8 Chicago Beaches to Hit This Summer

There are dozens of beaches in the city, but these are the ones worth your days off

July 2, 2024 6:13 am
A sand beach in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan
You waited all winter for this. Get your toes in the sand, stat.
Blinked & Passed/Unsplash

Here in Chicago we’ve got 26 miles of lakefront, an 18-mile paved trail wrapping around it and more than two dozen totally free beaches, each with its own personality. So whether you’re looking for a beach party, a dog-friendly stretch or a family-friendly oasis to play in the sand this summer, you’ve got options. Here are our eight favorite Chicago beaches.

The perennially-lively Oak Street beach has Wifi, bathrooms and concessions
The perennially lively Oak Street beach has wifi, bathrooms and concessions
Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach

This is my favorite overall beach. My graduate school dorm was steps away, and this became my study spot one summer. It’s a lively beach, often packed with volleyball games, first dates and plenty of people unwinding before heading to the Gold Coast for dinner. It’s easy to spend hours here, as the Oak Street beach has wifi, bathrooms and concessions.

1100 N Lake Shore Drive

North Avenue Beach

Probably the most popular Chicago beach, and for good reason. They have an actual beachfront bar that’s packed the moment it opens, as this is the party beach. You’ll find lots of groups of teens and 20-somethings looking for a good time. To that end, you can rent a paddleboard, kayak or jet ski, play beach volleyball or dine either at Castaways (a casual bar and grill) or Shore Club, which is a more elevated experience.

1601 N Lake Shore Drive

South Shore Beach is tranquil and biodiverse, including a nature sanctuary, wetland, prairie landscape, sand dunes and woodlands
South Shore Beach is tranquil and biodiverse, with the Cultural Center just steps away
South Shore Beach

South Shore Beach

This is where you go for a quiet city escape. In addition to the lovely beach, there’s a nature sanctuary, a wetland, prairie landscape, sand dunes and woodlands. The South Shore Cultural Center is also steps away, and it’s got a restaurant, theater and solarium. Parking is very easy here, and it’s kid-friendly.

7059 S South Shore Drive

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Montrose Beach

If you have a dog, this will be your go-to beach. It’s got a fenced-off section so your pooch can swim and play leash-free. Plus, this is Chicago’s largest beach, so unless you decide to visit on Memorial Day or July 4th, you shouldn’t have any problems finding parking and a nice spot on the sand. When you’re hungry, head to the Dock at Montrose Beach, which is a patio sporting live music, beer and beach eats. Dogs are welcome there, too.

4400 N Lake Shore Drive

Loyola Beach is a quieter option set beside the Loyola University Campus
Loyola Beach is a quieter option set beside the Loyola University Campus
Loyola Beach

Loyola Beach

Another quiet option is Loyola Beach, which sits very close to the Loyola University campus — and therefore attracts lots of college students. Volleyball is a big deal here, and the beach sponsors amateur and professional tournaments. My favorite thing to do is to spend a few hours at Loyola Beach, followed by a stroll through the Glenwood Avenue Arts District, which is filled with stores, restaurants and art galleries.

1230 W Greenleaf Ave

12th Street Beach

Take your camera: This has the most stunning views of downtown Chicago. When you’re on the beach, you really feel like you’re on vacation — especially since it’s walking distance from some of Chicago’s best museums, including the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium. Parking is a little tricky, especially on the weekends, so give yourself ample time to find a spot. There’s a fantastic playground that was erected just a few years ago, complete with water features that will charm kids of all ages.

1200 S Linn White Drive

Hollywood beach is a fantastic party spot, and features a playground, dog park and migratory birding spot
Hollywood Beach is a fantastic party spot, and features a playground, dog park and migratory birding spot
Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach, aka Osterman Beach

It’s in Edgewater, but it’s called the Hollywood Beach because it’s close to Hollywood Avenue. This beach is where the LGBTQ+ crowd goes to party. The vibe is always hot, and the water is calm, which makes it a popular spot to chill. There’s a playground and dog park adjoining the beach, and there’s even a natural area that attracts migratory birds.

5800 N Lake Shore Drive

57th Street Beach

Located across the street from the Museum of Science and Industry, this calm, quiet beach is the place for picnics, swimming and playing in the sand. Didn’t BYO picnic? Grab some jerk chicken and lamb kabobs at Belly Up Ya Mon. There’s also wifi and an area reserved for non-motorized water sports.

5700 S Lake Shore Drive


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