It's only mid June, but here in Austin, TX we've already hit 4 days in a row of triple digit heat. In fact, summer was here temperature-wise about a month ago.
How are parents supposed to beat this summer heat and get the kids out of the house without breaking too much of a sweat? Sprinkler parks of course.
Sprinkler parks and splash pads are popping up all over Austin, and they provide some of the best summer time entertainment for young children without the stress and anxiety that swimming in a large pool can often cause the parents. In this series, we're profiling several different parks in the central and north parts of town and rating them from a twin mom's perspective. The rating depends on three categories:
- Fun, or variety of age appropriate activities - Are there play areas for toddlers and older kids? Lots of things to do, or is everyone going to be bored after five minutes?
- Sun, or weather resistance - Are you going to be left in the harsh sun the entire time? Or are there plenty of shaded areas? What about picnic tables and pavilions for breaks?
- Run, aka flight risk - Probably the most important factor to consider since twin moms are almost always outnumbered. Is the space fairly easy to manage, or will you be left in the dust as your kids run for the hills, or worse, the street?
Note: My children are ages 3 and 1, so most of my opinions are based on their abilities and my need to keep a close eye on them.
Just opened on June 10, 2011, the Quarry Splash Pad in Leander is the newest, largest, and most activity filled sprinkler park in the Austin area. The Quarry is a unique park, built around existing rock features left from the quarry that formerly existed on the grounds, located in Southwest Williamson County Regional Park. Admission is only $1 per person, but this beautiful and fun filled park is well worth it.
- Fun: HIGH! I was blown away by how fun this park was. The splash area is long and large, with plenty of room to play even when it's crowded. The middle section is the largest, featuring a water fall, several spouts, and a section of three water cannons. On one side is a smaller pad with several more spouts. All three of my children loved this part, and it was perfect for my 16 month old to run around from spout to spout, without fear of getting run over by larger kids. There was also a water slide that connected the two sections. On the other side of the park is a very large sand pit, another hit with my three year olds, and a rock wall. The park also boasts a concession stand with candy and sno cones for sale.
- Sun: HIGH. There is virtually no shade at the park. Hopefully the county will install shades over the grassy area, which is actually astroturf. Very eco friendly! There are two shaded pavilions on either end of the park, as well as large covered pavilions outside the entrance that are available for rent for parties. The sand pit is also shaded by a large umbrella.
- Run: Medium. Being large for a sprinkler park, parents can lose sight of their kids easily. The back of the park is an empty lot and is not enclosed, so I was not convinced that my girls wouldn't head off exploring in that direction. I definitely need another adult or mother's helper with me. I lucked out this day in that my friend's 11 year old daughter and her friend led my three year olds all over the park, giving me the chance to focus on my little one.
- Overall grade: Excellent! The Quarry Splash Pad is definitely a hit with its low price, large number of fun activities, and beautiful design.
Keep in mind when you head to the Quarry Splash Pad:
- The cost to get in the park is $1 per person, and patrons pay at a machine at the entrance. At this time the machine takes cash only. Although there is an attendant at the concession stand, it's pretty much on the honor system, and there is no age guide. I was left wondering whether or not I should pay for my 16 month old, but I did anyway.
- The eco friendly astroturf gets very hot in the blazing sun. There are tables available, but make sure you have blankets and towels handy to spread out or extra seating and even standing.
- The slide is not terribly steep, but it is made of stone and has about a 6 inch drop off at the end. A child who goes down the wrong way or loses their balance could easily hit their head, chin, or face on the edge of the slide.
The Quarry Splash Pad
3005 CR 175
Other parks from a twin mom's perspective: