Beat the Heat in NYC: Heat Wave Indoor Activities and Outdoor Cool Fun
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
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
6. Long Island City's Waterfront
Head north and hit the fun water features along Long Island City's waterfront. FREE
7. Governors Island
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
9. Hudson Yards
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.
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
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
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
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
Lady Liberty casts an imposing, cooling shadow. Photo by Jody Mercier
26. Statue of Liberty
27. Hit a Play Fountain
28. American Dream
Head to the New Jersey mega mall for a day exploring its kid-friendly attractions.
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.
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
You can't beat the view from the amazing Floating Pool. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks and Recreation
34. Floating Pool
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
The Nautical Museum is a must on your trip to City Island. Photo by Suzanne Cort
37. Hit the Bronx Shore
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.
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
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.
Enjoy plenty of photo-ops and fun attractions at the TWA Hotel at JFK. Photo by Diana Kim
46. TWA Hotel
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.
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
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.