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The 1st Annual Go West 'Pooley Awards'

Unfortunately, summer is halfway over. But that also means you and your family still have about six weeks left to check out the amazing public pools, splash pads, beaches and aquatic parks in the far western ‘burbs.

To perhaps inspire you to try a new a spot, we present the first annual ‘Go West Pooley Awards.’ But we’d love to hear from you: What’s your favorite water hole, and what makes it great?

The tot slide at Elgin's Wing Park Family Aquatic Center. Photo by Tara Burghart.Best Tot Slide: The shipwreck-themed slide at Wing Park Family Aquatic Center in Elgin. The slide features coconut trees that spray water; there’s even a piece at the end that bobs a bit, like you’re walking the plank!

Best Place to Get a Burger: Aquatic Park in Montgomery, part of the Oswegoland Park District. The concession stand at this pool is called the Backyard Grill and it lives up to its name. Burgers and hotdogs are actually grilled to order!

Best Waterfall: The one located on the “island” at the Turtle Splash Water Park in West Chicago.

Best Water Play Area: Aurora’s Splash Country Water Park has an enclosed area with something similar to what you’d find on a playground, except it has waterfalls, spray guns, sprinklers and more. And the water pressure is .. well, let’s say it’s a lot more powerful than letting your kids play with your backyard hose!

Best Place for Feeling Like You’re in a John Mellencamp Song: Harold Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia. I love the quarry and I like Mellencamp, so this is a compliment. What a unique spot.

Best Twilight Swim: Swanson Pool, in St. Charles’ Pottawatomie Park, has a weekday twilight swim that lasts from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. until Aug. 14. It costs just $3 per person, whether you’re a resident or not. The pool is nearly 75 years old, but it underwent a beautiful renovation this year. There’s something about being in this historic setting, floating in the twilight with my daughter, that’s been one of my favorite summer experiences two years in a row.

Best Lazy River: It’s a tie between the lazy river at Aurora’s Splash Country Water Park and the Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles. Both are pretty awesome, although Otter Cove probably has an edge in the number of rafts available.

Best Pool for Toddlers: The new Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles has a true “toddler pool,” which seems rare nowadays. It is zero-depth entry, 2 feet at its deepest end, is entirely enclosed by a fence and has water play features. My own toddler loved having a bit of freedom to roam in it, and it was nice for me to be able to sit on the edge of the pool and exhale for a few moments.

Best Splash Park (Free): With its large size and cushioned surface, the “sprayground” in Geneva’s Moore Park is hard to beat.

Best Splash Park (Pay): The Otter Cove Splash Park in St. Charles has three sections devoted to water fun and one section for sand lovers. Plus you can bring your own lunch and snacks.

Best Pool for Watchful Moms: Geneva’s Sunset Pool is a manageable size and it would probably be do-able to keep an eye on several children here, as long as they all had good swimming skills, of course.

Best Pool for Visitors With Special Needs: Three out of the four bodies of water at the Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles are zero-depth entry. And scattered throughout the park are lift chairs that can be used to lower swimmers into the water.

Best Pool for Visitors With Special Needs (Runner Up): Centennial Beach in Naperville held “Special Needs Nights” on four Sundays this summer from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., after regular operating hours. Sunday, July 31 is the last of the season.

Best Pool for Thrill Seekers: Most of the area pools have drop slides or tube slides. But the Harold Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia has a diving tower with two- and four-meter platforms. Four meters translates to about 13 feet above the water, which is 17 feet deep below. That’s quite a drop!

Go West Readers: Did your favorite pool or splash park win a “Pooley Award?” If not, tell us what you love most about it!

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Reader Comments (6)

Is there any place to swim in the area that is not a pool?? (i.e. a lake or pond)

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

In my opinion, the best lake in the immediate area is at Three Oaks Recreation in Crystal Lake, IL. (not to be confused with Crystal Lake Beach...yuck!)


The water is pristine! The amenities include a sandy beach area, lakehouse with showers and lockes, a marina for boat rentals, (canoes, paddle boats, etc), boardwalk, areas for fishing, hiking trails, small splash park and an onsite Culvers. It is awesome!

Non-residents pay $5.00 to park plus $10.00 for adults, $6.00 for children, & kids under 3 are free! It is about a 45 minute drive from the tri-cities area, but SO worth it!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Thanks for sharing, Beth! That sounds like an amazing place, and I'd never heard of it. Suddenly, I feel a desire to head toward Crystal Lake!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara Burghart

Mandy .. If you haven't been to the quarry in Batavia, it has a sandy bottom and sandy beach and certainly reminded me of ponds I swam in growing up. The water, however, is chlorinated. Here's a story I did on it last year: Go West Easy Outing - Batavia Quarry

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara Burghart


I'm going to Three Oaks on Tuesday with family who lives in Crystal Lake... so I'll take some photos and email them to you (that is if it isn't 100+ outside!)

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I did go to the Quarry once. I'm excited about this Three Oaks suggestion. Thanks so much ladies!!!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

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