50 Ways To Cool Off in NYC with Kids This Summer

NYC Pools, Playgrounds, Ice Cream Parlors, Children's Museums and More for Kids This Summer

As summer weather begins to sizzle, there's no denying that the heat and humidity can get under the skin of even the most tropical-weather-loving New Yorker. To beat the heat, my kids (and my inner child) insist any outing includes water, industrial strength air-conditioning, or sweet frozen treats.

While we enjoy hitting our local public pool and running around the sprinklers (oh yes, I get in there, too), lately we've been longing for more diverse destinations. That inspired us to round up our favorite ways to cool off in New York City.

Our list includes a variety of destinations; some are brand-new, while others are old standbys. The list includes outdoor spots like extra-special water playgrounds, awesome pools, and splashy boat rides, and indoor havens such as kid-friendly museums. Many of our suggestions are FREE and we even included exceptional frozen-treat spots, so you can indulge in ice cream and more. So strike while the weather's hot: Here are our top 50 ways to cool off with kids in NYC this summer.

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1. Jump into NYC's largest outdoor pool, the Astoria Park Pool, which offers stunning views of the RFK Bridge. FREE

2. Enjoy the breeze as you stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge and then reward yourself with an old-fashioned chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry cone from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

3. Use cool blue foam "playground in a box" pieces to manipulate water at the South Street Seaport's one-of-a-kind Imagination Playground. FREE

4. After visiting ancient mummies, take a trip to the American Museum of Natural History's Discovery Room for hands-on activities.

5. Grab a homemade scoop of cotton candy ice cream at the original Ample Hills Creamery near Prospect Park, or hit its Gowanus location, which includes a small roof deck with chairs.

RELATED: 100 Free Things To Do with Kids in NYC This Summer

6. Hit the fun water features along Long Island City's waterfront. FREE

7. Go for a strike at one of NYC's many bowling alleys for a blast of a/c; you can even sign up for FREE kids' games at Astoria Bowl, Jib Lanes, and Shell Lanes.

8. Jump, cartwheel, and tumble at one of these indoor bounce houses; no sunblock required.

9. Get soaked at Chelsea Waterside Park, which features funky blue chess-like sprinklers and a full wall that sprays water. FREE

10. Sneak in some more (educational) fun at the outdoor Science Playground, complete with water play area at the New York Hall of Science. While you're there, pop inside to test your skills in the interactive Angry Birds Universe, which brings the screen-time hit to life.

11. Take a free or nearly free cooling ferry ride to Governors Island to zoom down a 57-foot slide, or fly through the air on the newly opened zip line and enjoy the other Adventures at Governors Island attractions, too.

12. Hit the water at South Beach on Staten Island. FREE

13. Row your own boat in every borough to catch a cool breeze off the water. FREE

14. Craft your own unique cool treat at DIY ice cream parlor CoolMess, or test out your first Thai rolled ice cream at these hip spots.

15. Dunk, dip, and pour at the interactive water table in Chelsea play space City Treehouse. Looking for something closer to your 'hood? We've rounded up all our favorite indoor water play spots for preschoolers.

16. Get drenched at the state-of-the-art Waterlab at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. FREE

17. Swim in the ocean at Coney Island and then stick around for fireworks on Friday nights. FREE

18. Spend a unique day on the water by booking a whale watching tour. A few boats sail straight from city docks!

19. If Coney's too crowded for your taste, try one of NYC's less busy beaches like Jacob Riis in Queens. FREE

20. Catch a wave and take a surfing lesson at Rockaway Beach, the only NYC shore where the sport is allowed. While you're in the neighborhood, check out all our favorite Rockaway activities.

21. Go roller-skating at Lakeside Rink in Prospect Park, and then hit the next-door splash pad with dozens of sprinklers.

22. Spend a day on New York Harbor celebrating the city's waterfront location on City of Water Day on Saturday, July 15. FREE

23. Go beyond the sprinklers and let the kids romp in one of the city's many play fountains. FREE

24. Take a dip at Roberto Clemente State Park, which boasts a large outdoor pool and also has a fun, interactive sprinkler area on deck.

RELATED: Swimming Lakes Near NYC


The Crotona Pool debuted a stunning new sprinkler play area last summer. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks.

25. Head to Crotona Pool in the Bronx, which just got a new sprinkler play area for extra splashing fun. FREE

26. Explore the least expensive kids' museum in NYC, the Staten Island Children's Museum, located on the gorgeous grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.

27. Try funky art projects at the Children's Museum of the Arts.

28. Plan a trip to the Pop-Up Pool at Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park; at 3.5 feet deep, it's perfect for young children. FREE

29. Brave the crowds at the popular McCarren Park Pool—it's Olympic-sized so you will (eventually) get in, especially in the mornings. FREE

30. Learn about NYC's past at the interactive DiMenna Children's History Museum at the New-York Historical Society, and be sure to visit the mischievous Eloise who's taken over a second floor gallery and brought plenty of interactive story time fun with her.

31. Make a splash at the Pier 51 Play Area in Hudson River Park, where kids can activate buckets and sprays. FREE

32. Stroll along The High Line to catch a breeze off the water. Finish your walk with a visit to the nearly new Hudson Yards playground. FREE

33. Find more interactive water fun at the playground at Tribeca's Pier 25, which also offers mini-golf and beach volleyball. FREE (save for mini-golf)

RELATED: Free Outdoor Movies for NYC Families This Summer


Swim with the fishes at the SeaGlass Carousel downtown. Photo by Shira Kronzon.

34. Pretend like you're floating underwater with a ride on the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park.

35. Hop into one of the two pools at the Hamilton Fish Recreation Center on the Lower East Side—there's an Olympic-sized one for big kids and adults, and a wading pool for toddlers. FREE

36. Prefer an uptown vibe? The pool at Highbridge Park includes two Olympic-sized pools, including one with a max depth of 2 feet. When you're waterlogged enough, dry off with a scenic walk over the park's namesake bridge, which connects Washington Heights and the Bronx. FREE

37. Enjoy industrial-level a/c while checking out one of our picks for top family theater this season.

38. Head to the gorgeous Barretto Point Park in the Bronx to visit the Floating Pool, NYC's only pool on a barge. FREE

39. Enjoy stunning views of the George Washington Bridge and a destination playground with a visit to the shade-draped Fort Washington Park Playground. FREE

40. Embark on one of the most family-friendly boat rides in New York harbor. For some really wet fun, hop on the Beast or Shark Speedboats, which both zip you around New York Harbor splashing you the whole way.

41. Register for no-cost swimming lessons at public pools throughout the city. FREE

42. Spend the day exploring the Bronx oasis City Island—when that ocean breeze hits you, you won't believe you're in NYC. FREE

43. Go for a swim in Harlem's Lasker Pool, and then explore the very shady northern end of Central Park. FREE

44. Visit the Children's Museum of Manhattan's new Dynamic H2O exhibit; it's impossible to stay dry at this water table!

45. Head to a mercifully cool movie theater to escape the summer heat at a major discount. A handful of outer-borough theaters are offering $1 flicks all summer long, too!

46. Navigate the water-filled maze of pyramid-like structures in Central Park's Heckscher Playground. FREE

47. Duck inside the new Times Square attraction Gulliver's Gate to tour the world without leaving NYC.

48. Indulge in a day pass at a private pool, like Asphalt Green in Battery Park City; or soak up the rays and ocean breeze on a private slice of beach with a visit to a beach club.

49. Venture out for an evening of fun under the stars to take in one of the hundreds of no-cost outdoor movie screenings being staged in city parks this summer.

50. Plan a day trip to escape from the concrete jungle with a visit one of our favorite water parks for big kids or toddlers.

Find even more ways to cool off in the hot city with our NYC Water Fun Guide to beaches, pools, splash pads, and more.

A version of this article was first published in July 2012.

Area/Neighborhood: 
location: 
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
1 Water Street
11201 Brooklyn , NY
Phone: 718-246-3963
40° 42' 10.2888" N, 73° 59' 39.6564" W
New York
Ample Hills Creamery
623 Vanderbilt Avenue
11238 Brooklyn , NY
Phone: 347-240-3926
40° 40' 42.8556" N, 73° 58' 5.4804" W
New York
American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
10024 New York , NY
Phone: 212-769-5100
40° 46' 51.5676" N, 73° 58' 23.3112" W
New York
City Treehouse
129 West 20th Street
10011 New York , NY
Phone: 212-255-2050
40° 44' 30.4836" N, 73° 59' 43.4868" W
New York
Shell Lanes
1 Bouck Court
11223 ‎ Brooklyn , NY
Phone: 212-835-2695
40° 35' 20.238" N, 73° 58' 26.4936" W
New York
Astoria Bowl
19-45 49th Street
11105 Queens , NY
Phone: 718-274-1910
40° 46' 23.8944" N, 73° 53' 41.3808" W
New York
Children's Museum of Manhattan
212 West 83rd Street
10024 New York , NY
Phone: 212-721-4862
40° 47' 9.2904" N, 73° 58' 37.6104" W
New York
BounceU of Queens
13225 14th Avenue
11356 Flushing , NY
Phone: 718-747-5867
40° 47' 10.5468" N, 73° 50' 6.6912" W
New York
BounceU of Brooklyn
6722 Fort Hamilton Parkway
11219 Brooklyn , NY
Phone: 347-450-5867
40° 37' 45.2856" N, 74° 0' 40.6908" W
New York
New York Hall Of Science
47-01 111th Street
11368 Queens , NY
Phone: 718-699-0005
40° 44' 52.4436" N, 73° 51' 6.6312" W
New York
Staten Island Children's Museum
1000 Richmond Terrace
10301 Staten Island , NY
Phone: 718-273-2060
40° 38' 41.5104" N, 74° 6' 4.3056" W
New York
Children's Museum of the Arts
103 Charlton Street
10014 New York , NY
Phone: 212-274-0986
40° 43' 38.5464" N, 74° 0' 28.8432" W
New York
McCarren Park Pool
Leonard and Bayard Streets
11211 Brooklyn , NY 40° 43' 9.0372" N, 73° 56' 54.7224" W
New York
DiMenna Children's History Museum
170 Central Park West New-York Historical Society
10024 New York , NY
Phone: 212-873-3400
40° 46' 44.8608" N, 73° 58' 26.6124" W
New York
Hamilton Fish Recreation Center
128 Pitt Street
10002 New York , NY
Phone: 212-387-7688
40° 43' 12.1044" N, 73° 58' 53.6124" W
New York
Asphalt Green
212 North End Av
10282 New York , NY 40° 42' 57.7332" N, 74° 0' 53.2116" W
New York
Blue Marble Ice Cream
186 Underhill Avenue
11238 Brooklyn , NY 40° 40' 29.9964" N, 73° 58' 1.3764" W
New York
Blue Marble Ice Cream
196 Court Street
11201 Brooklyn , NY 40° 41' 13.7796" N, 73° 59' 37.0896" W
New York
Uncle Louie G’s Italian Ices
1803 Williams Bridge Road
10461 Bronx , NY
Phone: 718-831-8102
40° 50' 51.4608" N, 73° 50' 9.69" W
New York
Jahn's
8104 37th Avenue
11372 Queens , NY
Phone: 718-651-0700
40° 44' 58.8444" N, 73° 53' 6.0324" W
New York
Chelsea Market
75 Ninth Avenue
10011 New York , NY
Phone: 212-255-7990
40° 44' 31.0704" N, 74° 0' 17.2548" W
New York
Ample Hills Gowanus
305 Nevins Street
11215 Brooklyn , NY 40° 40' 44.1156" N, 73° 59' 14.4996" W
New York