This story was originally published in 2013. Information was updated in July 2018.


Kids play around a waterfall feature at the Yards Park in Washington, D.C. It’s one of several places to keep cool as the temperatures soar. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

As we move into August, you may be getting tired of the heat. It’s expected to be a typically muggy month, but it will be easy to work up a sweat when playing outside.

We have a few suggestions for staying cool. All the fun involves water in slightly different ways: in water, on water, around water and looking at water. At this point in the summer, we at KidsPost believe that water affords several real (and really fun!) ways to beat the heat.

Play in a fountain

You know all those fountains around the city — especially outside museums and official-looking buildings — that you want to jump into but aren’t allowed to? At the Yards Park, you’re not only allowed, but you’re also encouraged to jump, sit, splash and play in a big pool right next to the Anacostia River. The water is only about one foot deep, so it’s like a really big bathtub. Kids (and parents) wade in their bathing suits and even in their clothes.

At one end of the water park, you can play in a noisy waterfall or walk behind it — staying dry — on a path. The stairs next to the pool take you to rows of fountains shooting water up to the sky in long, thin columns. All of this is right next to a grassy park that is perfect for a rest and a snack.

Where: The Yards Park, Third and Water streets SE. No lifeguard is on duty, so don’t forget to walk, not run!

When: Daytime. Closes two hours after sunset.

How much? Free. Have a parent visit yardspark.org.


Visitors to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, explore the Blacktip Shark Reef exhibit. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
See sharks and a sea turtle

Have you ever been to Australia? Or Indonesia? Have you ever seen the brightly colored coral reefs in the ocean between those two countries, where sharks, stingrays and sea turtles play? (A coral reef is a bony formation on which tiny animals called corals live. It looks like sharp rocks.) An exhibit at Baltimore’s
National Aquarium will take you there.

The coral in the Blacktip Reef exhibit is not real, but the more than 1,000 fish are very real, swimming around in a tank as big as a house. Calypso, a 500-pound sea turtle, is part of this exhibit along with two zebra sharks, Zeke and Zoe.

The highlight of the exhibit is the 20 blacktip reef sharks that are between four and six feet long. Swimming smoothly through the water, the sharks look so cool and sleek, with their fins painted black just at the tip.

Where: The National Aquarium in Baltimore, 501 East Pratt Street.

When: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday- Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to
6 p.m.

How much? Adults $39.95, ages 3 to 11, $24.95, seniors $34.95, age 2 and younger free.

For more information: Have a parent go to aqua.org or call 410-576-3800.


R.J. Wible, right, of Springfield, Virginia, shoots the water cannon during the cruise. The Boomerang Pirate Ship has a family fun treasure hunt cruise. During the cruise, they hunt the Potomac River for the scalawags who stole the keys to the treasure chest. The villain is shot with the water cannons and the keys are recovered. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
Hit the high seas, or high river

Ahoy there, matey! Have you ever sailed the seven seas? Dangerous Dave, a pirate in a black and red boat with Jolly Rogers (black skull-and-crossbones flags) flying overhead, wants to take all you sea dogs on a sail for booty. (That’s pirate talk. It means that a guy named Dave wants to take you on a boat ride in search of treasure.) To succeed, you and all the other scurvy dogs have to persuade another pirate, Dangerous Doug, to give you the keys to the treasure chest on his boat, which is also sailing the seven seas (actually, the Potomac River).

“I’m on the lookout for pirates,” Nautical Nikki said as the pirate ship Boomerang set sail recently.

Soon the crew spotted the scalawag Doug in his small boat.

“Man the cannons!” Dangerous Dave commanded, and the mates shot water out of black guns, trying to hit Dangerous Doug.

When Doug surrendered, Nautical Nikki claimed the chest full of beads, treasure maps, balls, silver skull rings, lollipops and candies and passed them out to all the buccaneers.

Because pirates like to dance, Dangerous Dave then led the group in the limbo and some other pirate steps, such as the Clean the Deck, where everyone pretended to be mopping the deck. Nautical Nikki painted faces and put fake tattoos on any willing young pirate.

All in all, it was a pretty cool day at sea.

Where: Washington Harbor, 3000 K Street NW

When: Cruises run Wednesday-Sunday and departure times are included when you book online. After Labor Day, they run Saturdays and Sundays only.

How much: $20.

For more information: Have a parent visit boomerangpirateship.com or call 202-695-6597 or 202-557-9896.


Jack Stewart, 5, front, and his brother Sam, 7, both of Arlington play in the Virginia Highlands Park sprayground in Pentagon City. (Moira E. McLaughlin/The Washington Post)
Cool off on the playground

The summer should be about simple fun, and two spraygrounds are just that: a great way to stay cool, laugh and scream as your brother aims a water spout in your direction.

At Virginia Highlands Park in Arlington, colorful plastic flowers and buckets on tall poles fill up with water and then drench any willing (or unwilling) person below. The sprayground also includes shorter spouts that spray water.

A waterslide is a fun feature of the Palisades Spray Park in the District. The park also includes water shooting from the ground and falling from the mouths of pretend fish hanging from a pole. After cooling off, warm up again on the park’s climbing structure.

Where: Virginia Highlands Park, 1600 South Hayes Street. (Check the Web site below for three other spray parks in Arlington.)

When: Daily through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

How much? Free.

For more information: Have a parent visit parks.arlingtonva.us/parksfacilities/spraygrounds.

Where: Palisades Spray Park, 5200 Sherier Place NW (The website below lists nine other D.C. spray parks.)

When: Daily through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

How much? Free.

For more information: Have a parent visit dpr.dc.gov/page/spray-parks or call 202-673-7647.