Lake Michigan is the ultimate summer escape

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of urban life for a scenic waterfront oasis. You don’t need to go as far as you might think. The lakefront is truly one of Chicago’s treasures and a trip to one of the 31 beaches is the perfect summer family outing.

Before you make an excursion to the lakefront with kids in tow, you need to choose the right beach and bring the supplies you will need to make your trip, well, a day at the beach. Here is what you need to know before you go:

Location. Location. Location.

Not all Chicago beaches are created equal. Most Chicagoans are familiar with the larger beaches, such as North Avenue Beach. But if it is family-friendly fun in the sun that you are after, Tim Burdick of the Chicago Park District says there are lots of other options. His list of family-friendly beaches include Montrose Beach because of ample parking and a large picnic area. The 31st Street Beach has a playground and spacious sand area for families. 63rd Street Beach is great for kids because of the popular splash pool. Rainbow Beach, located about 10 miles south of the Loop, has a new beach house facility, parking, a picnic area and a great view. Another good spot for families is the Ohio Street Beach because it is right next to Navy Pier.

When choosing a beach, parents should consider the availability of parking, cleanliness, proximity of bathroom facilities and open space for kids to play. “I like Foster Avenue Beach because the sand area is really deep so the kids can play away from the water if they want to and the water itself is really shallow if they want to go in,” says Chicago mother of two Melissa Capizzi. “I also love the stroller ramp that goes all the way down to the water’s edge and the bathroom/shower area.”

Be prepared

Once you have decided on the perfect beach destination, the next step is loading up the beach bag with essentials (the bigger the bag, the better). What you need to bring:

  • Stock your bag with the basics (towels, beach blanket, sunscreen, swim diapers, hand wipes, sunglasses, sun hats, dry clothes, etc.).
  • Bring extra water to keep the kids well hydrated.
  • Bring twice as many snacks as you think you will need because half of your provisions will likely end up with sand in it.

Also keep in mind that timing is everything. Consider heading out to the beach in the early morning or late afternoon when you can skip the mid-day heat and crowds.

Just in case you are worried, “It is absolutely safe to bring your kids to the beach,” says Ellen Sargent of the Chicago Park District’s Office of Green Initiative. “We test the water at least five times a week and use a three-tier advisory system to keep beach-goers informed. We clean the beaches regularly with raking equipment and by hand. Plus, we have installed more lidded garbage and recycling containers to keep waste off the beaches and out of the water,” says Sargent.

For more information on all of Chicago’s beaches and upcoming programs like Junior Lifeguards and Sand-tastic, visit

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