I recently popped by what I consider to be one of the best free things to do with kids in summer — the splash pad in Shady Park near Winter Park’s Hannibal Square. But I also found something new and exciting!


The Winter Park splash pad is the polar opposite of Wet N Wild’s Blastaway Beach: no airplanes shooting water, no spinning whirlygigs, no slides, no buckets ready to douse you. Instead, it’s just a circle of small fountains that keep kids guessing where the water’s coming from and shrieking with delight when they guess wrong (or right!). The beauty of this splash pad is in its simplicity — and the fact that you don’t have to drive to Disney to enjoy it.

We started coming here when the twins were still in diapers, and at age 6, they still love it. Heck, I love trying to run through without getting wet! And did I mention it’s free?

Shady Park also boasts a $36,000 Neos Wall electronic play system that offers nine different games that have kids and grownups racing between towers developing agility and coordination and getting a heart-pumping workout.


During my recent visit, I spotted something new as I surveyed Shady Park: a gorgeous and oh-so-inviting community pool. When did this happen and how did I miss it? Either way, I added it to our summer to-do list.


Part of the Winter Park Community Center, the zero-entry pool has fun splash features and a maximum depth of just under 5 feet. Winter Park residents can swim for $2 each and nonresidents for $4. There are also 10-visit passes ($15 and $30, respectively) and family season passes ($125 and $225, respectively) to help you keep your cool all summer.


If you go: Not much to tell you here, just remember your sunscreen and towels and pack plenty of water. Water shoes could also be helpful for wee ones at the splash pad. Wouldn’t want a skinned knee to spoil your day. Address: Splash pad parking is right off Pennsylvania Avenue near Morse Boulevard. The community center is at 721 W. New England Ave. Pool phone: 407-643-1650.

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