No matter how fast you drive with the windows down or how many oscillating fans you post up at home, nothing beats the blast of cold, dry air — preferably through central cooling vents. Of course, there are those of us who live with “The Hawk.” See, older homes and apartment buildings have just a few large vents that blow strong, direct and super cold. Not that we’re complaining. A window unit just doesn’t compare — even if a cozy throw is in order while lounging in the Hawk’s abundant flow. Here are a few places around the city where you can take comfort when you’re not at home, and have some summer fun, too.
AIRPORT STATION MARTA TRAIN Traversing the tall escalator and baggage claim inside Hartsfield-Jackson can certainly work up your inner cooling center, not to mention getting up to the MARTA platform at the Airport Station. Good thing there’s likely to be a train waiting there — usually equipped with working A/C. Once you cross into the train’s cabin and park your luggage, sit in a seat nearest the window and let the vents blow some cool air your way. www.itsmarta.com.
CACTUS CAR WASH What is summer if not the season to get your car washed? You can hop from your car’s A/C to the pleasantly cool tunnel where you’ll see it lapped with soap. Continue lounging sweat-free in the TV and computer area, and when the attendant calls your vehicle’s description over the intercom, not only will your car be fresh and clean, the air conditioning in it will be on full blast, just the way you left it. 575 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-876-3232. www.cactuscarwash.com.
CNN CENTER Whether you’re looking to get a bite from the Food Court after exploring Centennial Olympic Park, or making CNN Center your main destination for activities such as the Studio Tour, you can bet on lots of cool air here. Browse Waldenbooks or run errands at the post office or dry cleaners while you’re at it. 1 CNN Center (Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive). 404-827-2491. www.cnncenterretail.com.
THE CONTEMPORARY This Westside gem, short for the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, is loaded with multidisciplinary artwork — and air conditioning. Regular artist talks from exhibiting artists and the staff make it even more of a cultural cornerstone. 535 Means St. 404-688-1970. www.thecontemporary.org.
FERNBANK MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY Escape Atlanta’s heat and humidity in this spectacularly designed museum. You can check out an IMAX feature, one of the traveling shows, or an interactive science exhibition. Free-$15. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu/museum.
INMAN PERK COFFEE After an afternoon trolling the neighboring retail shops such as Jac., and SóShoelite, step inside the sleek yet cozy Perk location. Although the patio tables and umbrellas outside might be tempting, cool down while looking at even cooler art on the walls and order a well-made icy espresso or fruit smoothie treat. 240 N. Highland Ave., Suite H. 678-705-4545. www.inmanperkcoffee.com.
MECHANICSVILLE BRANCH LIBRARY It’s off in the cut, a few blocks west of Turner Field, but it’s a big building with plenty of room for you to soak up all the cool air blowing through the stacks. Midday activities for elementary kids and middle schoolers abound, in addition to exhibits like a recent showing of lithographs from Rolling Stone Press. There’s a meeting room, and a healthy DVD and CD collection for checking out, too. 400 Formwalt St. 404-730-4779. www.afplweb.com.
THE NOOK Walking around Piedmont Park got you toasty? Duck into the Nook. It’s not as dark as its predecessor, the Prince of Wales, but the patio is shaded and inside you’ll cool down even more with the A/C cranking and an ice cold beer in hand. Better yet, try a serving of the newcomer’s sweet tea ice cream. 1144 Piedmont Ave. 404-745-9222. www.thenookatlanta.com.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET The whoosh of cold air when you cross through the sliding doors here is a welcome relief from Atlanta’s summer temps. There’s so much to sample, sniff and see at this health-conscious hot spot you won’t feel bad about lingering. 650 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-853-1681. www.wholefoodsmarket.com.
YOUR DEKALB FARMERS MARKET This is probably the one place other than the movie theater where you’ll walk in hot as hell, but still curse yourself for leaving your hoodie in the car. We’re sure it’s to keep the amazing variety of fruits, veggies and meats in the 140,000-square-foot “world market” fresh. But it’ll more than do the trick for you, too. 3000 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-377-6400. www.dekalbfarmersmarket.com.