Heat Wave Hot List: 50 Cool Things To Do in NYC with Kids

Make a splash at Coney Island when you need to beat the heat in NYC. Photo by author
Make a splash at Coney Island when you need to beat the heat in NYC. Photo by author
7/9/23 - By Jody Mercier

As summer weather sizzles, we're searching for the best things to do 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 heat wave hot 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 FREE swimming 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, here are our top 50 things to do to beat the heat in NYC.

Best Things To Do to Beat the Heat in NYC

1. Jones Beach

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

2. Ample Hills Creamery

Enjoy the breeze as you stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, and then reward yourself with a cone from Van Leeuwen Ice Cream on the waterfront in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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

3. Black Tap

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

4. South Beach

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

5. Coney Island

Swim in the ocean on Coney Island or get drenched on one of the new rides at Luna Park, and then stick around for fireworks on Friday nights.

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

Things to do to 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

6. Jacob Riis Beach

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

7. 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.

8. Take a Cruise

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

9. New York Aquarium

Swing by the awe-inspiring shark exhibit, and enjoy the rest of the beachfront attractions at the New York Aquarium.

Beat the Heat: The Beast
Speed down the Hudson with lots of twists and turns on the Beast. Photo courtesy New York Cruise Lines

10. 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, splashing you the whole way.

11. 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.

12. Escape to Legoland New York

Hit the road for all the theme park fun at Legoland New York, which has a brand-new Water Playground that's perfect for a hot day.

RELATED10 Swimming Lakes near NYC You Need to Discover

Beat the Heat NYC: kayaking at BBP
Kayaking is always free at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo by Etienne Frossard

13. Row a Boat

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

14. Snug Harbor

Explore the Staten Island Children's Museum, located on the gorgeous grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.

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

15. 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

16. 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!

17. 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.

RELATEDFree Summer Movies in NYC for an Outdoor Movie Night

Beat the Heat NYC: The Runway Rink at the TWA hotel
Stretch your legs at the Runway Rink at the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport. Photo by Diana Kim

18. TWA Hotel

Visit JFK, not for a flight, but for the TWA Hotel, where you can swim at the rooftop pool or enjoy a staycation in mid-century-inspired hotel rooms.

19. 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.

20. 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.

RELATED: 14 Great Water Parks for Kids near NYC in 2023

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

Splash Pads and Parks to Cool off this Summer in NYC

21. 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

22. 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)

23. 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

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

24. Floating Lady Pool

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

RELATEDBest Beaches Near NYC: A Guide for Families

Beat the Heat: Domino Park
It's all smiles in the splash pad in Domino Park. Photo by Ros Muggeridge

25. 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.

26. Long Island City's Waterfront

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

Beat the Heat: Pier 6 Waterlab
The Water Lab, Slide Mountain, and Swing Valley are all part of the fun at Pier 6! Photo by Diana Kim

27. 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

28. 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.

29. Hit a Play Fountain

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

30. 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. FREE

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

31. Crotona Pool

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

32. 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. FREE

33. Chelsea Waterside Playground

Chelsea Waterside Playground is an action-packed play space on the riverfront. FREE

Experience nature and art at Little Island, a unique urban oasis. Photo by Diana Kim

34. 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.

RELATED100 Free Things To Do with Kids in NYC this Summer

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

35. Heckscher Playground

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

Beat the Heat NYC: Governors Island Surrey
The whole family can pile in a surrey and pedal around Governors Island. Photo by Diana Kim

36. Governors Island

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

37. 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

RELATED: Free NYC Summer Concerts and Outdoor Music Festivals for Families

Beat the heat in NYC water table at CMOM
The huge Dynamic H2O exhibit at the Children's Museum of Manhattan keeps kids busy and cool. Photo by author

Heat Wave Indoor Activities in NYC

37. 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!

38. Museum of Ice Cream

Cool off at the Museum of Ice Cream.

39. Play at CAMP

See what's behind the magic door at CAMP's collection of NYC toy shops. You can immerse yourself in the world of Encanto, enjoy some kid-free time during date night drop-off, or book a Craft Pass at City Point or Columbus Circle.

40. Bowling

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

41. New York Hall of Science

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

42. Bronx Children's Museum

Splash around at the mega water table at the Bronx Children's Museum.

43. 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.

Heat the Heat NYC: Spyscape Museum
Calling all junior special-ops hopefuls and history buffs: Spyscape is Midtown Manhattan's destination for spy fans. Photo by Diana Kim

44. Spyscape Museum

Learn all about how to be a spy at the interactive Spyscape Museum.

45. Harry Potter Exhibition

No matter the temperature outdoors, there's plenty of cool, Wizarding World fun to be had at the Harry Potter Exhibition in Herald Square through mid-October.

46. American Dream

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

47. New-York Historical Society

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

48. Visit The Met

Check out all this iconic NYC art museum has to offer families. If museums are your go-to adventure, we have plenty more ki

Beat the Heat NYC: Wonderland Dreams
Every prop at Wonderland Dreams is meant to be played with, touched, and posed with. Photo by Jody Mercier

49. Wonderland Dreams

Immerse yourself in a world of color and creativity at Wonderland Dreams, with its brilliantly painted backgrounds and props. It's perfect for an impromptu photo shoot.

50. American Museum of Natural History

Head for the halls of the American Museum of Natural History, and particularly its newly opened Gilder Center to see everything from a live colony of leaf-cutter ants to ancient, towering dinosaur remains.

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.