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Two in Tow & On the Go | ‘Tis the season for spraygrounds

Posted on June 7th, 2024 By:

Spraygrounds = happiest kids ever?

Spraygrounds — the delightfully rhyming water-fun cousin of playgrounds — are officially back on ’till Labor Day. And we’re here to tell you all about them.

They come in many names, but “sprayground” is my fave. In California, we called them “splash pads” but around here I’ve also seen “spray park,” “wade pool” and others. Essentially, they’re all the same thing — a play area equipped with various in-ground water features like sprinklers, fountains, and spray nozzles that dump water on the ground that kiddos run/walk through. This makes them a quick-hit alternative to public pools and beach days for outdoor water play.

But before I get into the many facets of these attractions … here’s a commentary on weather. There’s a meme about Washington state, well, quite a few actually, but yours truly believes the funniest to be “The 11 Seasons of Washington.” Unfortunately, it’s been shared and recreated so many times across the interwebs that I don’t know which original and witty content creator to properly attribute it to. But in its various adaptations (including a popular WSDOT post from February), it goes something like this:

The 11 Seasons of Washington:

  1. Winter
  2. Fools spring
  3. Second winter
  4. Spring of Deception
  5. Third winter
  6. Mud season
  7. Actual spring
  8. Summer
  9. False fall
  10. Second summer (1 week)
  11. Actual fall (+ spiders)

I bring this comedy to you today, 1) because it cracks me up for being so true, and 2) because it ties in with my use of last year’s sprayground pics for this column. I haven’t shot new pics yet since spraygrounds are seasonal adventures – typically running from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And, since yesterday was, arguably, the first actual nice day since the “Spring of Deception,” there was just no time. Although … after seeing yesterday’s lovely article about the debut of the bright and sunny Waterfront Farmer’s Market, I’m thinkin’ I really should’ve gotten Clara and Wyatt out of the house for that. Good reminder for next week.

What are spraygrounds?

Typically, spraygrounds operate seasonally at public parks and recreation areas, and they are free to use. The only ones I’ve ever seen that required paid entry were located inside larger attractions, like an RV park or the zoo.  Features include:

  • Water jets that shoot up from the ground
  • Tall poles that mist water down or out
  • Large buckets that fill with water and tip over when full
  • Arched structures with multiple spray nozzles and/or mist-ers to run through

They are also designed to accommodate a range of ages and abilities, ensuring that everyone can join in the fun.

What are some local spots?

City of Gig Harbor

Skansie Brothers Park

Skansie Brothers Park splash pad, 2023. Photo by Tonya Strickland

3211 Harborview Drive, downtown 

This location is the city of Gig Harbor’s only sprayground. It’s now on through Labor Day from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. The splash pad runs on its own programming, meaning it turns on and off at pre-programmed times.

Here are some fun facts about it from city parks field supervisor, Kyle Neiman:

  • The splash pad was installed as part of the Welcome Plaza project completed in mid-2017.
  • It closes at 4 p.m. on downtown summer concert nights. 
  • Its operation is dependent on good weather and on the equipment cooperating. 
  • It takes “quite a bit of staff time” in monitoring and cleaning the system.
  • There is no motion sensor or button.  
  • All of the controls are in an in-ground vault and accessed by a locked hatch (by city staff only, to all you sneaky kids reading this). 
  • If the splash pad is not running for a day, the city generally tries to put a sign up on a traffic delineator that it is closed in need of repair.

Key Peninsula

The Scott Gallacher Memorial Spray and Play Park, Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District

10405 State Route 302, Gig Harbor

The Scott Gallacher Memorial Spray and Play Park is now open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. It’s adjacent to the big playground at Gateway Park. This particular spray park may be the area’s biggest and most popular. It’s also weather-dependent and may be closed during heavy wind or rain “and will always be closed in the event of thunder and/or lightning,” according to its webpage. Gallacher, who died in 2020, was the park district’s executive director. News reports at the time say he died unexpectedly from an apparent heart attack at work at 49 years old. Here’s his obituary

Wyatt at Titlow, 2022

RULES: The Spray and Play Park rules also note to please not sit on, stand, cover, or block any water jets; and that soap, detergent and shampoo are not allowed. Fun facts!

Across the bridge

Metro Parks Tacoma

This agency operates 10 spraygrounds at various locations across the bridge, all open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., unless otherwise posted, through early September. After that, a reduced schedule kicks in with the same operating hours, but on weekends only, for the last remaining days of heat till October. Here they are:

Be prepared for wet hugs! Skansie Brothers Park Welcome Plaza, 2023 | Photo By Tonya Strickland


Wright Park

501 South I St., Tacoma

This decently large Sprayground located directly near the regular playground within a huge 27-acre park. The site has a “Central Park” vibe with 600+ trees amid a densely urban district, grassy slopes, a pond with ducks, a historic glass arboretum, and restrooms. Homeless people often hang out in the park, but overall it’s also populated with families and other kids. We’ve been here and recommend it.

Wapato Park

6500 S. Sheridan Ave., Tacoma | We haven’t been here yet.

Verlo Playfield

4321 McKinley Ave., Tacoma | We haven’t been here yet.

Titlow Park & Lodge

8425 6th Ave., Tacoma (but closer to University Place)

Titlow Park Sprayground, 2023 | Photo By Tonya Strickland

We went to Titlow for the very first time last year. The large sprayground is directly next to two regular playground structures, restrooms, and picnic areas. Beach trails are accessible across the grass next to an active train crossing. When the train rolls through, it’s loud but cool!

South Park & Community Center

4851 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma

We haven’t been here yet. Ps. The website says it’s also the site of the Asian Pacific Cultural Center which sounds like a cool place to visit.

Kandle Park 

2323 N. Shirley St., Tacoma’s north end

We haven’t been here yet but … I’m not sure I’m even going to — lol. The website says this sprayground is located right outside the gates of Kandle Pool. IDK about you, but my kids would lose their minds with sadness if I brought them here and not to the pool. Except … the pool seems like a lot to tackle. Not only is it first-come, first-serve, crowded, and only open at certain times but it’s also a wave pool. Crowded wave pools are a no-go for me because visibility in them is low if I’m on a solo parent kid trip. But if we bring Bowen, I could be convinced. The pool also charges admission fees, which isn’t a dealbreaker, but is worth pointing out so you don’t show up unprepared. While I personally haven’t braved that chaos, local blogger Raising Tacoma and her boys have, and she says good things about it.

Jefferson Park

801 N. Mason Ave., Tacoma

Jefferson Park, c. 2022 | Photo By Tonya Strickland

This was the first big sprayground we went to after moving to Washington (and after only having experience at Atascadero’s mini splash pad). I think it’s one of the largest on this list for Tacoma’s side of things, and the kids had a blast. I don’t feel entirely confident about the overall safety of this particular area, however, and we haven’t been back.

Norpoint Park

4818 Nassau Ave. NE, Tacoma near Dash Point| We haven’t been here yet.

Senator Rosa Franklin Park

1201 S Puget Sound Ave. Tacoma | We also haven’t been here yet. 


Kiwanis Kids Spray Park in Pioneer Park

322 South Meridian

This spray park is at a fantastic playground and is open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily.




Safety tip:

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | June 22, 2023

REMEMBER: to tell your kiddos not to drink the sprayground water coming out of the jets, spouts, puddles, etc. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, splash pads across the country can spread germs and make users sick. That’s because the water isn’t always disinfected to the extent public swimming pools are. And, because people can be really gross.

To give you a preview as to why, I just thought of a joke. They call them spray parks, but how about  … “bidet parks”?!


Yep, that’s right. Think about it, how many littles with diapers use these attractions? I’ve seen a ton! And how many kids sit on the jets and laugh and laugh? Yep, I’ve seen that, too. My kids even do that! Turns out, when people plop down on the water features, walk in with their shoes on, or are even unshowered prior to entering — ALL those germs, traces of poop/pee, and dirt can rinse off their bodies to be recirculated onto the splash pad surfaces and water flow.

Anyhoo …. I’ll be reminding my kids to not put their mouths on spray park spouts and stuff for sure from now on! Bleh!

That’s not to say these public agencies have not thought about such health concerns, and steps* have usually been taken to filter the water. Even still, sprayground tots and their grownups should take their own precautions like showers and bathroom breaks to stop the spread of germs.

*The Metro Parks Tacoma website (at the bottom of this page) states: “the water at our Spraygrounds is recycled and sanitized through filtration and UV light. At Jefferson, for example, there is a 3,000 gallon tank underground that is continuously (24/7) being circulated, filtered, and treated.”

“… The system is designed to turn off if chlorine levels fall below the prescribed level. Once a week the tank is totally emptied, cleaned and replenished with clean tap water. And just before the water goes out to the spray pad it passes through a Ultra Violet (UV) filter that instantaneously kills any bacteria or bugs.”

See ya out there!

Mom and two kids standing with water and boats in the background.


Tonya Strickland is a Gig Harbor mom-of-two and longtime journalist. Now in the travel and family niche, her blog, Two in Tow & On the Go, was recently named among the 10 Seattle-Area Instagram Accounts to Follow by ParentMap magazine. Tonya and her husband Bowen moved to Gig Harbor from California with their two kids, Clara (10) and Wyatt (8) in 2021. Find them on Facebook for all the kid-friendly places in and around town.