Lincoln Park's North Avenue Beach is fun for all ages and is an excellent example of why Chicago is called the Third Coast (this Midwestern city has 26 beaches in total). Swim in Lake Michigan, and soak in the sun at one of Chicago’s most popular beaches .
As alarming as it may sound, in the 1830s, Lincoln Park was a public cemetery. Due to health concerns, the grounds were converted to park land, and over the years, Lincoln Park has expanded to cover more than 1,200 acres—a large chunk of which is now North Avenue Beach. The 22,000-square-foot beach house on North Avenue Beach has been a celebrated meeting place for Chicagoans since 1940, even though it's undergone significant renovations since that time (including being demolished and then rebuilt in 1999).
Inspired by the original building, the blue and white beach house, shaped like a marooned ocean liner, has an upper deck and portholes plus space for dining and hanging out. Situated along the Lakefront Trail, this is the place to be for a fun-filled afternoon or as a start off point for roller blading, running, biking, or walking along the trail.
What to Expect
North Avenue Beach is open every day of the week during the summer, from the end of May through Labor Day, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Swimming, however, is only permitted when lifeguards are present from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
There’s no smoking or drinking alcohol on the beach, and grilling must be done in designated areas only. For non-motorized sports (kayaking, canoeing, paddle boards, etc.), head to the “hook” at the south end of North Avenue Beach. Kiteboarding, however, is only allowed at Montrose Beach. There is an ADA-accessible beach walk, and Wi-Fi is available. Beach chairs and umbrellas may be rented through Boucher Brothers. ATM machines are available at the beach house.
Dogs are not allowed at North Avenue Beach. Instead, head to one of the other dog-friendly beaches—on Montrose Beach, dogs can run around without leashes, and at Belmont Harbor Beach, dogs must be leashed.
While parking is available (parking lot with pay gate), the park district recommends public transportation. CTA Buses, as well as Brown and Red L stops reach the beach.
Where to Eat
Visit Castaways Bar and Grill to cool off with something icy to drink. The first level has an ice cream café and walk-up stands for casual fare. The rooftop has great views and a party atmosphere, offering appetizers, a variety of sandwiches, healthy salads, and sugary desserts.
Shore Club Chicago is a new, fantastic place to visit, located on North Avenue Beach. Relax on the outdoor patio, stretch out in a cabana at The Oasis and dine in the restaurant for elevated Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Semi-private VIP experiences can be had with a reserved spot in The Oasis.
What to Do
Lakeshore Bike 'n Tune offers bike rentals for the day. Play roller hockey, dodgeball, and more at NAB Sports. Yoga fans will love outdoor sunrise and sunset beach yoga with Sun and Moon Beach Yoga. Rent wakeboards or paddle boards at Great Lakes Board Company, and check out lake kayaking with the full-service outfitter Kayak Chicago. For the truly adventuresome, rent a jet ski from Windy City Watersports.
A classic Chicagoan experience is renting a volleyball court and equipment and bringing all of your friends for a cool day in the sun. Call 312-742-3776 to set something up—courts rent for $10 per hour, plus an additional $10 for equipment.
Important to Note
The Chicago Park District conducts daily rapid water testing at North Avenue Beach to alert beachgoers to health issues associated with high levels of bacterial DNA. A flag system is implemented and should be followed: green flags indicate safe swimming conditions; yellow means caution, and red means that swimming is not permissible.
When you’ve had your fill of sand and sun, head to one of the many nearby Chicago attractions, including the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Conservatory, or Green City Market. If you’d like some nighttime comedic entertainment, hit up Second City’s performance art theater or Zanies Comedy Club. Millennium Park, one of Chicago's most visited destinations, is about two miles away.
For nearby noshes, check out Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder, The J. Parker, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Carmine’s, Geja’s Café, or Spiaggias. And, of course, you’re never too far from Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza—Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in the Gold Coast is under a mile away.