Here’s a surefire combination for cooling down kids during these sunny, sweltering days: Take them to one of these free splash pads to frolic in jets of water, then get a frozen treat at a nearby shop. We found 13 spots around the area where you can do both within a short walk or a quick drive, to make this an easy, fun summer outing.


Kids love running through the dancing fountains stationed at the entrance to Yards Park (355 Water St. SE), as well as wading in Canal Basin and the waterwall below. Right next door is Ice Cream Jubilee (301 Water St. SE), where you’ll find such kid-friendly classics as cookies & cookie dough.

Lulabelle’s (847 Upshur St. NW) is less than two blocks away from the Petworth Recreation Center (801 Taylor St. NW), which recently finished upgrades to its playground and splash park. The neighborhood sweets shop and market with the cheerful dollhouse-like exterior serves ice cream from Baltimore-based Taharka Brothers, known for such flavors as honey graham and Mintflix and Chillz.

Tables, chairs and benches surround a little splash pad at the new Eastern Market Metro Park (701 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), which also includes a playground. Take a seat while the kids frolic in the water, and strategize whether to get customizable ice cream sandwiches from Captain Cookie (660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) or scoops at Moorenko’s (720 C St. SE).

The Wharf has its own splash pad with jets of water and misting sprays, located toward the eastern end of the development. A Ben & Jerry’s is adjacent to the Fountain at the Wharf (corner of Maine Avenue and Seventh Street SW), but it’s worth walking along the waterfront to Southwest Soda Pop Shop (1142 Maine Ave. SW) for soft-serve with rainbow sprinkles, ice cream floats and other nostalgic treats.

Colorful hoses and a climb-on tugboat spray water at the splash pad at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center complex (1100 Michigan Ave. NE), which includes a playground and picnic area. Within a 10-minute drive, find an outpost of the Rita’s chain (2318 Rhode Island Ave. NE) serving Italian ice and custard treats.

There’s a playground and a toddler-friendly spray park at Chevy Chase Recreation Center (5500 41st St. NW), which is a five-minute drive from Sugar Fox (5027 Connecticut Ave. NW). The ice cream and cake shop, open Thursday through Sunday, is from the owners of popular cafe Little Red Fox, and features a menu full of sprinkle ice cream cookie sandwiches and cupcakes.

The Potomac River provides a lovely backdrop for the arcing jets of water at the fountain at Georgetown Waterfront Park (Wisconsin Avenue and K Street NW). There are plenty of sweet options within walking distance on this side of Georgetown, including Dog Tag Bakery (3206 Grace St. NW), which sells icy treats such as frozen lemonade and ice cream sandwiches — and Affogato for the grown-ups.


Lee District Rec Center’s Our Special Harbor Spray Park (6601 Telegraph Rd., Alexandria) is a Chesapeake-Bay themed water wonderland, with features including a dumping crab basket, lighthouse sprinkler, water maze and water tables. Don’t miss the elaborate playground next door and a trail geared toward kids. A Dairy Queen (5810 Kingstowne Center, Kingstowne) is less than 10 minutes away if you drive to Kingstowne, but we recommend making the 15-minute trip to the walk-up window at the Custard Shack (1401 Belle Haven Rd., Alexandria) in Belle Haven for kiddie cones.

The Potomac Yards Interactive Fountain (2501 Potomac Ave., Alexandria) is sandwiched between two playgrounds in Alexandria, and features 36 water jets and special lighting in the evening. In nearby Del Ray, just a five-minute drive away, beloved custard shop Dairy Godmother (2310 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria) serves vanilla and chocolate scoops (and rotating flavors such as cinnamon roll or banana pudding).

At Lyon Village Park (1800 North Highland St., Arlington), ornate metal gates lead to a playground and a colorful splash pad where water sprays in the air and cascades out of buckets. (Early risers, take note: The splash pad doesn’t open until noon on the weekends). Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream (5849 Washington Blvd., Arlington) is less than a 10-minute drive away. The local shop made headlines for its cicada-shaped sundaes this spring, but now it serves ultra-creamy sundaes and Oreo cookie ice cream sandwiches.


After splashing around at the Fountain on the Square in Rockville Town Square, check out Kyoto Matcha (33 Maryland Ave., Rockville) where you can order bright green matcha soft serve cones with cornflake toppings, or Marble Slab Creamery (100-I Gibbs St., Rockville), where kids can opt for a cupcake or make their own custom ice cream creation with unlimited toppings mixed-in, from bananas to mini-marshmallows. D.C.’s HalfSmoke chain, known for over-the-top milkshakes, is opening a Rockville location (36A Maryland Ave., Rockville) soon.

The Woodland Wonderland playground at Walker Mill Regional Park (8001 Walker Mill Rd., Capitol Heights) in Prince George’s County has a 2,000-square-foot “misting pad” where cattails and mushrooms release a fine spray of mist to cool kids down on sweltering days. A Baskin-Robbins (9183A Central Ave., Capitol Heights) is less than a 10-minute drive away for post-playground ice cream cones.

Merriweather District, a new mixed-use development near the venerable outdoor music venue in Downtown Columbia, includes green space and a splash pad with dancing fountains at Color Burst Park (6000 Merriweather Dr., Columbia). The Charmery, a Baltimore-based ice cream chain, opened up around the corner from the park, with intriguing flavors for kids (sweet cream studded with Nerds candy) and adults alike (Old Bay-sprinkled scoops).

More ideas for family fun: