The Windy City may not conjure images of white, sandy beaches and swaying palms. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover some spectacular stretches of sand around Chicago. With the city’s over 28 miles of freshwater shoreline, the most beautiful beaches in Chicago offer some fantastic spots to kick back and relax.
Perched on the southwestern shore at the bottom of Lake Michigan, Chicago has over 20 pristine beaches stretching along its lakeside coast. From sunbathing, swimming, and stand-up paddling to world-class volleyball, oceanside dining, and having fun with your four-legged friends, Chicago’s sandy shorelines have something for everyone.
Wander through the dunes at Rainbow Beach Park and see flora native to the shores of Lake Michigan. Check out some incredible local artwork at Oak Street Beach, hang out with the whole family at Foster Beach, or enjoy a volleyball game at North Avenue Beach.
Chicago may only enjoy a few short months of weather warm about to hit the shores, but when the sun comes out, these lovely Chicago beaches are perfect for making the most out of the sunshine!
Situated in the vibrant Uptown neighborhood, Montrose Beach offers a delightful escape from the bustling city streets. One of the city’s hidden treasures, this stretch is a kiteboarder’s paradise, and the soft, powdery sand makes it the perfect spot for outdoor activities.
Enjoy sun-soaked relaxation or get the heart rate up with a game of volleyball or beach soccer. When the wind is up, hit the waves with a kiteboard, or rent a kayak or a paddleboard on calmer days. You’ll find a range of excellent amenities, from beach chairs to umbrellas. Montrose Beach is also dotted with food stands and concessions when hunger bites.
Montrose Beach is a dog-friendly area, and your canine companion can frolic and splash around in the designated dog-friendly zone, making it a beach experience the whole family, including the fur kids, can enjoy.
Along Chicago’s lakefront in the Edgewater neighborhood, Foster Beach is a local favorite for beach lovers and families. The expansive sandy shoreline is perfect for a fun-filled day with the family; the little ones will have a blast building sandcastles, splashing in the shallow waters, or dipping in the dedicated kiddie pool area.
Foster Beach boasts volleyball courts where you can join a friendly game with friends, plenty of food vendors, and snack stands offering everything from delicious beachside fare to refreshing ice-cold treats.
The nearby Foster Avenue Beach Park offers lush green spaces, picnic areas, and scenic walking paths if you don’t like sand. Your four-legged friends are also welcome!
Kathy Osterman Beach
Named for a beloved former alderman, Kathy Osterman Beach is another seaside gem. Also known as Hollywood Beach, Kathy Osterman Beach is known locally for its vibrant atmosphere and LGBTQ-friendliness. A beautiful waterfront promenade with colorful flowers runs along the sandy shoreline and boasts breathtaking lake views.
You’ll find loads of amenities and activities, from beach volleyball courts to kayak and paddleboard rentals for exploring the lake. Kathy Osterman Beach has a designated dog-friendly area where your pup can play, and plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options are within walking distance of the beach.
Stretching along the shore of Lake Michigan in the East Rogers Park community, Loyola Beach is the perfect spot for long beach walks. Amble along the 2/3-mile walking trail along the beach and soak up beautiful lake views, no matter what time of year you visit Chicago.
Popular with college students and families, Loyola Beach has a laid-back vibe. Be sure to check out ‘Windform,’ Lynn Takata’s 100-foot-long abstract concrete sculpture representing the movement of water.
There’s a playground for the little ones to burn energy, clean restrooms, and several concessions if you feel peckish.
Belmont Harbor Dog Beach
If you’re looking for a beach paradise for your furry friend, head down to Belmont Harbor Dog Beach. Situated in the Lakeview area of Chicago, Belmont Harbor Dog Beach offers a ‘wag-tastic’ beach experience like no other.
Belmont Harbor Dog Beach is fully enclosed, giving you peace of mind while your pup explores, and a dedicated off-leash area is perfect for letting the pooches run free. You’ll find plenty of seating areas to relax and watch the playful action unfold.
Parking is conveniently available nearby, so bringing your pup to the beach is hassle-free. And don’t worry about the cleanup – Belmont Harbor provides waste bags and receptacles to ensure a clean and enjoyable experience for everyone.
North Avenue Beach
If you’re looking to party, head to North Avenue Beach. This neighborhood beach in Lincoln Park draws a younger crowd who flock to enjoy summer sports during the day and party at the quirky Castaways beach bar by night.
North Avenue Beach is also home to NAB Sports, a one-of-a-kind facility where you can enjoy roller hockey, dodgeball, and fitness classes. You can rent bikes, kayaks, jet skis, and other water sports equipment for some fun in the sun.
Get to the beach early to stake your spot, as North Avenue is one of the busiest beaches in the city.
Oak Street Beach
In the glitzy Gold Coast neighborhood, Oak Street Beach is one of the city’s hottest spots in the summer. You’ll find everything you need for a perfect day on the water, from rental chairs and umbrellas to delicious food and drinks at Oak Street Beach Café.
Watch thrilling volleyball games at amateur and professional tournaments held throughout the summer and rent bikes from nearby concessions to explore the area.
Enjoy swimming in a safe zone between Division Street and the Chess Pavilion, and be sure to check out Jeff Zimmermann’s incredible mural titled, ‘You Know What You Should Do.’ The 260-foot-long mural along a wall parallel to the Lakefront Trail raises awareness about beach health and water quality.
Ohio Street Beach
If you’re an open-water swimmer, Ohio Street Beach is an ideal training site due to its unusual orientation. Situated next to Jane Addams Memorial Park in the Streeterville neighborhood, the north-facing beach is a favorite among locals from the area who come here to unwind.
Located within walking distance of Navy Pier with easy access via the Lakefront Trail, Ohio Street Beach has impressive views of Downtown Chicago. The flat, calm waters are perfect for swimming, and you can swim for over half a mile within easy reach of the seawall and shallow water.
Parking around Ohio Street Beach can be limited, so it’s a good idea to plan your visit accordingly. Use public transportation or ride-sharing services to make your trip hassle-free.
31st Street Beach
Another famous party beach is 31st Street Beach on the South Side. Also known as Margaret T. Burroughs Beach, the stretch of sand hosts a regular program of house music parties and dance events, making it a buzzing hotspot in the summer.
Named after the artist and community activist Margaret T. Burroughs, the sandy shoreline is perfect for sunbathing, building sandcastles, or beachcombing. You can rent chairs and umbrellas, and if you’re feeling adventurous, paddleboard and kayak rentals are available for exploring the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan.
31st Street Beach offers ample parking spaces, making it convenient to reach the beach by car.
For the ultimate wildlife experience, Rainbow Beach is a must! Situated on the South Shore, the beach spans over 60 acres of unique dune habitat known as the Rainbow Beach Dunes. This incredible landscape supports a wealth of native plants and wildlife unique to the Lake Michigan shores.
One of the coolest things to do in Chicago is to wander along the beach, looking for the unique fauna and flora endemic to the area. Take a dip in the cool waters or rent a canoe or kayak to explore the region from the water.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the Hot Girlz Grill, a fantastic concession stand run by six talented young women. The food stall serves mouthwatering treats like burgers, nachos, hot wings, and more. It’s the perfect spot to refuel and satisfy those cravings!