Best Of Chicago

A Beach For Every Bum: Best Chicago Beaches

August 13, 2011 6:00 AM

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(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images))

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images))

We’re so spoiled living on big, beautiful Lake Michigan. Sure, the water is usually freezing, but nothing beats a day at the beach. All 28 miles of Chicago lakefront are managed by the Chicago Park District and are free and open to the public. Before you head out for the day, check out beach conditions at!

Here are my picks for the Top Chicago Beaches – guaranteed to make for an excellent lazy day at the lake.

82128104 A Beach For Every Bum: Best Chicago Beaches

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images))

North Avenue Beach

1600 North Lake Shore Drive

Sure, it can be crowded, but that’s what makes for the fantastic people watching. North Avenue Beach boasts amazing skyline views and a nice expanse of sand for sunning. Castaways, the beach house shaped like a boat, is your go-to place for a drink and a cover band. Bring your volleyball and jump into a game, or grab a beer and a sun visor and find a place in the crowd to catch the annual Air & Water show (August 20 – 21, Watch out for the busy pathways: passerbys have been known to get caught up in oncoming bikers and rollerbladers.

foster beach A Beach For Every Bum: Best Chicago Beaches


Foster Avenue Beach

5200 North Lake Shore Drive

This beach is the kid friendliest of them all. Easy parking and a handicap access ramp to the beach makes it possible to drive the buggy right up to the lakefront. Foster Avenue Beach is less crowded with a family atmosphere and vigilant lifeguards. Outdoor showers mean you won’t drag the beach back into your car. At a hut steps from the beach house, you can rent bikes and boardwalk bicycles built for the entire family – a long and less populated pathway is perfect for riding on south to the next beach (Montrose Beach) and back. Bring some dollar bills for cotton candy and paletas (Mexican style fruity ice popsicles).

south shore  grand par 14705 image 0 0 1 A Beach For Every Bum: Best Chicago Beaches


Rainbow Beach

3111 East 77th Street 

Home of the tumultuous 1961 “freedom wade-in,” this peaceful beach captures the city skyline in its viewfinder. Not too crowded and never too crazy (a la North Avenue or Hollywood Beach) it’s another good choice for families. Metered parking and handicap accessible. Bring a picnic to enjoy under the shade of a tree at the adjacent Rainbow Beach Park.

74330950 A Beach For Every Bum: Best Chicago Beaches

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Oak Street Beach

1000 North Lake Shore Drive

Shop the boutiques on Oak Street then head to this beach, nestled in a lakeside corner of the Gold Coast. Enjoy the city’s architecture on one side and the seemingly never-ending lake horizon on the other. Another good spot for people watching, Oak Street Beach turns a yet little more South beach when the fake palm trees are installed early every summer.

Amy Bocchetta is a writer, a teacher, and a mom to two kids. She lives in the city and blogs at
View Comments
  • Felix Cartagena

    Let’s get it straight; there are no beaches in Chicago. Just because sand was placed there, and there is a body of water where some people choose to swim in it, does not qualify it as a beach. True beaches have palm trees, ocean natural-salty water, sea shells, and many other Mother-Nature blessings a pitiful lake does not provide. Let’s call a spade a spade. Stop lying to the audience and to yourselves. Got did not create an ocean in Chicago. God created what needs to be called a lake.

    • Kelly

      I honestly prefer the lake over any ocean for beaching. Salt water is the worst to swim in. Euuch,

  • Mary Luque

    Sand IS natural to our Chicago shoreline: here is an except of an article that you need to read. Read the entire article here:

    “[Montrose] is only unique because all the dunes that used to be in the city were destroyed as the city grew,” said Michael Chrzastowski of the Illinois State Geological Survey. “They have all been bulldozed away.”
    At only 8 to 12 feet high, the dune systems on the western shores of Lake Michigan are unimpressive compared to dunes towering hundreds of feet in Indiana and Michigan.

  • Mary Luque


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