Summer in the City 1 of 26If you’re trying to entertain a sweaty toddler in the city during July or August, you can find yourself with the parental version of heat exhaustion. When you’ve seen every kid-friendly summer movie and trucked it to the (air-conditioned) mall too many times to count, what other options do you have? We’ve got 25 activities to keep you and your little one nice and cool!
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1: Bridge to nowhere
Scenic spans like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate arent just for tourists. Elevated and close to the water, these bridges get fantastic breezes year round. Take a leisurely stroll across one to count boats, skyscrapers, and your kids smiles. Little ones afraid of heights? In an effort to go green, most cities are becoming more bike-friendly by expanding paths and lanes and sponsoring free bike rentals. So hitch up your trailer, hook on your child carrier, and wave to that bridge from the less-scary shore.
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2: Take a trip to the grocery store
Stop in at your closest mega-store for a little field trip. Go in the middle of the weekday when its usually cleared out and wander among chilly grapes and freezer boxes on a learning adventure. Bring nothing but a five-dollar bill so you wont get roped into buying stuff you dont need, eat before you go, and then set little fun challenges for your child like trying to spell out the alphabet by picking a different letter from each cereal box. When their attention begins to wane, let everyone pick out a small treat for the way home.
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3: Invest in great bathtub toys
When it is scorching outside, there is nothing better than playing in nice, cool water. Kids dont need an Olympic-sized swimming pool; a cool bath will do just fine. To ensure longer-lasting baths, invest in some seriously fun new tub toys. (Check out our picks for best bath toys here!) Just about anything plastic and unbreakable will do.
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4: Cmon ride the train
If you live in a city, you have access to a great, cheap form of air-conditioned entertainment: the commuter rail. Commuter-rail tickets are inexpensive, and if you go during off-hours, the train will be practically empty. Take a ride to a leafy, suburban town, get some ice cream, and hop back on. Pick a route with nice scenery, and your kids will be entertained by watching the landscape change.
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5: Head to the botanical gardens
Sometimes just getting away from all of that heat-magnifying concrete and into a shady, grassy space can help you cool off. Check out your citys botanical gardens. They offer acres of beautiful, walk-able nature and kid-friendly activities. Because they are often on the outer edges of the city, they are also usually cooler than your average city park.
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6: Wash the car (or your dog)
Washing the car is really just a great excuse to have a water fight! Get out the old clothes, buckets, and hose and go to town. Your child will have a great time helping you soap up and rinse off the car (or puppy), and youll all welcome the accompanying splashes.
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7: Set sail
You dont have to own a yacht to get out and enjoy the water; in most major cities, you can find great options for boat tours. Companies like Circle Line in NYC, Wendella in Chicago, and San Francisco Tours in San Fran offer inexpensive tours that last about two hours each. If your children are a little older, check out a speed boat tour like "The Beast" offered by Circle Line. Its guaranteed to get you splashed and cool you off.
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8: Hit the books
Save outdoor time for early morning or dusk when the sun is less intense and treat yourself to a mini-siesta at the library. Most public libraries offer free summer reading clubs for kids of all ages and reading levels, with incentives like stickers and stamps for every time your child finishes a book. For younger kids, attending story hour is a great option. Keep your eyes open for special events like guest storytellers or readings by beloved authors.
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9: Everybody in the pool
Signing your child up for swimming lessons is a great way to keep them cool and safe. Sweeten the deal by joining a parent-child swim class so that you also get to take a dip. These classes are offered at many pools, including the YMCA, where they offer lessons for children as young as 6 months (called The Shrimps!).
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10: Spend the day at a hotel pool
In a city, good public pools can either be hard to come by or super crowded. Nice hotels, however, often have great pools, and many of them offer day passes. They tend to be pricey ($50/day), but if nothing but a swim will do, it could be a now-and-then treat. Another, possibly cheaper, way in is to find a few other friends with kids, book a room, and split the cost. Now you have pool access, a private dressing/napping area, and great company.
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11: Visit an aquatic playground
Many playgrounds have low-pressure fountains that spray all day long. Ask around in your neighborhood to find the most reliable and cleanest watering holes. Make sure to pack a towel, water-safe shoes like Crocs, and waterproof sunscreen for a splish-splashy time.
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Not all ice rinks close for the off-season. For example, Manhattans Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers is open year-round and costs only $11 for kids and $13.50 for adults. Find rinks like this in your area and glide (or tumble) your way to icy bliss.
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13: Become frosty cowboys and cowgirls
Decorate bandanas with sequins, markers, and stickers, lightly wet them, and put them in the freezer for a few moments. Tie these damp rags on your kids head to immediately lower their body temperature. Bandanas come in all colors and are usually inexpensive.
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14: Think cool thoughts
You can use your imagination and a few films to carry you away to icier climates. Try popping in Happy Feet, Ice Age, or Eight Below to inspire cool thoughts. Eat a shiver-inducing snack like freeze pops while you watch. If your body temperature is still set on high, here is a weird little trick: place your inner-wrist against a cold glass or a piece of ice. It will instantly cool you off so that you can enjoy the rest of your movie-marathon.
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15: Play on a water table
Water tables are a classic part of any preschool's menu of playtime options. However, buying your own can set you back a few hundred dollars, plus, you have to find a space to store it. Step2 makes a great, more affordable option or you can just make your own. All you need is a TV tray or two and a clear, plastic storage container. Fill it with a few inches of water and get out your sandbox toys for an afternoon of splashy fun. One tip: include a few large paintbrushes. Toddlers can entertain themselves for quite a while by "painting" the sidewalk.
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16: Visit a childrens museum
A childrens museum is a great indoor destination on a sweltering day. Kids can still run around, explore, and burn energy, but its all in the comfort of air-conditioning. There are locations in just about every state in the country. This website can help you find one near you.
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17: Make ice cream
Why walk to the ice cream shop when you and your favorite kitchen helper can make your own? Even if youre no Martha Stewart, we promise that this recipe is a breeze and uses materials you probably already have at home. Your kids will love taking turns shaking the bag and watching the ingredients magically change from liquid to ice cream!
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18: Make popsicles
If its so hot outside that even shaking a bag of ice sounds like a monumental amount of effort, make popsicles instead. You can buy ice pop molds for under $5 at many drugstores. Then just pour in your childs favorite juice and pop them in the freezer. For a healthy twist, use a mixture of (defrosted) frozen fruit and Greek yogurt to make your own yogurt-pops. Yum!
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19: Go to the Beach
For those of you who live in spectacular, oceanfront cities, this may seem like a no-brainer. If youre in the Northeast or Midwest, however, it can be easy to forget that you live only a short distance from the Atlantic or a Great Lake. Do a little research first to find out which beaches in your area are the most family friendly (they must include lifeguards and restrooms!).
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20: Check out a water park
If youre willing to spend the extra bucks, water parks are a sure-fire way to beat the heat all day. Almost all water parks have kid-friendly attractions, like lazy rivers, water playgrounds, wading pools, and mini slides. Dont want to journey too far from home? You can always make your own water park in your backyard with inflatable water slides or a Slip-n-Slide.
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21: Make your own tent
Why wait until dark to camp out? For daytime adventurers, grab an old set of sheets, some clothespins, and rope and head out back or to the park to make your own tent/fort. Pick a large shady tree as an anchor and pitch away. A sheet tent is airier (and cheaper) than your standard model, and playing in it will amuse little ones until the hot sun finally sets. If it is just unbearable outside, you can always camp out in the living room.
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22: Have a water day
You dont need a pool to have a splash fight. Pack a small cooler of water balloons, some squirters (which now come in many non-gun shapes), or some spray bottles and head to a grassy park. You can organize games like a water balloon toss or just hand the kids a few water spritizing toys and let them go to it!
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23: Work out
Gyms are hurting for members, so many pass out free trial passes. Find a gym that offers childcare while you exercise — just check with other parents to make sure it is reputable.
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24: Bounce around
What has two thumbs and lots of energy? A kid on summer vacation! Let your child burn some of that energy without getting burned at an indoor, bouncy playground. Companies like Bounce-U and Bounce-A-Rama have locations just outside of most major cities and offer reasonably priced tickets for afternoons of jumping fun.
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25: Schedule appointments
Okay, okay, this isnt a "fun activity," but taking your child to the doctor or dentist during the summer months has a lot to recommend it. First of all, many people are out of town for the summer so it may be easier to get an appointment. Second, you wont have to worry about scheduling it later during the hectic school year. Most importantly, the doctor/dentists office has two things you wont: central air and new toys!