AC Ain't Cheap: Best 10 Places to Beat the Heat with Public AC This Summer in NYC

If there's one thing we're all feeling this summer in New York City, it's the heat.

Right now we're in the midst of a heat wave, and some of us don't have the luxury of any kind of AC in our tiny, yet overpriced, apartments.

What most of us need is a free escape from the heat, and luckily we live in a city chock-full of places to hide out and beat the heat - even if it's just for a couple of minutes.

We've narrowed down some of our favorite NYC spots that just so happen to be on the less-crowded side, are as cheap as can be, and best of all: have central AC.

1. Oculus at the World Trade Transportation Hub

The Oculus at World Trade Center's Transportation Hub is still mostly under construction, but it's worth checking out if you desperately need to beat the heat.

Once construction is complete the World Trade Transportation Hub will feature a variety of different stores - including Aldo and Banana Republic - for you to shop at while you kill time before your next train. 


Until then, it's a large, easily walkable place, that's not extremely crowded where you can wander for a bit and cool down before braving the summer sun once again.

2. Macy's Herald Square


You've probably passed the Macy's in Herald Square hundreds of times, but now it'll actually come in handy for you. While the mall is generally pretty crowded, seeing as how it's a fairly popular tourist spot, it's 11 floors of free AC - all you have to do is wander.

If you go on an off day or time you can probably beat the tourist crowds and wander the store without too much commotion. Plus, there's plenty to look at inside of the store - from beautiful displays to beautiful clothing. 

However, if your willpower when it comes to resisting the urge to buy what you see is pretty weak, maybe this option isn't the best. But, if you think you can hold back from buying that outfit that you know you don't need, window-shop away.

3. Duane Reade


New York City is full of Duane Reade's - not even kidding. You see Duane Reade's almost as often as you run into Starbucks. There are 257 total Duane Reade's in the New York metropolitan area alone, so finding one isn't a major struggle. 

Head in any direction for about two blocks and you're bound to find one.

Duane Reade's offer plenty of blissfully free AC, and a handful of NYC Duane Reade's are two floors, giving you plenty of ground to cover while you wander and cool off. 

If you're headed somewhere and just need a quick break from the heat, this is the perfect stop for you. Wander for a bit, grab a drink, and head back on out.

4. Penn Station


Okay, we know Penn Station is pretty much a hellscape, but hear us out on this one. While there isn't central AC in Penn Station, there are some pretty high-powered fans around the main tracks that're sure to keep you cooled down.


There's plenty to see if you wander around Penn Station. If you've never been, check out the station that everyone in NYC seems to loathe, and maybe catch a train to your new adventure, all while enjoying your free cool down.

5. M&M/Hershey World in Times Square


Again, hear us out on this one. Times Square is probably the most crowded place in the city this time of year, but if you're willing to brave both the crowds and the heat, M&M World and Hershey World are the places to be.

Both stores are air conditioned, and you can possibly snag some delicious candy. Hershey World even gives free samples when you walk in - what's better than chocolate with a summer cool down?! 

Sure, the store may be packed with tourists trying to buy $20 chocolate bars, but you can still maneuver the store pretty easily for the sake of cooling off.


6. The MET


Well, this one isn't exactly free, but it is cheap. Assuming you pay your own entrance fee as opposed to the MET's suggested admission fee, you can get into the museum for pretty cheap, and enjoy an artsy cool down. 

The MET is MASSIVE. It'd take a true champ to go through the entire museum in under two hours, let alone a whole day if you're taking the time to actually check out each individual piece of art. 


You're guaranteed a solid two hours of cooling off with a more dispersed crowd if you hit up the MET. You can essentially make a day out of cooling off here. 

Plus, if you're feeling ready to hit up the heat once again, you can check out their awesome Psycho Barn rooftop exhibit, along with some pretty breathtaking views.

7. The Strand


This one's for all the book lovers who are feeling the summer burn. Not only is the Strand a NYC icon, it's a great place to explore and chill for up to a couple of hours. 

The Strand is four floors of every kind of book you can possibly imagine - including used books, to rare books. There's something for everyone at the Strand, and thankfully, AC for all too.

Wandering the stacks of what seems like endless miles of books at the Strand can be relaxing for some, and especially relaxing for us all as it allows us a chance to find our next read while cooling down. Who knows, maybe you'll find that book you've been dying to cross off your summer reading list.

8. Eataly