It’s getting so hot that the thermometer may just surrender. But don’t let your family raise the white flag just yet. Instead, why not explore these 20 hot spots to cool off?

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1. National Zoo: Sure there’s a lot of walking, but when the heat starts getting to you, just duck inside the Reptile Discovery Center and or the Small Mammal house. Or stand under one of the many sprinklers that spray a light mist that’s really quite refreshing!

2. Union Station: Wide open spaces are always a kid favorite, and Union Station has that and more. Stroll the shops and head down to the basement for a stress-free lunch in the food court.

3. Gaylord National: This massive hotel at National Harbor has an impressive atrium with a view of the Potomac through a 19-story-glass atrium. Take the glass-enclosed elevator to the top floor for an amazing view.

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4. Ebenezer’s Coffee Shop: Grab an iced coffee for yourself and a cold one for the kids and head down to the basement. While the upstairs packs a typical coffee-house crows of hipsters and laptops, the basement tends to be empty—especially on weekend mornings.

5. North Beach, Maryland: This tiny, well maintained beach is right across the Chesapeake Bay—less than an hour drive from D.C. The beach (which costs $5/person) is family-friendly with gentle waves and shallow water.

6. Great Falls: The better view of these gorgeous waterfalls is from the Virginia side, but to cool off take the hike to the Falls from the Maryland side and feel the spray from the rushing waters—especially on a windy day.

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7. McKeldin Mall Fountain at The University of Maryland: You will be just as excited as your little ones to slip off your sandals and dangle your toes in this tiered fountain. They’ll splash around while you take in the campus’s Georgian architecture.

8. Air & Space Planetarium: Relax under the planets at stars in the Smithsonian’s planetarium. Best time to go? The first Friday and Saturday of the month at 10:30 am when the show is hosted by Big Bird and Elmo.

9. Waterfront Metro Station: Riding around on a crowded metro can make you sweat, so hop off at the Waterfront Stop (Green Line) in Southwest D.C. There’s a tiny splash park just steps from the metro station, that’s a lot less crowded than others around town.

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10. Crystal City Underground: Head underground for miles of air-conditioned tunnels. There’s a coffee shop and restaurants, and the whole place is virtually empty on the weekends.

11. Jefferson Memorial: With the river breeze shooting through this natural wind tunnel under its dome, the Jefferson Memorial is the perfect spot night or day. The solid, marble construction stays cool no matter the temperature.

12. Fort Meyer: Tucked behind Arlington National Cemetery, the Army base is full of historic tree-lined lined avenues that lead the Officers Club pool. If you don’t have a government ID card, bring a friend who does. This is D.C.—it shouldn’t be that hard to find.

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13. Labyrinth: Just steps from Eastern Market metro, this store is chock full of non-electronic games, puzzles, and mazes. There are lots of games for kids of all ages to play right there in the store—but you’ll probably find a few to take home, too.

14. Greenbelt Park: It may be just inside the Beltway, but you’ll feel like you’re hours away from Washington as you and your family enjoy easy hiking trails that stay cool thanks to a triple canopy forest.

15. National Cathedral: One of Washington’s great buildings on one of its tallest hills will make you want to bring a light sweater while you explore. Don’t forget to look for the gargoyles outside and in the gift shop.

 

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16. Potomac River Cruise: Head down to the Georgetown or Alexandria, Va waterfronts and hop on a sightseeing cruise. Sure, you’ve seen all the monuments before—but now you can check them out form a different angle and feel that sweet river breeze.

17. Arlington House: It’s a bit of a hike from the Arlington Cemetery metro stop, but you’ll be rewarded with a comfortable rocking chair on the shady veranda of Robert E. Lee’s plantation home. Don’t forget your camera. This is one of the best views in the area.

18. H St. Country Club: Maybe not the best place for your family on a Saturday night, but this indoor hipster playground is a hit for kids of all ages to play ski ball and mini-golf. The Latin-fusion cuisine is delish, too.

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19. Kettler Capitals Iceplex: This ice rink in the Ballston Common Mall, where the Washington Capitals practice, is probably the coolest place to spend a balmy afternoon besides a walk-in freezer.

20. Naval Academy: Annapolis, Maryland, an easy day trip from D.C., is home to the US Naval Academy. Cool off in the crypt of John Paul Jones and teach your kids a history lesson about America’s first naval hero.

Where do you go to keep cool during the dog days of summer? Dish in the comments section below. 

—Besa Pinchotti

Photos courtesy of Ayren Jackson-Cannady, teakwood via Flickr , Elaine C. via Yelp, Potomac Riverboat Company, Jim via Flickr, Labyrinth Game Shop via Facebook, Kettler Capitals Iceplex via Facebook