When you think Museum Campus, chances are a day at the beach doesn’t jump to mind. But, that’s exactly what you’ll get at 12th Street Beach, tucked just south of Adler Planetarium in Burnham Park. Along with stunning views and access to nearby entertainment, 12th Street Beach has all the bells and whistles of its own. There’s Del Campos for Mexican and hot dogs as well as a beach house with restrooms and a non-motorized boat launch.
12th Street Beach History
12th Street Beach has been around since the 1920s, when architect Daniel Burnham created a man-made island between Jackson Park and Grant Park. The result of that, Northerly Island, was finished in 1927 and later turned into a peninsula instead of an actual island. At first, the land was used as a temporary landing strip. Soon after, a group of women’s organizations suggested the area be used as a public beach instead, and 12th Street Beach was born.
In the early 1930s, Northerly Island and Burnham Park hosted Chicago’s second World’s Fair, “A Century of Progress.” The South Park Commission decided to make the island even larger for the event, and the Adler Planetarium opened in the nick of time for the fair.
By the 1940s, Northerly Island had paths, walkways, grassy spaces, and trees in addition to the spacious beach. In 1967, the Chicago Park District build a new beach house for 12th Street Beach.
12th Street Beach Details
Northerly Island and 12th Street Beach features a parking lot with a pay gate and some street parking. Due to its location next to Museum Campus, you can expect a lot of traffic with confused tourists in this area. It may be best, instead to take the 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express bus to the beach.
Once you’re here, it’s easy to make a day trip to the beach. There’s food and beverage options at Del Campos, which serves up Mexican fare and hot dogs. The beach house also has restrooms so you can change and use the facilities. 12th Street Beach even has an ADA accessible beach walk.
Distance swimming is allowed parallel to shore at boat line, with lifeguards on duty daily from 11am to 7pm. You can also take advantage of the non-motorized boat launch for paddle sports.
Of course, the beach also offers stunning views of the lake and nearby Adler Planetarium. The beach’s horseshoe shape is ideal for soaking in panoramic vistas.
Visitors can also take advantage of nearby walking paths and shady spaces in the adjacent park. There is also access to the Lakefront Trail, with bikers and rollerbladers aplenty. And in case of rain, there’s plenty to do at the adjacent Planetarium.