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Guide to Promontory Point

September 10, 2011 6:00 AM

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(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

promontory point kenaz mara Guide to Promontory Point

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

Promontory Point
5491 S Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60615
312.747.6620
Open 7 Days a Week
7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Paid parking lot at 55th Street

Chicago’s gorgeous lakefront includes 15 public beaches along 26 miles of shoreline. However, between the south side beaches lies a true treasure, know by locals as “The Point.” Promontory Point is a popular wedding site, boasts one of the best views of the Chicago skyline, has great bike trails, and is the only place on the lakefront that fire pits are permitted. It’s closest to the Hyde Park neighborhood and well worth a look.

History

Promontory point had an auspicious beginning as the brainchild of renowned architect, Daniel Burnham. He created the original plans for Promontory Point, which became home to Chicago’s second World’s Fair In 1933-34. It’s still considered part of the larger Burnham Park, which includes 6 miles of shoreline between Grant Park and Jackson Park. Promontory Point officially opened to the public in 1937. It’s hard to believe a place so beautiful sits on a man-made peninsula created from landfill. It even housed a Nike Hercules missile defense system radar tower that loomed 150 feet over the park during the cold war. In 1971 the tower was torn down, leaving Chicago a legacy of gorgeous park space, unobstructed views, shade trees, and access to all the elements. The Point has open park space, water access, fresh breezes, and even fire.

creative smores kenaz mara Guide to Promontory Point

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

We have Alfred Caldwell to thank for the fabulous fire pits. He designed the so called “council rings” along the lakefront edge in 1938, and they’re a wonderful place for toasting S’mores and ending a day at the park with friends. Fire pits are first come first serve, but can be reserved in advance through the park district. Caldwell is also responsible for planting hundreds of flowering trees and shrubs and creating a raised meadow in the center of the peninsula. The council rings make a great gathering space for birthday parties and have stood the test of time better than Caldwell’s few remaining original plants.

promontory trees kenaz mara2 Guide to Promontory Point

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

Rentals

Promontory Point was our choice for a wedding location, over a decade ago. The old English, castle like charm, with exposed brick, stone patios and stunning lakefront location make this a great place for special occasions and corporate events. Call 312.742.4847 for dates and rates.

How to get there

Promontory Point remains a well-kept secret beyond Hyde Park, because you can’t just drive up to it. Paid parking is available in two-hour increments, at 55th street, and then access to the park is on foot via the Lakefront Trail and a tunnel beneath Lake Shore Drive. At the forking path take the right branch for quickest access to the park building. Check out the David Wallach Memorial Fountain, which features a fawn and dates back to 1939. It was built with drinking areas at people and animal levels.

exploring kenaz mara Guide to Promontory Point

(credit: Bonnie Kenaz-Mara)

Swimming and Water Sports

If you’re expecting white sandy beaches, check out 57th Street Beach just to the south of The Point, or 63rd Street Beach. The Point is lacking in sand and loaded with limestone. Lake access is strictly off the revetment. Open water or distance swimming is now permitted off the south side and The Point is a popular launch site for kayakers and windsurfers. Off the north side, water is shallow, sandy under water and family friendly. Boat free zones for swimming are marked with buoys during the summer, but it’s considered a “rock beach”.

Annual Events:

Major city fireworks displays launched from barges on the lake and weekly pyrotechnic displays launched from Navy Pier are visible from Promontory Point.

Swim Around The Rocks

This event is free and open to the public and generally takes place on the Sunday following Summer Solstice and preceding Autumn Equinox, bookending the summer months. Swimmers need not register in advance. Participants enter the water at the South side ladders, swim around the point to the North side and then swim back.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara explores adventures in urban-odd ball-off the wall-alternative-eco-punk parenting in Chi, IL. at ChiILMama.com.
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