Best Beaches in Chicagoland for Families

Beach day, anyone? Here are some great options for a hot summer day.

When the dog days of summer hit Chicagoland, the best way to beat the heat is with non-stop water fun. Of course, there are splash pads and water parks to keep the kids entertained, but sometimes a beach day is all you need!

Local families are lucky enough to enjoy plenty of beaches in Chicago and the suburbs. We shared the best family-friendly beaches in Chicago and the suburbs below.

Note: Before heading out, check ahead for weather conditions, hours and if lifeguards are on duty. Stay safe in the water with these tips.

Looking for more kid-friendly activities? Check out our summer fun family guide!

Best family-friendly beaches in Chicago

Photo credit: TK Photography

While enjoying Chicago’s Lakefront Trail during the summer, you’ll have to visit one of their many family-friendly beaches along Lake Michigan. Here are some of our favorite city beaches on the lakefront.

Margaret T. Burroughs Beach

More commonly referred to as 31st Street Beach, enjoy a South Side beach with many options for families. You have an ADA-accessible playground, a splash pad and a “green roof” picnic area above an indoor parking garage. Need a lunch break? Head to Pier 31 Restaurant to eat some burgers and enjoy live music.

Montrose Beach

Montrose Beach offers plenty of space to make the most of your next family beach day. There are accessible parking, bathrooms and beach walk (great for strollers and wheelchairs). For fun with animals, see some furry friends at Montrose Dog Beach and spot birds at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. For food options, try out The Dock, which includes kid-friendly options like hot dogs, tenders and quesadillas.

12th Street Beach

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

63rd Street Beach

63rd Street Beach has a historic beach house kids can play in, plus a great fountain to splash around if they don’t want them to swim in the lake. Reggies on the Beach offers cabana and water sports rentals, and their beach deck bar and restaurant has a kid-friendly menu with favorites like quesadillas, mozzarella sticks, fries and more. You might even get lucky and catch some live music on the beach! Since you’re in the area, explore nearby Jackson Park and the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Ohio Street Beach

Even if this beach is right next to tourist stop Navy Pier, Ohio Street Beach is still a hidden gem for Chicago families. The beach has very shallow water so your kids can play all day long and if you’re looking for a bite to eat, Caffe Oliva is your place to go. To catch some gorgeous views of the city, take a short walk down Milton Lee Olive Park adjacent to the beach.

South Shore Beach

South Shore Beach used to be a private beach for the former South Shore Country Club (now the South Shore Cultural Center). What’s nice about this beach is that it’s small and (usually) quiet. After spending time there, take a nature walk around the South Shore Nature Sanctuary to see dunes, wetlands and prairies.

North Avenue Beach

If you can navigate your way across the busiest stretch of the lake path, North Avenue is the best the North Side has to offer. Yes, it’s busy, but it’s busy for a reason. It’s walkable from Lincoln Park and the zoo, there’s the cute little footbridge over Lake Shore Drive and you can dine at Castaways, the lakefront bar and grill with plenty of kid-friendly options.

Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach promises a nice and relaxing time by the lakefront. If your family wants more, you won’t get bored at the nearby park packed with sports fields, a playground, tennis and volleyball courts. Who needs to fit in time to swim anyway?

Best family-friendly beaches in Chicago’s suburbs

Photo credit: Naperville Park District

From rock quarry beaches to stretches of sand next to parks with playgrounds, there are excellent options to explore with your family just outside the city limits and in suburbs that feel like whole different worlds away.

Centennial Beach

  • Address: 500 Jackson Ave., Naperville
  • Cost: $14 adults (non-residents), $9 adults (residents), $12 kids ages 3-17 (non-residents), $7 kids ages 3-17 (residents), free for kids ages 2 and under. Annual memberships are available. 

Naperville is home to a historic stone quarry that has been turned into a super fun swimming hole. There’s a zero-depth entry on the sandy beach, an old-fashioned water slide and a huge deep end with diving boards and floating platforms. Note: A deep-water swim test is required for swimming in the deep end and the test is offered several times per day. When you’re ready for a rest, there are Adirondack chairs all around and grassy areas for a picnic. Centennial Grill serves up food, drinks and treats. An ADA accessible lift is available for folks with strollers or wheelchairs to help get down to the sand and water.

Gillson Beach

Gillson Park is a huge green space with play structures, picnic areas, fitness trails and more. During the summer season, Gillson Beach House offers changing areas and a concession stand. Enjoy swimming and boating, a dog park and an area to lie in the sand for no fee. Little kids love the whale sprinkler and swings. The Baha’i Temple is within close view.

Lighthouse Beach

This small, family-friendly beach in Evanston has a free parking lot, which fills up quickly on nice days. However, there is also plenty of street parking within walking distance. This beach is next to Noah’s Playground, which is a great park for the kiddos with plenty of space for picnicking. The beach is calm and relaxing with Gross Pointe Lighthouse in the backdrop.

Paulus Park Beach & Sprayground

  • Address: 200 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich
  • Cost: $11 adults (non-residents), $9 adults (residents), $8 kids ages 4-17 (non-residents), $6 kids ages 4-17 (residents), free for kids 3 and under

Paulus Park is a large, beautiful lakefront park with a playground and picnic pavilions. The beachfront was recently doubled in size and features an awesome Wibit floating inflatable structure for the kids to climb and jump on. Next to the beach is a small, fenced-in spray park, bathhouse and a concession stand.

Three Oaks Swim Beach

Three Oaks Recreation is an awesome hidden gem in Crystal Lake. This huge rock quarry is now leveraged as an amazing spot where you can rent rowboats or paddleboats, kayaks and canoes. The Swim Beach is a great escape, with a modern, clean Lake House Complex. There’s a bathhouse to change in and a splash pad and playground for the kids. Small children enjoy the sandy beach area while bigger kids can swim out to the deep end and jump off the platform. The concession stand serves hamburgers, tacos and delicious Julie Ann’s Frozen Custard.

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Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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