Thinking of Chicago brings to mind images of skyscrapers, bustling traffic and windy blustery cold. People don’t tend to think of building sandcastles and beach volleyball. But spending a day at North Avenue Beach, the beach I went to growing up in Chicago, will give you a real taste of summertime in Chicago.
The first City of Chicago Public Beach opened in Lincoln Park in 1895. Today, the entire 28 miles Chicago lakefront shoreline is man-made, and primarily used as parkland. There are thirty-three beaches in Chicago along the shores of freshwater Lake Michigan. Typically, Chicago beaches take the name of the east-west street that runs perpendicular to the lake at each beach’s location.
The North Avenue Beach is located at 1600 North Avenue and is considered to be Chicago’s premier beach. It has the largest lifeguard staff and is home to the most developed beach house. The beach house resembles an ocean liner and contains bike and sports equipment rental, Castaways, a bar and restaurant, concession stand, a lifeguard station, and restrooms.
North Avenue Beach runs to Diversey Harbor in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and is characterized by its piers which hold the sand in place and create a scalloped shoreline, terminating in a Cape Cod-like hook. The beach hosts international volleyball tournaments as well as millions of sun worshippers every year. Chicago Park District lines the beach with poles for individuals and leagues to hang volleyball nets. These nets and this portion of the lakefront bike/running/rollerblading path attract large numbers of people on weekends and weeknights. North Avenue is also center stage for the Chicago Air & Water Show, which draws over a million people a day.
So if you come to Chicago in summertime don’t forget to plan a day at the beach and bring some good reading material…