As we are on the cusp of a classic, long, mid-summer heat wave, families looking for ways to cool off may want to consider the recently renovated Highland Aquatic Center in Saint Paul. As a 12-year resident of Saint Paul, I had not ventured to the notorious Highland Pool, but the new incarnation is impressive and a kid’s water haven and, I assume, much more convenient the parents.
The $2 million in improvements, completed in time for the 2011 season, are substantial: a 200 foot long, 25 foot high water slide and landing pad, new locker rooms, showers and family changing rooms, refurbished box office with additional admission windows and shade from the sun, new concessions area with a spacious kitchen and seating area, and a new parking lot and landscaping.
In addition to these improvements and the Olympic-size swimming pool (I noticed teenagers hangout in the deep end!) the Center features a children’s activity pool with “age appropriate” children’s slides, interactive water geysers, and a water basketball area. There’s a whale bone splash pad. For more advanced swimmers, try the state’s first aquatic climbing wall in the diving well that also has two, one-meter diving boards and two drop slides.
Admission fees are reasonable, $4.50 and $5 for kids, $6.50 for adults, $6 for seniors. Family rates and season memberships are also available.
Keep in mind, the Highland Aquatic Center is not for the faint of heart. My kids and I visited mid-day during the week and it was packed. The pool side reclining chairs were taken shortly after the pool was open to the public. As a result, there was nowhere to sit to watch my kids swim, the only other option was the picnic tables baking in the sun. In spite of the new digs, there was still a long wait at the concession stand, and the lifeguards are rather stern regarding who can swim where and with what.
None-the-less, my kids have had a great time at the Center and I expect a couple more return visits this summer.
In spite of my petty criticism of the lifeguard crew, a huge kudos is due for their great and important work in keeping the swimmers safe. On one of our visits, a young kid unknowingly jumped off the diving board into the diving well area (experienced swimmers only, no swim vests, no goggles!) and was clearly drowning. The quick, calm and efficient work of the lifeguard in that area and the others who rushed to the scene, turned a scary situation into a routine event. Thank you!