All city beaches have lifeguards on patrol 9am–9:30pm, Memorial Day–Labor Day.

  1. Millennium & Grant parks

    As well as a center for world-class art, music, architecture and landscape design, the 24-acre (10-ha) Millennium Park offers winter ice skating, interactive public art, al fresco dining and free classical music concerts. Together with the adjoining 19th century Grant Park, which hosts many of the city’s varied and vibrant festivals, it constitutes one of the finest, user-friendly green spaces in Chicago.

    Blues Festival, Grant Park
  2. Lincoln Park

    The greenway Lincoln Park stretches from North Avenue up to Hollywood Avenue, a recreational apron between lakefront and housing. In Chicago’s infancy, the southern portion of the park was a cemetery for Civil War dead, later ex­humed and interred elsewhere to make way for the park. Now it’s the North Side’s counterpart to Grant Park. Popular attractions such as Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum supplement the beaches, harbors, playing fields, and bike paths.

  3. North Avenue Beach

    Chicago’s most populist beach, North Avenue Beach attracts a broad range of urban-dwellers. Its lively ocean-liner-shaped bathhouse (which includes umbrella rentals, shower rooms, snack vendors, and a rooftop restaurant) makes it particularly family friendly. Rows of beach volleyball courts draw teams often made up of impromptu players, and a seasonal outdoor gym welcomes day use .

    Bathhouse, North Avenue Beach
  4. Oak Street Beach

    At the foot of the tony Gold Coast shopping lane, Oak Street Beach reflects its environs. Though just next to North Avenue Beach, you won’t see many children here. With its emphasis on flesh and flash, Oak Street is usually filled with toned bodies and tiny bikinis. Still, the crescent-shaped strand is the closest beach to the Magnificent Mile and makes a great place to stop and dip your toes after some serious shopping.

    Gold Coast seen from Oak Street Beach
  5. Jackson Park

    Laid out by the famed landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Jackson Park, along with its Museum of Science & Industry, is among the few developments still remaining from that World’s Fair. The Southside park includes a Japanese garden with waterfalls, colorful lanterns, and a bird sanctuary on an island in a peaceful lagoon.

    The Republic, Jackson Park
  6. Burnham Park

    Designed by and named for city planner Daniel Burnham, Burnham Park is the city’s green lawn rolling south from Museum Campus to Hyde Park. Like Lincoln and Grant parks, it is charted by the lakefront bike path, but unlike its northern counterparts Burnham Park’s section isn’t overrun, making this south-leg journey far more enjoyable. Along the way you’ll find basketball courts and beaches. The return trip north provides city skyline panoramas.

  7. Montrose Beach

    Stretching nearly to Wilson Avenue, Montrose is spacious where downtown beaches are jammed. Convenient for swimmers, this North Side spot includes a changing house and shower facilities. The vast playing fields wedged between the sand and Lake Shore Drive are the domain of Hispanic soccer clubs: on weekends their numbers draw Latin food and balloon vendors. Look for kayak rentals that launch here in summer.

  8. Foster Beach

    Near the northern end of the lakefront bike path, Foster Beach proves a timely spot to cool off. There’s a snack bar, and the nearby picnic tables and grills draw family crowds. A beachside basketball court hosts lively free-for-all games to which only the talented should apply.

  9. Olive Park

    A pocket-sized park just beside Navy Pier, Olive Park makes great strolling grounds. Jutting into Lake Michigan just off Ohio Street, it provides skyline views similar to Navy Pier’s though without the tourist mobs. Quiet and out of the way, this is one of the city’s most romantic parks.

  10. Washington Square

    Opposite the historic Newberry Library, Washington Square is a prime plot of Gold Coast for resting tired feet and gazing at the handsome 1892 building. The park’s ample benches tend to draw bookish sorts and picnicking office workers at lunchtime.

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