Cool Kids: Where to Chill Indoors on NYC’s Hottest Days

Little girl sitting in an aquarium
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“Hot town, summer in the city…” Good song. Not so great a feeling when the heat index is 105 degrees. There are a number of ways to deal with extreme heat in NYC with kids—you can head to a free pool or maybe a playground with a sprinkler. But sometimes, it’s just too darn hot. That’s when you head inside and stay inside and keep cool in an air-conditioned space. We’ve rounded up the best play spaces with air conditioning to chill out indoors with the kids in NYC.

Chelsea Piers

Hit the Ice

Go all in and surround yourself with ice. Chelsea Piers is a favorite, but there are other indoor rinks around town like City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City, Aviator Sports in South Brooklyn or Flushing’s World Ice Area, which is open year round. 

An ice skating teacher helps a child make a move on the ice
Rachel Sokol

Head to an Indoor Play Space with Air Conditioning

Indoor play spaces with air conditioning are getting back to normal at this stage of COVID. (Still, you may need to book a slot or wear a mask to visit.) 

These are some of our favorites around the city. 

Here is a round up of some Manhattan spots.

Want to go to Brooklyn? We have great options for you.

If you’re in Queens, check out these indoor places to play.

Related: The 2021 NYC Summer Bucket List: What You Must Do with the Kids

A happy girl throws confetti into the air in the rainbow room of Candytopia
Candytopia

Check Out an Instagram Experience

Immersive experiences are ready to engage your senses and provide fodder for your feed. Plus, they are so much fun! Here are our picks for the best Instagram experiences for kids and families.

iStock

Enjoy a Movie

See a double—or triple!—feature at one of our favorite family-friendly movie theaters for kids. Hit a mutliplex or settle in for brunch, lunch or dinner at a dine-in theater. They might not be your typical play spaces with air conditioning, but they keep it nice and cool in those cinemas. 

Climb to New Heights

It scares us to think of the air conditioning bill at some of these places (so big!), but heading to a rock-climbing facility is a great way to beat the heat! 

Popular spots include the new The Cliffs at Harlem, Chelsea Piers, Aviator Sports in south Brooklyn, Brooklyn Boulders in Gowanus, The Cliffs at LIC, Everyday Athlete in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, and The Rock Club in New Rochelle.

A boy plays inside an exhibit at Children's Museum of Manhattan
Children’s Museum of Manhattan

Get Some Cool Culture

We don’t have to tell you that a hot day is a perfect museum day. These are our favorite exhibits for kids and families

These are our favorite under-the-radar NYC museums that are worth a visit.

Harry Potter New York

Try Some Recreational Shopping

Whether it’s back-to-school shopping, an early birthday present or just because, NYC has a lot of stores (and complexes) that are actually pretty fun to shop. 

Two recent boffo openings include Harry Potter New York, now the largest collection of Harry Potter merchandise for sale on Earth (take note: there’s a virtual queue you need to join to visit) and the new LEGO store in Rockefeller Center, a “retailtainment” destination.

For a magical toy store, we like CAMP, which has locations in the Flatiron District, Hudson Yards and City Point in Brooklyn, as well as a new store dedicated to art activities, Art Camp, The Shops at Columbus Circle. All CAMP locations have a “secret entry,” which makes them especially cool. For a huge classic, try the new-ish FAO Schwarz in Rockefeller Center, where yes, you can dance on the big piano like in Big.

Downtown, The Oculus has the high end mall Westfield, as well as the multi-floor foodie destination, Eataly.

In Brooklyn, you can spend the day at City Point, with the amazing DeKalb Food Hall, Target, Trader Joe’s, Flying Tiger and Alamo Draft House. 

Related: Top Seeds: The Best Apple Picking Near NYC

SEA LIFE Aquarium

Experience the “City Under the Sea” at the SEA LIFE New Jersey aquarium in the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, which serves as a great play space with air conditioning. More than 3,000 aquatic creatures live here in NYC-themed environments; see sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, seahorses and even get up close and touch some of the animals. The aquarium features an amazing underwater ocean tunnel, as well as daily talks and feedings to learn more about the creatures of the deep. Tickets to SEA LIFE are $28.99/adults, $23.99/kids, and combo packs with LEGOLAND are available for $56.99/adults, $53.99/kids. 

Of course, you can hide from the heat at many spots in American Dream: the Big Snow indoor ski slope, an ice skating rink, the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Dream Works Water Park and Nickelodeon Universe indoor amusement park. So, take your pick, but no matter where you go, make reservations in advance! 

1 American Dream Way
East Rutherford, NJ
Online: americandream.com

Serendipity3’s Frrrozen Hot Chocolate

This NYC classic is back and ready to give you brain freeze! Not only can you get a traditional Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, Serendipity3’s menu is filled with ice cream concoctions, pastries of all kinds and lunch and dinner food to please everyone in the family (from mac and cheese to burgers to salads). Make a reservation before heading over. 

225 E. 60th St. 
Upper East Side
Online: serendipity3.com

 

Kids having fun on inner tubes at The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark
The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark

Slip Slide Away

Indoor water parks can be good for severe winter weather and severe summer weather. Check out the best indoor water parks near NYC, including the Kartrite Resort & Waterpark

Related: Spray, You! NYC Parks with Water to Keep Cool

A view looking up at the Statue of Liberty
Mimi O’Connor

Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Yes, you have to go outside and take a boat to Liberty Island and Ellis Island (and it’s a short walk to the statue) but the statue and the massive museum on Ellis Island are air conditioned—plus, they make for a nice day out. Also, a museum dedicated to the Statue of Liberty recently opened. Read our guide to visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with kids.

Hit the Links at an Indoor Miniature Golf Course

Mini golf is a classic outdoor summer activity, but there are a few indoor miniature golf courses in and around NYC if you want to get out of the sun. 

Children climb silver pedestals on the Infinity Climber at the Liberty Science Center
Mimi O’Connor

Spend the Day at Liberty Science Center

You can’t even do it all in one day—but you can try! Here’s our guide to Jersey City’s Liberty Science Center.

Related: Summer Slide: Outdoor Water Parks Near NYC

Children play with colorful water features at the Brooklyn Children's Museum's Totally Tots section. 
Marcos Stafne

Play with Water Inside

Sort of the best of both worlds: inside and some H20. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum has a great water play area in its Totally Tots section. 

 

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