Chicago Guest House's Guide to Exploring Chicago's Beaches

Our Favorite Beachfront Hangouts!

Chicago boasts 26 miles of shoreline, 26 free beaches and an 18.5-mile long bike path along the waterfront. While most cities build industrially all the way up to their respective waterfronts, Chicago's remains an open playground to the public. Beaches & restaurants are 'technically' open from Memorial Day to Labor day. Nowhere to dine at the end of the summer,  but you'll never people off the beach if the sun is shining in Chicago! 
Chicago's Shoreline
1600 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Probably Chicago's most popular beach as it is conveniently located in Lincoln Park just east of the Lincoln Park Zoo. The beach hosts international volleyball tournaments like Volleywood and the AVP Chicago open. Beach volleyball and yoga are just a few of the activites you can pick up while you're there. It's also a popular vantage point for the always exciting Chicago Air and Water Show.

Castaways Bar and Grill is the best location on North Avenue Beach for great food and ice cold drinks. The first level features an ice cream café and beachside burgers with casual walk-up stands. The rooftop features tasty appetizers, sandwiches, fresh salads and refreshing desserts.

Cast-A-Ways beach side restaurant at North Avenue Beach Chicago
Magnificent Mile & Gold Coast 
1000 N. Lake Shore Dr. 
GREAT people watching, a palm tree-covered oasis and close proximity to downtown make Oak Street Beach a sure bet. 

Oak Street Beachstro on Oak Street Beach in Chicago
In the late 1800s, the construction of a breakwater system at the mouth of the Chicago River led to a buildup of sand just north of the area. As the space grew in size, it became a haven for squatters who claimed the newly formed land as their own. Naturally, this led to a bevy of property disputes. Most famous, perhaps, is the land quarrel between the City and George Streeter in 1886. Streeter encouraged dumping around a small sandbar, which eventually turned into a sizeable island. He claimed this manmade oasis for himself, sold parcels to naïve buyers and to the bafflement of his neighbors, declared the area "The District of Lake Michigan" — neither a part of Chicago or Illinois. This, predictably, triggered a dispute between Streeter and the City that, at times, involved gun fights. Eventually, Streeter was evicted and the island was filled in, giving birth to the micro-neighborhood known today as Streeterville — and the home to Oak Street Beach.
Historic picture of Streeter marking his home at Streeterville in Chicago
Downtown on the site of the former Miegs Filed airport is now a 91-acre peninsula just a short walk from the Adler Planetarium.

The beach itself is very family friendly given its Museum Campus location, and offers spectacular skyline views as you walk its peninsula-like viewing point.  Summer concerts set up on Northerly Island.
12th Street Beach in Chicago
Meigs Field 1948 to 2003---Airpport located on Northerly Island. It was the only lakefront structure to be built based on Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. The island was to be populated by trees and grass for the public enjoyment by all.

In 1994, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced plans to close the airport and build a park in its place. In 2001, a compromise was reached between Chicago, the State of Illinois, and others to keep the airport open for the next twenty-five years. However, the federal legislation component of the deal did not pass the U.S. Senate.  
Airplanes on the runway at Meigs Field
​​In a controversial move on the night of Sunday, March 30, 2003, Mayor Daley ordered city crews to destroy the runway immediately by bulldozing large X-shaped gouges into the runway surface in the middle of the night with no notice to the FAA or the owners of planes! "To do this any other way would have been needlessly contentious," Daley explained the next morning. He defended his actions, described as "appalling" by general aviation interest groups, by claiming it would save the City of Chicago the effort of further court battles before the airport could close. He claimed that safety concerns required the closure, due to the post-September 11 risk of terrorist-controlled aircraft attacking the downtown waterfront near Meigs Field. What ever---he wanted his park and he was going to do what ever he wanted to get it. 
dug up and destroyed Meigs Field
​​"The issue is Daley's increasingly authoritarian style that brooks no disagreements, legal challenges, negotiations, compromise or any of that messy give-and-take normally associated with democratic government," the Chicago Tribune editorialized."The signature act of Richard Daley's 22 years in office was the midnight bulldozing of Meigs Field," according to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn.  "He ruined Meigs because he wanted to, because he could,"     
south shore beach in Chicago
Southshore Beach at 71st 
Grab a bike and pack a picnic and start heading south. You'll come upon, Rainbow Beach, Ash Beach, 63rd Street Beach and South Shore. The most quiet, peaceful beaches in Chicago! It's a hike but well worth the trip if you're looking to escape the crowds.