Surviving a heat wave: Ways to cool off in NYC

It's pretty disgusting outside this week, huh? Here are eight ways to get through the summer's heat waves.


Bushwick Photograph: Jolie Ruben

How are you surviving the current heat wave? (Our preferred methods include eating our weight in ice-cream sandwiches, sitting directly in front of a fan with wet hair and drinking plenty of water. YMMV.) The brutal temperatures are expected to continue until Friday—it'll likely climb above 100 degrees tomorrow, dear God—so finding ways to cool down isn't just a priority, it's a necessity.

Good news: We're here to help! Read on for a few ways to stay cool in NYC when it becomes so hot that you can't think straight.

1. Open a fire hydrant
Splashing around in a fire hydrant's cooling spray is one of those quintessential summer-in-NYC activities, but before you proceed, don't forget to get a free spray cap from a nearby fire station. Not only will the firefighters help you install the cap, you'll also avoid getting slapped with a $1,000 fine. No advance planning is necessary; simply show a form of ID proving you're over 18, and you'll be set with your outdoor shower for the rest of the day. (Just remember to bring it back to the firehouse once you've finished splashing around.)

2. Go swimming
The city's free public pools are open until 7pm every day, though you should expect long lines (for spots like Brooklyn Bridge Park's pop-up pool, which only allows 60 swimmers in at a time) and big crowds, especially on these red-alert days. If you're willing to shell out some cash to avoid the huge crowds, some rooftop and hotel pools are available to the public—you'll just have to pay a fee for access. Don't forget the sunscreen.

3. Head to the beach
Yes, you'll still be outdoors and it'll still be warm—we definitely don't recommend going at the hottest part of the day unless you have a big ol' beach umbrella and plenty of water—but a beach trip on a scorching day is thoroughly transportive. Especially in New York City: There's something calming about getting away from the most packed parts of town, reclining in the sand and wading into cool water. Here's our list of NYC's best beaches, as well as the best beach eats in spots like the Rockaways and Coney island.

4. Eat something cold—or, conversely, spicy
It seems that science has proven that eating cold foods, like ice cream, doesn't actually cool you down—in fact, it may do the exact opposite. Whatever—you'll have to pry our ice cream from our overly warm, sweaty hands. Here are eight frozen treats that taste delicious on summer's worst days, even if they somehow make you hotter. (That list doesn't include Dominique Ansel's new frozen s'more, which incorporates vanilla ice cream.) Watermelons and spicy foods are two comestibles that do help your body cool down: Try the fresh-pressed watermelon juice at Miss Lily's ($7) for the former, and one of our favorite new tacos doused in a bunch of hot sauce for the latter.

5. Sit in the shade
Take advantage of the many, many green spaces at your disposal and find a shady spot in a New York City park. Try Central Park, Prospect Park, Fort Tryon Park or Van Cortlandt Park: Not only do they have more acreage than many other spaces, they're also covered in trees, so it won't be hard to find a shaded patch of grass. Ditto the New York Botanical Garden, which is home to what remains from New York City's oldest forest.

6. Go to an outdoor bar
This is really more of a personal preference; we find few things more refreshing in the summer than sitting on an outdoor patio with a light, preferably dirt-cheap beer. (Hi, Gowanus Yacht Club!) If you feel the same way, our guide to the city's best outdoor bars will be your constant friend for the next few months. But remember: Alcohol is dehydrating, so drink plenty of water and stay out of direct sunlight, especially if you're day-drinking.

7. Mooch air-conditioning
There are plenty of reasons to love New York's museums, not least of which is because they're typically nice and cold in the summer. (Bless you, climate control, for the sake of preserving precious artifacts.) And hey, it's a twofer: You can cool off and enrich your mind all at once. Try the Metropolitan Museum of Art (lots of shady galleries, pay-what-you-wish admission), the American Museum of Natural History (especially the cool, nearly pitch-black space show) and the Museum of the Moving Image (its "Behind the Screen" exhibit is similarly dim, plus you can take advantage of the screening rooms). The city also operates its own cooling centers during heat waves.

8. Give up and stay indoors
Let's be honest: The effort of actually dragging yourself outside when the temperature is north of 90 degrees is too damn hard. (Never mind the physical act of waiting for a subway in this weather, which is perhaps the worst part of living in New York City in the summer.) So go ahead, strip down to your skivvies and stay inside your apartment. We're right there with you.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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