by Bethany Proffitt
As a mom of two boys and two girls ages 7, 6, 2, and 1, I have learned to appreciate a good splash pad on a sweltering Oklahoma summer day. Though we go to our pool, Park Plaza South, almost every day, we frequent Tulsa area splash pads almost as often. We tend to follow a splash-pad-in-the-morning, nap-in-the-afternoon, and pool-in-the-evening routine. I love splash pads for two nearly equal reasons. First, the risk of one of my children drowning is significantly decreased, and second, I don’t have to change into my swimsuit. Just comfy shorts and a t-shirt and I’m splash-pad appropriate.
When planning any trip, it is good to be prepared. However, because I rarely actually plan a trip to the splash pad I have developed an “Always Prepared” system (I’m an Eagle Scout by marriage). It’s not easy to take your kids to the park and then tell them to stay out of the water. For this reason several things live in my car all summer: a bag containing a swimsuit for each child, towels, swim diapers, sunscreen, capri sun, and goldfish crackers and a picnic blanket. The summer I was nine-months-pregnant I included a very large and comfortable lawn chair as a permanent car dweller. Once, my husband unpacked the car. That did not go well for him. Bless his “just trying to help” heart.
My list of top splash pads is slightly biased to Midtown and South Tulsa, where we used to live and where we now live, respectively. The splash pad nearest your home may be your best bet, but if you want to branch out, take a look at these.
Number 5: GuthrieGreen/Oneok Field
If you are going to be downtown anyway, Guthrie Green has a splash pad that kids absolutely love. We wouldn’t go there specifically for the splash pad, but if we were going to Storytime on the Green, Food Truck Wednesday, or a Sunday Concert, my kids are always very happy to play in the water.
Pro Tip: Check the Driller’s Fireworks schedule, guess when the game will be over, (maybe 9:30 pm), take kids to play at Guthrie Green and just happen to see an awesome fireworks show from two blocks away. Maybe your kids can sit through an entire baseball game, in which case, just go to the game. There’s a really great playground and splash pad inside the stadium so be prepared for kids to get wet.
Number 4: Hunter Park off of 91st St. between Yale and Sheridan
Hunter Park recently installed new playground equipment and also has a nice little basic splash pad. My big boys are just starting to outgrow this park and though it is not bad for big kids, it is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.
Pro Tip: If your “littles” like dogs, they will be in heaven because there is a dog park near the playground. Kids can’t go in but there are always lots of dogs to see. Hunter Park also features a disc golf course, a woodsy walking trail, and a paved walking trail. Watch the time, though. It’s a Tulsa park so the water is only on from Noon until 8:00pm.
Number 3: Whiteside Park, 41st St between Harvard and Yale
The splash pad at Whiteside Park is only about two years old and was nicely done. We used to live half a mile away so we were thrilled when it opened. The pavement is made of pretty mosaic glass in primary colors, and the water features are fun for babies and big kids alike. Seating for adults is not a problem as there is a concrete bench around the perimeter. The splash pad is on the opposite side of the parking lot from the playground so it is not convenient to go back and forth between the two. The hours are Noon to 8:00 pm, which is disappointing because we prefer to go in the morning before it gets too hot and sunny.
Pro Tip: bring your sunscreen because there is no shade.
Number 2: Bentley Park, 148th and Memorial
Ok, Bentley Park is actually in Bixby, not Tulsa, but it is worth the drive. My boys love Bentley Park because it has the biggest slide they have ever seen and the splash pad is a nice bonus. The park itself is a newer design that is toddler-friendly as well as cool enough for big kids to love it, too. The climbing equipment features nice ramps that appear to be handicap accessible, so a child with a walker or wheelchair could easily go up and down. The water area has a nice mix of things that shoot, things that dump, and things that spray water.
Pro Tip: beware of a couple of spots on the ground that randomly shoot a stream of water and can startle an unsuspecting toddler to tears. Pack a lunch or pick up Chik-Fil-A on the way, you could easily spend several hours here.
Number 1: 41st and Riverside
My first love, when it comes to splash pads, has proved to be an everlasting love. It is the Quick Trip splash pad at 41st and Riverside. This is the first splash pad I brought my boys to when they were babies. The park features several different play areas that are not the normal splash pad routine. Smooth stones give a spa-like feel to the water features. The dry playground equipment and the water features are intermingled so kids move easily from one to the other. Two huge old trees were preserved in the middle of the playground and provide shade most of the day. I love that my big boys feel free to run all over the play area, but I can easily keep an eye on them while I stay close to the babies. This park does not follow the City of Tulsa schedule for operation and is usually the first to open in early May and the last to close, well after Labor Day. They also don’t have the timer that other Tulsa parks have and the water is on super early in the morning and super late at night. There are times that the park is overcrowded, usually on weekends or evenings.
Pro Tip: Parking can be a problem as many people park there to use the trail or disc golf course, not just the playground, but spots open up quickly.
The City of Tulsa has a complete list of splash pads and water playgrounds here on their website.
Does your neighborhood have an awesome splash pad that we need to know about? Share it with us in the comments below!
Bethany Proffitt is the mother of four kids, two boys and two girls, and knows a thing or two about keeping them entertained in the summer heat of Tulsa.