Jurmala Beach, Riga
If you fancy something of a change from the city, then I can very well recommend a visit to the water park at Jurmala. It must be a good 20 miles out of town, but you can get there very quickly and cheaply by utilising the shared minibus system (see transport tip).
It's certainly not cheap at 11 lat for a four-hour visit, but it is simply one of the best water parks I've ever seen. Open all year, much of it is inside with an array of slides, tunnels and lazy rides to keep everybody happy. Spead-freak junkies will especially appreciate the 'black hole' that as a water slide starts off slow but builds into a near vertical final whoosh ! It even has a timing clock at the bottom.
The ride in which you share a rubber boat and end up going down an almighty plughole also seemed very popular. If you ring up they should tell you when it is a bit quieter - the queues to some rides will drag a bit. On the plus side the Latvians are a very good looking race - enhanced by the addition of racy swimming costumes. Bravo.
If you are in Riga for a little more than just the weekend, it is worth taking a day trip to Jurmala, beach resort that was very famous in its hey day in the early 20th century. Ever since, this has been the place for rest and recreation and at one point in the Soviet era, the top bureaucrats and cosmonauts came here to relax and enjoy the endless sand beaches.
This place is definitely the best at the height of summer, as the beach is stunningly beautiful and just made to be enjoyed when the quicksilver is rising towards 30 and it is too balmy in the city to bear.
The cheapest (and probably the best) way to enjoy Jurmala is to get there in the morning, walk around the town which stretches for kilometers, and have a look at the beautiful villas, some which are still being restored. Meza prospekts and environs is one option for villa spotting. There are also new private housing and hotels popping up all around, but I personally prefer the old wooden villas. Then go somewhere nice for lunch (see eating tip!) around Jomas ieal and then head off to the beach to enjoy the scenery.
Then the more chic option is to stay the night at one of the spa hotels, go enjoy some treatments and the beach, then head off to a restaurant and spend the hours of the night at one of the bars and sleep it off in the room or on the beach the next day.
The beach literally stretches for kilometers both directions along the Gulf of Riga, and its very wide so you'll probably find a good spot. If the weather is cool, just walk along the waterfront and maybe if you are lucky you can find amber (well... not likely).
Jurmala is fast becoming the spa centre for Latvia and as such, is attracting busloads of tourists and also the rich and famous of Latvia. In my opinion, however, Jurmala is lovely for a day or possibly two, but not really a place where there is a lot going on and a lot to see. My bet is on staying in Riga and then going to Jurmala for the day.
No visit to Riga for anybody under 35 is complete without a day at Riga's 'Aquacity'. The combination of extra fast Soviet pre-EU regulation Waterslides and a recent lick of paint and embracing of western european technology make this probably the best water park i've ever been to, and i've been to 6 water-parks. One of the slides is so terrifyingly fast that i'm surpised it doesn't have a small fatality rate, indeed, other than skydiving it is the closest thing to freefalling i've ever experienced. I cant remember the name of it, but it's the one with the smallest queue! In fact, even the tamer slides are highly enjoyable. Check out the pool bar too, it has a very impressive selection of cocktails and smoothies which you can purchase with your electronic tag and settle up when you leave the park.
Whilst sunbathing and watersports might not spring immediatley to mind when thinking of how to pass the time in Riga, they were the highlight of my trip. You may find that Riga, while beautiful, is not exactly choc-a-block with things to do during the day other than drink and walk around looking at old buildings. Take the clunky (but cheap) Soviet train from Central Station for about 40 mins out of the city to Jumala (pron; joomayer) and discover a beach resort that would not look out of place in Southern California or Queensland (well, almost!, its certainly better than anything the U.K has to offer!) The beautiful sandy mediterranean style beach is complemented by a varied selection of beach bars, cheap and 'fancy' restaurants surrounded by well presented parks and a wealthy resedential area that had me in mind of Bondi.
Jurmala - town between the south bank of Riga Bay and Lielupe river. The extent of its territory is 33 kilometres and includes such regions as: Lielupe, Bouldoury, Dzintary, Majori, Douboulty. Yurmala is a seaside resort. There are factories of knitted and fancy goods. Jurmala is famous for its Historical Museum, Museum os Fine Arts, Museum-dacha of Y.Rajnis poet.
About 30 Km of big golden-sand beach and pine forest, with some little town, and some estabilishment along the coast.
A beautiful place where relaxing under the sun in summer, or simply going for a walk near the sea.
Take the train to Dubulti. The region Jurmala has many beautiful places, but here it`s easy to find a place on the beach. The train is easier to get to from central station than the autobus.