In the old days, a lot of city-dwelling families had to rely on an illegally open fire hydrants and a coffee can to cool off when the summer got sweltering. But in the intervening decades, public art works have increasingly provided the perfect place to lower a kid’s core temperature. In some cases, this was by design; in others, it was a happy accident. Either way, the end results are spectacular — and a whole lot better than being blasted with a makeshift fire hose.
Crown Fountain, Chicago, IL
Located in Chicago’s Millenium Park, Crown Fountain features two glass brick towers that display 50-foot high videos of faces. Over 60,000 gallons of water slosh down the towers and across the reflecting pool that lays between them. Intermittently, some of that water goes shooting out of spouts located in the mouths of the faces on display. Kids go bonkers for this because they’re too young to appreciate how creepy it is.
Ira Keller Fountain, Portland OR
Thirteen thousand gallons of water per minute pour across these concrete waterfalls, which were inspired by falls in nearby Columbia River Gorge. The fountain opened in 1970 amidst a tense standoff between city officials and anti-war protesters, but as soon as the water was turned on, the hippies (and the fountain’s designer) all dove in. The city’s been a haven of peace, love, and understanding ever since.
Appearing Rooms, Southbank London
Every 10 seconds, the lines that border and intersect this 23-foot-by-23-foot box shoot water 7.5 feet straight up, creating a constantly morphing configuration of “rooms.” Adults like it because it inspires them to reflect on things like social inclusion and exclusion; kids like it because it shoots water straight up their noses.
Citygarden, St. Louis MO
A sculpture garden that features both a “splash plaza” of 102 water jets and a 180-foot pool dotted with limestone islands, Citygarden won the Urban Land Institute’s Open Space award in 2011. This, presumably, is a better place to dunk your kids when you’re in town than the nearby Mississippi.
Olympic Cauldron, Sydney Australia Most Olympic cauldrons live out their days in the relative obscurity of their venues, but the folks in Sydney turned theirs into the country’s largest kid shower. The 7-ton cauldron is balanced on 24 steel beams that look like they’re going to collapse at any second – fortunately, your kid is likely pretty far away from it at the moment and totally safe.
Washington Park Interactive Water Feature, Cincinnati OH
The centerpiece of a $48 million park makeover in one of Cincinnati’s less affluent neighborhoods, this fountain sprawls across 8,000 square feet of stone deck dotted with 107 water jets. Each jet gets its own LED light, which turns the place into a Pink Floyd-worthy light show every night.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda Music Fountain, Xian China
At 161,460 square feet, this is the largest musical fountain in Asia, and features hundreds of water jets babbling pleasantly enough during the day. The nightly music performances are considerably more intense, with water reaching over 60 feet in the air, so make sure you get your kid out of there before the show starts.
Julie Penrose Fountain, Colorado Springs CO
This 4-story tall, 24-ton metal loop looks a little bit like it’s going to roll off it’s (slowly rotating!) footing and crush anything in its path. Instead, it shoots water from 366 jets that line the inner contour of the loop, creating a cooling sheet that wafts over kids playing in the reclamation pool below.
Horace E Grant Dodge Fountain, Detroit MI
The sculpture who designed the Dodge fountain wanted it to represent “our relationship to outer space.” He succeeded in that task far better than in paying tribute to the auto industry pioneer himself. During the day, it’s one of Detroit’s best-known cooling off spots; at night it looks for all the world like it’s about to return to the mothership.
Lion’s Fountain, Culver City CA
The hotel adjacent to this fountain housed more than 100 Munchkins during the filming of Wizard Of Oz, which took place at the old MGM studios nearby. Those diminutive actors turned the place into a booze-drenched brothel, and they’d no doubt be disappointed to learn that the only little people causing chaos in the area these days are the ones running through the 40 water jets of the Lion’s Fountain.