Top Chicago Beaches: From People Watching To Best Views

A Guide to the Very Best of the Windy City's Top Summer Attraction

With beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see, you may think you've gone from Chicago to southern California. The Chicago beaches listed below are free and open for swimming from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m., except where otherwise noted. --edited by Audarshia Townsend

  • 01 of 06

    Best of Chicago Beaches: People Watching at Oak Street Beach

    ••• Courtesy of Oak Street Beach

    Whether it's rollerblading, volleyball, relaxing and soaking in some rays or wanting to check out tiny swimwear, Oak Street Beach is steps away from the Magnificent Mile and a people-watching extravaganza right in the middle of a bustling Chicago. As one of the city's most accessible beaches, it's in walking distance to the likes of Drake Hotel Chicago, Intercontinental Chicago Hotel, Park Hyatt Chicago and Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

    • Location: 1000 N. Lake Shore Dr. at Oak Street
    • Transportation: CTA Bus #151 Sheridan Northbound
  • 02 of 06

    Largest of Chicago's Beaches: Loyola Leone Beach

    ••• Courtesy of City of Chicago

    At eight blocks long, Loyola Leone Beach is the largest in Chicago. Kid friendly with a play lot and stroller beach mats, this beach is also great for the sports enthusiast with baseball fields, basketball courts and a large bike rack. Hungry? Check out the excellent Heartland Concession stand.

    • Location: 7032 N. Sheridan Rd.
    • Transportation: CTA Bus #147 Outer Drive Express Northbound
  • 03 of 06

    Belmont Harbor underwent a major renovation in 2004, and now boasts a bike, walking and running path along with ample parking. Belmont Harbor is also home to Chicago's Yacht Club and the city's unofficial "dog beach," a fenced in beach area perfect for those traveling with their canine companion (more ideas for pampering pets in Chicago). The beach is adjacent to Boystown, which is home to a large number of Chicago's gay community, and Villa Toscana Guest House, the area's most notable bed & breakfast destination.

    • Location: 3200 N. Lake Shore Dr. at Belmont
    • Transportation: CTA Bus #146/151 Northbound
  • 04 of 06

    Best of Chicago Beaches for Athletics: North Avenue Beach

    Chicago's answer to Venice Beach, North Avenue Beach has a mini-gym (see also our guide to top local boutique fitness studios) as well as a biking and running path. It's also a popular destination for alfresco yoga classes. North Avenue Beach plays host to professional volleyball tournaments and the Chicago Air & Water Show. The busiest beach in Chicago, public transportation is advised, as parking is limited.

    • Location: 1600 N. Lake Shore Dr. at North Avenue
    • Transportation: CTA Bus #151 Sheridan Northbound
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Best Chicago Beach View: Evanston Beaches

    ••• Courtesy of City of Evanston

    Directly north of Chicago, Evanston is home to five beautiful beaches that offer great southern views of the Chicago skyline. Most of these beaches enjoy shallow water along with gourmet and ice cream concessions, which make them an excellent destination for families. It's also one of the few beaches where a season token or daily pass is required for beach admission during operating hours.

    • Location: Between Campus Drive and Dempster Avenue, Evanston
    • Transportation (by car): Sheridan Drive north
    • Admission: 12+ $8, children 1-11 $6
    • Hours: Memorial to Labor Day, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • 06 of 06
    ••• Photo courtesy of Alanscottwalker

    An ideal destination for families and furry friends, Foster Beach is located in the Edgewater neighborhood. It's not as trendy and touristy as Oak Street Beach or North Avenue Beach, making it perfect for those looking for a quieter alternative.

    • Location: 5200 N. Lake Shore Dr.
    • Transportation: CTA bus routes include #147, #151 and Red Line train stop at the Berwyn station