Chicago Is My Kind of Beach Town?

playing volleyball on Oak Street Beach in Chicago

Can this be Chicago?

I don’t believe when Frank Sinatra sang his classic, My Kind of Town (Chicago is), he ever thought about Chicago as a beach town. I know I never have, but after a recent trip to Chicago this past summer that changed. Yes, Chicago has a few beaches, good beaches. I know I was surprised too.

Staying at the Drake Hotel, a place up to Sinatra standards, I noticed one of the attractions listed was “closest hotel to Oak Beach Street.”  A Beach an attraction? Lake Michigan beaches are a draw… a draw for guests of the Drake Hotel? In the Gold Coast neighborhood, I could see – close to the John Hancock Center,  the Magnificent Mile, and others, but a beach? I needed to visit.

Oak Street Beach

the underpass filled with beauty in art and women as I walked to Oak Street Beach in Chicago

walking to the beach

On a sunny summer Friday, I walked the underpass to the beachfront.  My initial thought – WOW. I know so profound, but I was shocked. I really was. The crowds were already there and growing, and eventually, I found the bar starting to fill up by mid-day. The beach a scene, the sand soft and the water swimmable all surprised me. I spent my afternoon there, and even returned the next day. Chicago suddenly became my kind of beach town.

the water shed Oak Street Beach in Chicago

the bar-restaurant is picking up

laying out with the Chicago Skyline as the backdrop Oak Street Beach in Chicago

Now that's Chicago,

How to get to the Beach?

It’s hard to miss it; beaches line big parts of the lake, but I only visited the Oak Street entrance and if you can find your way to the John Hancock Observatory or the legendary Drake Hotel on Michigan Ave, the beach is just a few minute walk from there.

the packed beach Oak Street Beach in Chicago

the beach was packed as a vendor makes his way through the sun worshipers

Why go?

Besides the fact a visit will change the way you feel about Chicago, you will most likely enjoy yourself.  First off, it’s a scene for those wanting to usher in a summer weekend with a fiesta feel, but I also noticed families of all ages enjoying the small waves and refreshing water.

a storm rolls in of Lake Michigan at Oak Street Beach in Chicago

the crowds leave with the storm on its way

Of course, I still don’t believe a beach holiday is a reason to visit Chicago, but it certainly is a way to spend a day in the windy city when the weather is warm and the cubs aren’t playing an afternoon game at Wrigley.

Stay adventurous, Craig


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  • Mary J. McCoy-Dressel

    There’s nothing like it. It looks pretty good from the Hancock Observatory, too. Great shot of the clouds rolling in. My profile picture is not too far from the beach.

  • Traveling Ted

    It feels weird to read this now with another 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground.

    • craig zabransky

      Ah, but it reminds you about what is in store for you in Chicago… and hopefully it keeps you warm through the next storm… and the one after that too… stay warm in the windy city, Craig

  • Quirky Travel Guy

    Posting this in February is some sort of cruel joke, no?