Beach bumming: 7 of the best places for sand and sun

With 31 beaches, the Chicago lakefront has a spot that should fit every family. Want to enjoy the beach but your toddler would rather splash in a fountain? Check out 63rd Street Beach. Looking for both sand and shade, with a place to light up a grill and spend the day? Visit family hot spot Montrose Beach.

Dreaming of sun, a little more nature and getting away from the Chicago crowds? Hit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, just a few miles to the east, or Centennial Beach in family-friendly Naperville to the west.

Montrose Beach (Montrose Avenue and the lake) has something for everyone, with concessions, a dog-friendly area, a grassy area for picnics with grills and accessible parking, bathrooms and a beach walk (great for strollers and wheelchairs).

63rd Street Beach has a historic beach house kids where can play, plus a great fountain for kids to splash in if they don’t want to swim in the lake.

31st Street Beach in Burnham Park has rough sand, but a nice grassy area, and is perfect for walking or biking up the lakeshore path. One of the best things here is the huge playground.

12th Street Beach is on the museum campus and right next door to Northerly Island’s nature areas, so you can visit a museum, swim in the lake and ride your bike in the park all in one day. There’s a paved lot next to the beach, or park in the Adler Planetarium lot (you have to pay to park in either lot).

If you want a smaller, neighborhood beach, try Rogers Park, known for its tiny beaches at the end of the east/west streets. We like the one at the end of Jarvis Avenue.

Centennial Beach in Naperville might not be on Lake Michigan, but it is worth a visit. The entire park has acres of grass and trees, the beach, shallow-end slide, water play features, a diving complex and water depths ranging from 0-15 feet. Be on the lookout for Special Needs Nights created especially for families with special needs.

Our closest national park, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, offers 15 miles of sandy beach and acres of dunes to climb. There’s rarely a time you can’t find a spot to settle in, but mid-week during the summer is usually quieter. You can even spend the night in the Dunewood Campground if you really want to get back to nature (you’ll need to pack a tent and sleeping bag).

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