North Avenue Beach

Beach / Outdoor Activity
North Avenue Beach One of the most popular of Chicago's thirty-three lakefront beaches, North Avenue Beach gets packed as soon as it opens on Memorial Day, as a wave of image-conscious twenty-somethings peel off their heavy fleeces to reveal... Chicago United States 41.9135353378865 -87.6219964027405
3.63 14
North Avenue Beach - Beach | Outdoor Activity in Chicago.
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Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review One of the most popular of Chicago’s 33 lakefront beaches, North Avenue Beach gets packed as soon as it opens on Memorial Day, as a wave of image-conscious 20-somethings peel off their heavy fleeces to reveal... ... read full review

  • Train:

    Brown, Purple Express Lines: Sedgwick

  • Phone:

    312-742-7726

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    24/7 (Memorial Day to Labor Day)

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot

Party Earth North Avenue Beach Review

The Scene

One of the most popular of Chicago's thirty-three lakefront beaches, North Avenue Beach gets packed as soon as it opens on Memorial Day, as a wave of image-conscious twenty-somethings peel off their heavy fleeces to reveal...

One of the most popular of Chicago’s 33 lakefront beaches, North Avenue Beach gets packed as soon as it opens on Memorial Day, as a wave of image-conscious 20-somethings peel off their heavy fleeces to reveal the results of their winter workouts.

Besides surf and sun, the beach’s main draws are the nearly 50 volleyball courts and the massive beach house at its southern end, a $7 million space inspired by an ocean liner that provides showers, bike rentals, and the raucous rooftop restaurant and bar Castaways.

On summer weekends, nearly every inch of sand is covered with towels and tanners, as loud and happy sunbathers cram in elbow to elbow to enjoy views of the skyline and acres of cleavage. Since Lake Michigan’s waters tend to fluctuate between frigid and “Sweet Jesus!”, most of the action centers around flirting and people-watching instead of swimming – which means athletic types opt to use the outdoor gym or run and rollerblade on the lakefront path before charging into the icy water for a cool-down.

As twilight approaches, Castaways gets even more packed with gaggles of sunburned revelers ready to down a few cold drinks, creating a scene some describe as Miami without the salt.

Chicago may get only three months of tanning weather, but the regular partiers at North Avenue Beach don’t seem to have any problem settling into the beach bum lifestyle.

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Tip from Lucas:

Don’t think you can just stroll up and get a volleyball court. Serious players dominate many of the courts, and the rest fill up fast. Luckily, you can reserve a week in advance through the park district, or join one of the many official teams of varying skill levels.

  • Crowd

    Athletic and social mix of college students, volleyball fans, and local sunbathers, early 20s to early 30s+.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Live music at Castaways (1603 North Lake Shore Drive) every weekend. Competitive beach volleyball tournaments all summer. The Chicago Air and Water Show in August.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Options include:
    Burger and ice cream stand located on ground level of boat house.

    Full menu at Castaways.

    Several food carts on beach.

    Additional services:
    Outdoor gym available for day use.

    Restrooms and showers available, but no designated changing rooms.

    Lifeguards on duty normally 11am–6pm daily (Memorial Day to Labor Day), and as early as 9:30am from June 20–August 21.

  • Prices

    Appetizers $7–$9, burgers and sandwiches $7–$11. Beer $5–$6, cocktails $6–$8.

    Volleyball court rental $5/day for first come/first serve or $10/hour with reservations, equipment rental $5–$20, bike rental $10–$35, inline skate rental $10–$35. Gym day pass $5. Parking $5. Street parking also available.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Beach or workout attire: bikinis, board shorts, breezy cover-ups.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Any sunny day between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Most crowded on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • Close By

    Stretching from 71st Street on the south end to Hollywood Avenue on the north, the paved eighteen-mile Lakefront Trail goes right past the beach and is popular with bikers, runners, skaters, and walkers.

North Avenue Beach User Reviews

Average rating:
North Avenue Beach Apparel
Paul K. Apr 21, 2013
Brand name clothing with a cool North Avenue Beach custom designed logo is available at http://northavenuebeach.qbstores.com
Local Hot Spot, and by local I mean in the state of Illinois.
Thomas J. Apr 5, 2013
Noted for being "Chicago's Beach," North Ave Beach is fast becoming a hot spot for not only local chicagoans, but for suburbanites as well (or at least the ones who don't want to pay to sit on Glencoe beach). However, don't let the crowds keep you from having a great time in the Chicago sun. Located conveniently just east of Lake Shore Drive and North Avenue, this beach, complete with chaise lounge and umbrella rentals, is most certainly one of the most popular places in the city when the weather gets warm (and even more so on the weekends). Whether your into sun bathing or people watching, the locale is a great place to go and briefly forget that you're in Illinois, as the beach has a tendency to remind one of Miami Beach (sans the nude section). If you go early in the morning, or during the week, it's not unlikely to see a yoga or other fitness classes littered about the sand. Further down the beach are several volleyball courts where you can show your spiking skills alongside summer volleyball leagues. A word of caution to this otherwise fairy tale: parking is very limited and terribly expensive, so if at all possible, park further west of the beach and either hoof it over to the beach or hop on the 72 bus for a $2 ride to the sand.
North Avenue Beach Goers Always Have Fun in The Sun
Matt G. Apr 2, 2013
What some consider to be Chicago's premiere beach, North Avenue Beach brings people of all ages together to enjoy warm summer days in the windy city. Ranging along a full mile of the lake front, North Avenue Beach is divided into six sandy beaches and one rocky area. North Avenue Beach hosts a variety of events. Whether you're up at dawn to see Volleyball tournaments featuring Olympians or willing to camp out overnight to witness the dazzling stunts of the Air and Water show, good times are to be had. North Avenue Beach is at the epicenter of the Lincoln Park and Lakeview neighborhood so expect to share the sands with hundreds of twentysomethings enjoying their summers away from school and weekends off from work. Safety is rarely a concern as the lifeguard staff does their very best to ensure patron safety along with the help of the Chicago Police Department. Family outings are highly recommended. And finally, the boathouse is a one of a kind attraction featuring Castaways, a rooftop restaurant which hosts plenty of live music so everyone can sit back, kick it in the sun and enjoy the tunes.
North Avenue Beach Popular With City Sunbathers and Visiting Suburbanites
Lauren K. Mar 1, 2013
Chicago’s 28 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline is home to some 33 beaches and a favorite among them is North Avenue Beach. City sunbathers and visiting suburbanites both flock to the Lincoln Park beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day. North Avenue Beach has something for just about every type of beach goer. If an afternoon of activities in the sun is your thing, there are volleyball courts and an outdoor gym to keep you busy. Kayaks, jet skis, bikes and paddle and wake boards are also available for rent. Sunrise and sunset yoga classes are another option. If you like your sun worshipping with a side of socializing, the beach’s popularity and often packed sands will have you lying towel-to-towel and rubbing elbows with plenty of others. The ocean-liner shaped beach house remains anchored in North Avenue Beach’s sands and houses Castaways Bar and Grill, a perfect spot to grab appetizers and drinks with friends. North Avenue Beach plays host to several big events, like the annual Association of Volleyball Professions Chicago Open and the Chicago Air and Water Show. If it weren’t for the small waves and stunning views of Chicago’s iconic skyline behind you, you could almost mistake North Avenue Beach for one of the country’s more popular sandy locales.
Crowded But Fun
Katya G. Feb 19, 2013
North Avenue Beach is a very beautiful beach. At this beach, you can swim, sunbathe, play volleyball and just relax. There is even a boat-shaped restaurant on the beach where you can grab something to eat or drink. The only part I don't like about this beach is that it can get super crowded, especially on holidays. If you plan on visiting this beach on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, make sure to come early.
This is the Chill Spot
Bryan A. Jan 3, 2013
If your young and want to have a great time. During the summer hit up the north side beach. Deff a good place to visit hang with friends and get a sweet tan!
Way too crowded for me
Christina W. Dec 9, 2012
There are only so many days in the year when it's possible to enjoy the warmth and sunshine in Chicago, so it's no surprise that everyone heads to the beach in the summertime. But holy cow! It's as if North Avenue Beach is the last beach on earth! I'm always shocked at how many people there are. So many visitors cram themselves and their towels into whatever remaining open spot they can find that you can hardly even see the sand as you walk by. The beach itself is rather nice. The sand is soft, the slope to the water is perfect, and it's a great place for swimming. But unless you are in the mood to battle tons of crowds (both residents and tourists), this is not the beach for you.
I wish they all could be chicago girls
Jamila W. Oct 2, 2012
If the beach boys had been to North Av beach they might have had a different song. Chicago's most popular beach is the best place to be if you are looking to catch some rays and enjoy beautiful Lake Michigan. After you've worked up your appetite playing a game of beach volleyball stop by castaways for some food and drink located right on the beach. Looking to party? No problem seeing as the beach is one of the hottest spots in the summer. North Av. draws in big crowds of people that are friendly and looking to have a good time and fun, just the kind of people you wanna meet when your out. I don't suggest driving as it is difficult to find parking but there are plenty of train stops within walking distance of the beach that you can take, making it perfect for all you party people that may have gotten too tipsy on the beach (Don't drink and drive). Only problem is if your just looking to have a nice relaxing time on the beach its better to go on a random weekday and there are also plenty of other quietter beach spots for you to enjoy!
Really nice beach but crazy crowded
Nick T. Sep 5, 2012
The best part about having a beach in a city that has a legitimate winter is that the excitement that comes from being able to go to the beach when May rolls around is pretty unparalleled. This could also be reviewed as a problem and North Avenue because it is insanely packed throughout most of the summer - featuring tons of drunk high schoolers which can be a lot to handle. Castaways is the main focus of the beach, and like Chris said below it is not uncommon - actually very common - that people will go to the beach without any intention of ever setting foot in the water. The beach is conveniently located in that it is walking distance to many nice areas of the city, and is even walking distance of Ogilvie and Union Stations if you are not coming from downtown. If you are looking for a giant party - pretty much any day of the summer is a safe bet at North Avenue. However, if you want a more relaxed beach experience - head north to the beaches farther up along the north shore. - Oak street beach is also generally less crowded but not as nice of a beach.
Almost feels like Miami Beach
Chris M. Aug 10, 2012
Let's be clear, Chicago is not a beach vacation destination, and for most of the year and most of any week, the beaches are pretty sparsely populated. But for about 10-12 weekends in the summer Chicagoans will act like they live in Miami, show off the long winter months at the gym, and head to the beach, and North Avenue is the busiest scene. It really can feel like a true beach destination with the number of towels packed into the relatively small beach, with the focal point right around Castaways. Singles mingle and check each other out, some footballs and frisbees are thrown but it is too busy to play a game. Most people don't even dip more than a toe in the water but between the beach and Castaways Chicago shows one of the key ways it is different from the rest of the Midwest. And it is a lot of fun. Stretching North from the main part of the beach are volleyball poles (bring your own net unless you can poach). To be the king of the beach you should purchase a volleyball net and boundary lines and you can quickly make friends with folks who want to play. You will see alumni groups from colleges set up at a net for the day with flags waving as well as just groups of friends. Parking can be annoying on the busy days and even fill up. And if the lot fills up you will end up with a pretty good walk. Just ride your bike if you can. If you really want a wide beach for a game of beach football or the like, Montrose is a better option further North. If you want to see 21 year old girls in bikinis, head to North Avenue.
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