North Avenue Beach is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches, located on the Near North Side. There is truly something for everyone, from bike and kayak rentals to jet skis, retail vendors, and concessions. The park’s crown jewel, however, is the ocean liner–inspired beach house. At 22,000 square feet, the unique building is home to upper decks boasting some of the best views of the city, as well as changing facilities, restrooms and ATM machines. There is an ADA accessible beach walk as well as connection to the Lakefront Trail.
North Avenue Beach History
A surprising piece of trivia, Lincoln Park began as a public cemetery in the 1830s, but it quickly became a concern that the lakeside burial ground was a public health threat. In the 1860s, 60 acres of unused burial ground was designated as Lake Park, later renamed to Lincoln Park. Over the years, the park’s landscape has grown, thanks to landfill extensions in the 1930s. A major landfill addition stretched to North Avenue, creating what is now Lake Avenue Beach.
In 1934, the city was flush with funds from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. North Avenue Beach was completed thanks in part to this initiative and underwent major improvements in 1939. The $1,250,000 project extended the North Avenue Beach to 875,000 square feet. Additionally, architect Emanuel V. Buchsbaum designed a new beach house in Art Modern Style, designed to look like a lake ship.
Over the years, the building deteriorated and needed to be remodeled. Thankfully, the city created a similar structure designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects made from cast-in-place concrete. The new building has been open and beloved by Chicagoans since 1999.
North Avenue Beach Details
North Avenue Beach boasts a parking lot with pay gate, but this is one of the city’s most popular beaches. Plan on arriving early to nab a spot, or better yet, take public transit. The 22 Clark, 36 Broadway, 72 North, 73 Armitage, 151 Sheridan, and 156 LaSalle CTA bus routes all offer access to North Avenue Beach.
Once you’re here, there is a ton to enjoy. Rent a bike (or repair your own) at Lakeshore Bike ‘n Tune, or enjoy outdoor beach yoga with Sun and Moon Beach Yoga. Rent a top-of-the-line luxury lounge chair and large umbrella from Boucher Brothers and enjoy an afternoon by the shore. Hit the waves with a wakeboard or rent a stand up paddleboard from Great Lakes Board Company.
Want to hit the Lake Michigan Water Trail? Rent a kayak from Kayak Chicago or a Jetski from Windy City Watersports. You can also rent volleyball courts and equipment by calling 312-742-3776. Enjoy the ADA accessible beach walk or go for a walk on the nearby Lakefront Trail. There’s also the nearby NBA Sports, an open-air sporting facility with roller hockey, fitness classes, dodgeball, and hockey.
For less active types, you can also get some shopping in at beach retailers selling clothing, souvenirs, and sundries. There’s also a Havaianas Sandals vendor. Hungry? Grab a bite to eat at one of the many concessions offerings. There’s Castaways Bar and Grill, Pronto Pubs, Forever Yogurt, Dedeye Dogs, and Chicago PICNIC.
The park’s best attribute, however, is the renovated Beach House, opened in 2000. The ocean-liner inspired building has changing facilities, restrooms, and ATMs. On the second floor “deck” there are many portholes that boast some of the best views of Chicago.
Lifeguards are on duty daily from 11am to 7pm. Distance swimming is available and beaches three and four north of boathouse, parallel to the shore.
North Avenue Beach Events
North Avenue Beach hosts several summer day camps from Mid July to late August. The Junior Lifeguards at North Ave Bech is a popular program for kids ages 8 to 16.