Just because you’re in the Windy City and there’s a million things to do doesn’t mean you can’t just chill out at the beach. Bring a few friends and a six pack, soak up the sun with your significant other, or even just beach cruise as you watch people around you. What you do at the beach doesn’t matter- it only matters if you enjoy it.

Top Beaches in Chicago

Getaway Beaches

Fargo Beach – A little known part of the northern side of Chicago, it lends itself to the community as a picturesque place to let the world pass you by. It’s not your traditional beach, but its definitely a place to be when you want to have an intimate walk or just somewhere to call you own.

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Whiting Gun Club

Whiting Gun Club – May not be the most accessible or picturesque beach to be a part of, but if you’re planning on surfing, this is somewhere to go. Though there are a few decent beaches closer to Chicago, Whiting Gun Club features some of the best breaks and biggest waves in the area. Be careful though since all Chicago laws are still in effect and a bodysuit is heavily advised since the good waves come when its colder. Who cares when you can actually surf and not have to lay in some other beach hoping for a decent wave?

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People Watching

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach – The one of the most popular beaches and unfortunately, the most crowded. However, out of all the beaches, it is one of the most accessible ones making it a definite place to visit if you don’t feel like making the effort to go too far. The bonus is, it has the largest space for sunbathers and is far enough from the noise of the city to enjoy. With large crowds and a vast expanse to sunbathe make Oak Street Beach a prime place to enjoy people watching.

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Loyola Park Beach

Loyola Park Beach – Finding a good place to take the family and not get trampled by the crowds at North Avenue or Oak Street is a difficult task. Luckily, Loyola Park is all about being the beach for a family. Its significantly cleaner and even has a playground so your little one can exhaust all that energy so he/she doesn’t exhaust you. There’s plenty of police and lifeguards around making this beach all the more family friendly.

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Kathy Osterman Beach (Previously Hollywood Beach) – Possibly one of the best beaches to go in general, this is a well-maintained beach with a large volleyball area and tons of places to grab a bite. The water is absolutely gorgeous and is one of Chicago’s best kept secrets. People of all ages go, and its lax (currently) policy on alcohol makes it a great place to just rest with friends. This beach is a general catch-all. It’s far enough to be pleasant and close enough to be accessible, it has plenty of people of all kinds, and on off-season (from Memorial Day to Labor Day), it serves as a surfing ground.

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The Main Beach

Chicago Air and Water Show

North Avenue Beach – If you’re from Chicago, you’ll know exactly what, where, and how this beach is. It is Chicago’s “Best” beach meaning its also one of the most crowded ones. There is plenty to do around the area from shopping and eating to volleyball and bike-riding. The main attraction is the Air and Water show held once a year. Aside from that, you can sit and enjoy the city skyline as you experience the most energetic of all the beaches.

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Make sure to also check out our guide to Chicago festivals in 2013.