Located right in the city of Santa Rosa, this small man-made lake is big on water fun. In addition to a waterslide and beach, this lake is home to a large floating wibit which makes a fun and floating obstacle course.
Set right in town along historic Route 66, Park Lake is the city of Santa Rosa’s public city swimming pool. My kids and I picked up my friend and her kids and headed out to Santa Rosa the Sunday before school started for a fun little road trip and a last swimming hurrah of summer. After spending about an hour next door at The Blue Hole (see Blue Hole Sidetrack), we spent a fun afternoon at Park Lake.
You pay $5/car for a day pass to park. The fee is good both at The Blue Hole and Park Lake parking lots and you can enter and exit as often as you like. After parking and gathering your swimming gear, the first decision you have is where you will want to set up your coolers, snacks, chairs, shade structure, and beach towels for the day. There are some picnic tables and just a couple shady spots, but they go quickly. You will want to plan on bringing your own shade and chairs. If your kids are like ours and total water bugs, bring a comfy chair, lots of snacks, and a book because you will be there for hours as the children enjoy the many water activities this city lake has to offer. We managed to find a little spot under a tree near the Wibit (I’ll explain what this wonderland is later), and the shade was a godsend the sizzling mid August Sunday we visited.
On one side, there is a roped off swimming area and a long dock with a diving board off into the middle of the lake. This area is free and life guards are present during weekends in summer. There are no lifeguards in the fall, winter, or spring. There is also a large water slide on this side that drops you into the shallow water. The water slide is included in the $10/day wristband with the same use and unlimited use along with the Wibit and boat rentals. This side of the lake is busy and the shore is lined with families grilling and picnicking. Located behind the water slide across the parking lot is a handy indoor restroom with flushing toilets, showers, and changing room. Watch little children cross here as the parking lot can be busy with cars pulling in and out.
Across the lake is the new attraction as of summer 2015 called the Wibit. This inflatable floating playground is also an obstacle course equipped with trampoline, trapeze swing, diving landing, and a human pillow toss. It is a swimming amusement park for kids! There are 2 lifeguards and city issued life jackets are required for use. The way it works is participants pay for a $10 wristband and then wait in line for the lake employee to issue a life jacket. Then you are free to enter the water, swim out to the Wibit and play for as long as you would like. Upon returning to shore, you turn back in your life jacket until you want to go back out on the Wibit. You also need the life jacket to check out the peddle boats. When we first arrived a little after lunch, there was a line about 10 people deep to get a life jacket/play on the Wibit. The city only issues so many life jackets at a time as the Wibit can only hold so many people at once. Within a half a hour, the kids had their life jackets and were on their way to this floating adventure land. You must be a swimmer to get a life jacket and I would not recommend little ones go without an adult. I would also accompany anyone who is not a strong swimmer. It is hectic and quite overwhelming with so many people jumping and bouncing all around. Our group had kids 10 and up and they did fine. We told them to stick to a buddy system and not explore alone. There is no way to really check in with your kids out there, though you can see them for the most part. After about an hour and a half our kids started coming back to shore for a snack and sunscreen break and to tell us how much fun they were having. For the next Wibit round, we came up with a system where the kids had to come back to shore at a certain time by checking the time with the lifeguards on duty. Ideally, I would have one of the kids wear a waterproof watch, so they can keep track of the time and be in touch with us better.
The kids spent the rest of the afternoon taking spins on the big wheeled peddle boats, sliding down the big slide, swimming at the marked off beach with diving board, and re-visiting the Wibit. By 5pm, the kids were happy-exhausted, hungry, and sun soaked. Unfortunately, we had a hard time finding a non chain restaurant open for dinner on a Sunday evening in Santa Rosa. We stopped for dinner en route along I40 on our way back to Albuquerque.
We did this sidetrack as a full day trip from Albuquerque and that included the stop at The Blue Hole. I definitely think this would be a great weekend sidetrack. There is not camping at Park Lake, but there is a campground at nearby Santa Rosa State Park. The kids were sad to leave so soon and definitely would have enjoyed coming back for another day of fun at Park Lake. There is also a La Quinta in the town of Santa Rosa that advertises a nice outdoor pool which would be another fun option for a family weekend getaway.
I would recommend checking the City of Santa Rosa’s website before you head out to Park Lake to verify hours by season.
East of Albuquerque in Santa Rosa, NM