Chicago Beaches for a Day Trip: A Solo Traveler’s Guide (2023)

Chicago, known as the “Windy City,” is not just famous for its architectural marvels and bustling city life. It also boasts a stunning shoreline with several pristine beaches that are perfect for a day trip.

As a seasoned solo traveler, I have had the opportunity to explore these beautiful beaches and discover hidden gems along the way.

In this guide, I will share my personal experiences and recommendations on the best Chicago beaches for day trips. Whether you’re seeking tranquility or looking to soak up some sun, these beaches offer something for every solo adventurer.

Why Chicago Beaches are Ideal for Day Trips

Chicago’s beaches are conveniently located along Lake Michigan, making them easily accessible for day trips.

The city’s efficient public transportation system allows solo travelers to hop on a train or bus and reach their destination in no time.

Moreover, each beach has its unique offerings, allowing you to tailor your experience based on your preferences.

Top 5 Chicago Beaches for a Day Out

1. North Avenue Beach

With its iconic skyline as a backdrop, North Avenue Beach is a beloved destination for both locals and tourists.

You can take a stroll along the sandy shore, feeling the gentle breeze and listening to the soothing sound of crashing waves.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can rent a bike and explore the nearby trails, immersing yourself in the scenic beauty of the area.

For sports enthusiasts, there are numerous beach volleyball courts available where you can join in on a game or simply enjoy watching others compete.

North Avenue Beach offers a perfect blend of relaxation, exploration, and recreational activities for everyone to enjoy.

2. Oak Street Beach

Nestled near downtown Chicago, Oak Street Beach offers an idyllic escape with its spectacular vistas of the cityscape.

Immerse yourself in a myriad of thrilling water sports activities, whether it’s paddleboarding, kayaking, or even trying your hand at windsurfing.

Indulge in moments of blissful relaxation as you bask on the soft, golden sand, savoring the gentle breeze caressing your skin.

Take delight in the art of people-watching, observing the vibrant tapestry of individuals that grace this beloved beach.

Oak Street Beach is not just a destination; it’s an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of leisure and serenity amidst the bustling ambiance of the Windy City.

3. Montrose Beach

If you are in search of tranquility and a connection with nature, Montrose Beach offers the perfect getaway destination.

As you step onto the sandy shores, you will be greeted by the soothing sound of waves and the gentle breeze rustling through the surrounding trees.

This serene haven provides an opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Immerse yourself in the beauty of Montrose Beach by exploring the adjacent bird sanctuary.

As you wander through the sanctuary’s trails, you will have the chance to catch glimpses of various species of birds in their natural habitat.

From colorful songbirds to majestic waterfowl, the sanctuary is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

For those looking to rejuvenate their mind and body, Montrose Beach offers more than just a scenic retreat.

Join a yoga class led by experienced instructors and find your center as you practice amidst the tranquil surroundings.

Alternatively, simply find a comfortable spot under the shade of a sprawling tree and allow the peaceful ambiance to wash over you.

Whether you spend your time exploring the bird sanctuary, practicing yoga, or simply basking in the serenity of the beach, Montrose Beach promises a rejuvenating experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and connected to nature.

4. 12th Street Beach

Situated near the Museum Campus, 12th Street Beach offers a picturesque setting that showcases stunning views of Lake Michigan and the city’s skyline.

You can take a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters of the lake or simply relax and soak up the sun on the soft sand.

If you’re in the mood for a leisurely outdoor meal, you can enjoy a delightful picnic while taking in the breathtaking scenery.

For those who love fishing, the nearby pier provides an opportunity to try your hand at catching some fish while enjoying the tranquil atmosphere of the beach.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to 12th Street Beach

5. Ohio Street Beach

Chicago Beaches for a Day Trip
Image by deposit photos

Nestled conveniently off the scenic Lake Shore Drive, Ohio Street Beach offers a prime location that caters to both individuals and groups.

Solo travelers will find it remarkably accessible, with a range of exciting beachside activities to indulge in.

Whether you’re up for an exhilarating game of beach volleyball or craving a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters, this beach has it all.

Moreover, for those seeking a tranquil retreat, there are abundant grassy areas where you can unwind, soak up the sun, and relish a blissful day by the serene lake.

With its perfect blend of accessibility, recreational opportunities, and serene ambiance, Ohio Street Beach truly stands out as a haven for beach lovers.

Maximizing Your Day at Chicago Beaches

To make the most of your day at Chicago beaches, consider these tips:

  • Arrive early: Beat the crowds and secure your spot by arriving early in the morning. This way, you can enjoy some peaceful moments before it gets busier.
  • Pack essentials: Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, towels, snacks, and plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. A portable speaker or a good book can also enhance your beach experience.
  • Explore beyond the shore: While relaxing on the sand is delightful, take some time to explore what each beach has to offer. Whether it’s taking a walk along the shoreline or renting equipment for water sports, make sure to embrace all aspects of your beach visit.

Solo Traveler Tips for a Day at the Beach

As a solo traveler, safety and making connections are important considerations.

Here are some tips for ensuring an enjoyable and fulfilling solo experience at Chicago beaches:

  • Stay aware and alert: Be mindful of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings while enjoying yourself at the beach. It’s always better to be cautious and proactive.
  • Join beach activities: Participate in beach activities such as volleyball games or group yoga sessions. This is a great way to meet fellow travelers and locals who share similar interests.
  • Strike up conversations: Don’t hesitate to strike up conversations with friendly beachgoers. You never know when you might make a new friend or discover insider tips about the city.

Read Also: Free Things to Do at Chicago Beaches

Eating and Dining: Best Beachside Bites

After a day of sun and sand, satisfying your taste buds is essential.

Here are some recommendations for beachside eateries and picnic options for solo travelers:

  • The Dock at Montrose Beach: Enjoy stunning lake views while savoring delicious seafood dishes at this waterfront restaurant.
  • Café Olivia at Ohio Street Beach: Grab a quick bite from this cozy café offering sandwiches, salads, and refreshing beverages.
  • Pack a picnic: If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, pack your picnic and enjoy it on one of the many grassy areas adjacent to the beaches. Pick up some local treats from nearby markets or delis to make your picnic experience even more delightful.

Related: The Best Places to Eat and Drink Near North Avenue Beach

Concluding Your Day: Sunset Views and Evening Activities

As the day draws to a close, some several spots and activities can perfectly wrap up your perfect day trip:

  • Watch the sunset: Head back to Oak Street Beach or North Avenue Beach to witness breathtaking sunsets over Lake Michigan. Find a comfortable spot on the sand or bring a blanket to truly soak in the beauty.
  • Beachside events: Check out local event calendars for any beachside concerts, movie screenings, or festivals happening during your visit. Attending these events is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Chicago’s vibrant culture.

Conclusion: Chicago Beaches for a Day Trip

In conclusion, Chicago’s beaches offer solo travelers an ideal escape for a memorable day trip. With their proximity, ease of access, and unique offerings, these beaches provide a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

By following the tips provided, solo travelers can make the most of their day at the beach while ensuring safety and enjoyment.

From the top five beaches to beachside dining options and evening activities, Chicago’s shoreline has everything you need for an unforgettable solo travel experience.

So pack your sunscreen, grab your towel, and get ready to embark on a day trip to one of Chicago’s magnificent beaches. You won’t be disappointed!



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