the water during this drought-heavy summer?

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