Beat the Heat in NYC: Heat Wave Indoor Activities and Outdoor Cool Fun

Splash in the waves at Coney Island or another seaside destination when you need to beat the heat in NYC. Photo by author
Splash in the waves at Coney Island or another seaside destination when you need to beat the heat in NYC. Photo by author

As summer weather begins to sizzle, families are searching for ways to beat the heat in New York City. There's no denying 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 a visit to a local ice cream parlor.

While we enjoy hitting NYC's FREE public pools 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 50 ways to beat the heat in New York City this summer.

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Our list includes a variety of destinations; some are brand-new, while others are old standbys. We've included outdoor spots like extra-special water playgrounds, awesome pools, 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. Without further ado, 50 spots to beat the heat in NYC.

1. Astoria Park Pool

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

2. Ample Hills Creamery

Enjoy the breeze as you stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, and then reward yourself with a cone from Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

3. Imagination Playground

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

RELATED: Inflatable Water Parks around NJ to Cool off In

Beat the heat in NYC Black Tap milkshakes
Black Tap's cool, creamy confections are hard to pass up. Photo courtesy of the restaurant

4. Black Tap

Dig into a ginormous Black Tap milkshake at its trio of locations, which boast flavors like Cotton Candy, Cookies 'n Supreme, or Brooklyn Blackout.

5. Domino Park

Frolic in the sprinklers at Domino Park on Williamsburg's waterfront, where you can catch a cool riverfront breeze ... or an icy margarita from Tacocina if things get desperate.

6. Long Island City's Waterfront

Head north and hit the fun water features along Long Island City's waterfront. FREE

7. Governors Island

Take a FREE (or nearly free) cooling ferry ride to Governors Island to zoom down a 57-foot slide, and more.

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

Beat the heat in NYC Brooklyn Brodge Park's Waterlab
The Waterlab at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 is made to feel like a natural setting, with a small river and rocks for climbing. Photo by Julienne Schaer for the park

8. Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 Waterlab

Get drenched at the state-of-the-art Waterlab at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park or one of these other wet-and-wild Brooklyn spots. FREE

9. Hudson Yards

Bask in the spray of the fountains at Bella Abzug Park, go sky high at The Edge, or just enjoy industrial AC at the Shops at Hudson Yards while exploring this micro-neighborhood.

10. Bowling

Go for a strike at one of NYC's many bowling alleys for a blast of AC.

11. Museum of Ice Cream

Cool off at the Museum of Ice Cream.

RELATED: Best Beaches Near NYC: A Guide for Families

Beat the heat in NYC world's largest bounce house
Catch a breeze and some bubbles on The World's Largest Bounce House. Photo courtesy of the event

12. Bounce House

Jump, cartwheel, tumble, and catch a breeze at the world's largest bounce house when it returns to Brooklyn in mid-September. You'll have so much fun, you won't even notice the heat.

13. New York Hall of Science

When the temperature soars, sneak in some (educational) fun indoors at the New York Hall of Science and see one of these magnificent exhibits.

14. Indoor Water Play

Play with water at one of our favorite indoor water play spots for preschoolers.

15. Jones Beach

Escape the city for a day trip to Jones Beach, which also boasts a spectacular seaside splash pad.

RELATED: 10 Swimming Lakes Near New York City You Need to Discover

Beat the heat in NYC at the New York Aquarium
Kids are awed by the view of sea life at the immersive Sharks! exhibit at the NY Aquarium. Photo by Louise Trapasso

16. New York Aquarium

Swing by the awe-inspiring shark exhibit and enjoy the rest of the beachfront attractions at the New York Aquarium, which has finally fully reopened following the devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy and ensuing renovations.

17. Row a Boat

Row your own boat at one of these spots citywide to catch a cool breeze off the water. FREE

18. South Beach

Hit the water at South Beach on Staten Island. You can't beat the breeze on the ferry ride over. FREE

19. Snug Harbor

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.

RELATED: Weekend Getaways Near NYC: Lake Resorts in New York State

Beat the heat in NYC Jacob Riis Beach
Beautiful Jacob Riis Beach is a quick drive but feels like a world away. Photo by Sara Marentette

20. Jacob Riis Beach

Another favorite semi-hidden gem: Jacob Riis Beach in Queens. FREE

21. Coney Island

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

22. Surfing

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.

RELATED: The 14 Best Free Swimming Pools in NYC for Families

Beat the heat in NYC Crotona Pool splash pad
The Crotona Pool is home to a stunning sprinkler park for kids. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks and Recreation

23. Crotona Pool

Head to Crotona Pool in the Bronx with its sprinkler play area for extra splashy fun. FREE

24. Whale Watching

You can spend a unique day on the water by booking a whale-watching tour. A few boats sail straight from city docks!

25. Skate and Splash at Lakeside Rink

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

RELATED: Summer Bucket List: 50 Things To Do in NYC for an Epic Summer with Kids

Beat the heat in NYC Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty casts an imposing, cooling shadow. Photo by Jody Mercier

26. Statue of Liberty

Catch a breeze on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Once you're there, visit the Statue of Liberty Museum.

27. Hit a Play Fountain

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

28. American Dream

Head to the New Jersey mega mall for a day exploring its kid-friendly attractions.

RELATED: Best Family Resorts with Water Parks: All-Inclusive Family Resorts and More

Beat the heat in NYC Harry Potter New York
Seek cover from the sun in the shadow of the giant phoenix at Harry Potter New York. Photo by author

29. Harry Potter New York

What could be cooler than a butterbeer? Maybe a wand battle, fun photo-op, or Harry Potter gear galore inside the Harry Potter New York store.

30. Fountain of the Fairs

For a completely different water play experience, visit the Fountain of the Fairs with its cooling mist and stunning backdrop—The Unisphere.

RELATED: 14 Great Water Parks for Kids near NYC in 2022

Beat the heat in NYC Hamilton Fish pool
Take a dip in the pools at Hamilton Fish Recreation Center. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

31. Hamilton Fish Pool

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

32. New-York Historical Society

Learn about NYC's past at the interactive DiMenna Children's History Museum at the New-York Historical Society.

33. Plan a Day Trip

Perhaps a day trip is in order? We've got great options for kid-friendly stops along the LIRR and Metro-North railroads.

RELATED: 10 Museum Exhibits and Immersive Pop-Ups to See this Summer in NYC

Beat the heat in NYC Floating pool
You can't beat the view from the amazing Floating Pool. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks and Recreation

34. Floating Pool

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

35. Pier 25

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)

36. SeaGlass Carousel

Pretend you're floating underwater with a ride on the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park and check out the destination-worthy Battery Playscape nearby.

RELATED: Where to See Free Summer Movies in NYC for an Outdoor Movie Night

Beat the heat in NYC The Nautical Museum
The Nautical Museum is a must on your trip to City Island. Photo by Suzanne Cort

37. Hit the Bronx Shore

Spend the day exploring the Bronx oasis of City Island or the nearby Bronx Riviera, Orchard Beach. When that ocean breeze hits you, you won't believe you're in NYC. FREE

38. Explore Changing Spaces

Head to Rockefeller Plaza to go all in at Jeppe Heins' interactive water sculpture. You'll have a hard time resisting its cooling spray, but be prepared to get soaked! FREE

39. Chelsea Waterside Playground

Chelsea Waterside Playground is an action-packed play space on the riverfront. Take note: Due to ongoing construction, it may be closed intermittently, though care is being taken to minimize disruptions to this kid-friendly romping spot. Bookmark the Hudson River Park's alerts page to note any scheduling changes before staking out.

RELATED: Summer Memberships for Families: Pools, Beach Clubs, Museums, and More

Beat the heat in NYC water table at CMOM
The huge Dynamic H2O exhibit keeps kids busy and cool! Photo by author

40. Get Wet at CMOM

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

41. Fort Washington Park Playground

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

42. Visit The Met

Check out all this iconic NYC art museum has to offer families. And if museums are your go-to adventure, we have plenty more kid-friendly picks for you to consider.

RELATED: 8 Fun Popsicle Recipes to Make with Kids

Beat the heat Heckscher Playground
Central Park's Heckscher Playground has water features for kids big and little. Photo by Jody Mercier

43. Heckscher Playground

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

44. Take a Cruise

Play tourist and cruise under several bridges with a ride on the Circle Line.

45. Boat Rides

Embark on another of our favorite family-friendly boat rides in New York harbor. For some really wet fun, hop on The Beast speedboat, which zips you around New York Harbor, splashing you the whole way.

RELATED: 14 Cool Hotel Pools in New York for Family Vacations

Beat the heat in NYC TW Hotel
Enjoy plenty of photo-ops and fun attractions at the TWA Hotel at JFK. Photo by Diana Kim

46. TWA Hotel

Visit JFK, not for a flight, but for the TWA Hotel, where you can swim at the rooftop pool, roller skate, and have a staycation in midcentury-inspired hotel rooms.

47. Little Island

Catch the wind off the water at Little Island, NYC's floating park, which boasts an action-packed summer calendar full of alfresco culture.

48. Outdoor Movies

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

RELATED: 27 Water Games for Kids to Play All Summer Long

Beat the heat in NYC Area 53
Enjoy energy-busting fun indoors at Area 53. Photo by the Diana Kim

49. Indoor Adventure Park

Enjoy nearly a dozen activities at Area 53's indoor Adventure Park, including a ropes course, a climbing wall, roller rink, a ninja warrior course, laser maze, battle beam, skeeball, pool, foosball, air hockey, zip line, and slides.

50. Eat Alfresco

Avoid turning on the oven and enjoy an outdoor meal at one of our favorite family-friendly eateries in Queens, Brooklyn, or Manhattan.

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 originally published in July 2012; it is updated annually.

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