Cool Ideas for Fun Things to Do on a Hot Day to Beat the Heat

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dog laying in a river cooling off in the hot weather
The puppy knew how to cool of in warm weather: lay down in a body of water. Photo credit: Judy Antell

With great swaths of the world sweltering under unprecedented heat waves, who wants to leave the comfort of air conditioning and venture out? Even a trip to the beach isn’t always fun when the shark sightings make it scary to wade into the water. Still, there are fun things to do on a hot day. Here are some of our favorites.

Long summer days are great for trips to the beach, amusement parks and water parks. But during extended heat waves, when the whole family wants to chill in the air conditioning, you have to think outside the box to get everyone outside and away from the TV.

We found the perfect way to survive the hot summer days with a combination of indoor activities, short trips outdoors and lots of cold showers.

Because we also had to entertain my sister’s puppy, Coco, we had to find dog-friendly fun summer activities that wouldn’t overheat her. Traditional hot weather hacks like an indoor ice skating rink, a movie theater or trip to a grocery store work for kids, but not pups, alas.

dog playing in a kiddie pool on a hot day
Even dogs need fun things to do on a hot day; this combo sprinkler and kiddie pool hit the spot. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Find a Way to Get Wet

We set up a kiddie pool with a sprinkler for Coco who just turned one. Coco took a turn in the splash pad and then all the neighborhood kids joined her – not bothering to change out of their summer shorts into swimsuits.

We brought an ice cream truck to the party – it was incredibly reasonable to pay for one hour of ice cream for the neighborhood. The ice cream melted fast, but the drips were quickly rinsed away in the kiddie pool.

The ice cream truck even had pup ‘popsicles’ made of chilled unsweetened whipped cream for the dogs.

If you can’t do a pool, even a wading pool, set up the sprinkler. If you can’t set up the sprinkler, head to the local store to pick up some balloons. Fill them with water for a water balloon toss.

A water balloon fight might not cool you off for long, but concentrating on tossing the water-filled balloons back and forth might take your mind off the heat for a few minutes! Just look for a shady spot to set up the balloon toss.

Hike Near a Body of Water

We did an early morning hike to avoid hot weather. Our hike included a stream and Coco knew how to cool down: Put her entire body in the body of water.

Near our house in New York City, Newlin Grist Mill Park has wooded trails. Even though we headed out well before breakfast, it quickly warmed up. Luckily we had brought bottles of cold water for everyone, including Coco.

Many lakes and rivers offer kayak, paddleboard and other watercraft rentals. Any time you can get out on the water or in the water, follow Coco’s lead and just do it!

two girls playing operation with a stack of board games next to them
Board games make for old fashioned indoor, air conditioned fun. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

Indoor Fun Things to Do on a Hot Day

If you’re home when it’s hot, it’s easy to stay inside and play board games or read a good book. You can even mix things up with an indoor picnic in the living room!

It’s harder to find that kind of indoor fun in a hotel room. That’s when it’s time to set the kids loose on a hotel scavenger hunt!

If you can brave the summer heat long enough to drive or walk to local attractions, this is the time to spend long hours exploring air-conditioned museums, go bowling or head to the movies.

Summer light show at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania
Put this on your summer bucket list: light show at Longwood Gardens. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Get Out in the Evening

People who live in places like Arizona where extremely hot weather is the norm know this secret: It’s cooler in the early morning and late evening hours.

The key is to find fun things to do in those out-of-the-ordinary hours. Most botanic gardens, for example, would be open, say, 9am to 5pm during the summer. During the winter, they might be open in the evening for a holiday light display.

Check the beautiful garden spots near you to see if there are late evening hours. Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, has a summer light show, along with light installations.

The 30-minute Illuminated Fountain performances are Thursdays to Sundays at 9:15 pm, until August 28, 2022, and at 8:15 pm, September 1–October 30, 2022.

This year in addition to these shows, you can walk around the garden to see the entrancing illuminated exhibit, Light: Installations by Bruce Munro. It is open Thursdays to Sundays, through October 30 starting at dusk.

Longwood Gardens does not allow dogs, so Coco and Karat, my dog, stayed in the living room and watched a YouTube channel devoted to dogs.

Living room movie theater
Cousin puppies hanging out in the living room. Credit: Judy Antell

SheBuysTravel Tip: See the illuminated exhibit first if you are with young kids. This will tire them out so they can sit and watch the performance.

What to Drive in Warm Weather

Lexus UX250h hybrid parked in a lot.
A hybrid for hot summer days: the Lexus UX250h. Credit: Judy Antell

Lexus loaned me a Lexus UX250h AWD to drive to Pennsylvania. We didn’t use the large sunroof because we didn’t want to let the heat in — or the air conditioning out — but the air conditioning worked well, even in the eco mode. And the ventilated seats are great if one person, say the driver, likes to be a bit warmer than her sweaty husband.

The Lexus has a very intuitive infotainment system, making it easy to get directions – there is a live destination assist, or you can speak your destination, or go ‘old school’ and type it in. I’m much older school than that – I remember printable maps and AAA TripTik but the nav system was easy to use and easy follow.

We listened to a podcast and satellite radio on our drive. There are buttons to change stations and volume, easy for driver or passenger to use, along with steering wheel controls.

Hybrid for Hot Summer Days

The hybrid gets 41 miles per gallon, which make you feel virtuous not to contribute to global warming and make it too hot outside for everyone. And its smaller size makes it easy to maneuver through the obstacle course that is New York City driving.

The Lexus had a good sized trunk for a weekend getaway and since we wanted to go to a grocery store (another hot weather indoor activity) we filled the car with food for the week.

No ice cream, though. We had a two and a half hour drive back to New York and even the best AC can’t keep ice cream frozen that long.


Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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