Illinois might not be the first place to come to mind when you think of beaches. But with miles of waterfront space on Lake Michigan, summers are pretty popular here. In fact, the city of Chicago has more than 30 beaches! Chicago is the most populated city in Illinois, with over 2.7 million residents, and more than half of these folks have at least one dog. So, you are bound to find some great beaches to enjoy with your fur baby in this fine city.
One thing about Chicago is that it loves green spaces. In fact, the city boasts over 570 parks featuring more than 8,000 acres of space and 35 dog parks. The largest, Lincoln Park, has over 1,200 acres and has the largest leash-free dog park in the city at just under 3.5 acres. But if it is beaches you and your canine companion are interested in, we have the top 15 listed here for you.
Montrose Dog Beach
The Montrose Dog Beach was Chicago’s first official off-leash beach. You can find it in the corner of Montrose Beach, which is just to the northeast of Wrigley Field on the shores of Lake Michigan, about seven miles from downtown Chicago. Although there are lifeguards here, they are only on duty during the summer season at specific hours. And you are not allowed to swim when they are not on duty. However, it is okay to let your pup get his paws wet.
There is a large sandy area with plenty of room for you and your pooch, as well as other pups and pup parents. You will need to keep him on a leash until you get to the specific section of the fenced-in dog beach, and the park requires that he have DFA (Dog Free Area) tags on his collar, which are available for a small fee at city hall or a licensed veterinarian in the Chicago area. The beach is open every day of the year from 6 AM until 11 PM and is free to the public.
Belmont Harbor Beach
Just south of Montrose Beach, directly across from Wrigley Field, Belmont Harbor also has a small fenced patch of sand for pooches. It has about a quarter of an acre of golden beach where your pup can run around off the leash, play in the water, and dig in the sand. Being in the Belmont Harbor means that the place is often crowded, and you will see boats in and out of the area all day, every day. But this part of the beach is typically reserved for dogs and their pet parents.
There are no real amenities inside the dog beach but if you need a restroom or water, you can find it nearby at one of the harbor restrooms or vendors. There is a trail (Lakefront Trail), that stretches from Ardmore Avenue at Osterman Beach to 71st Street in Jackson Park. It is dog-friendly as long as you keep your canine companion on a leash and pick up after him at all times.
Everyone who has been to or heard of Chicago has heard of Lincoln Park. It is the largest park in the city, with almost 1,200 acres right along Lake Michigan and Ohio Street Beach. Actually, it is so large it has several beaches, including Oak Street Beach, Fullerton Beach, and North Avenue Beach, to name a few. It also includes the Lincoln Park Zoo, a nature sanctuary, a conservatory, a theater, a rowing canal, museums, and a pond.
Although there are some places in the park where dogs cannot go, like the museums, the zoo, and some of the shops, your pup is welcome on the trails and in the general public areas of the park as long as he is on a leash. And there are several dog-friendly sections of beach here, including Belmont Harbor and Montrose Dog Beach, which are mentioned above. Be sure to take a walk on the trails, where you can see some awesome art installations.
Also known as Kathy Osterman Beach, this park on Lake Shore Drive boasts a sandy stretch of land with a playground as well as a dog park. You can find this fun place to the north of Lincoln Park and Foster Beach. Even though the main section of Osterman Beach does not allow dogs on the sand, they love dogs so much that they gave fur babies their own space at the corner of West Bryn Mawr Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.
The dog park section, also known as Edgewater Dog Park by the locals, is a large fenced area with plenty of space to run around and play off the leash. And if your dog wants to play in Lake Michigan, walk down one of the lakefront trails, and you are welcome to let him splash around anywhere between Foster Beach and the beginning of the sand at Osterman Beach.
Wiggly Field Dog Park
You can find Wiggly Field Dog Park at Noethling Park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, with a little over half an acre for your canine companion to enjoy. It is less than two miles northwest of Lincoln Park and has what they call a playlot park. The popular pooch park gets its name from Wrigley Park, the home of the Cubs baseball team about a mile to the north. In fact, during certain times of the season, you and your pup can walk over and enjoy a game.
But back at Wiggly Field, you will find about six doggie swimming pools and other water features, including water fountains for pet parents too. Most of the dog section is gravel or dirt, which makes it easy to pick up after your pup. Bring your own doggie cleanup bags, though, because this is a popular spot. There is a special section for small dogs here, too in case your pooch is not ready to play with the big dogs yet.
Gillson Dog Beach
North of Lighthouse Beach and Lawson Park, Gillson Dog Beach is located at the southern end of Gillson Park in Wilmette. This special section for dogs allows your pooch to run around in the sand and play in the water off his leash. However, you will need a permit from the Wilmette Park District though. Fees are about $45 for residents and over $200 for non-residents, so if you do not live in town, you may want to go somewhere else.
In the rest of the park and beach, you will have to keep your fur baby on a leash, but it can be as long as 10 feet so he can play and swim easily. You need the same permit for this park as well, but it includes a picnic area, kayak launch areas, a playground, tennis courts, and a fitness course, as well as sailboat rentals. During the summer, the park has a restaurant called The Fat Shallot, which features a variety of foods.
Kosciuszko Dog Park
Located in Kosciuszko Park, the Kosciuszko Dog Park is also known as Koz Dog Park and features lots of shade, benches for pup parents, and events for dogs and their human families, such as health fairs, contests, and fundraisers. The one thing that you need to know about this pup park is that there is no grass, so if it has rained recently, it is going to be muddy. However, there are water features here to clean him up before getting back in the car.
In the rest of the nine-acre public park, you will find more fun, such as a fitness course, playground, ball fields, and picnic areas. And there is also a tennis court, so you may be able to find some errant tennis balls laying around that your fur buddy can play with. Most days, there is at least one food truck in the parking lot, especially during the summer.
Jackson Bark Park
Located in Jackson Park, Jackson Bark is a dog park with an agility course as well as access to Lake Michigan and the East Lagoon. So, not only can your dog enjoy running around with his furry friends off his leash, but he can also splash in the water when he gets hot. The agility course is extensive, with a variety of regulation-approved ramps, hoops, weave poles, tunnels, and bridges. Your dog will get a good workout here.
This is a well-known park that attracts a lot of locals. It even has its own Wikipedia page and has been named one of the best dog parks in Chicago many times by many different magazines and websites, including Chicago Magazine, Yelp, and even CBS News. It even has a pool! So, who says you need a beach to have fun with your fur buddy in Chicago? And the best part is that it is free as long as your pooch has the appropriate dog tags and shots.
Pooch Park is a 2.7-acre park on North Shore Challel at Channelside Park in Skokie. The fenced dog park is about 16 miles northwest of downtown Chicago and features a separately fenced agility area, another separate area for small dogs and puppies, and benches and water fountains for dogs and pet parents. Your pup will need to be at least four months old and have current shots and tags. Also, no more than eight dogs can be in the agility area at one time, and no dogs over 35 pounds are allowed in the small dog area.
The park also asks that you get a permit at one of the four community centers in Evanston or Skokie. They charge a fee of $50 for one dog and $10 for each additional dog. This fee goes to paying for maintenance and doggie bags. The rest of the park is dog-friendly if you keep your fur baby on a leash. It has a boat launch, restrooms, soccer fields, a rowing center, and more.
Evanston Dog Beach
Also, in Evanston, at Centennial Park, there is a dog beach run by the same offices. That means you can use your permit for Pooch Park at the Centennial Park Dog Beach too. Canine companions and their families love this beach, so it is almost always packed with locals. It is a fairly large fenced area, so you should have plenty of room to let your pup run loose and play in the water.
Thinking of having a picnic or taking a walk? You will have to attach your dog’s leash if you go into Centennial Park, where there are walking paths and the Arrington Lagoon Picnic Shelter. Dawes Park is also connected to the park with 16.2 acres featuring a spray pool, ball fields, and playgrounds. The historical park is named after Charles Dawes, who was the US Vice President from 1925 until 1929. Whether you visit the parks or just the beach, bring doggie bags and please pick up after your pup.
Fred Anderson Dog Park
Wow! You may look at this park and think it is small and dull, but you cannot pass this one up while you are in Chicago! Yes, Anderson Park is only 1.2 acres, and the dog parks are even smaller, but every inch is filled with fun for canine companions. From the tunnel to the water features, your dog will love every minute of his visit here. It is found in the South Loop and features a small and large dog section so everyone can play safely.
The water features are pretty amazing, including a few fountains, a pool, and a long lazy river-type channel where pups can splash and play. There are also structures for your fur baby to play on, tunnels, and shaded benches for the pup parents. Each separate section has its own fun structures, water fountains, and even some picnic tables. It is also free as long as your pooch has his tags and shots.
Larrabee Dog Park
At Ward A. Montgomery Park, Larrabee Dog Park is just a small part of the three acres of space along the Chicago River. The dog park is supported by the River North Residents Association, but it is available to the public free of charge. Because of this, Larrabee Dog Park is almost always crowded. But with over three acres of space, there is plenty of room for a bunch of fur babies to mingle as well as their pup parents.
The main park was named after Aaron Montgomery Ward, who was one of the most successful businessmen in Chicago and made a law to prohibit the city from dumping garbage in the area back in the 1880s. Even if your canine companion is not able to get down to the river to play, the dog park has hoses and fountains, as well as dog pools in the summer. Just be sure to keep your pup on a leash when going to and from the off-leash area.
Lakeshore East Park
This four-acre park is known for its lighted fountains and dog-friendly area. Lakeshore East Park has about five acres of space between Maggie Daley Park, Dusable Harbor, and the confluence of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. The main park has a playground, water features, and botanical gardens where you and your canine companion can stroll as long as he is leashed at all times. And do remember to bring doggie bags to pick up after your pup.
Although you cannot swim in the fountain, there is no harm in letting your fur baby get his feet wet. The off-leash area is completely shaded and surrounded by large trees, greenery, and sensational flowers. Being close to downtown, you will have an amazing view of the Willis Tower as well as the other highrise buildings, and there are many eateries surrounding the park where you can grab a bite to eat with your canine companion.
Grant Bark Park
Just south of Lakeshore East and in the heart of downtown, Grant Park has almost 320 acres, and some of that acreage includes an off-leash dog park called Grant Bark Park. The park has been the home of many historical events over the years, including the Chicago International Aviation Meet in 1911, the procession of the funeral of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, and police riots of the Democratic Convention of 1968.
The huge park is also home to Millennium Park and its famous Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as The Bean, the Art Institute of Chicago, Buckingham Fountain, and several art installations. But the Bark Park is the most important to your fur baby as it has 18,000 square feet of off-leash fun with water fountains, agility equipment, padded asphalt, and during the summer, there are pools! The number of pools varies every year, but there is always more than one from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
Northerly Island Park
Northerly Island Park is a 91-acre peninsula with sensational views of the skyline, a large beach, a yacht club, and playgrounds. The southern end of the peninsula is a nature preserve for birds and other wildlife, so your pooch is not allowed there. But north of the Daphne Garden, you and your fur baby are welcome to walk around on the trails, play on the beach, and explore the park. The only part of the beach he cannot go to is the swimming area.
The golden sand beach is a popular spot, but only the swimming area gets really crowded. You and your canine companion will often have the rest of the beach to yourselves. However, you will have to keep him on a leash at all times. Also, bring extra doggie cleanup bags to pick up after your pup. You will also find a taco stand and several other eateries nearby with food trucks during the summer.
The Final Woof
Besides these awesome beaches, you and your fur buddy can find a plethora of places and activities to enjoy. You can take a cruise on the water with Seadog Cruises Chicago on a speedboat by Hornblower. If you want to enjoy an adult beverage with your buddy, there are dozens of bars, wineries, and breweries that allow pups. Midwest Coast is one of the most popular with family and dog-friendly beverages and activities for all. Or go get some tacos at Broken English Taco Pub at one of their three separate locations. Also, there are plenty of dog-friendly shops and eateries along Navy Pier to enjoy with your canine companion.