As a Chicagoan, it’s crucial that you make use of every proper summer afternoon that you get, so when you head to the beach it’s best to have a plan of attack. Yes, there will be sand and water, but there are many, many more things you can do on the shore of Lake Michigan (Fire pits! Kite surfing! Fried chicken deliveries!). This guide will brief you on the best spots for 29 Chicago beach activities you should be taking advantage of, none of which are that ungodly bike cart thing.
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Promontory Point in Burnham Park When to do it: Evenings -- you can reserve a spot by contacting the parks department Chicago’s fire codes have been pretty strict ever since most of the city burned down that one time, but this park’s fire pits allow you to (legally) host a proper bonfire for s’mores with a view.
12th Street Beach at Northerly Island When to do it: Early summer is windier Kites are basically the only things flying above the former site of Meigs Field these days; if you can’t get it up, ask for a hand from the Illinois Kite Enthusiasts who regularly take advantage of the area’s unimpeded winds.
Montrose Beach When to do it: Once you’ve mastered the basics If you want to graduate to a kite that can get you off the ground, kitesurfing is restricted to a couple local beaches, and you need to be certified before you can take off near unsuspecting beach-goers.
Smash a volleyball
North Avenue Beach How to do it: Leagues or pickup games available Work those guns and show them off to the tanning masses at the premiere spot for volleyball in the city. Groups like Chicago Sport & Social and Players Sport & Social Group run leagues on the beaches, especially during the week, but you can head over anytime to join a pickup game or rent equipment to start your own.
Burnham Skate Park at 31st Street Beach When to do it: Before the park closes at 11pm Channel your inner Rodney Mullen (or whatever character in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater you played as).
Burnham Harbor When to go: Dawn or dusk Just a short walk from 12th Street Beach, the harbor is famous for being home to salmon, trout, and even some bass that can be snagged while standing on the shore.
Loyola Beach When to do it: July 12th Look: Lake Michigan It’s expansive blue waters Are like, really blue
Take a power nap
Oak Street Beach When to do it: On a lunch break during the week On those days when you just can’t wait to get away, head to the beach, rent a chair and an umbrella, and catch a couple winks while the waves crash onto the shore.
12th street beach at Northerly Island When to do it: The sun typically rises in the morning Get up early -- or stay up late -- to catch the sun rising over Lake Michigan, and wander around to see one of the best views of the skyline with an extra splash of color.
Beaches in Evanston and Rogers Park When to do it: All summer The Evanston Chicken Shack, one of our favorite chicken joints in the area, will deliver deep-fried goodness to the beach. Chow down and do your best Jaws impersonation.
Grab some paletas or ice cream
Everywhere How to get it: Just listen for the bell Palateros work hard dragging their carts across the sands, so the least you can do is buy something cold and delicious from them. In case you don’t know, paletas are fruit popsicles often made fresh in Chicago.
Test your grilling chops
Montrose and Foster Beaches Where to do it: Grilling is permitted on grassy areas near hot-coal containers You’ll need to step away from the sand, but grilling is permitted at some beaches, usually on the grassy areas farther away from the shore. If you’re using charcoal, be sure to deposit your used bricks in the hot-coal containers so people don’t step on them with their bare feet.
Ohio Street Beach at Olive Park When to do it: Whenever, just wait your turn This beach is popular with triathletes because it uniquely faces North, making it possible to swim (in dedicated lanes) parallel with the shore and stay in shallower waters.
Brave the deep
57th Street Beach How to do it: Talk to the lifeguards first While the beach near Promontory Point does technically allow deep-water swimming, lifeguards get nervous when you head into darker waters, so pros say having a chat before diving in can help avoid any hassles.
North Ave., Hollywood, Montrose, Foster, and Rainbow Beaches How to do it: Wi-Fi, baby Five beaches now offer high-speed Internet access, so bring the office to the beach if you really have to. Don’t forget to grab an umbrella to keep glare off your screen.
31st Street Harbor How to do it: Book it online ahead of time With a FlyBoard, jets of water propel you into the air like Iron Man -- no metal suit required.
Captain your own boat
Montrose Beach or North Avenue Beach When to do it: When you’re sober There are all kinds of water transports available to rent, most of which require a driver’s license to pilot, including motor boats, sailboats, Jet Skis, and waverunners. The smaller crafts are more manageable and don’t require a special license to drive.
31st Street Beach When to do it: Anytime Jet Ski rentals at 31st Street Beach include a GoPro camera so you can document all that sweet air you get, or find out how that figure 8 whipped you into the water and out of your swimsuit.
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