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Roosevelt Island pool
Photograph: Max Touhey

Fun ways to stay cool during NYC’s heat wave this week

You don't need to stay home to keep cool—NYC has a multitude of fun ways to avoid the heat.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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We’re in the dog days of summer, but this week, in particular, is going to be brutal.

The temperature will be in the mid- to high-90s this week, spurring a heat advisory for the metro area through Sunday, when heat index values will be around 100 degrees.

Of course, always head to one of NYC’s cooling centers if you need to escape the heat. You can access an interactive map right here to find the one nearest to you. Call 911 if you or someone is experiencing heavy sweating, muscle cramps, lightheadedness, feeling faint, headache, decreased energy, loss of appetite and/or nausea.

If your apartment has good air conditioning, it's easy to stay inside to avoid the sun but NYC has a lot of fun ways to keep cool so that you don't need to become a hermit when the mercury rises. And if your apartment traps heat, fear not: There are great places to escape to across the boroughs.

Below, we’ve recommended 28 fun ways to cool off in NYC during this wicked heatwave. And remember: Stay cool and stay inside whenever possible!

RECOMMENDED: 35 ways to have the best summer in NYC

The best things to do in NYC to keep cool

  • Bars

Escape the stifling heat and do as a vampire might do—head underground to one of NYC’s coolest subterranean bars. Though some share a crossover speakeasy-style appeal, these bars are all literally underground, safely ensconced in basements where you can eschew the SPF and avoid the harsh light of day outside. As cool as they are chill, these are the best basement bars to beat the heat in NYC. 

  • Things to do

NYC's public swimming pools are an oasis for heat-weary New Yorkers every summer, whether they take a dip in the cool waters or just lounge poolside. We certainly have our pick of options as there are more than 60 public swimming pools scattered around New York’s five boroughs. Here's our comprehensive list of the squeaky clean—and totally free—swimming pools in NYC.

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  • Art
  • Art

If you happen to be near Rock Center and need a quick way to cool off, its newest art installation, “Changing Spaces” by Jeppe Hein is actually a water fountain with jets that spray up from the ground, allowing passersby to walk in and out and get soaked if they so desire. The "liquid architecture" is meant to inspire people to interact with it and find a peaceful respite.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The heat might’ve made you a zombie, so the next step is to go see an exhibit about AMC Networks’ The Walking Dead. The Museum of the Moving Image, “Living with The Walking Dead” features original costumes and props, concept art, storyboards, scripts and prosthetic makeup material that highlight the show’s origins, production and impact. It’ll also have multiple screening series and public events over a six-month span for those interested in the show and learning more about behind the scenes. All in all, there are 500 objects including more than 300 props and production materials to see. That’s a cool way to spend the day—and it’s air-conditioned.

  • Attractions

It helps to have the sea breeze for sure, but there’s nothing like feeling the wind in your hair aboard one of the thrill rides in Coney Island, including on the Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, and the new Leti’s Treasure—a log flume ride that will operate with 12 flume boats and lifts riders up to 40 feet in the air before plunging down.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Visitors to American Dream can bounce from activity to activity without worrying about transportation or the weather, and that already is a major win. But its long list of shops and attractions is really the star of the show. As they say, there’s something for everyone, from stomach-dropping roller coasters to spa experiences, and from luxury shopping to discount shopping. It keeps changing up its offerings, too. American Dream just opened the massive Dream Wheel that you can see the NYC skyline from and has a slew of new stores coming soon, including the beloved H Mart. It also holds regular performances, too. It truly succeeds in having everything.

  • Art
  • Art

Go underneath Chelsea Market to see a cool digital art exhibit and cool off. “Life of a Neuron,” ARTECHOUSE‘s latest immersive exhibition, depicts the life stages of a human neuron from neural migration to aging, guests are surrounded by a highly immersive sound design that tells a universal life story, beginning with a baby crying and including sounds of laughter, children playing in a playground, people singing happy birthday, an ambulance siren, and finally a flatline. It’ll make you forget about the heat for a while.

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

This gorgeous gelato from Anita will make the heat dissipate for a moment. The brand’s new outpost is now open at 1141 Broadway, by 26th Street, has over 150 different kinds of 100% handmade gelato, sorbet and yogurt, plus a variety of toppings—like milk chocolate and salted pretzel, rum and raisin, popcorn with honey and caramel, salted bagel, chestnut with hazelnut cream and grapefruit Campari, to name just a few.

  • Art
  • Art

Simply being in a museum when it’s hot outside is escape enough but when you see the beautifully redesigned Northwest Coast Hall, the oldest gallery at the American Museum of Natural History, it’ll really make you forget about the humidity outside. The gallery, decorated with blue lights and glass, has been completely overhauled into a stunning gallery that showcases the creativity, scholarship and history of the cultures of the Pacific Northwest. Plus, it was recreated with input from these Northwest Coast cultures, therefore illuminating them as vibrant, living communities with thousands of “glorious works of art, spirituality, and ingenuity,” the museum says. It’s the perfect time to spend reading and discovering all about these communities.

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Be transported when you step inside The Woo Woo, which aims to evoke the 1980s and Times Square in those same, pre-Disney days with sex shops and speakeasies. These themes are executed with a combination of graffiti that reasonably approximates the style of the time, vintage nude mags and video tapes, rouge neon, throwback punk show posters and the whole password thing. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The bustling night markets in cities across Asia are the inspiration for a massive new food hall and beer garden in Flushing’s Tangram this summer. International eats from Na Tart, Cruncheese, Qing Shu, Zaab Zaab, Da Wei Mei Shi and more are available here in this space that is pretty dynamic—in the daytime, textures like reclaimed cedar columns with metal cuffs, concrete floors, exposed ceilings, and textured metal details are highlighted by sunlight, but at night, bright, dancing lights, TV screens and neon ceiling signs brighten up the space. Vendors will be along the perimeter with an “undulating” header with vendor names but also in the center as individual islands. 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Descend into Swingers NoMad, a “crazy mini-golf course” and entertainment complex straight from London with three nine-hole golf courses across 23,000 square feet under 20-foot-high ceilings. “Crazy golf” is a British spin on mini-golf, but it’s for a 21-and-over audience since craft cocktails are served by caddies on the course, and at Swingers NoMad, there will be six cocktail bars with signature classic cocktails from London and D.C., as well as 12 cocktails created specifically for Swingers NoMad, private rooms you can rent, an opulent clubhouse and four gourmet street food vendors—Sauce Pizzeria, Miznon, Fonda and Mah Ze Dahr Bakery. It really is like a whole other place entirely. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

If you’re looking for a pool experience that’s more Instagram-worthy, head to Roosevelt Island’s Pop Up Pool Party installation. The floor mural at Manhattan Park, an 8.5-acre luxury waterfront rental community, is beautiful to look at. Can you imagine swimming in it?

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Throwback some delightful cold ones from Brooklyn brewery Talea Beer Co., which just opened a new taproom in Cobble Hill. Conveniently located about one minute from the F and G trains at Bergen Street, Talea 2.0’s new space is a similarly lofty affair. Its now-familiar font adorns a brick facade punctuated by pink and yellow and a couple of rows of tidy tables are out on the sidewalk. The menu includes 15 varieties on tap like Talea staples Sun Up Hazy IPA and Peach Berry Punch Sour, in addition to new brews, flights, cans and bottles. A full bar, wine and cider are also available. And for those who don’t have AC at home, the new spot invites remote workers with coffee, tea and morning snacks from 10am on weekdays.

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Spend a few hours indoors belting your heart out at Ms. Kim's, a new K-town karaoke lounge from Korean beauty entrepreneur Anna Kim that combines sophisticated style with sing-alongs. Envisioned during the pandemic, when we all just needed to belt out our frustrations, and spend some much-needed time outside of our homes with friends, Ms. Kim's offers both communal space and soundproof private karaoke rooms, so guests can customize their experience as it suits their needs. In the main lounge and bar, mixologist-approved cocktails take the place of the ubiquitous karaoke bar beer pitcher. Ingredients in the signature drinks, which start at $16, include butterfly pea flower, herbal infused syrups and top shelf spirits. Fine wine is sold by the glass or bottle, and beer is available on tap or by the bottle. For soju, the 46-proof Hwayo - 23° is available by the 375 mL bottle. Fridays will also bring live music to the bar, for those who prefer to sway to the sounds of jazz, rather than sing. To eat, Ms. Kim's offers a short menu of Japanese and Korean finger foods, like vegetable or shrimp tempura with four types of salt, three types of fried dumplings, and chicken karaage with garlic ginger soy sauce.

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Philomena’s, a new bar at 790 Grand Street in East Williamsburg, spotlights “​​unique carved and infused ice cubes,” at the new venture named for their great aunt. Philomena’s opening cocktail menu includes the Felix, with a cucumber/lime/Tajín ice cube in mezcal and expressed orange, the Aileen, with a habanero ice cube in tequila blanco, guava, lime, Cointreau and the Philomena, with a watermelon-rosé ice cube in prosecco.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Avoid the sun by heading underwater to see the New York Aquarium's new "Spineless" exhibit about the world of invertebrates including octopuses, squid, sea anemones, jellyfish, and other sea animals that lack backbones. "Spineless" opened in August 2020 and highlights the ocean’s invertebrates by giving visitors a close-up view of the big-brained giant—a Giant Pacific Octopus—in a pop-up bubble within the animal’s habitat and pulsing jellyfish in three habitats. More than 20 species of animals including squid, cuttlefish, lobsters, crabs, sea anemones, sponges are on view. 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the coolest place in the city. Over the winter, NYC Parks Department unveiled a new misting plaza at The Fountain of the Fairs, where the park's reflecting pool has been since the 1964 World's Fair. Specialized jets can now create a cooling cloud on summer days. Head there to really cool off without having to take a dip in a pool.

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Turn your sweltering summer day into a full day of ice cream-themed fun. The Museum of Ice Cream offers 13 multi-sensory installations—an Ice Cream Portal, a Celestial Subway, a Rainbow Tunnel and the famous Sprinkle Pool— that serve up sweet treats along the way. You can also purchase signature scoops in cups or handmade waffle cones, sweet specialty sundaes and ice cream cocktails here.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Sweaty wizards and witches will be able to shop from the world's largest collection of Harry Potter merch across 21,000 square feet at 935 Broadway in the Flatiron District at this highly-anticipated store. Every detail of Harry Potter Store New York has been intricately designed, from the decor sitting on the shelves above all the incredible merch (yes, there are full house robes) to the design of the store itself, which has a room full of gorgeous HP stationary by MinaLima, massive models of Fawkes the Phoenix and a moving griffin as well as a spiral staircase that descends into a space made to look like the Ministry of Magic. You'll definitely need to spend an hour here, which is perfect for cooling off.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The library often acts as a cooling haven for heat-weary New Yorkers, so if you're in need of a break, why not take it at the newly updated Central Circulating Library, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library? Head over to read the afternoon away in air conditioning and seeing its amazing highlights like the "Long Room" at the heart of the building—a dramatic atrium that shows off five levels of book stacks across three floors, which draws the eyes up to a beautiful puzzle-like mural, "Instant Paradise," by Hayal Pozanti on the ceiling inspired by neoclassical paintings. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

If you want to get wet in a thrilling way, check out The Beast, the speedboat-thrill ride that takes people on a rollicking jaunt down the Hudson River while doing figure eights and doughnuts. You might've seen it tearing down the river in summers past—it would be hard to miss since it is New York’s only jet-powered speedboat attraction that goes about 45 mph to party music. The Beast’s route takes guests from Pier 83 to the Statue of Liberty and back again with splash-filled action all the way. The crew also gives some narrative and historical information while speeding down the river. It tops out at 45 mph and makes a sharp turn in the water. After all, it has 1400 BHP-horsepower with two ZF 3000 marine gears powered by twin Hamilton Jets. Most people get wet on this ride, so you have to be at peace with getting some of the Hudson River on you.

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  • Things to do
  • Queens

Now you can actually look forward to going to JFK International Aiport because of this gorgeous, completely renovated TWA Terminal, which serves as a hotel, food-and-drink and convention destination. The interior of Eero Saarinen’s landmark 1962 building exudes 1960s chic with 512 guest rooms that offer views of JFK’s runways, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, a rooftop pool and an observation deck. 

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