Five Ways to Beat the Heat

I haven’t been following the national forecasts as closely as I should recently—how’s the weather in your corner of the country? In D.C., it’s been pretty steamy this past week. Literally, like a sauna. So, on my way to work this morning, I challenged myself to think cool thoughts. And—voilà—the perfect blog post materialized.

5 Ways to Beat the Heat [geographically]

The “friction of distance” describes the amount of effort required to complete a journey. Multiple transit transfers and stops, reduced bike lanes, and limited hours for businesses or transit can all increased the friction of distance.
Photograph by Cory Richards, National Geographic

1.    Investigate “cool” offers in your city or town.
Many cities open public fountains for wading, on especially hot summer days. (And sometimes, people enjoy public water features despite the rules. Ahem, WWII Memorial-goers.) In the Washington, D.C., area, public transit used to offer free rides to encourage use of public transportation on “Code Red” days when air quality is measured to be particularly poor. Find out if your city offers similar services.

Navigate public transit systems around the world with our fun GeoStory!


Don’t do this.
Photograph by Gerd Ludwig, National Geographic

2.    Walk on the “right” side of the street.
In the morning, make a conscious effort to walk on the east side of the street, vs. the west side. With the sun in the eastern half of the sky, trees and buildings will create shade on the east side of the street, and sunlight will be angled toward the west side. In the early afternoon, switch it up and walk on the west side of the street when the sun shifts overhead.

Of course, your town or city’s unique geography will factor in, too; use a map to seek out parks and other shady spots, or ask a local to help identify tree-lined streets. Trees offer shade and are generally “cooler” than buildings, which trap and absorb heat, contributing to urban heat islands. See what your city is doing to plant trees and encourage the installation of green rooftops, and get involved in efforts to green—and cool—your town!

Learn a little about urban heat islands with our short encyclopedic entry!


New Yorkers take a break from the summer heat in the pool at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, in 1951.
Photograph by Howell Walker, National Geographic

3.    Go swimming (and get learning).
Find a watering hole, like a lake, river, or creek, in your area that’s safe for swimming. Grab your suit and pay a visit, and then seek out information about the history and ecology of your fave new spot.

  • How was it used in the past?
  • Did it ever serve as a source of drinking water for the surrounding community?
  • As a transportation or shipping route?
  • How have the environmental characteristics, such as the water level, water quality, and shoreline changed over time?
  • Is it entirely natural, or has it been influenced by human engineering?

Freshwater is incredibly important to the geography of any place, so get learning!

See how one explorer is helping Florida students take a “quick dip in the aquifer”!


A Danish child beats the heat with an ice cream cone. 
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg, National Geographic

4.    Try a new frosty treat.

There’s nothing better than an icy delight on a hot summer day. Tease your taste buds with desserts from around the globe. Italian gelato is a slightly denser, richer dairy (usually) variety that’s a creamy-smooth transition for most ice cream lovers. Japanese mochi is a bit more adventurous—pulverized sticky rice surrounds an ice cream core for a unique textural experience. For those who like to imbibe their treats, try a lassi—a yogurt-based, milkshake-like drink from the Indian subcontinent. Yum!

Explore the sweet history of the ice cream cone!


Te reo Māori is one of New Zealand’s official languages. New Zealanders and visitors alike should prepare to learn some new place names for New Zealand, and North and South Island—respectively, Aotearoa, Te Ika-a-Maui and Te Waipounamu.
Photograph by Gordon Gahan, National Geographic

5.    Take a trip to the Southern Hemisphere.

While the thermostat continues to rise in the Northern Hemisphere, August means winter south of the Equator. I am continually reminded of this by my New Zealand-native coworker/roommate, who will enjoy a trip home to cooler climes in the coming weeks. If your budget allows, now’s a great time to start planning a trip to the Southern Hemisphere for next summer—think South America’s Patagonia (Chile & Argentina), Australia, New Zealand, or southern Africa. If you’re saving your pennies like me, you can live vicariously through the travels of National Geographic Explorers and Educators!

Get updates directly from the field with our free and fabulous Explorer Classroom program.

There you have it—5 ways to beat the heat this summer. Got any more ideas? Please send them along. Keep cool my geo-savvy buddies!

6 thoughts on “Five Ways to Beat the Heat

  1. Houses are quite expensive and not every person is able to buy it. However, business loans was invented to aid people in such kind of hard situations.

  2. Get high! (as in, high altitude). Its 78 degrees in the Vail Valley as I type this… and I can guarantee you that when I wake up in my tent the next two mornings at 11-12,000 feet, it will be freezing outside!
    I highly recommend camping on hot summer days, because they often become cool summer nights under the stars!

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