As the summer solstice approaches and with Columbia's growing number of 90-plus degree days, it's time to jump into some aquatic activities. With plenty of public and private pools to choose from and some hidden aquatic gems, it can be difficult to decide where to spend the day splashing in some H20. These five locations will help you determine which spot is best, depending on whether you want to get a cool workout in or bring the family for a day of fun.
Although all of the public pools in Columbia are family-friendly, Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center takes the cake as the largest outdoor municipal pool, which means plenty of room for kids and parents. Take a whirl down the large double-loop, enclosed orange slide, jump off a diving board or lounge in the shade on one of the many pool chairs. There is also a separate shallow swimming area for kids that includes an aquatic playground equipped with sprinklers and two small slides.
Location: 1900 Blue Ridge Road
Price: $4 adults 16 years or older; $2.75 for ages 2–15; Free for children under 2
Hours: Open weekdays, 12–7 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday 12–5 p.m.
Need some rest and relaxation? Head to the Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area, one of Vox's top fishing recommendations, to escape the crowds and hopefully catch a black bass, catfish or sunfish. Located 20 minutes east of Columbia in Callaway County, the park offers fishing docks and jetties, but sadly, no longer boats. Bring some chairs and have fun trying to nab a fish or two.
Location: 1614 Kamps Rd, Fulton
Hours: 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day
Get into nature
Instead of exploring by foot, try an adventure via kayak or canoe on the Finger Lakes State Park Water Trail. Follow along the 4.5-mile trail to gain a new perspective of the once-active strip mine. The lakes are the water-filled pits created when the coal was removed, according to the Missouri State Parks website. Rent a kayak from the park office and take off from Peabody Lake, located off of the beach parking lot. From there, follow the blue or red buoys, placed every .1 mile, to explore the north and south sections of the lake.
Location: 1505 East Peabody Road
Canoe rental: $10 for 2 hours minimum, $25 per day
Kayak rental: $15 for 2 hours minimum, $30 per day
Rentals are available March 15–Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
On a budget
Not looking to drop any cash on your next swim? Head to Stephens Lake Beach and Sprayground for a free dip in the roped-off section of the lake. Bring a towel or blanket to tan on the lawn. The Sprayground is the largest splash pad out of all the aquatic facilities in Columbia and has spray rings, water columns, stream jets, geysers and bubblers, according to the Parks and Recreation department website.
Location: 2001 East Broadway
Hours: May 1 to Sept. 30 from dawn (no earlier than 6 am) to dusk
A water workout
If you want to get in the water and get fit at the same time? Try a water aerobics class. The low-impact workout strengthens and tones all muscle groups while providing necessary cardio. While keeping cool in the Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center pool, you can use resistance equipment in the Deep Water Aerobics class to make your workout more challenging and fun. Convince your friends and family to sign up for classes with you because a minimum of 10 participants is needed per class. Register online or through the Columbia Parks and Recreation office.
Location: 1900 Blue Ridge Road
Hours: Monday and Wednesday, July 9 to Aug. 1 from 6–6:50 p.m.