I once read that in the South fall and winter are merely states of mind. While most of the country is donning jackets and scarves, those of us below the Mason Dixon Line are still in flip-flops and fearing sunburn.
It’s true: the heat lives on indefinitely in Tennessee, so even though public pools close after Labor Day I still have two preschoolers getting red-faced and sweaty just running down the driveway. Luckily there are a few outdoor places in town to cool off until the weather decides to match the season.
Note: Most attractions report planning to stay on through October or November, weather permitting, but it’s always a good idea to contact them beforehand.
The Splash Pad at the Fountains at Gateway 1500 Medical Center Parkway; 615-890-4651. Facebook.com/fountainsatgateway
Kids will get plenty of giggles from surprise spouts and sudden rain at this favorite spot. Bring a few buckets, a ball or push-toy to share, and you have childhood bliss for a good hour, and that’s even before a round of lawn golf, corn hole, or just tumbling on the adjoining greenspace. Get changed in the restrooms in the Fountains office building, and finish your outing with eats from Burger Republic or Just Love Coffee, or a frozen treat from The Soda Bar. Do note that the pad is limited to children 12 and under, but parents are welcome to assist small ones as needed.
Open: Until November, 10 AM – 10 PM daily
Lucky Ladd Farms Splash Pad 4374 Rocky Glade Road, Eagleville; 615-274-3786. Luckyladdfarms.com
While the state’s largest petting zoo is packed with activities, including livestock to pet and feed, shaded play areas with enormous slides, a corn box, and trails to explore, one of my kids’ favorite attractions is the splash pad. Gentle sprays cool off hot kids without overwhelming them, and a wide concrete path provides plenty of room to run. Nearby rocking chairs and picnic tables mean caregivers can cheer (and stay dry) from a safe distance. Port-a-potties are also located next to the pad. Afterwards, have more watery fun at the rubber duck races, or mine for gems in the shade. Get lunch from the onsite concessions at Moo-Moo’s Parlor, or picnic on the grounds.
Open: September 18- November, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 AM- 5 PM.
Cost: $13.99/adults and teens, $11.99/children 2-12, $10.99/seniors, under 2 FREE.
Discovery Center at Murfree Spring 502 SE Broad Street, 615-890-2300. explorethedc.org
Aside from its indoor attractions, the Discovery Center offers a cool refuge from a Tennessee summer even outside. Colorful water jets over the wetlands provide a thick mist for little ones to run through again and again. Take a stroll to the wetland tributary at the back of the property, study the history path, or tiptoe through the wetlands on stepping stones. My children enjoy picnics at the covered tables, and we finish our outing with the outdoor playground –a slide, outdoor xylophone, spider climbing web, and music boxes. Outdoor restrooms are available across the parking lot next to the wetland trails, or indoor restrooms are available with the price of indoor admission. Jets stay on until freeze- warnings begin around October, so September is perfect for enjoying this fun aspect of a popular destination.
Open: Monday-Saturday, 10 AM- 5 PM; Sunday 1 PM-5 PM. Fountains on until October.
Cost: Outdoor attractions FREE. Indoor admission $8/adults and children, under 2 FREE.
The David Price Miracle Field and Playground 120 Dejarnette Lane (next to Sports*Com). Murfreesborotn.gov/1490miracle-field
The soft turf, slides, zip lines, climbing apparatus, musical instruments and twirling seats—all suitable for children with special needs—make this a fun and very special gathering place for all children and their caregivers. And yes, there’s a fountain! Children can dabble hands and cool faces from the water pooling around the baseball sculpture fountain bearing the autograph of local baseball legend David Price, whose foundation Project 14 partly funded the park. Clean up in nearby restrooms and stay for a picnic in the shade at one of the park’s umbrella tables.
Open: Sun up to sun down, fountain on through October.
City Hall Courtyard and Fountains 111 West Vine Street, 615-893-5210. Murfreesborotn.gov
Each time we visit I’m amazed at how much my children enjoy exploring the gardens, climbing the stairs, and most of all high-fiving the fountains. True, this is no wade pool, but after a run in the bricked open space my kids love getting their hands in the water. Bring a snack and afterwards stop in for books and playtime at Linebaugh Library. Per the city’s standards, City Hall fountains will keep splashing until October.
Open: Park open year-round, fountains on through October.
How’d I do? Comment with your favorite local spots to stay cool in a Tennessee summer!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama of two living in Murfreesboro with her husband Nathan. Follow @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram for more family fun in and around the city.