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Manhattan Park Pool
Photograph: Max Touhey

29 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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It's the dog days of summer in NYC — the heat index this week is hovering around 100 degrees and weather officials have issued an excessive heat warning for the next few days and New Yorkers are looking for ways to keep cool.

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 29 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

Submerge your body in a cool pool for ultimate relief from the sweltering heat! All outdoor pools in all five boroughs will reopen to the public for lap swimming, open swim hours, plus free learn to swim programs. Admission to NYC’s public pools is always free, and this year there’s a bonus: Sunscreen. Slather on some complimentary SPF 50, courtesy of a city partnership with the American Academy of Dermatology’s SPOT Skin Cancer program. And don't skip Roosevelt Island’s Manhattan Park pool, which has been beautifully painted by Brooklyn-based artist, Melissa Dadourian.

  • 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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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

Walker Hotel Tribeca is turning gaming in the air conditioning into a full-on experience, thanks to new bookable video game suites. Starting Thursday, August 12 and culminating on National Video Game Day, September 12, the hotel will offer three distinct video game experiences. Arcade Archives will delve into the classics with Walker’s throwback arcade which includes beloved retro games like Pacman, Big Buck Hunting, pinball and more. A VR suite will allow gamers to fully immerse themselves in the video game universe with Walker’s Oculus VR headset, which promises an otherworldly experience. The Vintage Video Games suite is equipped with beloved consoles like the Nintendo N64, so gamers can settle in and transport themselves back to the 90s with classic video games.

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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. Other cocktails are served up, and the Willy’s 50/50 pulls a 180, lighting vodka and citrus-infused Dolin blanc on fire. Beer and wine are also available and every drink runs from $6-$13. Snacks from nearby restaurant Pomp and Circumstance include hummus ($8), duck liver ($9) mousse and pickled crudité ($4). Philomena’s seats 75 in its cerulean-hued space, including ten spots at the bar and on a big oxblood banquette. It will open for walk-ins only at 5pm daily. 

  • 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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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Cool down at Prospect Heights' new ice cream destination, The Social. By the Ample Hill founders Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith, it offers a playful take on ice cream and promises a carefree, fun experience that melds innovative flavors with nostalgia. The Go Go Bananas banana ice cream reimagines the classics, with more unique flavors including a monkey bread and coffee infused scoop with homemade coffee toffee, and all-natural bubblegum ice cream with a marshmallow swirl. Locally made doughnuts, as well as milkshakes, specialty cones and sorbet are also on The Social's menu. 

  • Music
  • East Harlem

Take an exuberant look back at the music of the 1980s in New York City at a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York called "New York, New Music: 1980-1986." The show examines this transformative era through the lens of emerging pivotal music genres and the influence they played on New York’s broader cultural landscape. It highlights diverse musical artists from Run DMC to the Talking Heads and from Madonna to John Zorn through a series of key moments and more than 350 objects, including video footage, photography, artifacts, and ephemera like An MTV Music Awards Moon Person award statue, vinyl records from Madonna, Funky 4+1, Liquid Liquid, and Konk, a T-shirt and other ephemera from Keith Haring and DJ Larry Levan’s "Party of Life" event, music videos and rare concert footage including Grand Master Flash, Fort Apache Band, Lounge Lizards, Cyndi Lauper, and others. 

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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.

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  • Art
  • Art

Avoid the heat and head under Chelsea Market to witness the ARTECHOUSE's gigantic trippy kaleidoscope. "Geometric Properties: An Immersive Audio-Visual Journey Through Fractal Dimensions" is the first solo exhibition of Dutch artist Julius Horsthuis’ work to come to NYC. Previously, his work has been featured in Manchester by the Sea and through collaborations with musical artists like ODESZA, Meshuggah and Birds of Paradise. He uses fractals to create alternate science-fiction-like realities using visual art and motion graphics, and they are a real trip, to say the least. Tickets cost $24 for adults and $17 for children. (Pro tip: New York and New Jersey residents receive a $5 discount on tickets on weekdays.)

  • Art
  • Art

Sometimes heading to the museum and its air conditioning is the best escape from the heat. While you're at MoMA, check out the more than 250 works on paper—sketches and rarely-seen watercolors—by French Post-Impressionist master Paul Cézanne for all to see in its newest exhibit, "Cézanne Drawing." It the first major effort in the U.S. to gather drawings from across Cézanne's career to mark the development of his working methods, from practice on paper to watercolors to oil paintings. It is akin to seeing behind the veil of this master by literally looking into his sketchbook and seeing the repetition, contemplation and reworking he did behind the scenes.

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  • 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.

  • Museums
  • Movies and TV
  • Astoria
  • price 2 of 4

The Museum of the Moving Image has a three-story extension that features a state-of-the-art 267-seat cinema, where you can take in films most nights. And when you need to get out of the heat, this is a great air-conditioned entertainment escape. When you've cooled down, you can check out its exhibits, "Behind the Screen" which examines every step of the filmmaking process with artifacts from more than 1,000 different productions, and 14 classic and playable video games, its newest exhibit, "Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey" and "The Jim Henson Exhibition."

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

We love summer cocktails and now is the perfect time to have your fair share (while staying hydrated, of course). The pink drink is ubiquitous at countless bars, but Dante, ranked one of the World’s Best Bars, is doing it right at their new West Village location (551 Hudson St).  Dante’s new Cosmopolitan Collection offers several takes on the ‘90s martini, in honor of New York bouncing back this summer, and yes, the fictional Carrie Bradshaw’s return to Manhattan. The new summer Cosmopolitan menu features eight variations of the drink including the Coconut Cosmo, which is shaken with coconut washed Absolut Vodka, coconut liqueur, cranberry wine and coconut water. Self-identified Samantha’s may prefer The Rude Cosmo, which is tequila-based and made with Olmeca Altos, Del Maguey Mezcal, Ancho Reyes, Pasilla and lime and Dante cranberry. The Cosmo Spritz riffs on another popular summer drink, combining yuzu vodka, Cointreau, lime acid, cranberry bitters and prosecco, all over ice. Other Cosmopolitans are inspired by mojitos, negronis, and more, and definitely call for a group cocktail tasting. Dante’s Cosmopolitan Collection is an addition to Dante West Village’s special spritz and martini variation menus, meaning you can drink here a lot and never order the same drink twice. Unless you want to, of course. Cosmopolitans are also on the menu at the original Dante (79 MacDougal St), which excels at classic cocktails, but these special variation menus are specific to the new location. 

  • 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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Spend time at the newly reopened Tenement Museum
  • Museums
  • History
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

Spend your hot afternoon tourig this fascinating museum—actually a series of restored tenement apartments at 97 Orchard Street. Tickets are sold at the visitors’ center at 108 Orchard Street; tours often sell out, so it’s wise to book ahead. Costumed "residents" give glimpses into the daily lives of immigrant clans that called the building home over the decades. 

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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
  • City Life

You've been wanting to go but have been holding off? Now's the time to see the traveling exhibition, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. The trippy, art-inspired experience about Van Gogh's art is the best way to spend a hot afternoon—inside a big, dark venue seeing art. Overall, the new exhibition make sfor a solidly entertaining and educational outing for families as well as an interesting date activity. Tickets are now available for the exhibition which is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am–9pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 9am–10pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

If you're in Red Hook, stop by Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie for a Swingle treat that makes us giddy all over. Served on a stick after being dipped in Belcolade Belgian dark chocolate, the dessert is as exciting visually as it is taste-wise. Here's how it is made: the staff takes the 4-inch key lime tart, freezes it on a stick, hand-dips it in a molten pool of chocolate and serves it three different ways. The original version is presented as-is but other options include the raspberry-chocolate Swingle and the spicy La Victoria made with chipotle. You can only purchase the treat in-store, which is an experience all of its own. Located on Red Hook's waterfront, right by Valentino Park, Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie is a neighborhood staple that dishes out more than the Swingle (which you should definitely order while there). Regular key lime pies are de rigeur here, and they come in all different sizes. Plus: limonadas, hot and iced coffees. Basically, it's the perfect snack break destination—especially during the summer. The best part? It's open every day of the week.

 

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  • Theater
  • Theater & Performance

Take your mind off the heat with "a triptych of encounters between strangers" called A Thousand Ways. To put it simply, attendees are asked to actually become the actors in each play, following a script to be recited to (and across from) another participating stranger. The goal? To get through your role, both in terms of dialogue and actionable prompts included in the write-out. Incredibly creative both in form and function, A Thousand Ways is part of a roster of shows born out of the pandemic that seek to shapeshift into productions that not only abide by the health and sanitation guidelines that have become modus operandi across the world but also deliver a message directly related to the out-of-the-ordinary year we've all just lived through. You can buy tickets for Part One and Part Two of the show right here.

  • 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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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

If you're like us, you've been craving a good ice cream sandwich these days. You can find the perfect one at the Michelin-starred restaurant Musket Room, which is serving housemade ice cream sandwiches from its takeout window on weekends from noon to 4pm. These aren't just any ice cream sandwiches—Pastry Chef Camari Mick, a veteran of Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park, has created mouthwatering flavors that we've never seen before. You can choose from a vegan coconut caramel cookie with coconut ice cream, a chocolate chip cookie with miso ice cream and a hazelnut macaron with blackberry. They're just $8 a piece.

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

If you want to eat outdoors without direct sunlight, may we suggest Boucherie? The "Sixth-and-a-half Avenue” semi-hidden pedestrian pathway, which runs from West 51st to West 57th St between Sixth and Seventh Avenue, now has a Boucherie outdoor dining area just off 53rd St. Guests can enjoy a French-inspired menu while dining in the canopied, under-the-radar side street while surrounded by greenery, hanging lights and dark wood. Menu items at the location like Steak Frites ($49), Beef Bourguignon ($44) and Coq Au Vin ($36) easily complete the illusion and should have you feeling like you’re dining on the streets of Paris in no time. 

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  • Art
  • Art

 

SuperReal has reopened at Cipriani 25 Broadway, inside the historic Cunard Building, bringing its cutting-edge projection mapping tech and multimedia art to its walls and ceiling, transporting visitors through dreamlike scenes in its gorgeous hall—a much-needed break from the hellscape outside. Across 45 minutes, the show places viewers in five unique and abstract sequences that are both stunning and interactive.

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