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North Ave Beach: 8 Amazing Things to Know

Perched on the northerly periphery of the “Windy City” along the sprawling shores of the Great Lake Michigan, North Ave Beach stands as a veritable beacon of attraction for locals and globetrotters alike, boasting a mammoth expanse of 22,000 square feet, nestled amidst the bustling metropolis of Chicago.

Renowned for its picturesque views of the glistening waters of the lake, this wondrous beach is celebrated for its vivacious atmosphere and draws a plethora of visitors year-round.

So come dear reader, and join us on a journey through the annals of time and the depths of the human experience, as we explore the wondrous world of North Ave Beach.

north ave beach
By travellaggio / Unlimphotos Copyright 2023

1. History

The story of Lincoln Park is one that is steeped in history, a tale that has seen the site transform from a public cemetery to a sprawling landscape of over 1200 acres.

1.1 The 1800s

The park’s journey began in the 1830s when it was first established as a lakeside burial ground. However, as time passed, it became increasingly clear that the cemetery posed a significant public health threat, leading to early citizens calling for a transformation of the site into parkland.

It was in 1860 that a significant milestone was reached, with the designation of a sixty-acre unused part of the burial ground as Lake Park. Over the next five years, the city would go on to rename the site Lincoln Park, pouring a substantial budget into the area to fund improvements.

1.2 The 1900s

It was in 1934 that the Lincoln Park Commission became part of the newly consolidated Chicago Park District, with the agency receiving substantial funding through President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. This funding would be instrumental in bringing to life many of the park’s most significant projects, including the construction of North Avenue Beach.

The project, which began in 1939, was a mammoth undertaking, with a price tag of $1,250,000. It involved a major improvement to Lake Shore Drive, which included the addition of a grade separation that provided a new overpass at North Avenue.

1.3 In the 1940s

To complete the project, Chicago Park District architect Emanuel V. Buchsbaum was brought on board to design the new Art Moderne style North Avenue Beach House. His design, which emulated a lake ship, was an instant hit, with the beach and beach house being dedicated in July of 1940.

1.4 The Late 1900s

Over time, however, the frame beach house became increasingly dilapidated, leading to its eventual demolition. In its place, a new structure composed of cast-in-place concrete was erected in 1999.

The new building, which was designed by Wheeler Kearns Architects, pays homage to the original structure while being slightly larger in size.

2. Location and Rules

When considering North Avenue Beach, one cannot overlook the significance of its geographical location, which happens to be in Lincoln Park at none other than 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive (North Ave. @ Lake Michigan).

2.1 Rules of North Ave Beach

Some of the most important rules to keep in mind include:

  • No alcohol or glass containers are allowed on the beach.

  • Smoking is not allowed on the beach or in the parking area.

  • No pets are allowed on the beach, except for service animals.

  • All swimmers must stay within designated swimming areas and obey lifeguard instructions.

  • Grilling is allowed only in designated areas and must be attended to at all times.

  • No fireworks are allowed on the beach.

  • No loud music or amplified sound is allowed on the beach.

  • All visitors must comply with social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings when required.

  • All visitors must leave the beach by 11 pm.

  • Any violations of the rules may result in fines and/or removal from the beach.

3. Opening Hours of North Ave Beach

The North Ave Beach is open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm but swimming is only permitted during the beach season when lifeguards are on duty from 11 am to 7 pm, in designated swim areas.

North Ave Beach
By David Mark / Pixabay Copyright 2016

4. North Avenue Beach on the Shores of Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan, one of the quintessential Great Lakes of North America, is a mesmerizing spectacle, encompassed entirely within the geographical boundaries of the United States. It boasts an enormous volume, being the third largest of all Great Lakes. A salient feature of this pristine water body is that it’s the solitary Great Lake located exclusively within the US precincts.

On its shores, North Avenue Beach is a popular haunt, located in a strategic spot between the four states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana. Spanning over an impressive 22,400 square miles (58,000 square kilometers), it is a place to behold, and visitors from near and far bask in its splendor.

With its maximum depth plunging to a staggering 923 feet (281 meters), Lake Michigan is well-connected to Lake Huron through the Straits of Mackinac, and linked to Lake Superior via the Saint Mary’s River. The lake is a critical source of potable water for the surrounding area, catering to the needs of millions of people, and plays an essential role as a pivotal transportation route for shipping and trade.

Ports and harbors are strewn along the shoreline of the lake, with several major cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay, among others. This endows the lake with significant economic importance and makes it a fundamental component of the local lifestyle.

Lake Michigan is renowned for its gorgeous and breathtaking scenery, with sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, and crystal-clear waters that inspire awe and admiration. It’s a hot spot for recreational activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing, with an abundant variety of fish species such as lake trout, walleye, and perch adding to the allure.

The surrounding area is replete with rich cultural history and an array of fascinating attractions. The city of Chicago, located on the fringes of Lake Michigan, is a bustling metropolis, infused with a vibrant blend of art, culture, and commerce. The lake has played a pivotal role in the region’s history, from the bygone fur trade era to the industrial revolution, and continues to occupy a crucial position in the local economy and way of life.

All in all, North Avenue Beach, located in the captivating environs of Lake Michigan, is a vibrant and pulsating destination. With a plethora of activities and amenities, it provides a perfect respite for visitors of all ages to revel in the great outdoors and soak up the glorious sunshine.

5. Beach Amenities

North Ave Beach is a place of multifarious amenities that cater to the interests of families, tourists, and locals alike, earning it its repute as a preeminent destination.

5.1 Beach Access:

The all-embracing 22,000 square feet of space, accessible via pedestrian walkways, bike paths, or public transportation, ensures a high degree of visitation for North Ave Beach.

5.2 Beach House:

The beach house, an abode of paramount grandeur, stands tall and proud amidst the pristine shoreline. With its gargantuan and awe-inspiring structure, replete with an impressive array of amenities, including lavatories, showers, lockers, and changing rooms, it reigns supreme as a destination of choice for all beach-goers.

5.3 Concessions:

In addition, visitors can satiate their hunger and thirst with the several concession stands and beachside restaurants, where they can purchase delectable food items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and cocktails.

5.4 Restrooms:

Meanwhile, a collection of public restrooms, including both men’s and women’s facilities, family restrooms, and outdoor showers, ensures comfort and convenience for all visitors.

5.5 Volleyball Courts:

The volley enthusiasts will have a delightful time as North Ave Beach boasts over 50 sand volleyball courts, making it one of the most extensive beach volleyball destinations in the country. For those who love the thrill of aquatic adventures, jet ski rentals, and stand-up paddleboarding are excellent options. The latter is especially popular and visitors can take lessons from experienced instructors.

5.6 Bike Rentals:

Exploration of the nearby bike paths and the city is made possible through bike rentals, while kayaking offers visitors the opportunity to explore the waters of Lake Michigan.

5.7 Jet Ski Rentals & Stand-Up Paddleboarding:

For those who harbor an insatiable appetite for the adrenaline-laced allure of aquatic adventures, the riveting combination of jet ski rentals and stand-up paddleboarding represents an exquisite duo of enthralling options.

5.8 Kayaking:

Visitors can also rent kayaks and they can explore the waters of Lake Michigan.

5.9 Beach Chair and Umbrella Rentals:

Relaxing on the sand is made all the more comfortable with the option to rent beach chairs and umbrellas.

5.10 Children’s Play Area:

The beach also includes a large children’s play area with a playground, splash pad, and sandbox to keep the younger visitors engaged. Ensuring the safety of visitors, North Ave Beach is staffed by trained lifeguards during the swimming season.

5.11 Lifeguards:

North Avenue Beach is staffed by trained lifeguards during the swimming season to ensure visitor safety.

5.12 Parking:

While parking lots and garages offer ample parking options, visitors should note that during peak times, it is hard to get free spaces to park their vehicles. 

North Avenue Beach
By f11photo / Unlimphotos copyright 2023

6. Activities

North Ave Beach offers a wide variety of activities for visitors of all ages. Some of the most popular activities include:

6.1 Sunbathing:

North Avenue Beach boasts an expanse of sand sprawling over 50 acres, a pristine oasis where one may unwind and bask in the radiance of the sun. Whether you choose to recline on a beach chair or lay out a towel, a day spent idling on this beach promises to be an experience unparalleled in its tranquil splendor.

6.2 Swimming:

With its expansive shoreline and breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline, North Ave Beach is an idyllic location to revel in the beauty of Lake Michigan’s crystalline waters. A veritable oasis of aquatic delights, North Ave Beach boasts a designated swimming area that beckons visitors to take a refreshing dip amidst the serene aquatic expanse.

However, prudence is paramount, and one must exercise caution by diligently checking for any advisory or warning that might be in effect. Despite its reputation as a safe haven for swimmers, North Ave Beach, like any natural wonder, must be approached with care and vigilance.

6.3 Volleyball:

One of the reasons for its popularity is the beach volleyball courts that are available for public use. The mere mention of North Avenue Beach conjures up images of sun-kissed bodies and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

What’s more, these courts are open to the public, allowing everyone to partake in the action. Whether you’re a seasoned player or a beginner, the courts offer a platform for you to showcase your skills. However, in order to participate, you must have a ball. Fear not, for you have two options: bring your own, or rent one from a nearby vendor.

6.4 Biking and Jogging:

North Avenue Beach boasts an idyllic location on the shores of Lake Michigan, providing a serene and picturesque setting for those who enjoy the invigorating activities of biking and jogging. With its vast expanse of sun-drenched sand and crystal-clear waters, this beloved recreational destination offers a cornucopia of opportunities for adventure and relaxation alike, beckoning visitors from far and wide to partake in its many wondrous delights.

6.5 Restaurants and Bars:

Nestled in the vicinity of North Avenue Beach, an amalgamation of eateries, ice cream parlors, and bars pervade the landscape, offering a smorgasbord of epicurean delights and intoxicating beverages. With a plethora of options at your disposal, satiating your culinary cravings has never been easier. Whether it’s a quick bite you’re after or a frosty elixir to cool you down, the gastronomical landscape has got you covered.

6.6 Outdoor Fitness Classes:

On the sun-kissed shores, where the salty breeze of the vast and boundless ocean blends with the warm embrace of the golden sun, fitness enthusiasts can find a plethora of exercise classes to choose from, ranging from the calming and centering practice of yoga to the rigorous and intensive training of boot camp, and the precision and control of Pilates.

6.7 Picnicking:

The potentiality exists for sojourners to bequeath unto themselves the pleasure of embarking upon a gustatory experience with the company of their cherished kith and kin by procuring their own comestibles and undertaking a picnic on the picturesque shores or in the designated area allotted for such leisurely pursuits.

7. Events & Festivals of North Ave Beach

Here are some of the most popular events and festivals held at North Avenue Beach:

7.1 Chicago Air and Water Show:

The spectacle, an annual affair that occurs in the balmy month of August, is an unmitigated celebration of the thrilling and gravity-defying, representing one of the most expansive free-air demonstrations in the whole of the United States.

Attendees can anticipate a veritable cornucopia of aerial acrobatics, ranging from the hair-raising maneuvers of military jets to the audacious feats of stunt planes, and even the dizzying spectacle of helicopters performing a bewildering array of mind-boggling stunts.

7.2 Chicago Beach Soccer:

The pinnacle of global soccer competition is upon us! For three thrilling days in the sweltering heat of July, elite teams from all corners of the world converge upon the sun-drenched shores of North Avenue Beach to compete in a grueling battle for the title of ultimate champion. The matches, played upon the unforgiving surface of the sand, will test the mettle of even the most seasoned soccer stars.

Brace yourselves for a spectacle like no other as the best of the best clash in a frenzied frenzy of sweat, skill, and sheer determination!

7.3 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy:

Amidst the scorching heat of the sixth month, an annual celebration unfurls, with a stunning display of grandeur and vitality, igniting the shores of the vast Lake Michigan, encompassing a spectacle of cultural festivities, ranging from exhilarating dragon boat races to soul-stirring cultural performances, complemented by a mouth-watering array of food vendors, serving a platter of delectable delicacies.

The primary purpose of this quintessential event is to kindle the flames of hope and knowledge in the hearts and minds of the populace, as it endeavors to raise funds for the noble cause of fostering literacy programs in the quintessential city of Chicago.

7.4 AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour:

Amidst the sun-kissed ambiance of August, a riveting spectacle unfolds at North Avenue Beach, Chicago. It is a professionally sanctioned and widely acclaimed beach volleyball tournament, the very epitome of athleticism and excellence. World-renowned players, exuding raw skill and unbridled tenacity, battle it out on the pristine sand, each striving to emerge victorious from this epic showdown.

7.5 Chicago Beach Polo Cup:

As the autumnal equinox approaches, the annual extravaganza known as the Beach Polo Cup takes center stage, beckoning enthusiasts from far and wide to witness the awe-inspiring display of skill and athleticism as some of the globe’s most accomplished polo players engage in fierce competition, all whilst traversing the sandy expanse of the beach with enviable finesse.

7.6 Chicago Margarita Festival:

Behold the grand fiesta, a jubilant celebration of life held in the heart of July, where an assortment of scintillating margaritas, rapturous live music, and tantalizing food vendors congregate to create a sensory experience beyond compare.

With a myriad of events and festivals occurring year-round, North Ave Beach boasts an impressively diverse range of offerings to pique the interests of individuals from all walks of life. So, come and indulge in the multifarious delights that this magnificent destination has to offer, and be prepared to revel in the wondrous array of sensations that await you!

north ave beach
By WOKANDAPIX / Pixabay Copyright 2020

9. Conclusion

As one concludes their journey through the metropolis of Chicago, one would be remiss not to heed the siren call of North Avenue Beach – a destination that is simply unparalleled. Its captivating vistas, multifarious recreational activities, and storied past all coalesce to create an experience that is truly extraordinary.

Whether one desires to languish in the radiance of the sun’s rays, partake in physical exertions, or immerse themselves in the festivities, North Avenue Beach is unequivocally the optimal locale to satiate one’s cravings.

Ergo, assemble your cache of sun protection agents and embark upon a sojourn to one of Windy City’s most distinguished landmarks!

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