Can’t make it to the beach? Don’t have time for a proper pool visit? Just do like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and dip it in the fountain. That’s right, New York City has 50-plus public fountains and it’s totally legal—and, in many cases, wholeheartedly encouraged—to jump in any of them. Of course, you should use discretion: For your fountain frolic, choose one that has multiple active sprays, which signal water circulation; stagnant water is, well, yuck.
Plenty of fountains haven’t been activated this summer yet, making them undippable. Most of Staten Island’s display fountains, for example, including the previously splashable Fountain of the Dolphins and Neptune Fountain, are still under construction after Hurricane Sandy. And some seemingly public fountains are privately operated and off-limits, including the Revson Fountain at Lincoln Center and the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain in Bryant Park.
But there are still plenty of cascading, spouting, spraying, and completely legal urban oases in which to splash and cool off. Our favorites, in order:
1. Washington Square Park Fountain in Greenwich Village
With 32,000 gallons of water constantly circling through a filtration system and jets that shoot it up to 45 feet in the air, this beauty is one of your best bets for a midday splash. On sunny days, the fountain’s spray creates rainbow arches that mirror the lines of the iconic Washington Square Arch just beyond. Nearby public bathrooms for post-frolic changing, plenty of ice cream stands and trucks, and excellent people-watching cement the fountain’s number-one spot on the list.
2. Bosque Fountain in Battery Park
Watch where you step near the southern tip of Battery Park if you don’t want to get wet; you might unwittingly land on one of the 35 water jets here that spontaneously erupt. The erratic jumps and sudden sprays at this 60-foot wide, spiral fountain make kids crazy (in a good way!), but you don’t need a shortie to partake yourself: We dare you to a jet-dodging dash across to the other side. Adequate shade and killer views of the Statue of Liberty make this fountain a close runner-up.
3. The Fountain at Domino Park
Similar to the Bosque Fountain, the waterworks here come courtesy of a whopping 85 individually programmed jets. While there’s more water, there’s also more direct sun, making it less appealing during a heat wave. Still, the Seating Steps offer a sweet spot to sip cold Micheladas from the neighboring Tacocina and watch kids and adults alike shriek amid the liquid columns. If you didn’t bring a change of clothes, cool off instead at the park’s Fog Bridge, a square window to the river below surrounded by misters. (Don’t worry, the mist is sourced from the city’s water supply—not the East River.)
4. Splash Pad in Prospect Park
The LeFrak Center at Lakeside is a whole-day destination. In the summer, you can roller-skate, rent bikes, paddleboat, kayak, picnic, and revel in the 60,000-foot Splash Pad fountain. The pad’s design is simple: A flat circle is ringed with a low granite wall equipped with 47 spray jets that shoot into the center, lining the whole thing with just about an inch or so of water. You can walk across it, just getting your feet wet, or you can test your luck by strolling closer to the jets. Kids bring water guns and beach balls and run their scooters through what is essentially a giant (and clean!) puddle…and we mean that in the best way. Their parents sit at the covered picnic tables of Bluestone Cafe alongside the pad, nursing beers and nibbling on surprisingly good salads, burgers, and fries.
5. Unisphere Fountain in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Built to dazzle the attendees of the 1964 World’s Fair, the spray jets and corresponding lights surrounding the Unisphere gave the metal globe the illusion of spinning. Fifty-four years and 48 additional jets (bringing the total to 96) later, the fountain still dazzles. You’ll find a wonderful mix of toddlers in swim diapers, Instagrammers, and cyclists cooling off after a ride here.
6. Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
With fewer water jets and less circulation, this Central Park centerpiece is more of a foot-dipper than a full-body soak, but on a 90-degree day, we’ll take it. Kick off your shoes, climb in, and cool off…even if you don’t see anyone else doing the same. We promise you won’t get in trouble.
7. Bowling Green Fountain in Bowling Green Park
There aren’t as many kids around at this Financial District historic park to break the fountain-dipping ice (they’re all at the Bosque Fountain just a few blocks south), but that doesn’t mean you can’t roll up your pant legs and enjoy your lunch break with your feet in the cool water.