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Chicago’s Hidden Gems – The Best Beaches In The Windy City

Chicago, also known as the Windy City, is not just a bustling metropolis of towering skyscrapers and vibrant city life. It is also home to some hidden gems that offer a haven of tranquility and relaxation amidst the urban chaos.

Surprisingly, Chicago boasts a stunning array of beautiful beaches that are often overlooked by both tourists and locals. In fact, did you know that Chicago has over 26 miles of sandy shoreline along Lake Michigan? These picturesque beaches provide the perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, allowing visitors to unwind and soak up the sun.

From the expansive Montrose Beach to the lively North Avenue Beach, each beach offers its own unique charm and attractions. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or a lively beach scene, Chicago’s hidden gems have something for everyone.

Join us as we explore the best beaches in the Windy City and discover the freedom and serenity they offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Chicago’s beaches along Lake Michigan offer stunning views of the city skyline and Navy Pier, providing a tranquil and scenic escape.
  • These hidden gem beaches provide a haven of tranquility and relaxation amidst the urban chaos, making them a favorite among locals and tourists.
  • Families can enjoy family-friendly beaches with calm waters, spacious picnic areas, playgrounds, and activities like sandcastle building and beach volleyball.

– The South Loop location of some of these beaches offers a unique and lesser-known beach experience, with amenities like hidden restaurants, unique shops, and nearby cultural institutions and parks.

Montrose Beach


Montrose Beach, one of Chicago’s hidden gems, offers visitors a tranquil and scenic escape along Lake Michigan’s shores. Tucked away in the Uptown neighborhood, this beach provides a serene oasis amidst the bustling city.

With its soft sandy shores and crystal-clear waters, Montrose Beach attracts locals and tourists alike who seek solace and relaxation. The beach boasts a wide range of amenities, including volleyball courts, picnic areas, and a dog-friendly section, making it a versatile destination for all types of visitors.

Additionally, Montrose Beach offers stunning views of the Chicago skyline and Navy Pier, adding to its allure. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, take a refreshing swim, or simply enjoy a peaceful walk along the shore, Montrose Beach is the perfect hidden gem to fulfill your desires.

North Avenue Beach

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, North Avenue Beach is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. This expansive beach offers a wide range of activities to enjoy.

One of the highlights of North Avenue Beach is its beach volleyball tournaments, which attract both casual players and competitive teams.

The beach also boasts a variety of beachfront dining options, allowing visitors to indulge in delicious meals while enjoying the scenic views.

Water activities such as swimming and paddleboarding are also available for those looking to cool off in the lake.

North Avenue Beach provides ample amenities, including restrooms, showers, and beach chair rentals.

For those seeking relaxation, beachfront rental options, beachside bars, and beachfront yoga classes offer opportunities to unwind and rejuvenate.

Whether you’re looking for an active day by the water or a tranquil retreat, North Avenue Beach has something to offer for everyone.

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach offers visitors the opportunity to admire stunning views of the city skyline. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, this beach provides a picturesque backdrop of towering skyscrapers against the glistening waters.

Additionally, visitors can take a leisurely stroll on the Lakefront Trail, which runs alongside the beach, offering a scenic route for walking, jogging, or biking.

Lastly, Oak Street Beach is known for hosting various events and festivals throughout the year, providing a vibrant atmosphere for both locals and tourists to enjoy. From concerts to beach volleyball tournaments, there is always something exciting happening at this lively beach destination.

Admire the Stunning Views of the City Skyline

From various vantage points along Chicago’s scenic beaches, one can delight in the breathtaking panoramas of the city’s iconic skyline. The city skyline views offered by these hidden gems are truly mesmerizing.

As the sun sets, the towering skyscrapers illuminate the night sky, creating a captivating display of lights. The contrast between the pristine sandy beaches and the urban landscape is striking, providing a unique experience for visitors.

Alongside these stunning views, beachfront restaurants offer the perfect setting to enjoy a meal while taking in the beauty of the city. The combination of delicious food and the picturesque backdrop of the Chicago skyline creates a truly unforgettable dining experience.

Whether you’re a resident or a tourist, admiring the stunning views of the city skyline from Chicago’s hidden beach gems is a must-do activity.

Take a Stroll on the Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail offers an extensive pathway for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy, stretching over 18 miles along the shoreline. This scenic walking trail is one of Chicago’s hidden gems, providing visitors with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline.

As you stroll along the trail, you’ll pass by various lakefront activities, such as beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and playgrounds, creating a vibrant atmosphere that caters to people of all ages.

The trail is well-maintained and offers a smooth surface, making it perfect for leisurely walks or brisk jogs. Whether you’re a nature lover, fitness enthusiast, or simply looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the Lakefront Trail provides a serene and picturesque setting that allows you to unwind and appreciate Chicago’s beauty.

Attend Events and Festivals at the Beach

One exciting aspect of the lakefront experience is the opportunity to attend a variety of events and festivals at the beach.

Chicago’s beaches are not only great spots for relaxation and recreation, but they also offer a vibrant cultural scene. Throughout the summer months, the beaches come alive with concerts and live performances. Whether you are a fan of jazz, rock, or classical music, there is something for everyone. The sound of music fills the air as talented musicians entertain beachgoers with their captivating performances.

In addition to concerts, many of the beaches host spectacular firework displays, especially during holidays like the Fourth of July. Watching fireworks illuminate the night sky over the glistening lake is truly a magical experience.

So, if you’re looking for a unique and memorable way to enjoy the beach, attending events and festivals is definitely worth considering.

Ohio Street Beach

Ohio Street Beach is a popular destination for families looking to enjoy a day at the beach in Chicago. With its calm waters and spacious shoreline, it offers a family-friendly atmosphere where children can play and swim safely.

Additionally, visitors can rent kayaks and paddleboards to explore the lake and add some excitement to their beach experience.

Furthermore, Ohio Street Beach’s prime location provides easy access to nearby attractions such as Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile, allowing visitors to make the most of their time in the city.

Enjoy a Family-Friendly Atmosphere

Apt for families seeking a harmonious haven, Chicago’s beaches offer a delightful and dynamic destination. With a plethora of family-friendly activities and beach games, these hidden gems provide an ideal setting for a fun-filled day by the waterside.

From building sandcastles to playing beach volleyball, there is no shortage of entertainment options for both children and adults alike. The beaches boast spacious picnic areas and playgrounds, allowing families to enjoy a leisurely lunch while the kids explore and play. Lifeguards are on duty, ensuring a safe environment for everyone to relax and unwind.

The vibrant and lively atmosphere creates a sense of freedom, allowing families to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and connect with nature. Whether it’s a game of beach soccer or simply basking in the sun, Chicago’s family-friendly beaches offer an unforgettable experience for all.

Rent Kayaks and Paddleboards

Visitors to the beaches of Chicago have the opportunity to engage in a thrilling water activity by renting kayaks and paddleboards. Chicago offers a variety of rental options for water sports enthusiasts looking to explore the city’s stunning shoreline.

From the majestic Lake Michigan to the serene Chicago River, there are plenty of scenic spots to paddle and explore. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, renting a kayak or paddleboard allows you to soak in the beauty of the city from a unique perspective.

Glide through the calm waters, feel the gentle breeze against your face, and marvel at the iconic skyline. With rental shops conveniently located near the beach, it’s easy to embark on an exciting water adventure during your visit to Chicago.

Take Advantage of the Nearby Attractions

One can fully immerse themselves in the diverse range of entertainment options that surround the area, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a well-rounded vacation experience. When visiting Chicago’s hidden gem beaches, don’t miss out on the nearby attractions that add to the allure of the Windy City.

Here are three sub-lists to help you enjoy your time:

  • Nearby Restaurants: After a day of sun and sand, indulge in the culinary delights offered by the nearby restaurants. From casual beachside cafes to upscale dining establishments, there is something to satisfy every palate. Enjoy fresh seafood, mouthwatering Chicago-style pizza, or international cuisine options that showcase the city’s diverse culinary scene.
  • Outdoor Activities: In addition to the beach, the area offers various outdoor activities to keep you engaged. Explore the nearby parks and nature reserves, go for a bike ride along the scenic trails, or try your hand at beach volleyball. For a more adventurous experience, consider renting a jet ski or taking a boat tour to explore Lake Michigan’s stunning coastline.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Chicago’s hidden gem beaches by exploring the nearby restaurants and engaging in the plethora of outdoor activities available.

12th Street Beach

The South Loop of Chicago is home to a hidden gem known as the 12th Street Beach.

This secluded stretch of sand offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a peaceful and tranquil setting away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Surrounded by the beauty of nature, visitors can also take advantage of the nearby Museum Campus and parks, providing a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration.

Visit a Hidden Gem in the South Loop

Located in the South Loop, a hidden gem awaits those seeking a unique and lesser-known beach experience in Chicago.

This hidden gem offers a refreshing escape from the bustling city, with its serene atmosphere and picturesque views. The beach is surrounded by tall buildings, creating a sense of urban charm. Visitors can indulge in the tranquility of the beach while enjoying the cool breeze from Lake Michigan.

In addition to its natural beauty, this beach also offers a range of amenities, including hidden restaurants and unique shops. These hidden gems provide a delightful break from the usual beach fare, offering a chance to discover new flavors and shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an adventurous outing, this hidden gem in the South Loop is sure to satisfy your desires.

Relax in a Peaceful and Tranquil Setting

Nestled within the South Loop lies a tranquil setting that offers visitors a serene and peaceful ambiance, allowing for a moment of relaxation and rejuvenation away from the bustling city.

This hidden gem is a haven for those seeking solace in the midst of urban chaos. With its peaceful setting and tranquil atmosphere, it serves as an oasis in the heart of Chicago.

The lush greenery and gentle breeze create a soothing environment, inviting visitors to unwind and let go of their worries. Whether you prefer to sit quietly by the water’s edge or take a leisurely stroll along the sandy shore, this hidden gem provides the perfect escape from the demands of everyday life.

With its calming surroundings and serene beauty, it is no wonder that this tranquil setting has become a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Explore the Nearby Museum Campus and Parks

Adjacent to the tranquil setting lies a sprawling museum campus and parks that offer a myriad of cultural and recreational activities for visitors to engage in.

The museum campus is home to some of Chicago’s most renowned cultural institutions, including the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. These institutions boast impressive collections and exhibits that cater to a wide range of interests, from natural history to astronomy.

The parks surrounding the museum campus are not to be overlooked either. They offer beautifully manicured gardens, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic with friends and family. Moreover, these parks are teeming with local wildlife, providing a unique opportunity for nature enthusiasts to observe and appreciate the diverse flora and fauna that call Chicago home.

Whether you’re looking to explore nearby gardens or discover local wildlife, the museum campus and parks offer a refreshing escape from the bustling city life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the parking options available near Montrose Beach?

Near Montrose Beach, there are several parking options available, including metered street parking and a nearby parking lot. Additionally, North Avenue Beach offers a range of amenities, such as beach volleyball courts, concessions, and bike rentals, ensuring a pleasurable experience for visitors.

Are there any water sports or activities available at North Avenue Beach?

Water sport rentals, including jet skis and paddleboards, are available at North Avenue Beach. Additionally, beach volleyball tournaments are regularly held, providing an exciting opportunity for both participants and spectators to enjoy the energetic atmosphere of this popular beach.

Can I bring my own grill and have a barbecue at Oak Street Beach?

Grilling regulations at Chicago beaches prohibit bringing personal grills to Oak Street Beach. However, there are designated picnic areas with tables and grills available for public use, offering a perfect spot for a barbecue while enjoying the scenic beauty of the beach.

Is there a lifeguard on duty at Ohio Street Beach?

Ohio Street Beach provides a safe environment for beachgoers with the presence of lifeguards on duty. This ensures that visitors can enjoy their time at the beach while feeling secure and protected.

Are there any nearby restaurants or cafes to grab a bite to eat after visiting 12th Street Beach?

Nearby restaurants and cafes are plentiful after a visit to 12th Street Beach. Visitors can enjoy a variety of dining options, from casual eateries to fine dining establishments. Additionally, for those looking to have a picnic near Montrose Beach, there are several ideal spots available.


Chicago is home to some of the best beaches in the Windy City. Montrose Beach offers a peaceful escape with its wide sandy shores and beautiful views of Lake Michigan.

North Avenue Beach is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, with its vibrant atmosphere and various amenities.

Oak Street Beach is perfect for those looking for a more upscale beach experience, with its proximity to downtown and stunning skyline views.

Ohio Street Beach is a hidden gem, ideal for sunbathing and swimming.

Lastly, 12th Street Beach is a favorite among families, with its calm waters and picnic areas.

Despite the city’s reputation for being cold, Chicago’s beaches are a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a fun and relaxing summer getaway.

Anticipated Objection: ‘Chicago is known for its harsh winters, so why would anyone want to visit its beaches?’

Response: While it is true that Chicago experiences cold winters, the city’s beaches are a completely different story during the summer months. With temperatures reaching comfortable highs and the refreshing breeze from Lake Michigan, Chicago’s beaches offer a unique and enjoyable beach experience. Whether you’re looking to sunbathe, swim, or simply enjoy the stunning views, Chicago’s beaches are a hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed. So, don’t let the city’s winter reputation deter you from exploring its beautiful shores.