The Best Beaches in Chicago for Apartment Renters

Chicago has more than two dozen beaches and all of them feature spectacular skyline views, are easily accessible and are free to enjoy. Beach season officially begins the Friday before Memorial Day and continues through Labor Day, and swimming is permitted when lifeguards are on duty.

Like each of Chicago's neighborhoods, each beach has its own personality and attractions, both on the beach and nearby. Since the lakefront trail runs 18 miles along Lake Michigan, it's not difficult to get to many beaches by bike or public transportation.

For those driving, it's worth checking out where to park since it can and does get crowded at some beaches as the temperature rises. While several beaches and parks still have access to free parking, some have newly installed paid parking meters.

Regardless of how you get there, it's nice to know it's easy to swim or paddleboard in Lake Michigan during the summer months or lounge along its sandy shoreline year-round.

Here are 10 of the best beaches in Chicago to enjoy any time of the year.

1. North Avenue Beach

north avenue beach in chicago

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago / City of Chicago

North Avenue Beach is located at 1600 North Lake Shore Drive to Diversey Harbor in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and since it's so busy and popular, it has the largest lifeguard staff.

The beach hosts amateur and professional beach volleyball tournaments throughout the summer making it particularly fun and crowded during games. The annual Chicago Air and Water Show attracts more than a million people each weekend day so expect to come early to find a spot to lay your towel on the beach. There are a ton of restaurants in Lincoln Park so grab some food beforehand.

Parking can be a challenge in this area so it's best to take public transportation and walk to your spot.

2. Oak Street Beach

oak street beach in chicago

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago / City of Chicago

Oak Street Beach is a “see and be seen" kind of beach mixed with locals who really don't care about the scene. Oak Street Beach is close to downtown and part of the Gold Coast.

Grab a sandwich or salad at Whispers at Oak Street Beach, a restaurant and beach bar located right on the beach. There is no on-site parking at this beach although there are some parking garages within walking distance. (Tip: Take the bus or Red Line instead.).

3. Foster Avenue Beach

foster avenue beach in chicago

Photo source: Facebook / CAC Triathlon Club

Foster Avenue Beach is at 5200 North Lake Shore Dr. and most of the visitors are in or near the Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods.

Both nearby neighborhoods have fantastic food options to grab something to eat before you get to the beach. Otherwise, there are some food concessions at the beach as well as the ability to rent a bike. If you drive, expect to pay a parking meter.

4. Loyola Beach

loyola beach in chicago

Photo source: Facebook / Kimberlee Manns

Miles away from the busy beaches closer to the city center is the quieter and more easy-going Loyola Beach. Families, students attending Loyola University and local Rogers Park residents come for the calm and shallow water and nearby children's playground.

The beach is part of a large park which includes opportunities to enjoy other activities since it has a baseball and softball field, basketball court and tennis courts. On the north end of Loyola Beach is Leone Beach, which allows access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail for kayaking and canoeing.

5. Montrose Avenue Beach

montrose avenue beach in chicago

Photo courtesy of Megy Karydes

The largest beach in Chicago, Montrose Beach even includes a fenced-off section for dogs to enjoy as one of the few places in the city where dogs can be off-leash. Located at 4400 N. Lake Shore Dr., there is plenty of room for families and friends to sprawl with their umbrellas, chairs and towels.

Montrose Beach is the only beach that allows kite flying. One of the few places in the city with free parking, the area also has a grassy area where people can grill and picnic.

6. 12th Street Beach

12th street beach in chicago

Photo source: Facebook / Kim Cobb Harrison

Right at the edge of Northerly Island Park and located within the Museum Campus next to the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium is 12th Street Beach.

Del Campo's offers Mexican fare and hot dogs and a beach house includes restrooms. Street metered parking can be hard to come by in the area since it's near so many major attractions but there is a parking lot with a pay gate nearby. The 146 Inner Drive bus takes you there.

7. Rainbow Beach

rainbow beach in chicago

Photo source: Facebook / Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Council

Swim, canoe, paddleboard and more at Rainbow Beach and Park. There is a fitness center, handball courts and one of the oldest community gardens at this South Side beach located at 75th Street and Lake Michigan.

Metered parking is available for those who drive to this beach and park.

8. Kathy Osterman Beach (Hollywood Beach)

kathy osterman beach in chicago

Photo source: Facebook / Victor Lagos

Locals refer to Kathy Osterman Beach as Hollywood Beach since it's located near Hollywood Avenue at 4600 N. Lake Shore Dr. in Edgewater. The southern end of the beach is LGBTQ-friendly and the calm and shallow waters attract families with young children on the northern end. It's also popular among those who like to paddleboard and play volleyball.

Street parking near the beach is very limited since there are a lot of high-rise apartments and condos but the Bryn Mawr Red Line and several bus routes stop within walking distance.

9. 57th Street Beach

57th street beach in chicago

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago / City of Chicago

Located at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive in Jackson Park and near the Museum of Science in Industry, 57th Street Beach is family-friendly and quiet. 57th Street Grill offers hoagies, burgers and snow cones for those who didn't pack a picnic or just want to grab something right on the beach. Access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail for kayaks, canoes and paddleboards is allowed at the north end of the beach.

There is limited street parking nearby, just west of Lake Shore Drive. A number of bus routes also service this area.

10. South Shore Beach

south shore beach in chicago

Photo courtesy of Chicago Park District

Located within the South Shore Cultural Center Park, the South Shore Beach has a nature sanctuary, wetland, a circular beach house with restrooms and showers and more. The 65-acre also offers residents a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts.

Washburne Culinary Institute runs the Parrot Cage Restaurant inside the cultural center but for those who want something a bit faster, the South Shore neighborhood has several restaurants with a wide variety of cuisines.

Apartment dwellers have plenty of beach options in Chicago

There is no shortage of fun to be had in the various neighborhoods throughout Chicago. From free beaches to great food and so many attractions to enjoy, the Midwest city has a lot to offer its locals.

If you're looking for apartments for rent in Chicago, there are many options, from single-family homes to three-flats and high-rise apartment buildings.

This article fits under the following categories:

Megy KarydesAs a Chicago-based freelance writer, Megy Karydes has covered everything from space-aged tomato seeds grown in a Chicago Public School to Chicago Blues musician Lurrie Bell. Her work has been featured in USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Midwest Living magazine and other national and regional media outlets. When she's not out exploring the city with her two children and husband, she's perfecting her air hockey technique.

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