Chicago is home to a diverse array of beaches, from well-hidden “street-end” oases to bustling Downtown beaches featuring every summer activity imaginable. Our 26 miles of shoreline feature something for every personality and interest. As we all know, Chicago summers are fleeting, so it’s high time you branch out and start exploring them all. This primer sums up all of the city's beaches, starting in Rogers Park and working south.
Blink and you may miss the city’s northernmost beach. This particular “street-end” beach isn’t ideal for sunbathing, particularly since its extremely tiny patch of sand occasionally gets buried under rising water levels. While swimming is allowed, the rocky terrain makes actually doing so seem like a painful -- and less than appealing -- feat.
Much like its neighbor to the north, Rogers Beach is quite rocky with minimal sand, making it less-than-ideal for anyone looking forward to sunbathing. That being said, the adjacent grassy area is an ideal spot to relax with a book, and the on-site tennis courts make it a popular spot for local residents.
Boasting a slightly sandier, although still somewhat rocky, terrain, Howard Beach is a slightly more traditional beach than the other postage stamp-sized street-end beaches nearby. The four-acre park includes playground, making it a popular option for neighborhood families.
Much to the chagrin of neighboring residents, rising water levels have caused Fargo Beach to pull a bit of a disappearing act in recent years. Thankfully, neighboring Marion Mahony Griffin Beach (formerly known as Jarvis Beach) remains unaffected. Like many beaches in this area, Marion Mahony Griffin Beach is fairly well-hidden at the end of a residential street.
This particular span of beach stretches eight blocks from Touhy to Pratt, officially making it the city’s largest, and a popular option for those looking for a more laid-back beach scene. Loyola Beach SUP (located at the Leone Park section of beach) offers paddle-board rentals and yoga classes. This family-friendly beach also features a fishing pier, softball fields, picnic grounds, a basketball court, and a playground, located at Touhy and Sheridan. Every Fathers Day weekend, Rogers Park residents join forces for Artists of the Wall Festival. The event -- which started 23 years ago as a means to deter gang graffiti -- allows area residents to partake in a 600ft community mural that runs along the beach, all while enjoying a wide variety of live musical acts.
In 2014, this portion of beach (formerly known as Pratt Beach) was renamed in honor of Tobey Prinz, community activist and founding member of the Rogers Park Community Council (RPCC). The fishing pier that separates this quiet stretch of beach from the southern end of Loyola beach features jaw-dropping skyline views.
Given that this particular stretch of beach is fairly well-hidden behind residential buildings, both Helen Doria and Hartigan Beach tend to be frequented primarily by area residents. However, don’t let that stop you from paying a visit. Remember: all of Chicago’s beaches are completely open to the public. Earlier this year, the portion known as Columbia Beach was renamed in honor of Helen Doria, a well-loved local advocate who passed away in 2012.
Lane Beach tends to be frequented by those looking for a more laid-back beach experience than what’s on offer at nearby Osterman Beach. A playground is located on the west end the beach, making it a popular after school stop for families in the area. In addition to, you know, mysterious beings that create “crop circles” in the sand while everyone is asleep.
Commonly known as Hollywood Beach, this particular beach is a favorite of Northside residents. While families tend to set up shop on the north end of the beach, the south end has been a popular summer hangout for the LGBT community for many years and offers a livelier vibe. In 2010, a brand-new 2,750sqft beach house was built. Beachgoers can rent paddleboards or take classes with Chicago Paddle Co. Be sure to stop by Nacho Mama’s Beach Bar, a beachside bar featuring tacos and alcoholic beverages. Between that and the free Wi-Fi, you basically don’t have any reason to ever leave (just don’t tell the police we said that if you get ticketed for staying after-hours).
Foster Beach can best be described as a slightly less crowded version of Montrose Beach, attracting a diverse mix of younger beachgoers as well as families. The adjacent grassy park area is a popular location for gatherings, including Chicago Full Moon Jam, which features flame dancers, drumming and more. While a portion of the beach is reserved for dogs, rising waters have rendered it inaccessible in recent years. Thankfully, Montrose Dog Beach is just a stone’s throw away.
Thanks to ample parking and a wide variety of amenities ranging from free Wi-Fi to jet ski and kayak rentals, Montrose Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the city. There are plenty of food options at this particular beach, including The Dock at Montrose Beach, which features live music, beachy cocktails, and a diverse menu featuring everything from pierogi to seared yellowfin tuna wraps. Several other smaller concessions are located around the beach area featuring tacos, fruit, and elotes, which you should definitely try. The north end of the beach is reserved exclusively for dogs and is Chicago’s first off-leash beach. The south end, on the other hand, is reserved for an entirely different purpose: a gorgeous native dune ecosystem that attracts a wide array of migrating birds. Take a walk through this eight-acre nature habitat and you’ll quickly forget that you’re in the city.
While this particular beach definitely isn’t one you’d want to lay out on for obvious reasons, your pup will certainly love doing so. Given that this particular doggie beach is small in size and not as busy as other dog beaches in Chicago, it’s a good starting point for anyone who wants to (literally) test the waters with their dog before letting him loose at a bigger dog beach like Montrose.
North Ave Beach is a favorite among young professionals who wish to see, be seen, and stay active. In addition to the wide array of vendors and concessions -- including everyone’s favorite summer hangout, Castaways -- North Ave Beach is home to an endless array of activities. Visitors can partake take beach yoga classes, go wakeboarding and paddleboarding with Chicago SUP, rent a kayak, partake in beach volleyball, or take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and pretend to get some work done. Of course, it’s also a popular spot for summer events like Chicago Air & Water Show and Electric Beach.
Yes, there is a beach in Humboldt Park! This particular beach has the honor of being the city’s only inland beach and is popular with neighborhood families. Humboldt Park Beach is slated to reopen this summer after being temporarily closed while the Park District worked to redevelop the swimming pond and improve water quality.
Thanks to its proximity to Michigan Ave shopping and hotels, Oak St Beach is particularly popular among tourists. Stop by Oak Street Food & Drink for, well, food and drink, get a beach-side massage from Coup de Main, or simply kick back and admire the striking juxtaposition between Oak St Beach’s sandy shoreline and its urban backdrop.
During the day, Ohio St Beach is mostly frequented by area residents, families squeezing in some beach time before or after a visit to nearby Navy Pier, and the occasional local playing hooky. Come 5pm, the west end of the beach becomes occupied by distance swimmers eagerly swapping their work garb for wetsuits. While distance swimming is permitted at many beaches, Ohio St Beach is the city’s only north-facing beach, making it possible to swim 800m from the shore to the Oak St curve without ever being more than a few feet away from the seawall. Take in the view with tropical cocktails at Caffè Oliva, which offers fantastic beachside views.
Situated on the eastern edge of Northerly Island, 12th St Beach happens to be one of the most well-hidden beaches in Chicago. While distance swimming is allowed at this particular beach, many visitors report running into submerged wreckage while attempting to do so. Depending on the day and time, you may even be able to listen in on concerts taking place at neighboring FirstMerit Bank Pavilion.
This stretch of lakefront formerly known as 31st St Beach has received several impressive upgrades over the last few years. Not only did it get a brand-new name, it also received a new LEED-certified beach house, a brand-new harbor with public fishing dock, a “green roof” picnic area, and a playground with water features. Along with paddleboard and jet ski options at Chicago Water Sports, there are a wide variety of events that attract a more grown-up crowd to Margaret T. Burroughs Beach after dark, ranging from beachfront spin classes and live music to Movies in the Park. Best of all? There’s now an on-site parking garage, which means you’ll spend less time jockeying for parking space and more time in the sun.
Opened in 2009, Oakwood -- also known as 41st St Beach -- is Chicago’s newest beach and still somewhat of a hidden treasure. Although it’s relatively small in size, the beach features a brand-new beach house and a nearby picnic area and volleyball courts. And, of course, you can’t beat the view!
Situated behind the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th St Beach was designed by renowned designers Olmsted & Vaux as part of the Columbian Exposition World's Fair. Parking is relatively easy west of Lake Shore Dr, and the beach is accessible via the pedestrian underpass. Once the sun goes down, head on over to nearby Promontory Point and gather around a bonfire pit (reservations needed).
Located at the southern end of beautiful and historic Jackson Park, 64th St Beach is popular among Hyde Park residents. In addition to amenities like a historic beach house that dates back to 1919, showers and concessions, this family-friendly beach also features a spray pool play area and a playground. Best of all: this is one of the few places in the city where you can still find shells and beach glass.
South Shore Beach is part of the South Shore Cultural Center, a historic landmark featuring a solarium, formal dining hall, and nine-hole golf course. The adjacent nature sanctuary features sand dunes, prairie landscape, a small wetland, and a butterfly garden, and the beach itself features a circular beach house with concessions, restrooms, and showers.
Like many South Side beaches, Rainbow Beach features a lovely view of the Downtown city skyline. The beach features free Wi-Fi, free parking, a playground, handball courts, and a nine-acre natural dune habitat is located at the northeast end of the beach. What more can you ask for?
Located a stone’s throw away from the Indiana border, Calumet Beach is a popular dining spot for Calumet Fisheries’ patrons. Given that it’s not the most populated beach in Chicago, this stretch of shoreline is ideal for large gatherings. As part of the 200-acre Calumet Park, the area features a boat launch, a softball and soccer field, a playground, and several different concession stands.
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