"Wait, Chicago has legit beaches?" Videos keep trending on social media where people are surprised the Second City has picturesque beach hangs. If you didn't know better, you could mistake Lake Michigan for the ocean. While we'd love to keep it a not-so-hidden secret, our gorgeous coastline deserves the spotlight.
Chicago boasts 26 miles of sandy Lake Michigan beaches and an 18-mile Lakefront Trail. Public Chicago beaches open the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend and close for the season after Labor Day. With more than 20 free-to-access public beaches in Chicago, there's a spot on the sand for everyone to enjoy.
Beaches in Chicago are open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., but beachgoers may only swim in designated areas when lifeguards are present between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Before heading to the beach, check the Chicago Park District website for current swim conditions. Color-coded flags are updated throughout the day online and in person.
Looking for your go-to beach? Check out some of our favorites below, listed from north to south. All eight spots are ADA accessible, and all our picks have Wi-Fi except Loyola Beach and 63rd Street Beach. Scroll further down for an expanded list of Chicago beaches by neighborhood.
Loyola Beach attracts nearby college students for a day of sun and sand. Local families also love this spot for its convenient playground and shallow waters. Kids have a blast climbing on "Windform," a 100-foot-long concrete sculpture by Lynn Takata. The abstract piece welcomes visitors to the beach with undulations representing the movement of water. Activities at Loyola Beach include a nearly 2/3-mile walking trail, bike rentals, and volleyball courts. Chair rentals are also available.
Hollywood Beach (Kathy Osterman Beach)
Hollywood Beach, also known as Kathy Osterman Beach and Ardmore Beach, is the unofficial LGBTQ+ beach of Chicago. In addition to a vibrant social scene, the Edgewater beach has calm water and a lack of boat traffic, drawing many paddle-boarders. Paddle-board lessons and rentals are available for visitors. If you prefer distance swimming, practice parallel to shore at the boat line.
Montrose Beach is the largest beach in Chicago. The popular lakefront spot includes a little something for everyone. Did you know Montrose Beach is the only one to allow kiteboarding? Additionally, visitors may enjoy sailing and boat charters at the shore. Hungry beachgoers can savor casual eats and drinks at The Dock restaurant. Enjoy live music on the large beachside patio that welcomes dogs.
Speaking of canines, Montrose Beach features one of the only dog beaches in Chicago. On the northern end, dogs may swim and play without a leash in a fenced-off section. Montrose Dog Beach also has a great area where you can spray off your pup before heading home. (You'll find Domu's unofficial mascots here all summer long.)
The Uptown beach also includes a migratory bird sanctuary and a dune habitat to support endangered plant life.
North Avenue Beach
Look no further than North Avenue Beach for Chicago's hottest lakefront hangout. The Lincoln Park beach, with an epic city backdrop, is one of the busiest. Crowds flock here for paddle-boarding, kayaking, jet-skiing, playing volleyball, and renting bikes. With an iconic ocean-liner beach house, it's hard to miss North Avenue Beach. On the ship's top deck, you'll find Castaways Bar & Grill. Further down the beach, try Shore Club, an upscale dining experience where you can reserve a private cabana with bottle service.
Oak Street Beach
Oak Street Beach is a beautiful place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Chicago. Its proximity to Michigan Avenue makes it an excellent stop for visitors to the city. At Oak Street Beach, you get epic skyline views against a blue Lake Michigan oasis. Bike rentals, volleyball, distance swimming, and chair rentals are available at this Gold Coast beach. Oak Street also boasts Whispers, an upscale eatery on the beach with private cabanas.
31st Street Beach (Margaret T. Burroughs Beach)
Just south of downtown, Margaret T. Burroughs Beach stretches from 31st Street to 26th Street in Burnham Park. Also known as 31st Street Beach, the popular locale offers jet-skiing, boat rentals, kayaking, and paddle-boarding. If you're looking for a vantage point south of the city, this is the perfect spot.
63rd Street Beach
Woodlawn / Hyde Park
In Jackson Park, 63rd Street Beach features an impressive beach house completed in 1919. The elegant building is a Classical Revival style pavilion with open balconies and ground-floor galleries. Kids will enjoy an interactive spray fountain and playgrounds at the lakefront park. This South Side beach also supports migrating birds with a designated natural habitat.
Rainbow Beach features one of the best skyline views of Chicago, especially at sunset. The historic Chicago beach was named for a U.S. Army division that fought in World War II. Completed in 1908, the beach was popular among workers who could enjoy it at night thanks to rare electric lighting. Visitors to Rainbow Beach also have the opportunity to stroll through one of the city's oldest public gardens that sit adjacent to the sandy shore. The Rainbow Beach Dunes to the north support plants and wildlife native to the area.
Chicago Beaches by Neighborhood
- Marion Mahony Griffin Beach (Jarvis Beach)
- Leone Beach
- Loyola Beach
- Helen Doria Beach
- Hartigan Beach
- Tobey Prinz Beach
- North Shore Beach
- Lane Beach
- Hollywood Beach (Kathy Osterman Beach)
- Foster Beach
- 31st Street Beach (Margaret T. Burroughs Beach)
- Oakwood Beach
Woodlawn / Hyde Park
- South Shore Beach
- Rainbow Beach