Chicago Summer Guide #3: The Best Parks and Beaches...and Refreshing Treats!
Today we're sharing our third and final Chicago Summer Guide with you and it's all about parks and beaches... well, mostly. But we realized something as we set out to write this post: After spending hours in the Summer Sun, you can always use a cold treat or refreshment to cool down! (Plus this girl LOVES her ice cream, so a series of City Guides that didn't expound on the best ice cream in the area would be incomplete!) As a result of this revelation, we're adding a bonus category ;) With every park or beach we point you to, we'll let you know what spots we'd recommend close by for a refreshing treat.
Read on to see which beaches and parks we love (and where to grab a sweet, cool, treat after hours in the sun!):
1. Montrose Beach (and Dog Beach!)
When it comes to beaches, Montrose is without a doubt at the top of our list. It's expansive, there is plenty of free street parking (even on the weekends it shouldn't take too long to find a free parking spot nearby), and you still have a great view of the Chicago skyline. You're just north of Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods where you can find loads to do in the evening after you're done with the sun! BONUS: They have a dog beach where cute puppers, floofers and doggos frolic in the waves... NOTHING is cuter than doggos playing at the beach!!
Afterwards head to:
- George's Ice Cream and Sweets: This shop features ice cream classics like sundaes and splits
- Ice Station: A unique spot featuring that fun Thai rolled ice cream you've probably seen somewhere on Instagram ;)
2. North Avenue Beach
My second favorite beach in the city is North Avenue Beach. When I first moved to Chicago I lived within a ten minute walk from the beach and spent most of my Summer weekends camped out there. I'll never forget that season of life and I'll always love North Avenue beach as a result! One of the best parts of this beach is that it boasts loads of volleyball courts!! And if you need to cool off and re-energize with food or drink, Castaways is right there so you'll never even need to leave the beach! Be warned that it can be insanely crowded here, and while there are a number of streets nearby that offer free street parking, snagging a spot can be pretty tricky (especially on the weekends). I would consider arranging for a paid parking spot using SpotHero or ParkMobile, especially if you're not used to city drivers! ;)
- Bobtail Ice Cream : great ice cream and a great location - take a stroll afterwards up and down Broadway with your cone!
- Annette's Italian Ice: For a lighter treat, head to Annette's - Italian ice is the perfect refreshing treat on a hot day.
3. Oak Street Beach
Much smaller than North Avenue beach, but much closer to downtown. This Gold Coast beach has the best skyline backdrop of any Chicago beach! Unfortunately it's even more crowded than North Avenue beach and not easy to get to if you don't live downtown. If you're driving - use either the SpotHero app or ParkMobile app to find something halfway reasonably priced! Still- if you want a beach experience that feels urban- this is the one for you.
- Joe and the Juice (10 E Delaware location): Everything here exudes fresh-ness. The juices and smoothies are delightfully refreshing!
4. 63rd street beach
This BEAUTIFUL beach is located near the gorgeous, historic, Hyde Park neighborhood. Because of its close proximity to 57th street beach, this beach is usually slightly less crowded and more calm - there is a beautiful boathouse located at the beach that makes this a picturesque location. This is a great beach to escape to if you're willing to venture out a bit!
- Kilwins: Although it's not just a Chicago spot, the ice cream is good and there's always a huge selection of flavors
- Insomnia cookies: Cookies and ice cream - a match made in heaven!
5. 57th street beach
The slightly more bumpin' cousin of 63rd street beach. The feel is lively and energetic, but you'll still have space to call your own.
- (see above)
1. Humboldt Park
We LOVE Humboldt Park. Not only is this one of the largest neighborhood parks in Chicago (Note: I do not consider any of the Lakefront parks such as Millenium Park, Lincoln Park, and Jackson Park to be "neighborhood" parks), but it's also got something for everyone. A slew of Puerto Rican food trucks line the perimeter of the park during the summertime (we recommend La Bomba!), there are tennis courts, soccer fields, basketball courts, LOTS of baseball diamonds, a new batting cage, paddle boats to rent, a small beach area for swimming, a small cafe overlooking the Humboldt Park Lagoon, children's playgrounds (the northernmost playground includes a water fountain kids can play in!) and a great walking/running path), beautiful trees, unique landscaping, and a Puerto Rican cultural center you can visit too! Have I sold you on this park yet? Also a great place to chill, have a picnic, play ultimate frisbee, or get a competetive spikeball competition running... ;) We love HP!
- Ruth & Phil's Ice Cream - this local shop cranks out decadent flavors and distributes to Chicago area grocery stores
- Spinning J: Aside from the most amazing design (you'll think you're at an old school soda fountain), everything they make is delightful! Their sodas are made from their own tinctures and extracts using fresh herbs, spices and flavorings and are super refreshing, while their shakes and malts will give you your decadent fix.
- Black dog: Gelato that is worth a small walk or drive!!! (SO GOOD). The creative flavor combinations always hit the mark! This is my personal favorite ice cream or gelato spot in the entire city!
3. Lincoln Park
Ok. So, TECHNICALLY- the entire northside lakeshore park system is referred to as Lincoln Park.... but, more specifically I'm referring to the portion that spans from North Avenue up to about Diversey Parkway. Within these couple of miles of long narrow parks the views of the city are breathtaking, and there are so many great spots to camp out for the day. A few favorites locations would be the spot just south of the Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk near the Ulysses S Grant statue and the Pavillion. Another would be the grassy area just north of North Pond. I also love the area right along the lakefront trail between Fullerton and Diversey which is a great place to go for a walk, run, or to picnic in the grass near the trail.
- Left Coast Juice Bar: Delicious smoothies, juices, and Acai bowls and THE cutest decor. Highly recommend this spot!
- Yoberri Frozen Yogurt: For a slightly healthier frozen treat- pop over to this Fro Yo spot! :)
4. Waveland Park - this park is a portion of Lincoln Park that is located between Belmont Avenue and Irving Park Road. There are softball fields and tennis courts, and lovely views of the city. Parking can be somewhat challenging here, but there are a number of pay to park parking lots around. Just be sure to research parking before you go!
- Paciugo Gelato: This cute shop has Italian Gelato in both traditional and creative flavors
- Shawn Michelle's Homemade Ice Cream: The OG spot is on the South Side, but this classic ice cream shop also has a location in Lakeview.
8. The 606
Back to Parks, this elevated running trail in the Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Logan Square area is a great place to excercise, and also a great way to explore these few neighborhooods. There are several seating areas along the path that are a peaceful place to bring a bite to eat and people watch!
- Margie's Candies - This old school ice cream and candy shop has been in operation in the same little storefront since 1921!! As a kid growing up in the city, my mom used to come to Margies and it's fun to be part of a bit of Chicago history by coming here. We love that they make the classics sundaes and banana splits in the old fashioned kind of way :)
- La Michoacana: there are several location of La Michoacana dotted around the city - the Hermosa and Humboldt Park locations will be the closest to the 606. You can find paletas, ice cream, and the famous Mexican mango drink: La Mangonada!!
- Jeni's splendid ice cream: Jeni's isn't local to Chicago, but it IS delicious and very worth a trip!
- Miko's Italian Ice: These no frills Italian ice spots are perfect for a refreshing cold treat from classic lemon to a variety of other flavors they will rotate out throughout the year.
9. Maggie Daley Park
A pretty new addition to Millenium park, I'm so impressed with Maggie Daley park. SUPER fun for kids - the playground is amazing! there are also outdoor climbing walls and great walking paths. Perfect place to take the family!
- Black Dog Gelato at Revival Food Hall - As I mentioned above- Black dog wins my vote for best ice cream or gelato in Chicago every time!
- Red Mango- Although it's not unique to Chicago, this fro-yo spot is located right next to the park making it super easy to get a tasty treat and cool down
- Gordo's Homemade Ice Cream Bars - the creativity of these frozen treats outweighs the fact that you'll have to be willing to veer over to Printers Row.
10. Ping Tom Memorial Park
This near south side park is not only beautiful in its own right, but it also has beautiful views of downtown! Located near China town, you'll be able to head out for dim sum after your day in the park!
- Scoops Ice Cream: Classic ice cream spot that you cannot go wrong with!
- Legend Tasty House: for a creative frozen treat- pop over to Legend Tasty House! They serve Thai rolled ice cream with a flourish!
11. Union Park
This Mid-size park is located in the West Loop area. Its proximity to downtown makes it a great place to go before a night out downtown or a dinner date on restaurant row.
- Cone Gourmet Ice Cream: Creative flavors of soft serve and regular ice cream abound!
- BomboBar: The most elaborate works of dessert/art!! the shakes and gelato are perfect for Summer. Absolutely love the over-the-top ness of this place!!
12. Oz Park
This cute little park is perfectly landscaped and is a great place to take young kids. The wood playground here is AMAZING!
- Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams: As mentioned above, it isn't local to Chicago, but it IS delicious and very worth a trip!
- Insomnia Cookies: What goes better with ice cream than a perfectly baked cookie?? Luckily they have both here :)
13. Horner Park
This large neighborhood park is located in Irving Park. With baseball fields, soccer fields, and views over looking the river, it feels like a true oasis...you may even forget your in the city for a moment!
- Miko's Italian Ice (Irving Park):
- Yogurt Square: Keep your refreshments light with Fro Yo
- Fruityland: Much like La Michoacana, you can find all sorts of Paletas, Ice Cream, and mixes like the Mangonada here
- La Michoacana: One of the locations of this Chicago staple is just a hop skip and a jump from Horner Park. Paletas, ice cream, Mangonada and other Mexican treats abound!
- CookieSpin: If you're in the mood to knock yourself out, head here for a baked cookie topped with ice cream!
Whew- there you have it, our favorite parks, beaches, and ice cream spots in the city! We had a ton of fun creating these Chicago Summer guides and hope you enjoyed them too. What are your favorite things to do in Chicago in the Summer? We'd love to hear how you make the most of this amazing time of year here in the Windy City :)
With love from Chicago,
Daniel + Jennifer