Beat the Heat in DC: Heat Wave Indoor Activities and Outdoor Cool Fun

Kids of all ages will enjoy a splash pad. Photo courtesy of DC Parks and Recreation
Kids of all ages will enjoy a splash pad. Photo courtesy of DC Parks and Recreation

One can argue that summer is one giant heat wave in DC. After all, Washington, DC 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 21 ways to beat the heat in DC this summer. These ideas include outdoor places to get wet, air-conditioned spots like indoor play spaces and museums, and heat wave indoor 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.

Beat the Heat in DC: Outdoor Water Activities

1. Dive into a pool.

Swim for free at one of over a dozen free swimming pools in DC. Or, purchase a daily pool pass and beat the heat at one of these hotel pools and other private pools near DC.

Ocean Dunes in Arlington is one of a dozen great water parks near DC. Photo courtesy of Nova Parks

2. Visit a water park.

Tackle winding water slides, float along a lazy river, bob in a wave pool, and have more water fun at one of these 12 cool outdoor water parks near DC. If it's hot and rainy, take the fun inside and head to one of 15 amazing indoor water parks near DC.

3. Splash at a sprayground or sprinkler park.

These 17 sprinkler parks, spraygrounds, and splash pads near DC are a fun and free way to beat the heat this summer.

4. Hit the beach.

Take a day, overnight, or weekend trip to one of several family-friendly beaches near DC, including the Delaware beaches (Bethany Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Fenwick Island, and Dewey 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.

5. Take a dip in a lake, pond, or swimming hole.

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 these 10 lakes and swimming holes for DC families.

Go paddling at Rock Creek Regional Park. Photo courtesy of the Montgomery Parks Dept

6. Go paddling.

Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard and paddle your way through the water at one of many lakes and rivers in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

7. Have at-home water fun.

These 25+ water games will help kids beat the heat all summer long in your own backyard.

8. Take 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 near DC or baby swim classes in DC.

Beat the Heat in DC: Indoor Activities

Beat the heat for free at Planet Word. Photo courtesy of the museum

8. Visit a free museum.

The AC is always cranking and admission is always free at one of these 16 free museums in DC to visit with kids, including many famous Smithsonian institutions.

9. Check out the 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. Sneak over to the 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.

11. Take a Mommy & Me class.

Bond with the kiddos and keep them learning all summer at one of many 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 swimming to cooking.

Head to Super, Awesome & Amazing at the St. James for air-conditioned fun. Photo courtesy of the venue

12. Blow off steam at an indoor play space.

When it's too hot to head to a playground, kids can run, jump, climb, and slide at one of these awesome indoor play spaces for DC kids.

13. Play some indoor putt-putt.

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

14. Head to the 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, and Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo.

At-Home Heat Wave Indoor Activities

For those sweltering days when you just don't want to leave your air-conditioned house, these at-home activities will keep kids busy and cool.

15. Get crafty.

Bring out your child's creative side with one of these 100 awesome art projects for creative at-home fun, 50+ genius upcycled cardboard box crafts and activities for kids, and 21 rainbow crafts for kids.

16. Get your STEM on.

Kids will have so much fun doing these 64 easy science experiments, they won't even realize they're learning. For younger children, try one of these 25 preschool science experiments for toddlers through kindergarten kids.

17. Have a movie or TV marathon.

Pop some popcorn, pour some cold lemonade, and spend the day watching some of these 50 best kids' movies in the comfort of your AC. If you'd rather binge-watch TV shows, try one of these 21 great shows on Netflix for kids.

Make some homemade ice cream in five easy steps. Photo courtesy of Ally Noel

18. Make a cold treat.

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

19. Play some indoor games.

Get some air-conditioned exercise with one of these 30 exercise games and indoor activities to get kids moving. For more relaxed indoor fun, try one of these two dozen board games for family game night or 25 card games every kid should know.

More Ways to Beat the Heat in DC

20. Go out for ice cream.

You'll all scream for ice cream and beat the heat at one of these 12 must-try ice cream shops near DC.

21. Have a fun meal at a restaurant.

Head out for lunch or dinner at one of these 10 restaurants near DC where kids can play. They offer activities like arcade and board games, ping-pong, bowling, Skee-Ball, laser tag, and more, plus air conditioning on hot summer days.

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