50 Fun Things To Do to Cool Off in NYC This Summer with Kids

Splash through the fountains in Williamsburg's Domino Park. Photo by Jody Mercier
Splash through the fountains in Williamsburg's Domino Park. Photo by Jody Mercier

As summer weather begins to sizzle, 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 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 50 ways to cool off 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.

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 a cone from Ample Hills Creamery, which has taken over the old Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory spot 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 playground. FREE

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 Soho location. Have a classic shake, or shake it up by trying flavors like Cotton Candy, Cookies'n Supreme, or Brooklyn Blackout. Cool news: The Midtown location reopens at the end of July.

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

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

Slide Hill at Governors Island
Camp out under a tree while your kids conquer Slide Hill on Governors Island.

7. Governors Island

Take a FREE (or nearly free) cooling ferry ride to Governors Island to zoom down a 57-foot slide, fly through the air on the zip line, or test out the mini-golf course.

8. Hudson Yards

Create your own breeze as you climb the stairs at The Vessel, 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.

9. Bowling

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

Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6
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

10. 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

11. Bounce House

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

12. New York Hall of Science

When the temperature soars, sneak in some (educational) fun indoors at the newly reopened New York Hall of Science and see one of these magnificent exhibits or the brand new Happiness Experiment.

RELATED: Swimming Lakes Near NYC

New York Aquarium's Sharks! exhibit
Kids are awed by the view of sea life at the new, immersive Sharks! exhibit at the NY Aquarium. Photo by Louise Trapasso

13. New York Aquarium

Swing by the awe-inspiring shark exhibit at the New York Aquarium.

14. Row a Boat

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

15. South Beach

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

People playing in the surf at Jacob Riis Beach
Beautiful Jacob Riis Beach is a quick drive but feels like a world away. Photo by Sara Marentette

16. Jacob Riis Beach

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

17. Museum of Ice Cream

Cool off at the Museum of Ice Cream, or try your first Thai rolled ice cream at these hip spots.

18. Indoor Water Play

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

RELATED: The Best Free Swimming Pools in NYC for Families

Kid in the Jones Beach splash pad
If you need a break from the ocean and sand, head to the splash pad at Jones Beach. Photo by Rebekah Yahoves

19. Jones Beach

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

20. Coney Island

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

21. 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.

Crotona Pool splash pad
The Crotona Pool is home to a stunning sprinkler play area for kids. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks and Recreation

22. Crotona Pool

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

23. Whale Watching

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

24. 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: C'mon Summer: 50 Things We Can't Wait To Do During Summer 2021 in NYC

Lady Liberty casts an imposing, cooling shadow. Photo by Jody Mercier

25. Statue of Liberty

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

26. Hit a Play Fountain

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

27. 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.

28. American Dream

Head to the New Jersey megamall for a day exploring its newest kid-friendly attractions: Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center.

29. Harry Potter Store

What could be cooler than a butterbeer? Maybe a wand battle, fun photo op, or Harry Potter gear galore inside the newly opened 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: Best Water Theme Parks Near NYC for Families in 2021

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.

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

RELATED: Free Outdoor Movies for NYC Families This Summer

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" of Orchard Beach; when that ocean breeze hits you, you won't believe you're in NYC. FREE

38. Highbridge Park

Prefer an uptown vibe? The pool at Highbridge Park includes two Olympic-sized pools; one has a max depth of just 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

39. Chelsea Waterside Playground

Explore the recently renovated Chelsea Waterside Playground.

Toddler plays at a water table at CMOM
The huge Dynamic H2O exhibit keeps kids busy and cool! Photo by Jody Mercier

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. Immerse Yourself With Van Gogh

Absorbe some art history and high-powered AC at one of two Van Gogh exhibits playing the city this summer.

RELATED: 8 Fun Popsicle Recipes to Make with Kids

Heckscher Playground has plenty of water to play in
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

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 mid-century 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 Movie

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.

Area 53 Indoor Adventure Park
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, 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 every year.

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