Remember that old sprinkler the neighbor dragged out of the garage to quench a thirsty lawn? You were thirsty too, tiptoeing barefoot on the scorching sidewalk. It wasn’t a pool day but that didn’t stop you from putting on your bathing suit the moment you woke up. Then the sound of water springing from jets sent the neighbor kids running, screaming and leaping over those glorious, shimmering streams.
I’m too old now to run barefoot through the neighbor’s yard and my one-year-old son Dorian is too young to roam the streets with a pack of neighborhood kids. Yet the siren song of the sprinkler still beckons. So we schedule a play date with Dorian’s friend Mateo for a trip to the Washington Park Interactive Water Park. This is not your neighbor’s sprinkler!
Related: Cincinnati Splash Park Guide
There’s scarcely a dry body or unhappy child at the park. Water, however, is abundant. It surges skyward from 140 pop-up jets. It bubbles out of the ground and cascades down giant granite steps. Dorian approaches this water world as he does most new experiences, with caution. Mateo goes forth boldly. The sparkling streams look good enough to drink and Mateo meets them head-on. He explores every inch of the park while Dorian is fixated on the glowing jets emanating colored light. It is impossible to tear him away, even when Mateo takes him by the hand as if to say “come play!” in baby language.
For years I worked at a public pool in Washington Park. I was sad to see the pool demolished for the remaking of the park but when the new grounds opened I saw the vast improvement. The park is much more communal. Spraygrounds have popped up all over Cincinnati in recent years and they seem to level the playing field. Children and adults splash together on a flat surface accessible to everyone from toddlers learning to walk to people with disabilities.
The new Washington Park is a playful paradise for children that also has the interests of adults in mind. To that end there’s an outdoor deck serving craft beers, a dog park and a calendar packed with live performances. During our visit a zydeco band played in the distance. When the kids tire of the water, there’s a playground like no other with a castle, canal boat and climbing wall. You’re not just limited to the park. Over-the-Rhine is one of Cincinnati’s most walkable communities with plenty of places to eat, shop and explore.
By day’s end Dorian is no longer wary of this water world. He’s conquered the waterfall steps, taken a few splashes to the face, he’s soaked and satisfied. I often wish we had a yard for him to run through a sprinkler, but what we have instead are the great outdoor spaces Cincinnati has to offer. With the Washington Park sprayground to quench our thirst for fun, we won’t stay dry for long on hot summer days.
PLAN A VISIT: Water park hours are 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. April-October. The underground parking garage is accessible from Race and Elm Streets. Rates start at $2.
Selena Reder is a mother, writer and part-time video producer living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her son Dorian and husband Tim. Dorian loves chasing Selena and Tim’s tailless cat, making messes for dad to clean up, squealing loud enough for the neighbors to hear and staring at strangers until it’s uncomfortable. Tim loves Dungeons and Dragons, Margaret Atwood and writing meticulous grocery lists.
Selena loves washing cloth diapers, binging on British TV (Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Doc Martin, etc) painting and knitting super fancy baby sweaters. She also loves working part-time with her video editor husband (special shout out to her parents and in-laws for being great babysitters!).
If Selena were stranded on a desert island with only one thing to do for the rest of her life, she would nurse her son in their favorite chair. It’s the best thing in the world right now.