Heat Wave Hot List: 30 Cool Things to Do in DC to Beat the Heat with Kids

DC's free public swimming pools are some of the best places to beat the summertime heat. Photo courtesy of DC Parks and Recreation
DC's free public swimming pools are some of the best places to beat the summertime heat. Photo courtesy of DC Parks and Recreation

One can argue that summer is one giant heat wave in DC. After all, the city is known for its high temperatures and soupy humidity. But there are periods when the temps soar well into the 90s—and even the 100s—that even the most seasoned residents find the heat unbearable. That's when families need to abandon the parks, playgrounds, and hiking trails and find other fun ways to beat the heat.

Here are 30 things to do with kids to keep cool during a DC heat wave. These ideas include outdoor water activities, air-conditioned spots like indoor playgrounds and museums, and activities you can do from the comfort of your own AC. For more family fun this summer, check out our Summer Activities Guide for DC Kids.


DC Parks and Recreation free swimming pools
Go for a dip in one of DC's free public swimming pools. Photo courtesy of DC Parks and Recreation

Water Activities to Help You Beat the Heat During a DC Heat Wave

1. Swimming Pools

Swim for free at one of several indoor and outdoor free swimming pools in DC.

2. Outdoor Water Parks

Tackle winding water slides, float along a lazy river, bob in a wave pool, and have more water fun at one of these cool outdoor water parks near DC.

3. Indoor Water Parks

If it's hot and rainy, take the fun inside and head to one of the amazing indoor water parks near DC.

4. Splash Pads and Sprinkler Parks

Splash pads, sprinkler parks, and spraygrounds near DC are a fun (and usually free) way to keep cool during a summer heat wave.

RELATED: Fishing Lakes Near DC and More Kid-Friendly Places to Go Fishing

Sandy Point State Park
Take a day trip to Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy of Maryland DNR

5. The Beach

Take a day, overnight, or weekend trip to one of several family-friendly beaches near DC, including the Delaware beaches and Virginia Beach. Don't feel like driving that far? There are plenty of parks with beaches in Northern Virginia and Maryland where families can build sandcastles, soak up the sun, and take a dip in the Potomac River.

6. Swimming Lakes and Watering Holes

The DC area is full of lakes, ponds, rivers, and other places where you can jump into the water and take a swim. Beat the heat at one of our favorite swimming lakes and watering holes for DC families.

7. Swimming Lessons

Your kids will stay cool in the water and learn a lifesaving skill when they take one of these swimming lessons for kids or baby swim classes near DC.

8. Paddleboarding, Canoeing, and Kayaking

Rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or electric boat and spend some time on the water at one of many lakes and rivers in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

RELATED: Visiting Arlington National Cemetery with Kids: What to Know Before You Go

National Children's Museum
There's lots for little ones to explore at the National Children's Museum.

Indoor Places to Keep Cool in a DC Heat Wave

9. National Children's Museum

From hands-on science exhibits to climbing structures to favorite Nickelodeon characters, the National Children's Museum has a variety of activities to keep children ages 0-12 engaged, happy, and cool on a hot DC day.

10. Free Museums

The AC is always cranking—and admission is always free—at one of the many free museums in DC to visit with kids, including famous Smithsonian institutions like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Air and Space Museum.

11. International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum in L'Enfant Plaza houses the largest collection of spy-related relics ever put on display. With plenty of digital and interactive elements, the museum is a great place for curious tweens and teens to learn about espionage.

12. Mommy & Me Classes

Bond with your kiddos and keep them learning all summer at one of the many fun Mommy & Me classes near DC, which of course are also open to dads, grandparents, and other caregivers. You can take classes on anything from dancing to music to cooking, all while staying out of the heat.

13. Public Libraries

Local libraries host a slew of free summertime events for kids and families, from storytimes and sing-alongs to craft sessions and game nights. Check your library's website for a calendar of events, many of which require online registration.

14. Indoor Playgrounds

When it's too hot to head to an outdoor playground, kids can run, jump, climb, and slide at one of the DC area's awesome indoor playgrounds.

15. Indoor Putt-Putt

You don't have to bake in the sun to play a round of miniature golf. Just head to one of several fun indoor mini golf courses near DC.

16. Live Theater

Plenty of theaters near DC offer family-friendly musicals and plays. Try Performances for Young Audiences at the Kennedy Center, Imagination Stage in Bethesda, or Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo.

RELATED: Destination Playgrounds in the DC Area: 15 Play Spaces Worth the Trip

ZavaZone Trampoline Park
Head to ZavaZone for air-conditioned fun. Photo by Jennifer Marino Walters

17. Trampoline Parks

Jump and bounce in air-conditioned comfort at one our favorite trampoline parks near DC, like ZavaZone.

18. Ninja Warrior Gyms, Obstacle Courses, and Parkour

Unleash your inna ninja warrior at one of several ninja warrior gyms and obstacle courses in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

19. Indoor Rock-Climbing Gyms

Head to one of the DC area's indoor rock-climbing gyms to get some exercise and have some fun.

20. Escape Rooms

The AC is cranking at these awesome escape rooms for kids and families.

21. LEGO Discovery Center Washington, DC

Build with LEGO bricks, see 4D LEGO movies, ride a train, and have more brick-themed fun at the LEGO Discovery Center in Springfield, VA.

22. Disney Encanto x CAMP

Head to the CAMP store in Tysons Corner Center to immerse yourself into the world of the Madrigal family from Disney's Encanto. Visit a real-life casita with secret passages, interactive magic, live music, and surprises behind every magic door. Read our editor's review of the experience.

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Fun water games make your backyard so much cooler. Photo by Ally Noel for Mommy Poppins

At-Home Heat Wave Activities

23. Have Some At-Home Water Fun

Our list of 27 water games will help kids beat the heat all summer long in your own backyard. Or, have an epic water-gun battle with some of the best bubble guns on the market.

24. Make a Cold Treat

Grab some popsicle molds and try one of eight fun popsicle recipes to make with kids. Or, learn how to make ice cream at home in five easy steps.

25. Make Some Art

Bring out your child's creative side with 100 awesome art projects, 50+ genius upcycled cardboard box crafts and activities, or 21 rainbow crafts.

26. Do Science Projects

Our lists of 67 easy science experiments and 25 preschool science experiments will keep gets busy and learning in air-conditioned comfort.

27. Have a Movie Marathon

Pop some popcorn, pour some cold lemonade, and spend the day watching some of the 50 best kids' movies in the comfort of your AC.

28. Play Some Indoor Games

Get some air-conditioned exercise with one of 30 exercise games and indoor activities to get kids moving. For more relaxed indoor fun, try one of our favorite board games for family game night or card games every kid should know.

More Ways to Keep Cool During a DC Heat Wave

29. Have a Fun Restaurant Meal

Head out for a meal at one of the many fun restaurants near DC where kids can play or theme restaurants for families. They offer activities like arcade and board games, ping-pong, bowling, Skee-Ball, laser tag, live shows, and more—plus air conditioning on hot summer days.

30. Go out for Ice Cream

You'll all scream for ice cream and beat the heat at one of the many must-try ice cream shops near DC.

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