With beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see, you may think when you look out onto such beaches as Chicago's North Avenue Beach that you are in southern California not Chicago. You will see people playing sand volleyball, swimming and simply basking in the sun. And as you look out onto Lake Michigan there really is no end in sight giving it the look and feel of the Pacific Ocean. And oh those sunrises over the lake. Gorgeous.
Chicago beaches are free to the general public, and generally open for swimming from the Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Here is a list of some of Chicago's most popular beaches with more added throughout the summer so be sure and check back often.
Have a favorite Chicag beach photo you'd like to share? E-mail your pictures to Chicago@aboutguide.com and we will feature it this summer in our Best of Summer in Chicago 2012 photo essay.
Oak Street Beach: Oak Street Beach is close to Chicago's Magnificent Mile and is a fabulous a people-watching location where several people pass by each day walking, running and rollerblading along the Lake Michigan bike path. You will also find sand volleyabll at this beach, as well as a restaurant. To get to the Oak Street Beach, which is 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive (at Oak Street), take the CTA Bus #151 Sheridan. Parking is limited.
North Avenue Beach: Just a smidge north of the Oak Street Beach is Chicago's North Avenue Beach, which is usually hopping with activity, and what some say is Chicago's equivalent to Manhattan Beach in southern California with its sand volleyball. North Avenue Beach also has mini-gym on the lakefront where you can strength training and take Spinning classes, as well as a rollerblading rink, restaurant and bar at Castaways (which is shaped like a boat) and a biking and running path. North Avenue Beach hosts to a couple professional volleyball tournaments each summer, as well as the Chicago Air & Water Show. North Avenue Beach is located at 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue. Take the CTA Bus #151 Sheridan. Parking is limited. (Suggested reading: Using Public Transportation in Chicago l Celebrating the Fourth of July in Chicago l Guide to the Taste of Chicago 2013)
Evanston Beaches: North of Chicago, Evanston is home not only Northwestern University but also five scenic beaches that come with views of the Chicago skyline. While a bit more low key than Chicago's beaches, the beaches in Evanston are most family focused and offer not only lakefront access but also ice cream and hot dog concessions. The beaches are located between Campus Drive and Dempster in Evanston. Parking is available so driving is fine. Take Sheridan Drive north. (Suggested reading: Fun Summer Activities for Parents and Kids l Beach Packing Checklist)
Montrose Beach: North of North Avenue Beach is the Montrose Beach, which also has sand volleyball and plenty of sand for sunbathing. This beach does not have a restaurant like North Avenue Beach's Castaways but does have a concession stand for sodas, water, hot dogs, and hamburgers. There is also plenty of parking (metered) so driving is fine. Montrose Beach is located at 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive (off of Lake Shore Drive, take the Montrose exit and head east).