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10 places to stay cool in Chicago heat

From free air conditioning to shady spots on Lake Michigan

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Now that summer has arrived, the high temperatures we’ve been eagerly awaiting are starting to feel a bit unbearable. The sweaty humidity combined with 90-degree temperatures can only be tolerated for so long.

For the hottest days ahead, we’ve compiled a handful of places across the city where you might be able to find some relief from the heat and have a little fun. Whether you want to stay cool indoors or soak up a little sunshine, we’ll tell you where to find the best shade on the Lakefront Trail and what refreshing escapes exist in Garfield Park beyond the conservatory.

Of course, there are the city museums (which offer free admission to Illinois residents on select days), the beaches on Lake Michigan, and Park District pools—all of which are great places to beat the heat.

It’s important to stay safe, too. Drink plenty of water, watch out for signs of heat exhaustion, and find a way to keep cool.

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1. Montrose Dog Beach

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If the heat is taking a toll on you, it’s likely just as tough for your pet. Many dog parks around the city have water features, or at least a kiddie pool, but it just doesn’t compare to the lake. The dog beach is open from sunrise until 9 p.m.

2. Daley Plaza

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50 W Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602

Sure, there’s plenty of air conditioning in downtown offices and restaurants but that can get a little stuffy. If you’re looking for a cooler, outdoor lunch spot, head to the Daley Plaza fountain. There are a couple of trees for shade and concrete benches, or you can sit right by the water’s edge.

3. Chicago Cultural Center

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78 E Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-6630
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The Chicago Landmark building, formerly the city’s central library, hosts art exhibitions, kids’ concerts, lectures, and film screenings. Plus, the interior architecture is remarkable from the Tiffany-stained glass dome, intricate mosaics, and the Carrara marble staircases. It’s completely free and air-conditioned.

4. Garfield Park

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Garfield Park
Chicago, IL

While the Garfield Park Conservatory is a welcome escape in the winter, it might not be the best place to escape the hot and humid air. There’s plenty of other places to go in 184-acre Garfield Park. In the gold-domed fieldhouse find a boxing gym, basketball courts, and a dance studio. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool at the fieldhouse and a water spray play area near the lagoon..

5. Crown Fountain

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201 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60602

This interactive art installation is a perfect place for families to spend some time outside. The 50-foot LED tower faces spit fountains of water on a black granite pool. No doubt kids will be entertained and have fun splashing around the shallow pool. The water runs from May to October.

6. Mary Bartelme Park

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115 S Sangamon St
Chicago, IL 60607

On hot days, the sculpture in Mary Bartelme park sprays a fine mist. The stainless steel arches use up three gallons a minute emitting a cool cloud of vaporized water to help visitors escape the heat.

7. Harold Washington Library

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Harold Washington Library, 400 S State St
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 747-4300
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Want to be indoors? In addition to book clubs and media labs, the Harold Washington Library also features rotating art exhibitions, original artwork throughout the building, and free music practice rooms with instruments. Plus, the top-floor Winter Garden has a beautiful glass ceiling, which means you can still get some sunshine.

8. Shedd Aquarium

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1200 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 939-2438
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Explore underwater habitats from the Great Lakes to the icy Arctic waters. Take a tour of the Abbott Oceanarium to see beluga whales and dolphins, have kids jump around the Polar Play zone near the penguins, and pet stingrays and starfish.

9. 31st Street Harbor

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31st Street Harbor
Chicago, IL

Just off Lake Michigan, 31st Street Harbor offers a water playground with climbing walls, jets, and fountains. Even without kids, it’s worth visiting for the skate park, beach, and outdoor pool.

10. Promontory Point

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5491 S Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60615

Swimming and getting some sun on the rocky staircase shoreline at Promonotory Point is a must-do in summer. Unlike some waterfront spots, there’s plenty of shade provided by nearby trees and, of course, expansive, city views.

1. Montrose Dog Beach

Montrose Dog Beach, Illinois

If the heat is taking a toll on you, it’s likely just as tough for your pet. Many dog parks around the city have water features, or at least a kiddie pool, but it just doesn’t compare to the lake. The dog beach is open from sunrise until 9 p.m.

2. Daley Plaza

50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602

Sure, there’s plenty of air conditioning in downtown offices and restaurants but that can get a little stuffy. If you’re looking for a cooler, outdoor lunch spot, head to the Daley Plaza fountain. There are a couple of trees for shade and concrete benches, or you can sit right by the water’s edge.

50 W Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602

3. Chicago Cultural Center

78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602

The Chicago Landmark building, formerly the city’s central library, hosts art exhibitions, kids’ concerts, lectures, and film screenings. Plus, the interior architecture is remarkable from the Tiffany-stained glass dome, intricate mosaics, and the Carrara marble staircases. It’s completely free and air-conditioned.

78 E Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602

4. Garfield Park

Garfield Park, Chicago, IL

While the Garfield Park Conservatory is a welcome escape in the winter, it might not be the best place to escape the hot and humid air. There’s plenty of other places to go in 184-acre Garfield Park. In the gold-domed fieldhouse find a boxing gym, basketball courts, and a dance studio. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool at the fieldhouse and a water spray play area near the lagoon..

Garfield Park
Chicago, IL

5. Crown Fountain

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602

This interactive art installation is a perfect place for families to spend some time outside. The 50-foot LED tower faces spit fountains of water on a black granite pool. No doubt kids will be entertained and have fun splashing around the shallow pool. The water runs from May to October.

201 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60602

6. Mary Bartelme Park

115 S Sangamon St, Chicago, IL 60607

On hot days, the sculpture in Mary Bartelme park sprays a fine mist. The stainless steel arches use up three gallons a minute emitting a cool cloud of vaporized water to help visitors escape the heat.

115 S Sangamon St
Chicago, IL 60607

7. Harold Washington Library

Harold Washington Library, 400 S State St, Chicago, IL 60605

Want to be indoors? In addition to book clubs and media labs, the Harold Washington Library also features rotating art exhibitions, original artwork throughout the building, and free music practice rooms with instruments. Plus, the top-floor Winter Garden has a beautiful glass ceiling, which means you can still get some sunshine.

Harold Washington Library, 400 S State St
Chicago, IL 60605

8. Shedd Aquarium

1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605

Explore underwater habitats from the Great Lakes to the icy Arctic waters. Take a tour of the Abbott Oceanarium to see beluga whales and dolphins, have kids jump around the Polar Play zone near the penguins, and pet stingrays and starfish.

1200 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605

9. 31st Street Harbor

31st Street Harbor, Chicago, IL

Just off Lake Michigan, 31st Street Harbor offers a water playground with climbing walls, jets, and fountains. Even without kids, it’s worth visiting for the skate park, beach, and outdoor pool.

31st Street Harbor
Chicago, IL

10. Promontory Point

5491 S Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60615

Swimming and getting some sun on the rocky staircase shoreline at Promonotory Point is a must-do in summer. Unlike some waterfront spots, there’s plenty of shade provided by nearby trees and, of course, expansive, city views.

5491 S Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60615