Chicago boasts 26 miles of shoreline, 26 beaches and an 18.5-mile long bike path along Lake Michigan. While most cities build industrially all the way up to their respective lakefronts, Chicago's remains an open playground to the public.
We're proud to boast wildlife sanctuaries, golf courses and, of course, beautiful sandy beaches along our celebrated shores.
Located in Jackson Park, 63rd Street Beach is one of Chicago's oldest and most storied parks. The designers of New York City's Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux, planned Jackson Park in 1871. By 1888, an area made from granite bricks extended the lakefront, creating a paved beach. In 1899, when Chicago's innovative Drainage Canal began diverting sewage to other locations, the lakefront became a common sport for public bathing. They were simpler times.
By the early 1900s community planners extended the beach's sand area by ten acres. An elaborate bathing pavilion was constructed in 1919 and is better known today as the historic 63rd Street Beach House, a celebrated landmark of the area.
In 1909 the North Shore District concentrated its resources on purchasing beachfront real estate and developing a boating basin known as North Shore Park. Less than ten years later the District had acquired nine more acres of lakeshore property, built a small fieldhouse and provided public game rooms. The popularity of the park quickly sky rocketed, bringing droves to the beach in the summer months and filling the ice with skaters in the winter.
In the mid-1930s the Chicago Park District took control of the property and held a contest to choose a new name for the area. Neighborhood residents favored the name Loyola Park, an ode to nearby Loyola University. Over the next half century Loyola Park grew to over 20 acres in size. Today, it's a central hub for a series of street-end beaches in Rogers Park.
The largest beach in Chicago is a favorite for dog lovers as it contains one of only a pair of Park District-run dog beaches. A fenced off section on the beach's northern end is open to playful pups who are free to run without a leash once inside the contained area.
The location's beach house was designed by EV Buchsbaum and, unfortunately, lost the east wing to a fire in the 1950s. Although the east wing was never rebuilt, the house has been remodeled recently with a 3,000-square-foot patio deck and a full service restaurant. Chicago's July 4th fireworks are held in three locations throughout the city, Montrose Beach hosts the procession for the City's North Side.
Widely considered Chicago's trademark beach, North Avenue is conveniently located just north of Downtown Chicago in the picturesque neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Boasting a seven million dollar beach house and the immensely popular Castaways bar, it's a favorite amongst locals and visitors.
The beach hosts international volleyball tournaments like Volleywood and the AVP Chicago open. It's also a popular vantage point for the always exciting Chicago Air and Water Show.
The site of the former Miegs Filed airport is now a 91-acre peninsula just south of the Adler Planetarium. The area boasts a 30-acre prairie reserve and, given its proximity to the Lake Michigan, is a popular "hang out" for migratory and resident birds. The prairie was burned for the first time in 2007 to manage invasive plants and encourage native prairie grasses.
In 2005 the city introduced a temporary concert hall that's reconstructed every year in accordance with the city's insistence on the area remaining a nature preserve. The venue holds more than 7,000 people and is a popular destination for boaters who seek some from-the-water entertainment. In December of 2010, the Chicago Park District announced its plans for Northerly Island over the next quarter of a century featuring educational themes and year-round use.
In the late 1800s, the construction of a breakwater system at the mouth of the Chicago River led to a buildup of sand just north of the area. As the space grew in size, it became a haven for squatters who claimed the newly formed land as their own. Naturally, this led to a bevy of property disputes.
Most famous, perhaps, is the land quarrel between the City and George Streeter in 1886. Streeter encouraged dumping around a small sandbar, which eventually turned into a sizeable island. He claimed this manmade oasis for himself, sold parcels to naïve buyers at the Tremont Hotel, and, to the bafflement of his neighbors, declared the area "The District of Lake Michigan" - neither a part of Chicago or Illinois. This, predictably, triggered a dispute between Streeter and the City that, at times, involved gun fights. Eventually, Streeter was evicted and the island was filled in, giving birth to the micro-neighborhood known today as Streeterville - and the home to Oak Street Beach.