Chicago has some great people-watching beaches, but did you know there are many fantastic beaches in the suburbs too? 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.
Please note: You’ll need to pay an entry fee for swimming at most suburban beaches and it’s always a good idea to check beach conditions online before heading out.
RELATED: Best beaches in Chicago for families
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.
The deep end is 15-feet deep, so a deep-water swim test is required to swim in it. The test is scheduled for several times per day and goggles are helpful. My 8-year-old kid passed the test and was ecstatic to jump off the high dive all 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.
500 Jackson Ave., Naperville
Gillson Park is a huge green space with play structures, picnic areas, fitness trails and more. The new Gillson Beach House and Parking Lot opened this year, providing modern, clean changing areas and a new concessions stand on the beach. Please note that you can’t bring coolers onto the beach and must leave them by the gate.
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. I suggest parking in Gillson Park, enjoying the playground and then walking to the beach. The Baha’i Temple is within close view.
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.
2611 Sheridan Road, Central St., Evanston
Gilson Beach, Photo Credit: Cortney Fries
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.
200 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich
Inside beautiful Independence Grove is a 400-foot sandy beach that’s calm, gentle and fun for wading. Fantastic views of surrounding green trees and small boats can be enjoyed. Family Fun Fridays offer games, contests and prizes.
Beach house offers changing areas, washrooms and showers. Concessions are available, including a snow cone stand. Small boats and bikes, including four-person bicycles, are available to rent. A beach wheelchair, which helps those with limited mobility roll up to the beach and onto the sand with the help of a caregiver, is free and available upon request.
16400 Buckley Road, Libertyville
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. We couldn’t get enough of this great beach and the sweet, creamy custard!
5517 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.