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17 Places to Escape the Heat Near You: Your Guide to Local Cooling Centers

17 Places to Escape the Heat Near You: Your Guide to Local Cooling Centers

As summer heats up, it’s important to know all of the places you can go to escape the heat in your area. It doesn’t take long for organizations and charities to run out of free air conditioners and free fans to distribute. Once they’re gone for the season, you’ll need to know where your local cooling centers are if you need to cool down.


The good news is that cooling centers aren’t actually that hard to find. They’re getting more common lately.

What is a Cooling Center?

Cooling centers are places to escape the heat. They are public spaces with air conditioning. When the weather heats up, these places open their doors to people who need to cool down. It’s a safe place to be when it’s too hot to be anywhere else.

It’s not just about the air conditioning, either. Many cooling centers offer other amenities like restrooms, WiFi, charging stations, and even free water. Sometimes, they may even offer meals and entertainment.

These organizations serve a very important role. Seniors, young children, and people with certain health conditions can be especially at risk when the weather heats up. Without a safe place to go, many of them could be at risk of heatstroke, heat exhaustion or other weather-related illnesses.


Where Can I Go to Cool Down?

Some organizations open official cooling centers when the weather heats up. Other organizations are always open for public use and become de facto cooling centers when needs arise.

Here’s a list of places to escape the heat near you:

  • Area Agency on Aging organizations: These organizations often maintain lists of cooling centers specifically for seniors or individuals with disabilities.
  • Senior Centers: Senior centers frequently open their doors to seniors needing relief from the heat, often providing meals and activities as well.
  • Churches and Local Ministries: Some faith-based organizations offer their spaces as cooling centers as part of their community outreach.
  • Community Recreation Centers: These centers usually have large, air-conditioned spaces suitable for use as cooling centers.
  • Local Libraries: Libraries offer a cool, quiet environment to escape the heat and are often open to the public.
  • Shopping Malls: Many malls have ample air conditioning and seating areas, making them a convenient option for some to cool down.
  • Government Buildings: City halls, courthouses, and other public buildings may open their doors as cooling centers during emergencies.
  • Schools: When not in session, schools sometimes serve as cooling centers due to their large, air-conditioned spaces.

If you have a little bit of money to spend and you’d like to escape the crowd, there are some other places you can go to escape the heat. You typically have to buy something when you visit the following locations or you may be charged with loitering.

  • Movie Theaters: Theaters are naturally cool due to the need to maintain optimal projection conditions. Many theaters offer summer movie programs like the Summer Movie Express, where kids can see a movie for just a few dollars.
  • Bowling Alleys: Bowling alleys are usually quite large and kept cool for the comfort of the bowlers. Look for Kids Bowl Free programs, where kids can bowl for free all summer long. Some alleys may offer similar programs for adults during the summer months.
  • Skating Rinks: Skating rinks are often large, open spaces that are kept cool for skaters. Check for Kids Skate Free programs where kids can skate for free during certain days or times.
  • Museums and Art Galleries: Most museums and galleries are climate-controlled to protect the artifacts and artwork. They may offer discounted admission on certain days or times. If you receive SNAP benefits, check out our list of EBT Museum Discounts!
  • Indoor Playgrounds/Bounce Houses: These places are designed for kids to burn energy and are typically air-conditioned. Check for summer deals or coupons to save money.
  • Aquariums and Zoos (Indoor Exhibits): While some exhibits may be outdoors, aquariums and zoos often have large indoor areas that are air-conditioned. They may offer special summer rates or discounts for families. Some even offer EBT discounts!
  • Shopping Malls: Many malls have ample air conditioning and seating areas, making them a convenient option for some to cool down while running errands or window shopping. Some malls also have play areas for children.
  • Restaurants and Cafés: Although you’ll need to purchase food or drinks, restaurants and cafes can offer a refreshing break from the heat. Look for those with outdoor misting systems or shaded patios.
  • Bookstores: Bookstores are typically quiet and air-conditioned, making them a great place to relax and browse for a new book. Some even have cafes where you can enjoy a cool drink and a snack.

Remember that during a heatwave, many people will be trying to find places to cool down. If you prefer to avoid crowds, picking up a timed ticket to a museum (especially if you can get free admission with your EBT card) may be a more peaceful option than a crowded cooling center. That’s why we explored all of your options on this list.

How Can I Find More Places to Escape the Heat Near Me?

There may be even more cooling center opportunities in your area. Some communities offer truly remarkable options. Here are several reliable resources to help you find more ways to beat the heat:

  • 2-1-1: Dialing 2-1-1 is the easiest way to connect with your local community resources. They can provide up-to-date information on cooling centers in your area, including hours of operation and specific amenities offered.
  • City/County Websites: Check the official websites of your city or county government. They often have dedicated pages or sections listing cooling centers, sometimes even with interactive maps to help you find the nearest location.
  • Community Organizations: Local organizations like senior centers, libraries, community centers, and non-profits are valuable resources. They often maintain lists of cooling centers or can direct you to other helpful resources.
  • Apps and Online Maps: Some cities and counties have developed smartphone apps specifically for finding cooling centers. Additionally, online maps like Google Maps or Apple Maps may have listings for “cooling centers” or “heat relief centers” in your area.

By utilizing these resources, you can quickly and easily locate a cooling center near you to find relief from the heat and stay safe during extreme weather conditions.

Tips for Finding & Using Cooling Centers

To make the most of your visit to a cooling center, keep these tips in mind:

  • Plan Ahead: Check the hours of operation before heading out. Some cooling centers may have limited hours, especially on weekends or holidays.
  • Know the Rules: Each cooling center may have specific guidelines. Some may be designed for seniors, others may be pet-friendly, and some may have age restrictions for children. Call ahead or check their website to confirm the rules before visiting.
  • Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Even in an air-conditioned environment, it’s crucial to drink fluids regularly to prevent dehydration.
  • Pack Essentials: Pack snacks, any necessary medications, and comfort items like a light jacket or sweater (as cooling centers can sometimes be chilly).
  • Bring Entertainment: If you anticipate a longer stay, consider bringing activities to pass the time, such as books, magazines, games, or electronic devices.
  • Check on Others: If you know of neighbors, friends, or family members who are vulnerable to the heat, reach out to them and offer assistance in getting to a cooling center if needed.
  • Be Courteous: Remember that cooling centers are shared spaces. Be respectful of others and follow any posted rules or guidelines.

By following these tips, you can ensure a comfortable and safe experience at your local cooling center while staying cool during hot weather.

Relief Recap

Stay cool and safe this summer by utilizing local cooling centers or visiting alternative air-conditioned spaces. Remember to plan ahead, check hours of operation, and be aware of any specific rules. With a little preparation, you can beat the heat and enjoy all that summer has to offer. Don’t forget to check on your loved ones and neighbors, especially those who may be vulnerable to high temperatures. Stay hydrated and stay cool!