When the summer sun is at its warmest, you'll find many Chicagoans flocking to the place they love best-the beach.
I'm not a big fan of getting messy in the sand, but if I'm fully prepared with snacks, find nearby parking and know what gear and goodies to bring, I usually can convince myself to visit one of Chicago's greatest treasures. Plus, it makes the kids happy.
Foster Beach, 5200 N. Lakeshore Drive, (312) 742-5121
The gold standard for Chicago beaches, Foster Beach is out of the way for the masses, but close enough so you can make a quick exit if needed. It's located in Edgewater, just between Foster and Ardmore avenues. Foster Beach's long pier makes a great spot for the air show come August if you don't want to fight the crowds at Oak Street or North Avenue.
Hollywood and Thorndale Beach, at Thorndale and Sheridan.
Hollywood Beach starts where Lake Shore Drive ends and it's one of the jewels of Chicago's lakefront. Once a favorite amongst the old Hollywood elite, now it's a pristine stretch of sand fit for the best family outing. Shallow water and a long boardwalk ramp are key to kiddie enjoyment. At Thorndale Beach, a grassy plain serves as a reserve for bird migration and butterflies.
12th Street Beach, Roosevelt Drive and the Lake.
If looking at the Adler Planetarium and Shedd in the distance aren't enough to put a smile on your face, the small sloping beach at 12th Street, one of Chicago's originals, are sure to make you happy. When you've petered out from the sun, you can pop into the planetarium for a peek at the stars. Look for metered parking to really put a sparkle in that summer day.
Skip Hop Central Park Outdoor Blanket and Cooler Bag
Because I like to stay cool and keep the sand out of my food-$45, Little Threads, 2033 W. Roscoe St.
Sand Play Set
Expensive, but this is the kind that won't crack from overuse-$20.99, Building Block Toys, 3306 N. Lincoln and 2130 W. Division St.
Because I have sensitive skin (an understatement), I've researched the safest choices for sunscreen. Elta MD, $28, and Burn Out Clean and Clear, $18, both available at Dermatology & Aesthetics of Wicker Park, 1455 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Beach hat and cover-up
Nothing ensures you won't burn from the sun or burn out of energy like a good hat and cover up. I hit up Londo Mondo, Chicago's resource for summer swim gear. 2148 N. Halsted St. or 1100 N. Dearborn St.
Treat for the feet
Being in the city means avoiding unmarked hazards. Beach shoes are a must. I like the hybrid sand/street shoes for kids like the Merrell Trail Glove at Nordstrom ($59). For adults, nothing beats a good ol' pair of rubber flip flops.
Sara Fisher is a mother of two living in Roscoe Village. She also blogs at selfmademom.net.
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