Chicago’s Beaches…Yes! We Have Real Beaches!

lake michigan beach

There is just nothing better than a day at the beach in my opinion. Spend it with good company, good food, and a cocktail or two and you’ve pretty much created the perfect day. There are 26 beaches available along the approximately 27 mile lakefront stretch for residents and visitors alike to enjoy a day in the sun. The official beach season (with lifeguards present) runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day each summer. Lifeguards are on duty from 11a.m.-7p.m. at all beaches except Leone, Montrose, North Avenue, 31st Street, 63rd Street, South Shore, and Calumet, which open at 9:30am, and swimming is only permitted when lifeguards are present. Beaches are cleaned daily by the Chicago Park District.

The most important thing to be aware of is beach conditions, and thus the color of the flags on the lifeguard stands or beach house. If the flag is green, enjoy your lovely day at the beach. If it’s yellow, there is a swim advisory in effect. This could be due to the conditions of the weather or the water, so just be cautious and be aware of changes. If you see a red flag flapping in the wind, you’ll have to be content with a day in the sand, as no swimming will be allowed. The Chicago Park District tests water quality five times a week to make sure you are swimming in safe, clean water. High levels of E.coli bacteria can cause illness, which is often the cause for a red flag. Keep in mind E.coli presence may vary by beach; if North Avenue has a red flag, call and see if Montrose has one too. Also, don’t get too freaked out by an E.coli closure, high levels of E.coli can be caused by everything from high temperatures to fecal droppings from seagulls. Another reason not to feed them!

Want to feed yourself? There are numerous food vendors and a couple restaurants along the lakefront, so sit down and enjoy some lunch or grab a hotdog for the road. Alcohol is illegal on Chicago Park District property, so if you want a fruity frozen drink or an ice cold beer head to either Castaways at North Avenue Beach or Oak Street Beachstro at Oak Street Beach. You can, of course, bring your own food, but be aware that grilling is only allowed in designated areas. Glass and smoking are also prohibited on the beaches. The main thing to remember is to keep this awesome public space clean. Throw aware your trash and be courteous of others. And have fun!

Each beach has a different vibe, so choose wisely depending on the day and your mood. If you wanna get rowdy on a Saturday, head to North Avenue. Oak Street Beach offers a more low-key experience, though the young and beautiful still flock here just as much. Have a furry friend at home you would like to take with you to the beach? Head to the dog friendly area just north of Montrose Beach at Wilsen Avenue. That Golden Retriever of yours who is dying to splash around a bit will love you just a little more that day.

Parking is limited, so we recommend takign public transportation to the beach. Even better? Walk, run, roller blade, or bike! There are plenty of bike racks along the lakefront, so you can lock it up and head for the water.

For questions regarding Chicago’s Beaches, call 312-74BEACH (312-742-3224) or 312-742-PLAY (7529), or check out the Chicago Park District website here.

Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.

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