The weather is warm. Your house just may be sweltering as sun pours in the windows and heats up your interior, if you don’t have AC. Sure, you could stay home and roast, but the fact is there are better ways to spend a hot day…cooler ways. Tacoma has plenty of places you can cool down and relax, or even have some fun by enjoying someone else paying the AC bill.

Relax at the Library

For simply cooling down, public libraries are perfect. They’re free. They house plenty of things to do. They’re public so anyone can hang out at them anytime. In Tacoma and the wider Pierce County area, you have access to both the Tacoma Public Library and Pierce County Library systems. You don’t have to have a card to spend some time in the library, only if you want to check something out. If you have small kids, check in advance to see if a story time or another event is taking place that day, or take a peep at if there are any author events or workshops for teens or adults. Otherwise, kick back with a book or magazine or even find a chair and scroll through your phone. All public libraries also have computers you can sign up to use, too.

Splash at Spraygrounds and Pools

Titlow Park
The sprayground at Titlow Park is a great way to cool down on a hot day. Photo credit: Daniel Beers

Metro Parks has an impressive lineup of watery fun for all with locations throughout Tacoma. On hot days, there may be no finer way to cool off the kids than to head to a sprayground, and there are several – Franklin Park, Jefferson Park, Kandle Park, Norpoint Park, SERA Campus (near STAR Center), South Park, Titlow Park, Verlo Playfield, Wapato Hills Park and Wright Park. Metro Parks also offers up a number of pools around town, including the first wave pool in Pierce County at Kandle Park. Stewart Heights Pool has a water slide and a lazy river, while People’s Pool is indoors if you want to minimize the chances of sunburn. While spraygrounds are free for all, the pools do have admission fees.

Chill at the Malls

Sure, it’s not the most exciting way to cool off, but on really hot days, sometimes a mall is just the way to go. Tacoma Mall and South Hill Mall are both air conditioned and have plenty of places to sit, wander around or eat. What more could you need?

Explore Point Ruston

With Mount Rainier as its backdrop, Point Ruston offers sweeping, scenic views in addition to the many activities and dining options the area boasts. Photo courtesy: Point Ruston.
With Mount Rainier as its backdrop, Point Ruston offers sweeping, scenic views in addition to the many activities and dining options the area boasts. Photo courtesy: Point Ruston.

Point Ruston is one of Tacoma’s newer developments and it ensures coolness in more than one way. If you have small children, splashing around in the fountain near the courtyard is fun. Jets of water hop across the pavement and kids are welcome to chase the water. It’s easy to avoid the jets, but on a hot day, you may not want to. Just around the corner, you can rent bikes, surreys and other wheeled, non-motor vehicles and pedal up and down Point Ruston. It’s not the surest way to cool off, but breezes off the water may take you down a few degrees. Alternately, ensure maximum coolness by going to the movies at Century Point Ruston or get some gelato at Dolce Si (or both…both are definitely a good idea).

Go to the Movies

Other than Point Ruston, the Tacoma area has a few other theaters left to fight the good fight on a hot day. Downtown, see what indie movies are on screen at The Grand. In the Proctor District, the Blue Mouse only shows a single show at a time, but in a much cuter and quainter atmosphere than larger theaters. Major theaters include Galaxy Theater Uptown in Gig Harbor, Regal Lakewood Stadium 15 in Lakewood, AMC Lakewood Mall 12, Regal South Hill Cinema 6 and Regal Longston Place Stadium 14 in Puyallup.

Enjoy Indoor Fun at Tower Lanes

For some classic Tacoma fun, Tower Lanes is open 24 hours a day and is all indoors, all the time. The facility has 16 lanes for bowling so even during busy times, there is usually space to join in the fun. If not, Tower Lanes is much more than a bowling alley. A small arcade and billiards are located to the right of the entrance. There’s a bar and grill where you can get diner food and a pretty nifty breakfast. But the real perk of Tower Lanes is the full 18-hole indoor mini golf course with water features, fountains, bridges and other scenery that makes this course feel a little bit like you’re outdoors. It’s the perfect way to do something that’s typically an outdoor activity and get up and active without getting too hot on a hot day.

Wander the Museums

Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma Art Museum is one of several museums in downtown Tacoma. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

Tacoma is known for its museums, almost all of which are located downtown in close proximity to each other. All of them are air conditioned and worth at least an hour, if not two or three. Tacoma Art Museum and Museum of Glass are best for adults or kids with longer attention spans, where Washington State History Museum, Foss Waterway Seaport and LeMay – America’s Car Museum are better choices for families. If you have very young children, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma is the best choice. While the museums do have admission fees, there are ways to get in for free or a discount. Both Tacoma Public and Pierce County library systems have museum passes you can check out for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Third Thursdays open up most of the city’s museum for free between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. Bank of America card holders can get in for free on the first weekend each month. Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass and the Children’s Museum also offer Blue Star free admission to military families.

Cool off at Ice Cream Social

There’s no better food to partake of on a hot day than ice cream. It’s cool. It’s creamy. And it’s delicious, especially if you get locally made flavors at Ice Cream Social. Flavors don’t involve any corn-based sweeteners and do involve lots of local flavors and ingredients. The lineup includes both regular flavors (chocolate, vanilla, mint chocolate chip, salted caramel and more), as well as special rotating flavors each day. This ensures that you can return again and again and cool off to the tune of different tasty treats.

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