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An Easy Guide to Chicago’s Oak Street Beach

Hello, Oak Street Beach!

You already know that Chicago is home to mouth-watering deep-dish pizza, towering skyscrapers, amazing architecture, the Chicago Riverwalk restaurants, iconic landmarks, and five major sports franchises.

But did you know it is home to 26 miles of lakefront, over 8,000 acres of green space with 580 parks, and shores galore? Chicago has 26 beaches, and they are beautiful!

Surrounded by towering skyscrapers, Oak Street Beach offers a unique urban beach experience.

Here’s are some things to know in advance and a packing list for Chicago beaches.  

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach is a popular destination for locals seeking fun in the sun. Located at 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive near the famous Drake Hotel, this man-made beach is a haven for Chicagoans who live in Streeterville or Gold Coast neighborhoods.

If you are looking for a bit of green nature, you can rest in the garden shade at the Rosenbaum Perennial Garden.

How to Get to There

If you are visiting Chicago, the best way to get there is on foot if you are staying near the Magnificent Mile near the Water Tower. Otherwise, you can catch a bus (# 143, #146, #147, #148, or #151) on Michigan Avenue to the Michigan and Chestnut stop (going Northbound); or the Michigan and Delaware stop (going Southbound). Then walk north a couple of blocks to the beach pedestrian access tunnel where there is a pop-up wall art mural.

You can also take the Chicago CTA red line to the Chicago Ave stop. The walk to Oak Street Beach will take about 20 minutes.

Where to Park

If you have a car and need a parking spot, it might be hard to find on the street. Depending on when you go, you may find a spot on residential streets to the north west side of the beach (try Cedar or Elm Street).

Otherwise, you can park at the garage in the John Hancock building, but it will be pricey. Your best bet will be public transportation. There is also public parking at 100 E. Walton, and 14 E Cedar. Use the Spothero.com app to find and reserve a parking spot in advance.

Things to Do Nearby

Whether you’re sunbathing, swimming, or playing beach volleyball, Oak Street Beach provides endless recreational opportunities. In addition, there are lots of attractions that you can visit within a 5-to-10-minute walk.

  • Explore the Magnificent Mile
  • 360 Chicago | 875 N. Michigan
  • TILT | 875 N. Michigan
  • Chicago Sports Museum | 835 N. Michigan
  • Water Tower Place | 835 N. Michigan
  • City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower | 806 Michigan

beach with skyscrapers

Things to Pack for a Chicago Beach

Snacks

You’ll find concession stands, restaurants, bars, and entertainment at Chicago’s Oak Street Beach, like volleyball tournaments. Or you can pack and bring your snacks and edibles.

Be forewarned that bringing liquor to the beach is not allowed. Drinking liquor or beer is ok if it is serviced by a bar or restaurant, but you are not allowed to leave the venue with it.

Bring sandwiches, chips, salads, or whatever you like in containers, a nice basket, or a backpack.  

Drinks

Staying hydrated in the sun is important in summer especially after splashing about in the water or an intense game of sports.

Bring a cooler filled with ice and plenty of water for everyone to cool down and be refreshed.

Gatorade may be the drink of choice if you are extremely active in the sun (eg. volleyball or soccer). Vitamin Water and coconut water are also great choices for hydration and replacing electrolytes.  

Entertainment

If you’re looking for a bit of quiet time and want to curl up with a good read, bring magazines or books to pass the time.

Be sure to bring games for the kids like a frisbee, beach balls, a bucket and a shovel for building sandcastles, or a ring toss.

You can also play hangman or tic-tac-toe in the sand, search for interesting rocks, or explore beneath the water with snorkels.

Swim Apparel

Protect your skin from the harsh sun rays with an SPF 50+ protective bathing suit, cover-up, or rash guard.

The Cabana Life collection has a beach vibe that says HELLO SUMMER! The dresses are flattering and have stylish sun protection. They are even cute enough for everyday wear. Styles are available for men, women, and children.

Use the fit guide to help you choose the right size and read these sun protection tips for preventive skin care. 

Sunscreen

You’ll never be sorry to have packed some travel accessories in your bag. These are often the little things that can may your mini-vacation more enjoyable.  

Sunscreen will prevent sunburn and protect your skin from ailments. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF30 or higher, and with both UVA & UVB protection. Apply generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every two hours and more often if swimming or sweating.  

Sunglasses or Hat

Sunglasses will protect your eyes from the glare of the sun as well as its reflections on the sand and water.

Additionally, a wide-brimmed hat can also offer protection for our delicate skin, reducing the chance of sunburns and decreasing the risk of developing skin cancer.

Sunglasses and sun hats not only provide physical protection but also contribute to our comfort during hot summer days. They help to reduce glare, allowing us to see more clearly and enhancing our overall beach experience.

Health Care Supplies

A little first-aid kit may also be handy because you never know when you might need it. Make sure to check the expiry date of any topical medicines that are in the kit.

Combat uninvited guests, like mosquitoes, with an insect repellant that is deet-free. This chemical is harmful to the central nervous system and should be avoided. Now more than ever good hygiene is the best practice.

Add hand sanitizer and wipes to your list of things to pack for the beach.

Electronics

Keep a power bank charged in your beach bag or backpack since there may not be charging stations available. This way, you can keep your phone, tablet, or even your MP3 player charged and functional during your stay.

A portable radio or speaker is nice for playing summer tunes. Make sure to queue the melodies in advance with a Spotify playlist of beach music or from YouTube.

Wear earbuds for a sweet immersive sound when you want to feel like you are at a concert.

Beach Towel

If you love the beach but don’t like drying yourself with a side of the sand, you need to get the Tesalate Beach Towel.

The designs are artsy and chic and the perfect take-along to the beach. These wonderful prints add to your life. Who wants to drag around those tiny chairs?

Use them to sunbathe, practice yoga, or perform floor exercises. On the beach, the extra wide sizes easily accommodate two. The compact towel dries fast and fits effortlessly in a bag.

Catch the summer sale for up to 30% off at www.tesalate.com and get free 2 to 5-day delivery and free returns!

Waterproof Case

When you’re ready to jump in the water without leaving valuables behind, a waterproof case is an answer to keeping money, cell phones, and keys dry.

Some cases are designed to allow full functionality of the camera, with complete protection from sand and water.

Whether you want to bundle everything into one bag or need one specifically for photos, you won’t have to worry about leaks or losing valuables.  

Water Shoes

Select some nice beach water shoes that are true to size, light weight, and comfortable. Make sure they are durable with a stretch upper.

A heel finger loop is convenient for sliding the shoes on and off. The shoe construction should give maximum breathability and have quick drying materials. They will be great for walking on hot sand or in the lake.

Get a pair in your favorite color and don’t worry about stepping on rocks or dodging a little critter. They won’t hurt your feet and you should have great traction in the water to keep you from slipping. 

Beach Cart

Of course, you’ll need to fit everything in a beach bag or use a cart and pull it for long and heavy hauls. Plan your weekend at the beach now!

FAQ about Oak Street Beach

Can you bring alcohol to Oak Street Beach Chicago?

No.

Is Oak Street Beach man made?

Yes.

Are Chicago beaches free?

Yes.

Is Oak Street Beach Safe?

Yes. As with all public spaces in Chicago, be aware of your surroundings.

Final Thoughts on Oak Street Beach

Going to the beach is like going to our happy place. It brings pleasant memories of childhood and summer.

During the summer months, Oak Street Beach hosts various events and festivals, adding to its lively ambiance. In winter, only one event is hosted at the beach and to raise money for charity. It’s a chilling experience to watch people plunge into Lake Michigan.

Also, many family events are held along the lakefront, like Chicago’s Air and Water Show, the Chicago’s Venetian Parade, and weekly firework displays.

Be ready for summer fun and subscribe to the Travels & Treasures library to get your beach packing list! Then shop the store and get ready for a beautiful sunset! It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

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6 Comments

  1. This is great! I always use SPF 50 even when I am not going to the beach! great article btw! I didn’t know you could enjoy such a nice beach in Chicago! Well done!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Thank you! Chicago has lovely beaches. I visited another one today and can wait to blog about it 🙂

  2. Bea Pinnegar says:

    I never knew Chicago has so many beaches! This is quite a comprehensive guide and I think works well for most beach time around the world – definitely coming back to make sure I have everything on the list for my next beach holiday!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      They are very nice beaches too! I plan to spend a little extra time there now that the lockdown is behind us! Thanks for being a repeat reader 🙂

  3. I love Tesalate towels! They are perfect for any beach. I truly did not realize how many nice-looking beaches that Chicago has!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      So glad to hear this! I can’t wait to share more about Chicago beaches and hope to have it posted in another week. Thanks for reading 🙂