Chicago’s Lakefront Trail Family Guide

The Lakefront Trail offers plenty of things to do including parks, beaches and more seasonal attractions.

One of the most scenic attractions in Chicago has to be the Lakefront Trail. It’s personally one of our favorite biking trails where you can catch breathtaking views of the city skyline along the ride whether you’re on the North Side or South Side.

Not to mention, on a beautiful day, you can find the 18-mile trail along Lake Michigan bustling with Chicagoans and tourists. The Lakefront Trail runs from Ardmore Avenue to 71st Street, connecting us to great neighborhoods, parks and beaches.

When visiting the Lakefront Trail with kids, read our guide to find safety tips and things to do along the trail. Looking for more fun family activities? Check out our weekend picks to find out what’s going on around town.

Helpful tips when on Lakefront Trail with kids

Photo credit: Spencer Biggs Photography

Safety comes first when visiting the Lakefront Trail with your family. Especially during the busy summer months, here are some tips to keep in mind whether you’re on or near the trail.

  • Look both ways when crossing. Traffic on the trail can move fast, especially for those on wheels. Be sure to cross cautiously and remind kids to not wander off.
  • Dress accordingly. The temperature near the lake can quickly change depending on the wind or sun. Bring a light jacket or extra sunscreen depending on the weather.
  • Don’t take up the lanes. As nice as it to walk together as a family, you don’t want to block the trail from others. Try to travel in a single file or allow room for others to pass you.
  • Wear a helmet if biking. Even on the trail, wearing a helmet is important! It doesn’t hurt to go over basic bike safety with kids before you ride.
  • Keep moving. The trail can get busy, so remind kids to not suddenly stop when on their bikes. If you need to stop, check your surroundings and signal to your child when it’s safe to pull over.
  • Stay on the right path. At times, the Lakefront Trail can split off into a pedestrian trail or bike trail so keep on the lookout for trail signs when the splits occur.
  • A note on public restrooms. You can usually find public restrooms along the trail, but do keep in mind that most restrooms run by the Chicago Park District may be closed as soon as fall begins. Here’s a guide on public restrooms near the trail!

Things to do along the Lakefront Trail

Photo credit: Milton Lee Olive Park/Katina Beniaris

The Lakefront Trail offers some great activities if you need a break or want to do something fun. We’ve listed some fun things to do along the trail with kids below. Note: Some of the activities mentioned are seasonal, so please check ahead to see if they’re open before making plans to go!

Montrose Dog Beach

Dogs can have fun on the Lakefront Trail, too! Even if you don’t have a furry family member, you can watch pups have the best time of their life at one of the only Chicago beaches that allow off-leash dogs.

Diversey Driving Range and Mini Golf

You might start seeing some golfers when walking between Montrose and Belmont Harbors, but for kids, there’s mini golf at the Diversey Driving Range. The Lincoln Park spot has an 18-hole mini golf course not too far from the trail.

The Lakefront Restaurant

Enjoy a meal along Lake Michigan at this American restaurant at Theater on the Lake. You’ll find classic offerings like fish and chips and a cheeseburger. Families can keep littles happy with the kids’ menu.

North Avenue Beach Pier

Next to North Avenue Beach South, you can find a narrow pier that hooks around the beach slightly. It’s worth to walk away from the trail to catch some awesome views of the city.

Milton Lee Olive Park

Navy Pier is certainly worth the stop but don’t miss out on this quiet, serene park next door. Milton Lee Olive Park shares one of the most unique city views with Lake Michigan in between. There’s also wide-open greenery to pick a spot for a picnic.

Urban Kayaks on the Lakefront

Even if you’re in Downtown Chicago, you can still find plenty of outdoor adventures. Urban Kayaks opens during the summer with one of its location on the trail. Two-person kayaks are available for children under 15 to ride with a parent or guardian.

Buckingham Fountain

How can you not stop at this Chicago landmark? Buckingham Fountain typically runs from early May through mid-October so you’ll have to time it right to see the major displays beginning at 9 a.m. and every hour on the hour.

Northerly Island Park

On Museum Campus, there are many attractions available for families. Take a detour and explore Northerly Island Park, a 91-acre peninsula with its own mini lakefront trail and 12th Street Beach.

McCormick Bird Sanctuary

Did you know there are a few bird sanctuaries to explore on the Lakefront Trail? The McCormick Bird Sanctuary, part of Burnham Wildlife Corridor, offers a nesting ground for birds during the migratory season. Depending on the season, you can try out some bird watching when visiting.

Playground at Margaret T. Burroughs Beach

Your little climbers can have a blast at this playground near 31st Street Harbor. There’s a curved slide, swings, a closed play area for younger children and more.

Mermaid

At Oakwood Beach, this mermaid statue has quite the history. According to the Chicago Park District, a group of Chicago artists secretly carved onto the limestone for two weeks in 1986 in Burnham Park. Now the mermaid statue can be seen near 41st Street.

Promontory Point

This beautiful space offers a great view of the city skyline and it’s also a great spot to relax with family. It’s also a short walk from the Museum of Science and Industry if you want to stop by here after a museum visit.

Japanese Garden

You can spend a few hours at Jackson Park. Stop by the Japanese Garden, sometimes referred to as the Garden of the Phoenix. Find a foot bridge, small waterfall, ducks and more at this tranquil spot. If you visit in late April or early May, you might be lucky to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom!

South Shore Cultural Center

At the south end of the Lakefront Trail, you can find a historic building once known as the South Shore Country Club. Sometimes it hosts special events and you can get an inside look of the grand interiors.


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