Splish Splash Fun: pools, parks and fountain in Sarasota

After you’ve hit the beach, try these other spots where you can cool off and splash around

When you want to make a splash in Sarasota County, our beaches are always a great place to start. But beyond the sandy shoreline you’ll find lots of other places where you can dip your toes or dive right in for some watery fun.


Lido Beach Pool


The Gulf of Mexico isn’t the only place to cool down at Sarasota’s Lido Beach. Just steps from the sand you can find the Lido Beach Pool. The 25-meter pool sits on the site of a former casino, built with funds from the Works Progress Administration and a popular tourist attraction in the 1940s and ’50s (before it fell into disrepair and was torn down). Today instead of rolling the dice you can swim some laps; day passes are available for $4 for adults and $2 for kids and seniors.


Make a day of it: Grab lunch at the nearby Lido Island Grill (941 444-7495,  www.lidoislandgrill.com/), a better-than-your-average beach concession that serves up everything from burgers and beer to fish tacos and lobster rolls. Then book a kayak or paddleboard tour of the Lido Mangrove Tunnels through outfitters like Dolphin Paddlesports.


Arlington Park and Aquatic Center


Serious swimmers, take note: Arlington Park and Aquatic Center in Sarasota is home to both a 50-meter lap pool and 25-yard instructional pool. You may be sharing the lanes with local swim teams, though; call to find out when they’re practicing. Day rates are $4 for adults and $2 for kids and seniors.


Make a day of it: Explore the rest of Arlington Park, which also includes tennis and basketball courts, a paved walking trail, playground, and picnic areas. The park is just west of the Pinecraft neighborhood, the center of Sarasota’s Amish community. Tuck into a slice of peanut butter cream pie at Yoder’s Restaurant and Amish Village, then pick up some candles, apple butter, and other goodies at the site’s gift shop and market.


Sarasota YMCA Water Park


A favorite spot among local kids, the Water Park at the Sarasota YMCA’s Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch makes for a fun-filled excursion with plenty of twists and turns. Climb the tower to shoot down the park’s two curving waterslides; young swimmers like to race each other to the bottom. A smaller slide and climbing structure in the shallow end of the pool attract the preschool set, while splash zones outside of the pool area let kids choose between getting sprayed or getting soaked (or something in between). Admission is $7 for non-Sarasota YMCA members.


Make a day of it: Before hitting the slides, take a bike ride on the nearby Legacy Trail, a former railroad line turned biking and walking trail that stretches for more than 10 miles from Culverhouse Nature Park in Sarasota south to the Venice Train Depot. Parking is available just to the north of Potter Park (which the water park abuts) on McIntosh Road. If the kids haven’t burned off enough energy, there’s also a fun playground at Potter Park.


Sarasota Children’s Fountain


We can’t think of a much nicer setting for a kids’ play space than the Sarasota Children’s Fountain. Situated in Bayfront Park, the site boasts Sarasota Bay as a backdrop. Mom and dad can take in the postcard-worthy views while keeping an eye on their kiddos as they dart through the watery sprays or cavort among the playful animal structures. Open from April 1 to October 31, the fountain is a fun, no-cost way to cool down.


Make a day of it: Visit the well-equipped playground at Bayfront Park, then head to O'Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill for casual eats in a waterside setting. If you still haven’t had enough of the water, you can rent jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards, and aqua cycles from Bayfront Excursions, which has a rental location nearby. Or let someone else take the helm by booking a sightseeing or sunset excursion through LeBarge Tropical Cruises.


Sun-N-Fun RV Resort


The Sarasota RV resort  kicks off its 2017 summer season on April 22. Until September 1, the resort’s wet-and-wild amenities are open to the public seven days a week, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Day passes are available for enjoying the pool, twisty Mega Slide, and indoor inflatable obstacle course called the Wibit, where kids can unleash their inner American Ninja Warrior. Pricing varies by the day; visit on Tuesday or Thursday for two-for-one admission or on Wednesday, when day passes and bands for the Wibit are just $3 each. Special theme weekends feature dive-in movies on Friday nights, music, crafts, and other activities.


Make a day of it: Sliding and scrambling can work up an appetite. Head to nearby Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse for some barbecue and live music. Sit under the open-air tiki hut to nosh on everything from ribs and fried chicken to collard greens and cornbread. Or see what’s flying in and out of the Celery Fields, a 300-acre preserve where more than 200 species of birds have been spotted.


Venice Children’s Fountain


Centennial Park occupies prime real estate in the heart of downtown Venice. Within that park you can find the city’s free Children’s Fountain; just follow the squeals of laughter you’ll hear as the little ones are splashing around. New canopy coverings help mom and dad stay cool while the kids play. The fountain is open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; check it out at night when changing colored lights illuminate the spurts of water and create plenty of cool photo ops.


Make a day of it: After some serious playtime, reward the kiddos (or yourself) with a sweet treat. Enjoy a cone of Salted Caramel or Moose Tracks ice cream at Venice Avenue Creamery. Or grab a stool at the counter and order up an old-fashioned-style hot fudge sundae at the Soda Fountain. Ciao Gelato makes Italian-style ice cream in flavors like Cherry Bomb and Cinnabun.


Warm Mineral Springs


At Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, the water maintains a temperature of 85 degrees year-round. The springs are believed to date back to the Ice Age and contain an estimated 51 minerals—one of the highest mineral counts of any natural spring in the country—that are said to be good for your health and well-being. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with day passes for non-residents costing $20 for adults and $15 for students.


Make a day of it: Warm Mineral Springs also offers spa services, like facials, body wraps, and hot-stone massages. For a pre- or post-soak hike, head a little west to River Road. From there, head north to Jelks Preserve, where eight miles of trails wind through scrubby flatwoods, oak hammocks, and pine flatwoods and offer glimpses of the Myakka River, or south to Myakka State Forest, an 8,592-acre site frequented by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.


Atwater Community Park


Located adjacent to an elementary school, the 25-acre Atwater Community Park in North Port  is home to a recently opened splash pad where kids can escape the heat. Water bubbles up and arcs over the free fenced-in site, which has benches for mom and dad to relax on if they’re not looking to get wet themselves. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk.


Make a day of it: The park also includes a newly built playground next to the splash pad, along with baseball fields and walking paths. It’s not too far from Bobcat Trail Golf Club, a public course that’s been rated a “must play, 4½ star course” by Golf Digest. (Some members of the family could play nine holes while the others splash.) Or hop on Price Boulevard and head west to Sumter Boulevard, where you’ll find the Shiver Shack. It serves up Hawaiian-style shaved ice as well as more than 60 flavors of ice cream.