Beat the Iowa Heat This Week at One of These Free Cooling Centers

RAGBRAI riders try to cool off in the shade after making it to Storm Lake on July 23, 2023. By July 26, much of Iowa (including the RAGBRAI route) was under a heat advisory. Photo by Grace Katzer for Iowa Starting Line.

By Nikoel Hytrek

July 26, 2023

With hotter temperatures in the forecast this week than Iowa has seen all year, cooling centers are opening up around the state where people can cool off and recover for free.

Starting Wednesday, July 26, the majority of the state is under a heat advisory that will last until 9 p.m. Thursday, July 27. The National Weather Service is advising people to prepare for dangerous heat and humidity with temperatures in the upper 90s and heat indices climbing into the triple digits.

Beat the Iowa Heat This Week at One of These Free Cooling Centers

Most of the state is under a heat advisory (orange) from July 26 through 9 p.m. July 27, 2023, per the National Weather Service in Des Moines. The northeast portion of Iowa (in light yellow) could see thunderstorms during that period.

Cooling centers generally offer air conditioning, water and a place to rest to help you lower your body temperatures and avoid heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If your location isn’t mentioned in any of the lists, reach out to your county or city health department, or check out 211 Iowa for more information. Usually, you can cool off in any public building while it’s open to the public, like a library or city hall—even if it isn’t specifically listed as a cooling center.

Being inside with proper air conditioning is better than suffering outside for the next few days, so please take advantage of these places:

Central Iowa

Polk County has a big master list of locations, including their hours of operation and how close they are to bus lines. DART will offer free rides for people going to cooling centers; just tell the driver when you board.

All of the Des Moines Public Library locations will act as cooling centers, as well as libraries in Johnston, Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Urbandale and West Des Moines.

Additionally, most city community centers will be open as cooling centers. The list has more specific locations.

Polk County also points toward the area aquatic centers as places to cool down. Altoona, Ankeny, Clive, Des Moines, Urbandale and West Des Moines have those options.

Beat the Iowa Heat This Week at One of These Free Cooling Centers


Eastern Iowa

Cedar Rapids also has a list of locations, which include the Ladd Library, Lindale Mall, The Salvation Army, and Cedar Valley Community Support Services.

In Dubuque, cooling centers will include the Carnegie-Stout Public Library, Multicultural Family Center, Bunker Hill Golf Course, the Salvation Army and Dubuque Rescue Mission.

In Burlington, Transitions DMC will open a cooling center from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

The City of Waterloo has a list of spots to cool down as well. It includes the library, city pools and splash pads and the Waterloo Center for Arts, among others.

Beat the Iowa Heat This Week at One of These Free Cooling Centers

Know the signs of heat exhaustion before it leads to heat stroke and a medical emergency. Courtesy NOAA, CDC.

Western Iowa

Libraries throughout Cass County as well as the YMCA in Atlantic will offer relief from the heat during their normal operating hours this week.


Nikoel Hytrek

[inline-ad id=0]

If you enjoy stories like these, make sure to sign up for Iowa Starting Line’s main newsletter.

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at [email protected]. You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek.

​​Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].


Local News

Related Stories
Share This