Beat the heat in the big city

beat the heat in the street
Public Domain Beat the heat in the street

It's hot in the city, and getting hotter. There's the heat island effect, where concrete and asphalt absorb heat and radiate it back. There's the air conditioning, which takes heat from inside buildings and dumps it outside. But there are also ways to keep cool in the big city, ways to keep cool with culture, not contraptions. Here are a few ideas; we use New York as the focus here, but there are similar places in almost every city.

Take a dip in the public pool

Astoria PoolNew York City Parks and Recreation/Public Domain
New York is actually blessed with public pools; eleven were built during the depression as WPA economic stimulus projects. While cutting the ribbon on one Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia called it "a monument to the progressive government which would not and could not see unemployed men on the breadline." - a different time. The pools are still open, and one, the McCarren pool in Brooklyn, was recently renovated and was admired in TreeHugger here. More on the history of New York's pools here; and here's Time Out's guide to the best public pools in New York.

Hang out in the public park

Central ParkLloyd Alter/ Central Park Reservoir /CC BY 2.0
Central Park may be the most famous, but there are new parks like the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and new waterfront paths around the city. In fact many cities have new waterfront parks as the formerly industrial waterfronts are converted to recreational uses.

Find the private parks and gardens

One of the most serene spaces in New York is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden in the Museum of Modern Art. You can get in free between 9:00 and 10:15 AM or you have to pay for admission to the Museum, but the space, designed by architect Philip Johnson and landscape architect James Fanning in 1953 and revitalized in 2004, is worth it. More at the Cultural Landscape Foundation

Go to a museum

They have the coolest and best air in town, out of concern more for the museum contents then the people.
Museum of Natural HistoryLloyd Alter/ Museum of Natural History/CC BY 2.0
If you want to feel even cooler, hang out with the mountain goats in the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History, and imagine yourself up there in the snowy peaks.

Hang out in an independent bookstore

So many independent bookstores have closed in recent years, and the ones that are left really do need your support, and really like seeing people come in the door. No admission charge, but do buy a book if you spend a lot of time there. Here is a list of 5 Independent Bookstores in NYC.

Get high

top of the rock© Top of the rock
Many cities still have a few buildings with open observation decks; the one on the top of Rockefeller Center is perhaps the best I have ever been on, in its art deco glory. It was closed for decades but has reopened, expensive at $32 but worth it. In Buffalo, the one on the top of City Hall is free; in Toronto, there is still a little bit of roof at the Park Plaza.
high lineLloyd Alter/ the High Line/CC BY 2.0
Not quite so high but free, the High Line park is going to be cooler than grade, but it gets pretty crowded these days.

Take in a matinee

TivoliTivoli Theatre/Public Domain
The air conditioner was invented to cool factories, but one of the first public uses was in movie theaters. Interestingly, they revolutionized the business; most theaters were dead in the summer. The first was in New York:
In 1925, Carrier persuaded the Paramount Pictures Corporation to install his system in the Rivoli Theater - their flagship movie house under construction on Times Square in New York City. The system was ready for its test with an actual audience by the theater's opening on Memorial Day. The experiment was an outstanding success. People flocked to the Rivoli – as many to enjoy the cool relief from the heat as to see the movie. Over the next five years, Carrier installed his climate control technology in 300 movie theaters across the country. Air conditioning transformed the summer months from a financial write-off for the movie industry to its most profitable season of the year.
They had a point. A new and appropriate Ice Age movie opens this week.

Hit the hotels

You can spend quite a bit of time in hotel lobbies; the Ace Hotel is almost like an office sometimes. Other hotels have outdoor bars and even sometimes swimming pools.

UPDATE: The Public Library

day after tommorwThe Day After Tomorrow/Screen capture
A regular comments that we forgot the public library, which of course is one of the coolest places around: usually air conditioned and lots to do, lots to keep you occupied. It will not be as empty or as cold as the one in that wonderful stinker, The Day After Tomorrow, but it it is still a great place to go in the heat.There are many other cool places to go; what are your favorites where you live? Please let us know in comments.
Beat the heat in the big city
Every city has its secret and not so secret spots where you can cool down with culture.

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