Canal ParkThree blocks north of the Capitol Riverfront’s popular Yards Park, Canal Park seems designed with toddlers (and their caregivers) in mind. What was an ice rink only months ago is now a large, flat spray ground, with generous spacing between fountains allowing clumsy toddlers room to bumble among the streams. The fountain height remains low most of the time, luring even those nervous around water, but spouts up occasionally to keep things interesting (and to appease more adventurous children, like my son). With no more than an inch of water on the pavement at all times, children can crawl, walk, and run through the streams with reckless abandon and not worry about getting bogged down in a deeper pool that could pull them down, or worse, under.

The brilliance of Canal Park’s design for the toddler set does not end with its amazing spray ground—the park also boasts two large, shallow wading pools. The water depth in the zero-entry pool graduates to no more than a few inches—enough to please and occupy toddlers, but not enough to overwhelm them. In the other pool, which is completely flat, a mere inch of water allows my energetic son to sprint the pool’s length while shrieking with delight as water flies up in sheets around him. And neither pool’s floor is at all slippery!

Long, lush fields of grass provide good room for running, in case the water play failed to exhaust your little one. Adults and children can enjoy ample food offerings, from Starbucks and the DC food trucks nearby to the park’s very own restaurant, The Park Tavern. Special offerings such as concerts, movies, workouts, and farmers markets engage parents and caregivers.

One of my favorite aspects of Canal Park is that much of the water areas are shaded by nearby high-rise buildings in the late afternoons providing not only a reprieve from the heat, but also protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Shade is often nonexistent in newly constructed areas, but not at Canal Park!

When she’s not checking out toddler-friendly locales, Rebecca writes about reading, cooking, and life at home with a 20-month-old at Dr. Blondie.

Photo credit: Rebecca Thomas