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How to Stay Cool in a Seattle-Area Heat Wave

Spray parks, cheap movies, homemade A.C.(!?) and more chillin' solutions

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: June 22, 2021

Splashing at a spray fountain to stay cool during a Seattle heat wave
Cooling off at a Seattle spray park. Credit: Seattle Parks and Recreation/Flickr CC

We've got a stretch of pretty scorching days on deck here in no-A.C.-land. We've rounded up a few of our coolest ideas on, well, staying cool. Heat wave? We're not sweatin' it.

1. Spray parks, wading pools and fountains

On a hot summer day, you can't go wrong with playing in the water. And that's what free spray parks and wading pools are all about. Check out our guide to spray parks in the greater Seattle area; our Seattle wading pool guide, and our list of South Sound spray parks. (Check open dates as some splash pads are open now and many open Saturday, June 26.)

Young kids playing in the spray park at Jefferson Park in Seattle stay cool in a Seattle heat wave
The spray park at Seattle's Jefferson Park opens for summer 2021 on Saturday, June 26. Credit: Seattle Parks and Rec

2. Cheap movie seats

What's better than escaping a steamy day with a cheap trip to the dark, air-conditioned cave that is a movie theater? This summer, with the help of this cheap seats guide, your family can share the big-screen tradition for some very retro prices.

Teen girls wearing masks for covid-19 in a movie theater staying cool during a seattle heat wave air conditioning

3. Outdoor pools and water parks

Outdoor pools and water parks are an all-day solution for a heat wave. Our outdoor pool guide points you to where to have fun with wave pools, simulated surfing pools, lazy rivers, zero-depth (beach-like) pool entries, aquatic play structures and slides, slides and more slides. Wear lots of sunscreen and new this year, book your swim time asap.

Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton near Seattel families kids stay cool during Seattle heat wave
Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton

4. DIY water games

Stuck at home with no A.C. and antsy kids? Water play is the best solution for everyone. Here are easy and fun ways to have a blast with water, from sponge-ball fights to liquid chalk art. 

Girl playing in the backyard in the sprinkler to keep cool during a Seattle heat wave

6. Head for the woods

Shade is nature's A.C. and a walk in the woods is a fun way to stay cool. These in-city forest walks don't even need a long drive to get you among the trees; or try one of these hikes for strollers and little legs. Feeling extra adventurous? Try one of these lake hikes and take a dip!

Kids hiking in Llandover Woods keeping cool in the trees during hot Seattle weater
In the trees at Llandover Woods. Credit: Jessica Plesko

7. Beach time

It’s tough to beat a summer’s day at a favorite beach: watching the kids sprint toward sand and water, followed by hours of wading, building sand creations and treasure hunting. In honor of beach magic, we've spotlighted 13 local beaches that should be on your summer bucket list. Seattle will have lifeguards stationed at eight lake beaches starting Saturday, June 26. We've also got a list of five swimming lakes for South Sound-area families.

Take a dip in Lake Wilderness to stay cool during a Seattle heat wave
Lake Wilderness. Credit: Tiffany Doerr Guerzon

8. Air-conditioned libraries

Some local libraries have reopened for indoor services. Seattle Public Library currently has 13 of its branch libraries open; check the website carefully as hours vary significantly. Masks are required. King County Library System has many of its branches open; check for in-person opening status at a branch near you. Masks required. Pierce County Library System and Tacoma Public Library have both opened some locations for in-person services. Do check carefully for open hours at the library you want to visit and remember your masks.

9. DIY swamp cooler

Stuck at home with no A.C. in sight? ParentMap friend Jennifer Bardsley sent instructions for a DIY swamp cooler, along with the image below that shows the finished product!

She says, "Using a sharp knife, cut out two holes on the side of Styrofoam cooler. Insert two plastic cups with the bottoms cut out. Cut out a circle on top of the cooler's lid and place the fan face down. Fill the cooler with ice. Important note, the ice cannot be wrapped in plastic because it needs to be exposed to the breeze of the fan." Thanks, Jennifer!

Editor's note: This article was originally published during a heat wave several years ago, and updated most recently for 2021.

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