There’s plenty of wet and wild fun in the area
Just because it’s cooled off into the 80s doesn’t mean we don’t still want to find some water to escape the heat. You can always go to the neighborhood pool. But, luckily, we have plenty of more-unusual options for finding cool-water relief.
Frolic in fountains
For a quick cool-off, there are several fountains and water features around Pittsburgh.
At Waltzing Waters Fountain at Bessemer Court at Station Square, shifting breezes and the fountain’s undulating jets provide the occasional accidentally-on-purpose showering for those watching the 20-minute music-and-water shows that run through midnight daily.
At PPG Place Plaza, Downtown, 140 columns of water gush 15 feet into the air, creating a soothing splash on the black granite paving. The fountain invites anyone to kick off their shoes for a watery stroll.
The Water Steps at North Shore Riverfront Park offers overheated bikers, foot-sore walkers and lots of kids a chance to soak and slosh in the ankle-deep pools of this popular riverside attraction.
At Town Square Fountain at SouthSide Works, water burbles and spikes unpredictably, drawing squeals of delight from youngsters who scamper among the 25 fountainheads. Nearby benches provide a comfortable perch for their adult supervisors.
— Alice T. Carter
The mountains and network of hills in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland are the source for some stunning white water rafting. The three levels of the Youghiogheny River near Ohiopyle in Fayette County feature a variety of trips, best known for the popular journeys near the state park. (www.discoverohiopyle.com)
Only slightly farther away are bigger adventures on the New and Gauley rivers in central West Virginia and the Cheat River in the eastern panhandle near Maryland. The New, one of the oldest rivers on the continent, is big and fierce and one of the east’s whitewater classics. The Gauley can be testing, too, particularly in the spring when snow runoff swells its size. (www.wvtourism.com or 800-225-5982)
The Wisp Resort in western Maryland also has a manmade whitewater facility that was built for competitive-training purposes but can be used by rafting fans not affiliated with a team. (www.wispresort.com or 301-387-4911)
— Bob Karlovits
There’s nothing to stop you from buying a large inner tube and floating down a local creek on your own. But it’s so much more convenient to let the professionals truck you upstream. It’s sunny-day relaxation at its finest: Just plop into a fat inner tube and gently float back.
The Pale Whale Canoe Fleet on the Clarion River in Cook Forest State Park offers tube rentals that include a drive upstream to your put-in. Choose from a two-hour, 2 1⁄2-mile float ($10 for a single, $18 for a figure-8 double) or the four-hour, 4-mile trek ($14 for single, $26 for double).
The river is a mild family-friendly one that averages just 2 to 3 feet in depth. But even so, kids are strapped into life jackets for your set-your-own-pace river ride. Add an extra tube to strap on your cooler — or rent a floating cooler. There are plenty of stops — atop rocks or on the river bank — to enjoy a snack and cold drink. Details: 800-680-0160 or canoecookforest.com
Another option is Coal Tubin’ on the Stonycreek River near Johnstown. Tube rentals ($10) are good for the entire day and include one shuttle, with extra shuttles costing $5. Details: 814-254-4393 or www.coaltubin.com
— Sally Quinn
The nearest place to dip your toes in sand and surf is a two-and-a-half-hour drive north to Erie. But you can feel the distinct sensation of waves lapping at your feet or crashing over your head at one of the area’s three wave pools. At Sandcastle in Homestead, you can flop around in a 300,000-gallon wave pool called the “Mon Tsunami,” billed as being able to deliver ocean-like waves. (www.sandcastlewaterpark.com)
The Allegheny County-run wave pools at Boyce Park in Monroeville, South Park in the South Hills, and Settler’s Cabin in Robinson offers hours from 11:30 a.m.- 7:30 p.m. daily through Labor Day, with admission from $1 to $5.
Soakzone at Idlewild Park also added a wave pool last year. (www.idlewild.com)
— Mike Machosky
A simple spray
Children who want to cool off this summer can visit neighborhood spray parks. Nearly half a dozen of these splashy playgrounds will “Play Misty For Me” throughout the summer. The city of Pittsburgh has opened two spray parks in Troy Hill and Beechview. Two others, at Mellon Park in Point Breeze and Wilner Drive in East Hills, are in the works.
“Kids really enjoy them,” says Joanna Doven, press secretary for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “They’re more cost-effective, they’re easier to operate. They open sooner and close later, so the season’s longer. That’s a big deal for kids.”
Last month, Allegheny County opened its first spray parks at Round Hill Park in Elizabeth and Deer Lakes Park in Tarentum. The Round Hill spray park has a farm theme and is located by the Clover Crest Grove on Hereford Drive. The Deer Lakes spray park features a fish theme and is located near the intersection of Creighton Russelton Road and Mehaffey Road.
Tarentum’s new spray park in Riverview Memorial Park features a variety of sensor-activated sprays.
Citiparks: Cowley Playground at Goettman Street in Troy Hill and Vanucci Playground, Orangewood Avenue, Beechview. Hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through Sept. 3. Details: 412-323-7928, www.citiparks.net
Allegheny County Parks: Deer Lakes Park, 1090 Bailey Run Road, Tarentum; and Round Hill Park, 651 Round Hill Rd., Elizabeth. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through Sept. 3. Details: 412-350-7455, www.alleghenyparks.us/parks
Riverview Park, First Street, Tarentum, Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Details: 724-224-1818
— William Loeffler
A perfect way to idle
SoakZone at Idlewild Park near Ligonier is geared to families with younger children, although there’s definitely some excitement for the teen set.
Captain Kidd’s Adventure Galley offers mini-slides, fountains and water-spill buckets for the younger crowd. The Galley is off in its own little corner, so it’s pretty easy to keep track of your kids. For toddlers, the Little Squirts area has a shallow pool, along with gentle waterfalls and fountains.
The newest addition to SoakZone is the Wowabunga Family Wave Pool. The 182-foot-long pool delivers seven minutes of waves for every 10 minutes of calm water. While the waves aren’t too wild, those under 48 inches tall must wear one of the free life jackets.
There are four separate slides, from the head-first Hydro Racers to two that you ride on with rafts, for those who need more excitement. And if you really need to cool off fast, just stand under the Tipping Bucket and wait for the hundreds of gallons of water to dump down on you.
SoakZone is open from 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. through Sept. 3. Admission is $33.99. Details: www.idlewild.com
— JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Riding into the water
If you go to Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, you can get wet — and we mean, soaking wet — at three of the park’s attractions. On the Log Jammer, you ride a hollowed-out log through 1,650 feet of water-filled troughs. The ride includes two lift hills, and the final plunge drops you down 53 feet to a soaking destination. Then, there’s the Pittsburg Plunge. You don’t even have to ride this one to get wet: Just stand by it, and get sprayed when the 20-passenger boat plunges down 50 feet. Finally, for the most drenching experience, take your companions into the inner-tube rafts at the Raging Rapids. You’ll experience whitewater rafting, and get soaked by waterfalls, geysers, and even water guns from onlookers. Admission is $18.49 to $37.99. Rides open at 11 a.m., closing times vary. Details: www.kennywood.com.
— Kellie Gormly
Fast water fun
The newest ride at Sandcastle Waterpark in Homestead is the Dragon’s Den. This slide offers guest maximum thrills as they catapult through a dark 45-foot tunnel slide, which then plummets them into a 35-foot bowl, where they encounter a 9-foot-tall dragon that spits mist at its riders. After completing two to four revolutions, guests suddenly disappear, splashing down in a landing pool.
Sandcastle offers many other chances to get wet, from tube slides to the Boardwalk Blasters, a 25-foot-long slide where you land in a 12-foot-deep pool. Try the Lightning Express’ extreme 60-foot-high body slides, or float along the Lazy River. There is a wave pool, as well as pools for children with slides, a mushroom waterfall and Wet Willie’s Water Works.
It’s open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, until 7 p.m. Saturdays. Admission ranges from $20.99 to $30.99, with discounts after 3 p.m. Details: www.sandcastlewaterpark.com
— JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
The beaches at Pennsylvania State Parks operate under an “Open-Swim Policy” — no lifeguards, but park staff on patrol. Swimming is permitted within buoy lines at designated beaches from 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Swimmers are permitted to use soft water toys, such as inner tubes, noodles and air mattresses. All have showers, changing areas or bathhouses nearby.
The largest beaches, 1,200 feet wide, are at Moraine State Park (Butler County, 724-368-8811) and Laurel Hill State Park (Somerset Country, 814-352-7238). The other regional state parks with beaches for swimming are Yellow Creek (Indiana County, 724-357-7913), Keystone (Westmoreland Country, 724-668-2939), and Raccoon Creek (Beaver County, 724-899-2200). The swimming area, though, not the beach, is closed at Kooser State Park due to excessive sedimentation and algae in the water (Somerset County, 814-445-8673).
— Mark Kanny
Here’s a great way to stand up to the heat this summer — paddle boarding.
Sure, kayaking is king among outdoors water sports; but stand-up paddle boarding is taking off the fastest, especially in Pittsburgh with its network of calm-flowing waterways.
Paddle boarders stand on long surfboards and use oars to propel themselves through the water. It may seem like a lot of effort during the summer, but you can always jump off into the water to cool off. Paddle-boarding faithful say the activity is both fun and healthy.
SurfSUP Adventures (724-989-7259; www.surfsupadventures.com) offers tours on Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park and on the Allegheny River near Oakmont, and other locations, for $80 a person, which includes all the necessary equipment. Northeast Paddleboard Co. (412-720-5058; northeastpaddleboard.com) in Boston takes trips on the Youghiogheny for $30 a person for a two-hour tour. Both sell boards and equipment.
— Chris Ramirez