Top Five Lakeside Chicago Attractions

By: Amy Cavanaugh

July 10, 2013

Lake Michigan comprises Chicago‘s eastern border, and the gleaming blue lake offers city dwellers and visitors a chance to break out the sailboat or surfboard and soak up the sun. And there’s much more to do on the lake than hit the waves. From a walking and biking trails to cultural institutions offering stunning views of the skyline, lakeside Chicago offers up a whole range of activities and attractions.

Lakefront Trail, Chicago

The Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile-long path that stretches right along the edge of Lake Michigan. Starting at Hollywood Avenue on the north side and running to 71st Street on the South Side, cyclists and walkers can hop on the path at any point and take in views of the waves and city skyline. Parts of the trail curve along the sandy beaches, others cut through parks and gardens, and there are volleyball courts and baseball diamonds for sporty types to get out and play.

Adler Planetarium, Chicago

Adler Planetarium | Chicago

Chicago skyline from the Adler Planetarium © Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium, which is regularly voted as the “Best View of Chicago’s Skyline”, is located on a spit of land that juts out into the Lake. In addition to the exhibits about the history of astronomy and the solar system, the Planetarium hosts cosmic themed events year-round. Every third Thursday, the Adler hosts Adler After Dark, an event geared toward hip young professionals that includes cocktails and after-hours access to exhibits. Plus, the Doane Observatory, the largest publicly accessible telescope in the Midwest, will be open for visitors to gaze up at the stars.

Adler Planetarium, 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Chicago Shakespeare Theater | Chicago

Chicago Shakespeare Theater © Steinkamp/Ballogg

With the Chicago Children’s Museum, an IMAX theater, and Navy Pier Park most of the activities on Navy Pier are geared toward the little ones. But you don’t have to be a kid to have fun on the pier – take a stroll along its 3,300-foot long length before heading to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which performs plays by the Bard year-round.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 East Grand Avenue, Chicago

Chicago Beaches

Chicago Beaches | Chicago Attractions

Chicago beaches © Chicago Park District

Chicago has 26 miles of public beaches, including the family-friendly Oak Street Beach, which is located in Streeterville and offers a skyline view and volleyball nets. Lincoln Park’s buzzing North Avenue Beach has a beach house designed like an ocean liner with upper decks and portholes perfect for people watching or gazing out at the lake.

Oak Street Beach, 1000 North Lake Shore Drive /  North Avenue Beach, 1600 North Lake Shore Drive

Northerly Island, Chicago

Northerly Island | Chicago

Northerly Island © Chicago Park Distric

Northerly Island, a 91-acre peninsula just south of the Adler Planetarium, offers quiet activities for nature lovers, including walking paths and fishing. Even though there’s a view of Chicago’s skyscrapers, the island’s natural beauty and prairie grasses provide an escape from the heat and intensity of the city.

Northerly Island, 1521 S. Linn White Drive, Chicago

Header photo: Lakefront Trail, Chicago © Bernt Rostad

Virgin Atlantic operates seasonal, direct flights to Chicago from London Heathrow. The last flight of 2013 departs in September so book your flight today.

What are your favourite things to do on or by the water in Chicago? What shouldn’t a first time visitor miss? Share your knowledge below.


Amy Cavanaugh

Amy Cavanaugh ( writes about food and drink, travel, and culture from her home base of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @AmyCavanaugh

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