Our guide to Chicago’s beachfront

Twenty-six miles long 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 Montrose Beach-a family hot spot.

We asked Marta Juaniza, spokesperson for the Chicago Park District, to give us some insider tips for families on visiting Chicago beaches. She selected a few top spots to get you started.

Montrose Beach (Montrose Avenue and the lake) has concessions at the beach house, a dog-friendly area, a grassy area for picnics and accessible parking, bathrooms and beach walk (great for strollers and wheelchairs). There’s also a nature area.

Oakwood Beach (41st Street and the lake) might be your best bet for least-crowded beaches since it just opened this year. It has the requisite beach

walk, parking and bathrooms, without the mobs of people-at least not yet.

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).

31st Street Beach has a great skyline view, plus a playlot for younger kids and a skate park for teens and tweens.

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

South Shore Beach (71st Street and the lake) has tennis courts, a golf course, the South Shore Cultural Center with its Parrot Cage restaurant and a nature area.

Rainbow Beach Park (75th Street and the lake) has baseball fields, football/soccer fields, handball/racquetball, playground, tennis and volleyball. Now you just need to fit in time to swim.

Always remember to check the park district Web site before you head out to the beaches, which close periodically during the summer. There’s nothing worse than getting out to the lakeshore on a hot day with a carload of kids, only to find out the water’s off limits.

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