Chicago’s stunning skyline soars over 26 miles of uninterrupted lakefront, including 24 free public beaches. Whether you’re looking to swim, kayak, paddleboard, sip cocktails, or just soak in the sun, there’s a sandy Chicago beach for you.
First, a few tips: Beach season officially runs from late May through early September, though you can enjoy the view of the waves and sand from the Lakefront Trail all year long. Swimming is only allowed when lifeguards are on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. You can check the Chicago Park District for the most recent updates on beach hours and water conditions.
Ready to dive in? Here’s our guide to just a few of Chicago’s best beaches.
North Avenue Beach
A people-watching haven, North Avenue Beach in Lincoln Park is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches. With more than 50 volleyball courts, kayaking, jet ski rentals, and plenty of sand and sun, it fills up quickly during holidays and special events, like the Chicago Air & Water Show. Looking for a bite? Located on a land-locked ship, Castaways burgers, frozen cocktails, and rooftop seating cater to hungry beach-goers. Or head to the Shore Club for craft cocktails in a super chic space.
Montrose Beach in the Uptown neighborhood is a favorite with swimmers, kayakers, bird watchers, and dog owners. Watch pups splash around in the fenced-in dog area or head to the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary to spot waterfowl, migratory birds, and other winged beauties. The Dock at Montrose Beach is a scenic spot to grab a bite while enjoying views of the water and the occasional live band.
Oak Street Beach
Fabulous views of the city and the close proximity to Michigan Avenue make Oak Street Beach a beloved hangout for visitors and locals alike. Wander along the scenic Lakefront Trail, arrange a game of beach volleyball, or simply lounge on the sand. To fuel up, it’s a short stroll to The Magnificent Mile to choose from loads of amazing restaurants.
A little farther north, you’ll find a tranquil atmosphere at Loyola Beach, where shallow waters and a playground make it a family favorite. Nearby, the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in the Rogers Park neighborhood offers vibrant murals, music venues, theaters, art galleries, and a mix of shops and restaurants.
12th Street Beach
Nestled on lake-facing side of Northerly Island, 12th Street Beach feels like a secluded haven while still being easily accessible from downtown. Hop in the water, snack on tacos from a nearby stand, and watch boats bob up and down in Lake Michigan. Less than a mile away, Museum Campus has plenty to explore, including Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum.
57th Street Beach
Thinner crowds make 57th Street Beach an ideal spot for picnicking or building sandcastles. Tucked in the Hyde Park neighborhood, the beach also offers an area for deep swimming and is the perfect stop after exploring the Museum of Science and Industry across the street.