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July 20, 2023

Free ways to beat the Philly heat as summer temperatures climb

From spraygrounds and pools to public libraries, Philly offers many ways to cool down without splurging on a trip to the shore

Recreation Summer

There are many free ways to beat the Philly summer heat, including pools, libraries, cooling centers and spraygrounds.

If it feels like it’s hotter than ever this summer, well, that’s because it is.

Earlier this month, the planet experienced its three hottest days ever recorded between July 3-5, with global temperatures averaging 62.9 degrees Fahrenheit on July 4th. In Philadelphia, temperatures didn’t quite reach the local all-time record of 107 degrees in July 1936, but this summer has nonetheless been a scorcher.

As climate change continues to drive up global temperatures, it’s only going to get hotter from here on out. In Philadelphia, the city is preparing for the increasingly brutal onslaught of heat by making more bricks-and-mortar cooling centers accessible to the public and doing its best to keep swimming pools and spraygrounds open in the summer.

For many, the peak periods of summer heat offer the perfect excuse to drive down to the Jersey Shore or otherwise escape the city for cooler environs. Of course, not everyone has that luxury and let’s face it: the number of hot days per summer is likely to increase over time. To find relief from the heat without leaving the city, Philadelphia residents have a few options that are free and relatively accessible.

Spraygrounds and water-based play spaces

In addition to dozens of public pools, Philadelphia is home to over 90 water-based play spaces like spraygrounds, splash pads and other Parks & Rec sites that feature sprinklers or misters. On especially sweltering summer days, these spaces can be a nice alternative to public swimming pools, day trips to the beach or less advisable Philly summertime traditions like illegally cracking open a fire hydrant or taking a dip in a dumpster.

City-designated spraygrounds and other water-based public spaces are open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 12-5 p.m. on weekends.

Want to find a sprayground near you? Philadelphia Parks & Rec offers a searchable map that lets you do exactly that.

Libraries and other ‘heat emergency’ cooling centers

When temperatures get especially unbearable – that is, hot enough for the city to declare a health emergency – the city is ready to turn public libraries, rec centers and even idling SEPTA buses into cooling centers where people can take refuge. The idea of using parked SEPTA buses for this purpose took hold during the height of the pandemic in 2020, when indoor public spaces like libraries and rec centers were less safe and shorter-staffed.

This summer, the city wants to move away from bus-based cooling centers and plans to open cooling centers in 21 rec centers, 13 libraries, 10 housing authority facilities and six senior centers, according to a report from WHYY’s PlanPhilly. Buses may still be deployed in some places if necessary, but the city wants to prioritize more spacious and comfortable spaces with bathrooms and activities.

The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management has yet to announce this year’s official list of designated cooling center locations, even though we’re already approaching August and have had several very hot days. As hot as it’s been this summer, the city has not yet declared an official health emergency like it did last July and August when heat waves threatened to hit at least 100 degrees.

In the meantime, Philly’s public libraries are still a perfectly fine place to escape the heat, as long as one adheres to the Free Library’s rules for acceptable behavior.

Swimming in one of Philadelphia’s free public pools

Philadelphia has a rich history of public outdoor swimming pools, opening the first-ever city pool in 1884 and at one point boasting more pools than any other U.S. city. Today, Philly has a total of 70 public pools, although nine of them are currently closed for repair. Despite ongoing staffing issues that have kept some of the city’s pools closed in recent summers, the remaining 61 pools are expected to open this summer – albeit, some of them won’t open until late July or early August due to a nationwide lifeguard shortage.

Public pools in the city are generally free to access and open to the public. Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has a handy searchable map of swimming pools on its website. You can also find a complete list of the city's public pools below.

Public pools in Philadelphia, summer 2023

  • 12th & Cambria pool 2900-30 N. 11th St., 19133
  • American Legion pool 6201 Torresdale Ave., 19135
  • Amos pool 1817-59 N. 16th St., 19121
  • Athletic pool 1401-55 N. 26th St., 19121
  • Awbury pool 6101 Ardleigh St., 19138
  • Baker pool 5431-43 Lansdowne Ave., 19131
  • Barry pool 1800 Johnston St., 19145
  • Belfield pool 2109 W. Chew Ave., 19138
  • Bridesburg pool 4625 Richmond St., 19137
  • Cecil B. Moore pool 2551 N 22nd St., 19132
  • Cherashore pool 851-951 W. Olney Ave., 19141
  • Chew pool 1800 Washington Ave., 19146
  • Christy pool 728 S. 55th St., 19143
  • Cione pool 2600 East Aramingo Ave., 19125
  • Cohen (Hillside) pool 201 Fountain St., 19128
  • Cohocksink pool 2889 Cedar St., 19134
  • Cruz pool 1431 N. 6th St, 19122
  • Dendy pool 1501-39 N. 10th St., 19122
  • East Poplar pool 820 N. 8th St., 19123
  • Ellis pool 700-14 N. 39th St., 19104
  • Feltonville pool 4726-4700 Ella St, Philadelphia, PA, 19120
  • F.J. Myers pool 5800 Chester Ave., 19143
  • Fletcher (Mill Creek) pool 743-81 N. 48th St., 19139
  • Ford pool 609-33 Snyder Ave., 19148
  • Fox Chase pool 7901 Ridgeway St., 19111
  • Francisville pool 1737-39 Francis St., 19121
  • Gathers pool 2501-19 W. Diamond St., 19121
  • Hancock pool 147 Master St., 19122
  • Heitzman pool 2136 Castor Ave., 19134
  • Houseman pool 5091 Summerdale Ave., 19124
  • Hunting Park pool 900 Hunting Park Ave., 19140
  • Jacobs pool 4500 Linden Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19114
  • Jardel pool 1400 Cottman Ave., 19111
  • J. Finnegan pool 6801 Grovers Ave., 19142
  • Kelly pool 42nd St. & Parkside Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19131
  • Kendrick pool 5822-24 Ridge Ave., 19128
  • Kingsessing pool 4901 Kingsessing Ave., 19143
  • Lackman pool 1101 Bartlett St., 19115
  • Lawncrest pool 6000 Rising Sun Ave., 19111
  • Lederer Pool 1219-25 E. Montgomery Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19125
  • Lee pool 4328 Haverford Ave., 19104
  • Lincoln pool 3201 Ryan Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19136
  • Lonnie Young pool 1100 E. Chelten Ave., 19138
  • Mander pool 2140 N. 33rd St., 19121
  • Marian Anderson pool 740 S. 17th St., 19146
  • Max Myers pool 1601 Hellerman St., 19149
  • McVeigh pool 400-64 E. Ontario St., 19134
  • Mitchell pool 3700 Whitehall Lane, 19114
  • M.L.K. Jr., pool 2101-35 Cecil B. Moore Ave., 19121
  • Morris Estate pool 1610 W. Chelten Ave., 19126
  • Murphy pool 300 Shunk St., 19148
  • Northern Liberties pool 321 Fairmount Ave., 19123
  • O'Connor pool 2601-13 South St., Philadelphia, PA, 19146
  • Penrose pool 1101 W. Susquehanna Ave., 19122
  • Piccoli pool 1501 E. Bristol St., 19124
  • Pickett School Indoor pool 5700 Wayne Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19144
  • Pleasant pool 6757 Chew Ave., 19119
  • Ridgway pool 1301 Carpenter St., Philadelphia, PA, 19147
  • Sacks pool 400 Washington Ave., 19147
  • Sample (Cobbs Creek) pool 280 Cobbs Creek Parkway, 19139
  • Samuel pool 3539 Gaul St., 19134
  • Scanlon pool 1099 E. Tioga St., 19134
  • Schmidt pool 113-23 W. Ontario St., 19140
  • Shepard pool 5700 Haverford Ave., 19131
  • Shuler pool 3000 N. 27th St., 19132
  • Simpson pool 1010 Arrott St., 19124
  • Stinger pool 1400 S. 32nd St., 19146
  • Tustin pool 5901-29 W. Columbia Ave., 19151
  • Vare pool 2600 Morris St., 19145
  • Vogt pool 4131 Unruh Ave., 19135
  • Waterloo pool 2501 N. Howard St., Philadelphia, PA, 19133
  • Ziehler pool 200-64 E. Olney Ave., 19120