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Your Summer Guide to the Best Chicago Beaches

31 May 2017 15

Chicago summers are simply the best. It’s a known fact. While this might have to do with the fact that Chicagoans are holed up in a wintery snow globe for months each winter, it’s also because Chicago has 24 beaches along its 28 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. 

Thanks to Lake Michigan’s cool breezes, Chicago summers tend to be warm with only a few truly hot days. But that doesn’t mean that Chicagoans don’t love a beach day. Whether you’re looking to relax, play some volleyball or enjoy a bit to eat lakeside, our Chicago beach guide is here to help you pick the beach that will fit your needs.

Ohio Street Beach

Ohio Street Beach is the closest beach to downtown Chicago and Marina City. Tucked in a cove between Navy Pier and Lake Shore Drive, it offers a slice of serenity in Streeterville, which can sometimes be a hectic area.

The Ohio Street Beach is the only beach to offer distance swimming lanes in Lake Michigan; on summer evenings you will see plenty of athletes getting laps in.

Although it is is one of the smaller Chicago beaches, it does offer bathrooms, lifeguards, a dining venue (Cafe Olivia) and beach chair rental. Unlike its neighbors to the north, Ohio Street Beach does not offer beach volleyball. The beach is also adjacent to Milton Olive Park which is a favorite among locals for its double row of elm trees and secluded feel.

(Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor)

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach is just around the bend from Ohio Street Beach, literally: follow the bend in Lake Shore drive about half a mile north and you are treated to another little cove beach.

Like Ohio Street Beach, Oak Street offers restrooms, beach chair rentals and dining at a summer pop up restaurant aptly named Oak Street Beach. Oak Street Beach has a few additional amenities as well, including a tent where you can get a beach-side massage. It’s also home to many amateur and professional volleyball tournaments throughout the year.

Oak Street Beach is easily accessible from the lake path running and biking trail or from Michigan Avenue via the tunnel under Lake Shore Drive. Be sure to stop and admire the murals if you take this route.

(Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor)

North Avenue Beach

North Avenue Beach is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches. You’ve surely seen its famous beach house while cruising down Lake Shore Drive. The beach house, a large white and blue ocean liner inspired building, houses bathrooms, lockers, a small convenience store, food vendors offering drinks, frozen yogurt and small snacks as well as the main, open air, sit down restaurant on the top of the ship Castaways. The area by Castaways tends to be a younger crowd, more interested in socializing then getting bronzed.

If you are looking for quiet and a little more space, head north up the beach to find the perfect spot. North Avenue Beach offers rental gear for many activities, including jet skis, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), kayaks, and bean bag toss!

The home to Chicago’s Air and Water Show in August, the beach also offers other activities throughout the summer like yoga classes and league volleyball. North Avenue Beach is also located just across Lake Shore Drive from the Lincoln Park Zoo, a great, affordable way to start or finish your beach day. Just look for the pedestrian bridge just north of Castaways.

(Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor)

12th Street Beach

12th Street Beach is one many lifelong Chicagoans may even not know of. It is located on Northerly Island, just south of the Adler Planetarium and Museum Campus.

Quick bit of history: Northerly Island is the only island ever completed from Daniel Burnham’s plan to create a string of islands from Jackson Park to Grant Park.

12th Street Beach offers a boat launch, restrooms and concessions such as Del Campo’s Tacos. The beach is located just steps away from some of Chicago’s best cultural institutions as well as the new Northerly Island Nature Preserve, so be sure to pack some good walking shoes if this beach is your destination.

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Park District)

Humboldt Beach

Humboldt Beach is Chicago’s only inland beach: it’s located on a manmade lagoon in Chicago’s historic Humboldt Park, miles from the shores of Lake Michigan. In addition to the swimming area, Humboldt Park offers a field house, fitness center, soccer fields, stable building, playgrounds, tennis courts, a replica of Wrigley Field and the Puerto Rican Arts and Culture Museum.

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Now)

Calumet Beach

Calumet Beach is Chicago’s furthest south beach, just a few miles from Indiana. The beach offers restrooms and lockers. It is located in a park which offers beachgoers many other amenities as well, such as a boat launch, soccer field, softball fields, a playground, and picnic areas.

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Montrose Beach

Montrose Beach is one of Chicago’s largest beach areas. It is located in the Uptown neighborhood and part of the massive Lincoln Park, which stretches almost 17 miles along Chicago’s lakefront from Ohio Street Beach in the Streeterville neighborhood northward to Ardmore Avenue in Edgewater.

Montrose Beach is where you want to go if you are looking for some nature but also a great skyline view. Surrounding the beach is a natural area which attracts many migratory birds and, along the lakeshore, a serene dune area. There’s also a large hill, Cricket Hill, which is great for sledding in the winter and flying kites in the summer. They even hold a kite festival!  

This beach is year-round for many residents, when the winter winds whip up you will sometimes even catch wind surfers gliding along the shore. The surrounding park’s large area allows for it to host multiple sports fields, many 5k races, music festivals, a monthly Full Moon Jam and an endless parade of family picnics. Montrose Beach has restrooms, a beach house with concessions, The Dock open air restaurant, sand volleyball courts and beach chair, kayak and jet ski rentals. Montrose Beach is also host to a large dog beach, where pups can frolic and play for the entertainment of all. Montrose Beach offers plenty of free parking, so feel free to bring your coolers along on this beach vacation.

(Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor)

Foster Beach

Foster Beach, still located in Lincoln Park a few miles north of Montrose Beach, is a North Side favorite. Foster Beach offers restrooms, showers, concessions and parking in a more relaxed setting than many of the beaches closer to downtown. There are bike rentals through Wheel of Fun Rentals, which offers children’s bikes and four-person Surrey bikes, as well.

Foster Beach has a dog beach located at the northern end.

(Photos courtesy of Trip Advisor)

We’d love to know which Chicago beach is your favorite. Leave a comment below to tell us where you’ll be enjoying the warm weather this summer!

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