Okay Chicago, say it with me now: summer.
Finally, I think the nice weather is here to stay, and that could only mean one thing: it's beach season! (Pause for applause) We made it. Now that it's finally time to hit up the beach, here are a couple of my guidelines for the perfect beach day in Chicago.
I'd start the morning early at Jam N Honey in Lincoln Park. Jam N Honey is the perfect breakfast spot to grab a tasty bite to eat. With Nutella at every table, you might have to practice some self control until your full meal arrives. Speaking of their meals, the "Stuffed French," two slices of French toast stuffed with strawberry jam and cream cheese, will easily become best friends with your taste buds.
Now that you're stomach's full, it's time to hop in the water, as long as it's been thirty minutes of course. Of all the beaches, I would suggest the stretch from North Avenue to Fullerton Beach. This section of the beach offers some truly picturesque spots to lay down your towels. North Ave beach has plenty of beach volleyball courts, spaces to toss a football around, and if you're like a lot of people, spots to just relax and catch some rays. So sit, make sure to put on sunscreen, and soak in the Chicago summer sun.
If you need a break from the sun, you have a couple great options for both age groups. Just steps from the Fullerton exit is the Lincoln Park Zoo. As most everyone will agree, the best part of the Lincoln Park Zoo is its low price. It's so low, it's free! And who said nothing good is free? Just stroll in and stroll out with no worries, no checkpoints, and no hassles. Be sure not to miss Anana, the Zoo's polar bear, as she makes a splash and playfully greets zoo-goers in the underwater glass display.
Now, if you're 21 and older, make sure to make a pit stop at Castaways for some food and drinks. Located directly west of the beach volleyball courts is the large land dwelling restaurant and bar that's shaped just like a boat. It's called Castaways ... get it? Anyways, this is many beachgoers' favorite spot, as they usually have a DJ and always have a full bar. This year, you can rent a Castaway Cabana for you and your friends or family to relax on the top floor and wet your tongues with some great specialty drinks.
After your day in the sun, it's time to have a peaceful dinner and some ice cream at the delightfully old fashioned coffee shop, The Bourgeois Pig, or as known by locals, The Pig. That "homey" feeling you get when you walk in the door is attributed to the restaurant and coffee shop being in, just that, an old Victorian home. Take a seat in the living room, upstairs, or on the patio and enjoy perfectly blended coffee or tea. But don't stop there. Try their Zagat awarded sandwiches cleverly named after classic works of literature.
With the sand still in your shoes and the little energy you have left, stop by one of Chicago's outdoor drinking patios. Kelly's Pub on Webster and Sheffield is a great neighborhood patio as it has been a DePaul favorite for decades. It does tend to be a bit loud - not from the students, but from the "L" tracks located right overhead. If you want a more relaxed feel, visit Barn and Co, the Southern style bar and eatery that has a large patio and a great selection of beers on draft.
So there you have it. Get outside, enjoy the beach, because before you know it, you're going to be saying, "I can't believe it's winter again."
Kelly's Pub photo courtesy of: Richie Diesterheft via flickr (Creative Commons)