When the weather finally does get hot in the city, Chicagoans head towards the lakefront to cool off. The 26 miles of open lakefront—free and open for use by any Chicago resident or visitor—includes 15 distance swimming beaches.
The Chicago Park District manages the lakefront and posts a daily swim report on its website. An 18-mile paved trail—open to runners, walkers, bicyclists and rollerbladers—runs along the water. The north end of the trail begins at Hollywood Ave, near Kathy Osterman Beach (aka Hollywood Beach) and runs south to 71st Street.
Running, strolling or rolling along the trail is a great way to see a large part of the city. he trail becomes heavily trafficked during the summer, especially on weekends. Although no cars are able to drive on the trail, when crossing, treat it as a street and hold the hands of small children.
There are 26 swimming beaches in Chicago, each monitored by an on duty lifeguard from about 11:00am to 7:00pm during swimming season.
The park district uses a flag system, posting green, yellow and red flags, to notify lakefront users of the current water quality and weather conditions. Although the beaches always remain open swimmers should note the current flag color before entering the water. Some of Chicago’s larger, most popular beaches include:
Oak Street Beach
Oak Street Beach is at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive (Oak St. and Lake Michigan)
A favorite among Chicago residents and a business lunch crowd, this crowded beach often offers a morning massage tent.
North Avenue Beach
North Avenue Beach is at 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive (North Ave. and Lake Michigan)
A popular spot due to the beach house, a permanent ocean liner-inspired building that features an outdoor concession stand, outdoor showers, bike, chair and volleyball equipment rental and restrooms.
This beach is typically teaming with beach volleyball nets and players.
Fullerton Beach is at 2400 N. Lake Shore Drive (Fullerton Ave. and Lake Michigan)
With its easy access (Fullerton Ave) this narrow beach is often crowded. Take up a spot on the grass, which there may be more of than sand, near the Theatre on the Lake, a building that was built as a sanitarium ward for babies suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases. It was thought that the air off the lake would be good for the sick children. The building now shows theatre productions for eight weeks during the summer. Food and drink are usually available for purchase and a public restroom is located just south of Fullerton Ave.
Ohio Street Beach
Ohio Street Beach is at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive (Ohio St. and Lake Michigan)
Set near the tourist ridden Navy Pier, the Chicago skyline serves as this beach’s backdrop. Full of beautiful people, this is the place to be seen. Swimmers, keep an eye out for serious swimmers and boats coming off the lake.
Montrose Beach is at 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive (Montrose Ave. and Lake Michigan)
This massive beach is a family hot spot. With a free parking lot and both large grass and sand areas families set up camp here all day to get together and grill out.
Its family-friendly rep has left the beach somewhat worn but there is plenty of space to spread out and find a relaxing spot.
Montrose Beach Dog Friendly Area
Located just north of Montrose Beach. This stretch of beach is a dog’s paradise. Pups run free from leashes and splash and play in the water at this fenced off designated dog friendly area. Every Chicago dog deserves a day here.