Best Beaches in Chicago for Families
Who says you need an ocean to go to the beach? Chicago families can get their swimming fix by taking advantage of the “Midwest Coast” of Lake Michigan, or the many smaller lakes (and even repurposed former quarries) dotted throughout the suburbs. The best Chicago beaches for families include easy parking, bathrooms with changing facilities, concession stands for little snackers, and maybe a playground for when kids get tired of the water. Pack up your favorite beach gear and hit one of the best family-friendly beaches in Chicago and the suburbs.
Chicago Park District beaches reopen May 28, with the exception of Humboldt Beach, which currently plans to open later in the season. For families who prefer public transit, many of the Chicago Park District beaches are accessible by bus.
Best Chicago Beaches on the South Side
12th Street Beach —Northerly Island
Take a break from the Museum Campus with a trip to this Northerly Island beach. Beachgoers can enjoy tacos or hot dogs from Del Campos along with a beach house with restrooms. Paid lot parking or limited street parking are available for those who don’t want to take the bus or hike from the Roosevelt Red Line.
31st Street Beach/Margaret T. Burroughs Beach—Bronzeville
Located within Burnham Park, this beach has an ADA-accessible playground and a green-roof picnic area above an underground parking garage. It’s also near one of our favorite splash pads at 31st Street Harbor. Kids can watch boats take off from the dock, or fish off the public fishing pier at this Near South Side beach.
Margaret T. Burroughs Beach is great for kids!
Rainbow Beach—South Shore
Named for the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division that fought in World War I, this 142-acre beach and park has a comfort station and two playgrounds for smaller children. Basketball, tennis and handball courts, and baseball diamonds offer extra fun for bigger kids. Families can also tour the park’s community garden after a day of splashing.
Stroll along the sand at Rainbow Beach.
Best Chicago Beaches on the North Side Beaches
Less crowded but no less scenic than North Avenue Beach, this North Side beach offers a 2,750 square-foot beach house for convenient restrooms and shade. Kids can enjoy a nearby nature area in Lincoln Park, where migratory birds pass through at the beginning and end of the swim season. On Montrose Beach, families can enjoy food concessions, kayak and volleyball rentals, and restrooms with showers. Easy metered parking is available on or near Montrose Avenue.
Families with four-legged friends can enjoy the dog beach at the northeast end of Foster Beach. A variety of food concessions and bike rentals are included in the lakefront fun. The accessible beach has a restroom and changing facilities.
Ohio Street Beach—Streeterville
This is the only beach in Chicago that is oriented closer to east-west than north-south, making it ideal for open water swimming. Glide up to half a mile north without getting too far from the shore. Families can also buy concessions at Boucher Brothers or Caffe Olivia. Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent.
North Avenue Beach—Lincoln Park
One of the largest beaches in the city, this one gets crowded, but it's worth braving the crowds for all of the amenities and activities. Enjoy concessions at Castaways, a giant boat-shaped restaurant on the south side of the beach, or at Pronto Pups or Stefani's restaurant. Rent a bike, a beach volleyball court, or a wakeboard from various vendors at the beach. There's also yoga seven days a week. Make a whole day of it with a trip to nearby Lincoln Park Zoo or Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Relax on the shore and romp in water at the gorgeous Gillson Park and the Wilmette Beaches.
Best Suburban Chicago Beaches
Admission: $12 for kids 3-17 ($7 residents), $14 for adults ($9 residents), children under 3 are free; $4 after 5pm
New swimmers can take it easy on a beach with fewer waves at this historic quarry near the Naperville Riverwalk. The zero-depth beach slopes into a 15-foot swimming well for bigger kids. There’s also a shallow-end slide and several water play features, a sand volleyball and bag toss area, and a grassy picnic area near Centennial Grill. Family changing rooms with lockers help parents manage swim diapers, which are required. Special needs nights every other Sunday gives those with different sensory needs some splash time of their own.
Gillson Park and Beach—Wilmette
Open to Season Pass Holders only through Labor Day
Admission: $11 from 9am-6pm ($7 for residents), $6 from 6-8pm ($3 for residents)
This North Shore beach is loaded with amenities like a tot lot, lighted tennis courts, a fitness course, picnic areas, and a concession stand. New for 2021: Popular food truck vendor The Fat Shallot will be serving up sandwiches and treats at Gillson Beach.
The water's fine at Crystal Lake Main Beach
Crystal Lake Main Beach Swim Area—Crystal Lake
Admission: $4 ($1 for residents)
Visit the Far Northwest town’s namesake lake for its swimming and boating. The beach includes a playground, splash pad, concessions, and restroom with showers. Swimmers must stay within a buoyed area that increases in depth to more than five feet. The beach hosts several special events throughout the summer including fireworks, a kids' party in the park, a cardboard boat regatta, and Tuesday night concerts in the park.
Admission: $14 ($7 for residents); children under age 2 are free
This scenic North Shore beach has paddleboards, kayaks, sailboats, sand chairs, cabanas, and umbrellas available for families to rent. The sprayground, volleyball courts, and beach café offer lots of options for summer fun plus lunch or a snack. Shaded trellises and sun shelters keep little ones safe from the sun.
Harold Hall Quarry Beach—Batavia
Admission: $13 ($11 residents); children 2 and under are free
400 S. Water Street, Batavia
This 60,000 square-foot swimming area in the Far West suburbs includes islands, slides, and a diving area. A playground, concession stand, and picnic area offer fun on dry land. Kids under 30 months old must wear swim diapers, but the beach has them on hand for $1 for forgetful parents (or surprises).
Photos courtesy of the park districts
Places featured in this article:
31st Street Beach
Gillson Park & Beach
Crystal Lake Main Beach Swim Area
12th Street Beach
Harold Hall Quarry Beach
Ohio Street beach