Top Chicago Beaches

...where to enjoy the lakefront near Chicago

The Chicago beaches are a long network of lakefront recreational areas operated by the Chicago Park District. Historically, the waterfront has been used for commerce, industry, and leisure.

Chicago's lakefront view.

Leisure, such as fishing, swimming, hunting, walking, and boating was much more prevalent throughout the river sections of the waterfront system in the early 19th century before industrial uses altered the landscape.

By midcentury, much leisure shifted to Lake Michigan as a result of industrial influence.

The Chicago Park District manages the cities 26 miles of open and free lakefront for the enjoyment of Chicago residents and visitors and nine lakefront harbors that stretch from Lincoln Park to Jackson Park with accommodations for more than 5,000 boats.

Admission to any of the Chicago beaches are FREE.

Lifeguards are not on duty throughout the entire year because Chicago goes through the four seasons: summer, winter, spring, and autumn.

So during these times when lifeguards are not on duty, the beaches are closed for safety purposes, but you can continue to enjoy all the other things you can do along Chicago's lakefront.

I always like to hang out at Navy Pier in the summer and go to the lakefront where I can enjoy the warm sun and cool blue water.

It might be hard to believe, but Chicago's lakefront can feel reminiscent of a beach in sunny California.

Now, I wouldnt say they were better because California's beaches are amazing and worth experiencing, but so are the Chicago beaches!

Flag Notification System

When you are on the lakefront, look for a flag near the beach house or on a lifeguard stand. These flags are part of the Chicago Park Districts "flag notification system" which let you know the current weather conditions and the current water quality such as if there is bacteria or if the water is contaminated.

Also, no matter what flag color you see, the lakefront areas are always open. Flag colors represent warnings for swimming only.

The green flag means that swimming is permitted, which means that the water is calm and water quality is safe based monitoring for bacteria.

The red flag means that swimming is ban due to severe weather and/or water conditions, which may be deadly. Also there might be a risk of illness based on monitoring for bacteria.

The yellow flag means that there is a swimming advisory in effect, which means caution is advised while swimming. Restrictions may be implemented and there may be an increased risk of illness based on monitoring for bacteria.

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The Top Beaches

Here is a list of the beaches and the information you should know if you decide to go. Any questions or concerns should be directed to the Chicago Park District office at 312.742.5121.

Also, parking is limited at most of the areas on the lakefront, so if you can take public transportation you could save some possible problems.

Rogers Park Beaches

Juneway Terrace Beach - This beach is located at 7751 N. Eastlake Terrace and is the northernmost beach in Chicago. This a perfect spot to relax on a nice day.

Rogers Beach - This beach is a part of Rogers Avenue Beach and Park at 7705 N. Eastlake Terrace. This beach is one of the smaller beaches, being only about one block long. The park near the beach has some tennis courts as well.

Howard Beach - Howard Beach is located at 7519 N. Eastlake Terrace, and is another small street-end beach that is part of Howard Beach Park. The beach is only about 200 feet long.

Jarvis Beach/Fargo Beach - Jarvis Beach is located at 1208 W. Jarvis Ave. and Fargo Beach is located at 1300 W. Fargo Ave. These two beaches are smaller and usually not crowded with people which is always a good thing.

Loyola/Leone Beach - Loyola Beach is can be found at 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave. and Leone Beach is located at 1222 W. Touhy Ave. Together being 8 blocks long, Loyola/Leone Beach is the largest in Chicago. Near by there are some baseball fields, basketball courts, and a nice place to lock up your bike if you choose to travel by bicycle. These is a perfect beach for family fun.

Hartigan Beach - Located at 1050 W. Pratt Blvd., Hartigan Beach is another street-end beach that is close to three parks: Pratt Boulevard Park, Columbia Beach Park, and North Shore Beach Park. There are four tennis courts near by as well.

Berger Park

Berger Park Beach - This small beach is located at the northeast corner of Berger Park in Edgewater. The park is a great place to hangout with there being a cultural center and a lakeside cafe located on the beach. The park also contains a nice playground.

Lincoln Park Beaches

Thorndale Beach - This a nice size beach that is located at 5915 N. Sheridan Rd. There is a boardwalk ramp so that people with wheelchairs can get closer to the shoreline. With George Lane Park being so close, there is also a children's playground.

Kathy Osterman Beach - Also known as Hollywood Beach, Kathy Osterman Beach is located 5800 N. Lake Shore Drive. This beach serves two groups, the northern half is largely a family-friendly beach and the southern half is largely for the gay and lesbian community.

There is a long boardwalk ramp on the northern half of the beach that allows wheelchairs and strollers to get closer to the shoreline. Volleyball is very popular at this beach. There is also a beach house that was built in 2010 that features restrooms, a first aid station, and a concession area.

Foster Avenue Beach - You can find Foster Beach at 5200 N. Lake Shore Drive. This is one of the more popular beaches in the Edgewater area of the city. There is a beach house that includes bike rentals, restrooms, and a concession area. There is a lot of FREE parking.

Montrose Avenue Beach - Montrose Ave. Beach is located at 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive and is one of the largest beaches in Chicago. This beach is also one of the most popular beaches in the city mainly because it is one of only two dog beaches in Chicago (which can be found on the north-end of the beach) and because there is a non-motorized boat launch.

The beach also has concessions, showers, restrooms, kayak rentals, and volleyball rentals. Lastly, they added a 3,000-square-foot patio deck and a full service restaurant named "The Dock at Montrose Beach" to the beach house.

North Avenue Beach - Located at 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive, North Avenue Beach is Chicago's premier beach and is definitely the most popular. The Chicago Park District lines the beach with poles for people and leagues to hang volleyball nets becuase the beach hosts many international volleyball tournaments.

The 22,000-square-foot beach house contains bike and sports equipment rentals, concession stand, restrooms, a lifeguard station, and a bar and restaurant named Castaways. Lastly, there is a very nice lakefront path to ride bikes or walk down, and it is the best spot to be in order to see the Chicago Air & Water Show.

Oak Street Beach - Oak Street Beach is located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive and is about a mile and a half long. This beach is the best place to be if you would like to do deep water swimming and has a great view of the city's skyline.

The beach offers food and beverages at Oak Street Beach Cafe, volleyball rentals, bike rentals, and restrooms. This beach is the only one with a chess pavilion and an outdoor restaurant named Oak Street Beachstro that is only open in the summer months.

Ohio Street Beach - Ohio Street Beach (also known as Olive Park Beach) can be found at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive right across from Jane Addams Memorial Park. This beach is a great place to train for open water swimming or just enjoy a swim in the lake. Chair rentals and concessions are available.

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Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park Beach - This "beach" is not a lakefront beach but a shallow wading pond that has a sand bottom. The "beach" is located at 1400 N. Sacramento in the Humboldt Park Lagoon, just south of the field house. Great place for kids becuase of the shallow water.

Burnham Park Beaches

12th Street Beach - Located at 1200 S. Linn White Drive, 12th Street Beach, also called 14th Street Beach, is just south of the Adler Planetarium in Burnham Park. The beach house provides concessions and restrooms. This is also a popular spot for distance swimming.

31st Street Beach - You will find this beach at 3100 S. Lake Shore Drive in Burnham Park and you will get a great view of the city's skyline from the south. The beach house provides concessions and restrooms. One cool thing about this beach is that every year the beach hosts the Junior Lifeguard Chicago Area Tug-o-War.

Oakwood / 41st Street Beach - This beach is located at 4100 S. Lake Shore Drive near the Oakland community and is the newest beach, being opened in 2010. The beach house offers concessions and restrooms. There is also distance swimming allowed at this beach.

57th Street Beach - Located at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive in the Hyde Park neighborhood, this beach provides an area of deep water swimming south of Promontory Point. It also has a beach house with restrooms and concessions. This beach is right across the street from the Museum of Science and Industry.

63rd Street Beach - Located at 6300 S. Lake Shore Drive in Jackson Park, 63rd Street Beach (Once called Jackson Park Beach) is home to the oldest beach house in the city. The historic beach house provides concessions, restrooms, showers, meeting rooms, and interactive water fountains. The beach house can be rented. There is also distance swimming allowed.

South Shore Beaches

South Shore Beach - Will find this beach right behind the Chicago Park District's South Shore Cultural Center, which is a beautiful old building that homes a ballroom, restaurant, tennis courts, and a golf course. The address for the Cultural Center and beach is at 7059 S. South Shore Dr.

Ashe Beach - This beach is located between 74th and 75th Streets in the South Shore community and is named after Arthur Ashe, a professional tennis player who won three Grand Slam titles. Of course, the beach has two tennis courts to honor him as being one of the best tennis players from the United States.

Rainbow Beach - Rainbow Beach is located at 2873 E. 75th Street in the South Chicago neighborhood. The park and beach combined totals about 61 acres and features a bunch of great attractions such as a fitness center, a gymnasium, multipurpose rooms, and much more.

When you go outside, the park has basketball/handball/tennis courts, two play grounds, and a couple baseball diamonds. In addition to all the fun activities, the park hosts fun special events throughout the year.

Calumet Park Beaches

Calumet Park, which is not Calumet Park, IL, has about a mile of the lakefront that contains three beaches which are located at the 9600, 9800, and 9900 South blocks along the lake. The main beach of the three has a beach house with a concession stand. You will find the park in the East Side neighborhood.

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Dog Friendly Areas

Are you a dog owner? If you are and you want to give your dog some exercise, there are dog friendly areas where dogs can play at certain areas on the lake. Montrose Beach and Foster Beach both welcome dogs and their owners for a fun time on the lakefront.

If you do decide to take your dog(s) to one of these beaches, make sure to keep your dog(s) within the fenced area and make sure they are on their leash until you are on the sand. There have been people who have received a ticket for letting their dog(s) off the leash before they were on the sand.

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Beaches That are the Best Vaction Spots!

All of Chicago's beaches are perfect for day trips. However, there are some Chicago beaches that are the most popular and if you are only in Chicago for a short period of time, then you must visit Chicago's best beaches.

My top three beaches in Chicago are: Oak Street Beach, North Avenue Beach, and Ohio Street Beach.

The reason why I chose these three beaches is because each one has their own unique charcteristics that sets each apart from the others. Oak Street Beach is a large and the most popular beach in the city, which makes it the most crowded, but it is easy to walk to if you're downtown and if you drive. There are many parking lots along Lake Shore Drive.

North Avenue Beach has the best view of the city because the lake curves so you get a good view up and down the shore. Also, the beach house has everything you need and more such as a gym, showers, chess pavilion, concessions, and bike rentals.

And Lastly, Ohio Street Beach, which is not the most popular beach mainly because it is right next to Navy Pier and is mostly overlooked. It is also a small beach, but what is so great about it is that some days it can be like your own private beach! Also, if you're hungry or need to go to the restroom, just head over to Navy Pier.

Have Fun on the Lakefront!

A day at one (or many) of the beaches can be a great experience for the whole family (including your dog). Remember before coming, check the weather and make sure it is going to be a nice sunny day.

Also, remember that there is more than the beaches to enjoy when you are on the lakefront, so make sure to take advantage of all the activities and fun things to do to make the trip the best it can be.