One of two beaches located within Jackson Park, 63rd Street Beach offers a wide array of amenities. For food, Belly Up offers Jamacian fare, or Leave With A Smile has snacks and beverages. One of the oldest beaches in Chicago, there’s also a historic beach house with restrooms. It also boasts interactive water fountains, showers and meeting rooms. Beachgoers can rent bikes or use the non-motorized boat launch. Birds flock here as well, literally, with a large natural area.
63rd Street Beach History
Jackson Park was designed by renowned architects Olmsed & Vaux of New York’s Central Park in 1871. 63rd Street Beach started as a paved beach made from granite blocks in 1888. Since, at the time, raw sewage was being dumped into Lake Michigan, it’s no surprise the paved beaches were preferred for walking and promenading.
When Chicago’s Drainage Canal began diverting the waste in 1899, the beach soon became popular for bathing and wading, as well. By the turn of the century, the South Park Commissioners decided to add the beach into a sandy shorefront. A new plan for landfill was developed in 1914. Three years the 10-acre beach extension was complete.
The plan also included a complex bathing house. It was constructed next to the beach in 1919. In 2000, the Chicago Park District renovated the historic pavilion, now known as the 63rd Street Beach House. Today, the elegant Classical Revival Pavilion designed by South Park Commission architects is preserved. Exposed-aggregate concrete features exposed balconies and loggies that take full advantage of lake views and breezes.
63rd Street Beach Details
A pay-and-display parking lot makes it easy to drive to 63rd Street Beach. There are also an array of CTA bus routes that offer easy access to the beach.
Once you’re here, there’s more than enough to spend the whole day. The renovated historic beach house offers changing areas, showers and restrooms. It’s also surrounded by attractive landscaped spaces and an interactive water feature. There are also ample meeting rooms. The facility can be reserved for special events.
There is also sustenance for a day at the beach in the form of Jamacian joint Belly Up and Leave With a Smile, which offers snacks and beverages. If you’d like some entertainment, rent bikes from Bike Chicago and explore Jackson Park and the waterfront.
Or, explore the lake by boat from the non-motorized boat launch, which offers access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail. Distance swimming is allowed parallel to the shore between 1st and 3rd buoys at 64th Street. Lifeguards are on duty each day from 11am to 7pm.
The beach also features an ADA accessible beach walk, and there are several ADA accessible playgrounds in the surrounding Jackson Park. Jackson Park is also home to a gymnasium, multi-purpose rooms and a fitness center. There’s also a Japanese-style garden of the Phoenix, Bobolink Meadows, a flower garden and a vegetable garden.
Jackson park has many sporting facilities, as well. There are basketball and tennis courts, multi-purpose fields, and several clubrooms. Here, children participate in Park Kids sports and arts and crafts day camps.
In case of rain, the Museum of Science and Industry is also on the Jackson Park campus. Adults and children alike enjoy the park’s many public art installations, picnic groves, sandboxes, fishing areas and, of course, the beach. 63rd Street Beach also has a natural area for migrating birds come spring and fall.
63rd Street Beach Events
The historic beach house at 63rd Street Beach is available for rent for an array of private events. In larger Jackson Park, children enjoy day camps in the summer and other public programs throughout the year. Sports and arts and crafts camps run from mid-June to late August. Fall programs start up in early September.