Mile after sandy, sun-soaked mile (26 to be exact) make your city escape look a lot like a beach vacation. 

Lakefront Trail Chicago

Dip your toes into the cool blue waters and silky sand along 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, boasting 25 free beaches and an 18.5-mile long bike path along the waterfront. 

Here are five of our favorite spots.

Locals' Pick: North Avenue Beach

  • Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
  • 1600 N. Lake Shore Dr. (North Avenue and Lake Shore Drive)
  • 11am-7pm daily

North Avenue Beach- Bike

Widely considered Chicago's most iconic beach, North Avenue is conveniently located just north of downtown Chicago in the picturesque neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Boasting a $7m dollar beach house and the immensely popular Castaways Bar & Grill, it's a favorite among locals and visitors to the city. You really can't miss it -- it's modeled after a sleek ocean liner, decked out in crisp blue and white, and boasting one of the best views of the city. 

Shore Club Chicago

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, along with the ever sought-after Shore Club (pictured above), with VIP cabanas. 

Jet Skiing on North Avenue Beach ©Adam Alexander Photography

Other recreational features include, bike rentals (plus repair and purchase) at Lakeshore Bike 'n Tune; roller hockey, dodgeball, fitness classes, hockey and dodgeball tournaments at NAB Sports; outdoor beach yoga with Sun and Moon Beach Yoga wakeboard and paddle board rentals with the Great Lakes Board Company, kayak rentals through Kayak Chicago, jetski rentals through Windy City Watersports, and volleyball court rentals ($10 per hour). Distance swimming is available at beaches 3 & 4 (north of boathouse), parallel to shore. 

Haute Sands: Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach with Hancock

Great people watching, a palm tree-covered oasis, and close proximity to downtown make Oak Street Beach the locals' favorite. If you want refreshments, escape to Oak Street Beach Food + Drink. If you want to check out street art, take the underpass for Jeff Zimmermann's muralYou Know What You Should Do.

Oak Street Beach

Beach amenities include chair rentals, bike rentals, volleyball rentals, restrooms and a spectacular view of the city skyline. This beach hosts a number of popular amateur and professional volleyball tournaments throughout the summer.

Beach Volleyball

Distance swimming is available parallel to the shore from Division Street to the Chess Pavilion (20 yards west of the buoys). An ADA accessible beach walk is also available. 

Alfresco dining at Oak Street Beach Chicago

Prairie Haven: 12th Street Beach

  • Downtown: South Loop
  • 200 S. Linn White Drive (Solidarity Drive and Linn White Drive) 
  • 11am-7pm daily

Northerly Island

The site of the former Miegs Field airport is now a 91-acre peninsula just a short walk from the Adler Planetarium. The area boasts a 30-acre prairie reserve and, given its proximity to 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.

FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island

Summer concerts set up on Northerly Island at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, so give the schedule a look for ticket availability for major headliners like Modest Mouse, Bryan Adams and 311.

12th Street Beach

The beach itself is very family friendly given its Museum Campus location, and offers spectacular skyline views as you walk its peninsula-like viewing point.

Dog Days: Montrose Beach

  • Neighborhood: Uptown
  • 4400 N. Lake Shore Dr. (Montrose Avenue and Lake Shore Drive) 
  • 11am-7pm daily

Dog Beach

Dogs love Montrose Beach as much as people do. As the largest beach in Chicago, Montrose Beach offers one of only a pair of Park District-run dog beaches in the city. A fenced off section on the northern end of the Montrose Beach Dog Friendly Area is open to playful pups, who are free to run without a leash and splash about in the water once inside the contained area.

The Dock Montrose Beach

The original beach house was designed by EV Buchsbaum, but unfortunately lost its east wing to a fire in the 1950s. Although never rebuilt, the structure was recently remodeled to include 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.

Beach amenities include food concessions, kayak and volleyball rentals, showers and restrooms. There's also a non-motorized boat launch and ADA accessible beach walk. Distance swimming is available from Tower 4 (north of the boathouse) and parallel to shore. South of the recreational beach is a natural area that attracts migratory birds during the fall and spring seasons. A serene dune habitat sees a variety of endangered plant life thrive.

Culture Station: South Shore Beach

Neighborhood: South Shore
7059 S. South Shore Dr. (within the South Shore Cultural Center)
11am-7pm daily

South Shore Beach

South Shore Beach is truly the whole package when it comes to cultural beach experiences. It's part of the South Shore Cultural Center, which is considered the jewel in the crown of this vibrant neighborhood. A magnificent country club-like interior offers a solarium, formal dining hall, the Paul Robeson Theater, the Washburne Culinary Institute, the Parrot Cage Restaurant (run by Washburne students), and the Dr. Margaret Burroughs gallery. The site itself, totaling 65-acre park, includes a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts and a circular beach house with restrooms and showers. The site is also home to the Chicago Police Department’s mounted unit.

What's more, South Shore Beach has its own nature sanctuary, sand dunes, a small wetland, prairie landscape, woodlands and wildlife habitats. Distance swimming is from south end rocks to trees at north end of beach, parallel to shore at boat line.

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