An evaporative cooling unit has an internal conduit structure with an inlet and outlet, an air blower for establishing a forced air flow through the conduit, and a plurality of nozzles that emit atomized water into the air flow. The nozzles connect to a source of water such as a pump coupled to a tap water supply. Sprayed water mixes with the forced air flow and is emitted as a mist or fog, the temperature of the air and water being reduced via evaporative cooling. The unit can form an inverted L-shape, a column or a framework, e.g., forming a pavilion. The unit can be inflatable or can be formed by rigid hollow columns and/or horizontal beams that form the air conduits and contain one or more blowers as well as piping for carrying water to the nozzles. A ball joint discharge fixture having air exhaust holes surrounding a spray nozzle allows the mixed air/water output to be directed where needed to form a refreshing cooled area, especially in the open. The unit is advantageous for cooling athletes at competitions, spectators at events, fire fighters, etc., and in one embodiment forms a cooled outdoor station for vending machines or the like.