If you plan to visit Orlando with kids, you may want to have their swimsuits and a towel handy as you make your way around the attractions. Orlando’s average temperature in the summer is 90-plus degrees with plenty of swampy humidity to go with it, but we kind, Central Floridians have dotted a number of splash pads in among some of the more popular destinations. Splash pads are essentially fountains and water features that encourage kids to get wet and play among the spray. They vary from simple water jets bursting from the ground to tricked-out ones that may include elevated buckets that drop water over your head or whimsical creatures squirting water from their mouths. Here’s a list of (unexpected) places where the kids can cool down, no pool required.
Gatorland is old-school Florida fun. As the name suggests, there are hundreds of alligators ranging from wee, little guys to huge beasts at the park to (safely) observe. Besides learning about native Florida animals (there is also a boardwalk that leads to a bird refuge), kids can make a splash of their own at the attraction’s nifty water park area called Gator Gully. A big barrel hung from above constantly spills gallons of water down for a good drenching while gator sculptures spit water from their toothy jaws. Included in admission. 14501 Orange Blossom Trail/800.393.5297.
Cool off from shopping for souvenirs at Downtown Disney (free and open to the public), by stopping off at one of two splash pads here. The Magical Water Fountain, on the West Side near Once Upon a Toy, spouts water from the ground in intermittent spurts, encouraging kids to scurry after them. The smaller splash pad, which still does the job of getting kids wet, is near The Days of Christmas ornament store. 1800 E. Lake Buena Vista Drive/407.828.3800.
Close to the posh, pedestrian Park Avenue shopping district in the heart of Winter Park (Northeast of downtown Orlando), is a charming area called Hannibal Square. At Shady Park, there is a simple "spray ground" canopied by large oaks. The water cycles through mellow spurts to more active ones leaving no one dry in its wake. A pretty and modern community pool with a zero entry zone for the little guys is steps away if you want a more thorough soaking. 721 New England Ave., Winter Park/407.599.3334.
In the town that Disney built, you’ll find real life Central Florida residents who hail from all over the world. Be it for work or retirement, Celebration lures a mix of people who crave the Florida lifestyle and happens to be minutes away from the Disney parks. Houses have all the modern amenities, but their facades are designed with a Southern, turn-of-the-century aesthetic including lovely porches and picket fences. Play with the residents at the area’s splash pad just off of Market Street overlooking the lake filled with gators and wading birds. Front Street, Celebration.