50 Fun Things To Do to Cool Off in NYC This Summer with Kids
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.
Sign up for our FREE newsletters to get posts like this delivered to your inbox.
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'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
6. Long Island City's Waterfront
Head north and hit the fun water features along Long Island City's waterfront. FREE
Camp out under a tree while your kids conquer Slide Hill on Governors Island.
7. Governors Island
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.
Go for a strike at one of NYC's many bowling alleys for a blast of AC.
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
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
RELATED: Swimming Lakes Near NYC
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
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
18. Indoor Water Play
Play with water at one of our favorite indoor water play spots for preschoolers.
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
20. Coney Island
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
Lady Liberty casts an imposing, cooling shadow. Photo by Jody Mercier
25. Statue of Liberty
26. Hit a Play Fountain
27. Snug Harbor
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.
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
Pretend like you're floating underwater with a ride on the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park.
The Nautical Museum is a must on your trip to City Island. Photo by Suzanne Cort
37. Hit the Bronx Shore
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.