The Chicago Lakefront

chicago lakefront and beach
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With over 27 miles of Lake Michigan Shore, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some reasons to love the lakefront:

-It’s free. Enough said.

-Exercise! What a great reason to stop your gym membership in the summer! Ok, you arguably might sweat a little more, but hey that’s a great way to say goodbye to even more poundage. Even if you aren’t one for running, biking, or roller-blading, a nice leisurely walk provides a beautiful view of the lake and the skyline. On the North Side, the lakefront path is also lined with outdoor gym equipment and recommendations for exercises. Meet your new personal trainer.

-Oh, the people watching… The lakefront is full of colorful characters. I could spend hours watching those old guys play chess on the curve between North Ave. and Oak Street Beach. If you are lucky, you might get a glimpse of the “hi” guy. A Chicago lakefront staple for years, he rides his bike along the lakefront path with his old bicycle, decked out in all yellow with a colorful spinner hats and a sign that says “hi!” Back in my biking days (sigh, when I was fit and exercised) I often saw a guy riding his bike with a live, approximately 4 foot long snake coiled around his shoulders. It almost made me fall off my bike the first time I saw him. I also saw a guy riding with a parrot on his shoulder. When it comes to biking companions, I’d pick the parrot.

-The beach! The beach season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and yes, contrary to what those coasters (east and west alike) say, we do have a beach, and a pretty awesome one at that. It stretches for miles, and though Lake Michigan never gets that warm, the cold water is refreshing on a steamy 90 degree day in July. Most beaches are open from 11:00 – 7p.m. daily, but check out our Beaching It article for information on everything you want to know about a day at the beach.

-Soccer, tennis, baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball, skateboarding. Whatever your sport of choice, there is a place to do it along the lakefront path. Is boating a sport? It should be.

-Theater on the Lake, a Chicago Park District project, has been around since 1942. Though this 400-seat theater on the lake began as a community space, it now showcases some of Chicago’s best theater productions, including Steppenwolf, Second City, and the Chicago Theatre Company.

-It’s a great place to take the kiddies: tons of playgrounds!

-Lakefront dining. Who doesn’t love having a refreshing salad or burger and a fruity drink on the beach (come on boys, those fruity drinks are good). There are a couple restaurants and a myriad of street vendors that pop up in the warm weather that provide some good eats when you need to refuel from your 18 mile bike ride or that exhausting 3 hours of laying in the sun. Check out our reviews of Oak Street Beachstro and Castaways for recommendations!

-Best of all? Designated public land. The lakefront is public land that cannot be built on, so we can all enjoy it! YAY!

When in doubt about anything outdoorsy, check out the Chicago Park District website.
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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