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How to Stay Cool in a Heat Wave for Puget Sound Families

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

Author Elisa Murray

Published on: July 07, 2024

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

We’ve got a little stretch of pretty scorching days on deck this week in no-A.C.-land. (Hopefully not as bad as June 2021, please?!) Even if you have it (A.C. that is), it’s still going to be toasty, though, so we’ve rounded up a few of our coolest ideas on, well, staying cool. Heat wave? We’re not sweatin’ it. Stay cool out there, everyone!

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.

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. Photo: Seattle Parks and Recreation

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 movies guide, your family can share the big-screen tradition for some very retro prices.

From Shoreline to Tacoma, bargain seats are available around the Seattle area. Photo: iStock

3. Outdoor pools and water parks

Outdoor pools and water parks are an all-day solution for a heat wave. Our outdoor pools 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 check if you need to book your swim session in advance.

Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton near Seattle 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. Check out these 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
Keep kids cool with water activities that are easy to recreate at home. Photo: iStock

5. 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? These hikes to ghost towns will give you thrills and chills!

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

6. Beach time

It’s tough to beat a summer’s day at a favorite beach: splashing with the kids in the water and digging in the sand. In honor of beach magic, we’ve rounded up the best swimming lakes around Seattle that you might want to put at top of your summer bucket list. We’ve also got a list of five swimming lakes for South Sound-area families. Check for life guards on duty and consider bringing some shade in the form of a tent or umbrella.

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

7. Air-conditioned libraries

Libraries are a great place to find kid-friendly A.C. Most Seattle Public Library branches are open seven days a week; check the website to be sure of the hours at your neighborhood branch. King County Library System has a mind-boggling 47 branches; check for one near you. Pierce County Library System, the Tacoma Public Library and the Timberland Regional Library all serve South-Sound communities. Sno-Isle Libraries and the Everett Public Library serve north-end communities.

8. Hide out in a museum

Around here we’re used to needing an indoor play option in case of rain, but escaping the heat works, too! Plan to visit a local museum. One of our favorite children's museums around the Sound will certainly fit the bill. Or head to the just-opened Museum of Illusions in Seattle where nothing is what it seems. The Museum of Flight also has a new exhibit that just opened, plus air conditioning! 

Stay cool at the Museum of Flight on hot days in Seattle
Check out the new exhibit at The Museum of Flight. Photo: Meredith Charaba

9. DIY swamp cooler

Trying to survive at home with no A.C.? ParentMap friend Jennifer Bardsley sent us these clever 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 the over-90-degrees days ahead in July 2024 by ParentMap's managing editor with a few new ideas to stay cool in Seattle.

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