By Max Mitchelson, OnMilwaukee Intern   Published Jul 26, 2020 at 9:16 AM

With many public pools closed, and air-conditioned restaurants and bars being a potential petri dish of COVID-19, many are looking for new alternatives to safely beat the heat.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of indoor activities and social-distanced water-based fun you can find this unusual summer season. Here are seven ideas, both at home or elsewhere around Milwaukee, to help you chill out during these scorching summer days.

(Note: For activities outside of the home, it is important to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for social distancing and mask-wearing. However, the CDC does mention that if you are engaging intense outdoor exercises, where masks can cause difficulties with breathing, they are not suggested if social distancing can be maintained.)

1. A water park at home

If you have access to a hose, why not screw on the old garden sprinkler or pull out that old inflatable pool to get your kids outside – or unleash the kid within you. A browse through Amazon or other online retailers that sell outdoor water equipment can easily net you an escape from the heat without the large price tag – and without having to leave the home.

2. No yard, no problem

Meet up at a local park and enjoy some social distanced fun with friends or family by tying off a battalion of water balloons or filling up your water guns for a refreshing water fight. Meet up at a local park and let the good times begin – but remember to mask up as well.

3. Frozen treats

Grab your favorite fruits and blend up a tropical smoothie or take a trip to the store to make the ultimate sundae. If all that sounds like too much work, eat cool foods, like watermelon or cucumber, and others with high water content to hydrate and beat the heat. 

4. Virtual waters

Swim through "Animal Crossing: New Horizon" with its 1.3 diving update, which has made it easy to experience the ocean at home. While I don’t have scientific evidence to prove this, the game's immersive sound and visuals combined with a fan’s breeze can take you away a bit of that stuffy summer heat. So why not dive into water-based adventures like the survival game "Subnautica" or sink into the couch with the relaxing "ABZU."

5. Tubing and kayaking

Interested in outdoor adventure and exploring your city from a different perspective? Take a look at our kayaking rental guide for suggestions – or look beyond the city for tubing and kayaking experiences across the state's many gorgeous rivers and lakes. 

6. Beaches

Going to the beach has become a controversial activity this summer, and while some defenders say that it should not be discouraged, images of overloaded beach crowds with little social distancing and even fewer masks has turned a refreshing activity into seemingly a risk. There is a way to enjoy the beach safely, however, with the CDC's list of guidelines. In general, wear a mask, stay at least six feet apart from those not in your household and take off your mask before you jump in, and the beach can be as safe for everyone as it is satisfying.

7. Wading pools and splash pads

While public pools and water parks in Milwaukee will likely not open for the season, wading pools and splash pads pools are open and free, albeit at a reduced number. Run through various water spraying obstacles or dip your feet into shallow water in the seven open locations across Milwaukee County, which include:

Splash pads (11 a.m. until 3 p.m.)

  • Washington (1859 N. 40 St.)

Wading pools (11 a.m. until 3 p.m.)

  • Cooper (8701 W. Chambers St.)
  • Jacobus (6501 W. Hillside Lane)
  • LaFollette (9418 W. Washington St.)
  • Mitchell (S 22 St. & W Pierce St.)
  • Pulaski-Cudahy (5400 S. Swift Ave.)
  • Wedgewood (7201 W. Wedgewood Dr.)

Safety Tips

Even if you don’t plan on venturing outside, there are several measures you should take to be comfortable, indoors and out, beyond fans, wet towels and window air conditioners. Most of the suggestions listed here and more can be found on the Mayo Clinic's webpage regarding keeping cool in the heat. 

  • Stay hydrated: This is something recommended by doctors and other medical professionals, again and again. Without enough fluids, whether it’s from a sports drink or plain water, your body cannot produce enough sweat, and without enough sweat, you can’t stay cool.
  • Avoid alcohol: That being said, no matter how tempting it might be to whip up an iced cocktail, alcohol promotes fluid loss, according to Mayo Clinic. This will make it harder for your body to cool down.
  • Check the weather forecast: It might be obvious, but it doesn’t change the fact that you should take extra precautions when heat advisory warnings are issued or when there are predictions for high temperatures and humidity. It could mean skipping a daily run or bike ride in favor of a walk or less strenuous activity if you’re not acclimated to higher temperatures. This is especially true if you are masked.
  • Choose your clothes carefully: Wear what you love but don’t forget about the heat. Light-colored and loose-fitting clothing "helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler," according to Mayo Clinic. Consider wearing clothes made from breathable fabrics like cotton and linen during especially hot or humid days.
  • Beware the sun: If you plan on heading outside for exercise or leisure, try to avoid unshaded areas at midday unless you plan on jumping in the water. Late afternoon and early mornings tend to be much cooler. In either case, don’t forget the sunscreen, as burns can decrease the "body’s ability to cool itself," according to Mayo Clinic.