Keep Cool in a Heat Wave in Chicago: Top Beaches, Swimming Lakes, Splash Pads, and AC Spots

Paradise Bay Water Park photo courtesy of the Lombard Park District
Paradise Bay Water Park photo courtesy of the Lombard Park District

Those late summer days can be brutal in Chicago. With over-heated little ones, sometimes you just need a break to cool off. If this sounds familiar, we’ve rounded up the ultimate list of beaches, pools, splash pads, and indoor air-conditioned activities to beat the heat in Chicago. From swimming to splashing and all the great local indoor play spaces and museums, this guide has our favorite ways to take a break, cool off, and have some fun.

For more summer activities in Chicago, check out our Summer Fun Guide for Chicago Kids.

Top Beaches in Chicago to Keep Cool with Kids

When it comes to keeping cool, there’s nothing like a beach along Lake Michigan. With so many to choose from up the entire lakefront, you can find a beach on the south side going all the way up to the northern suburbs. One of the best parts is that all the public beaches located in Chicago are free. That means a free day of family fun, keeping cool by the water without overspending. To find the best local beach for kids, check out our list for the best beaches in Chicago for families. 

 
Hall Quarry photo courtesy of the Batavia Park District

Family-Friendly Swimming Lakes Near Chicago for Kids

If you’re looking for a smaller, more local swimming lake near Chicago, there are plenty of fun places to swim in the city, burbs, and even southern Wisconsin that are within a short drive of Chicagoland. A swimming lake is a great place to cool off in a heat wave and have fun without the larger crowds found at some of the larger beaches. Our list of family-friendly swimming lakes near Chicago for kids features old quarries, swimming holes, and smaller lakes that are well worth a short drive. 


Splash pads let kids run around while staying cool in a heat wave. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Park District

Top Splash Pads and Water Playgrounds in Chicago 

With little ones, there’s no better way to cool off than at a splash pad or water playground. These playgrounds are specifically designed to keep little ones cool and enjoy time in the water safely. Littles can beat the heat while splashing and playing in the water without the need for swimming. These are great for babies and toddlers who aren’t quite ready to jump into a pool or a lake with the big kids. Check out our favorite splash pads and water playgrounds on our ultimate list here

 
Beat the heat in Chicago at Holstein Park Pool. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Park District

Best Local Outdoor Pools in Chicago for Kids

One of the best resources Chicago has to offer is the free public pools in the city. They provide a great way to cool off, practice swimming, and get outside without melting. The best part is that every Chicago public pool in the city is free. Check out our list of the most family-friendly pools in Chicago for kids here

Great Indoor Pools and Hotel or Fitness Center Pools for Families

When you want to swim but it’s almost too hot out to even go to an outdoor pool, an indoor pool is a great option. There’s no need to wrestle sunscreen on your little ones or worry about keeping their sun hat on. These indoor pools are covered, with air conditioning and great options for those looking to beat the summer heat while still getting some splash time in. Check out our list of the top indoor swimming pools near Chicago as well as this round-up of hotel and fitness centers that offer daily pool passes

 
Oasis Waterpark photo courtesy of the Niles Park District

Top Waterparks in Chicago for Kids

If you’re looking for a little more action than just a pool, a water park is where it's at. You’ll find tube slides, lazy rivers, splash pads, and more. A hot summer day is a great opportunity to check out some of these awesome waterparks for kids. Most of these are located in the suburbs or a neighborhood that’s just a quick drive from the city. You can almost always find enough to do to beat the heat all day in the water. 

Indoor Play Spaces in Chicago for Kids

In the hot summer months, there are just some days you won’t even want to be outside at a pool or a beach. Those are the days when an indoor play space with air conditioning is a lifesaver. These play spaces are safe, local, and best of all, located indoors with working air conditioning. You can save the sun burns and overheated meltdowns for another day. Check out our list of the top indoor play spaces in Chicago for kids here

 
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Art Institute

Top Museums and Local Indoor Attractions to Visit with Kids

If you think museums and local indoor attractions are only for the winter months, think again. A museum or an indoor Chicago tourist attraction makes for a great adventure in the summer. Not only are you able to visit during the week without missing school but you can also beat some of the weekend crowds if you’re able. These spaces are often located inside an air-conditioned building providing you a great place to beat the heat. For the ultimate list of indoor attractions and things to do with kids check out our list of favorites here. Check some of these off your summer bucket list as well. 

Oak Park Farmers Market
Pilgrim Church - 7:00 AM Pick
'Go Run
Warren Park - 9:00 AM Pick
'Go Run
Humboldt Park - 9:00 AM Pick
Bud Billiken Parade
- 10:00 AM Pick
Logan Square/Avondale Kidical Mass
Palmer Square Park - 10:00 AM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides