Rules for Chicago Beaches: How Not to Get Cited, Arrested

Betty Wang

It’s finally beach season in Chicago. You know what this means: many, many (hopefully not too many — nobody likes a crowded beach) a beach bum will be flocking toward the shores of Lake Michigan for some ultimate summer maxin’ and relaxin’.

Before you pack up your cooler full of ice-cold beers and load up your car trunk with floaties, however, remember that even though it seems like a lawless land out by the waves, it’s not. There are still many precautions to be taken and crimes to watch out for.

Here is a list of some helpful rules for you to know for Chicago beaches:

  • Swimming is only allowed when lifeguards are on duty. Not only that, but you must follow lifeguard instructions if there are any. Failing to do so is not only dangerous, but you could be cited.
  • No smoking or alcohol is allowed. So, about that cooler full of ice-cold beer … it’s not allowed. Most states have strict open container laws which do not allow alcohol consumption in certain public places, and Illinois is definitely one of them.
  • Grill in designated areas ony and dispose of coals in red barrels. There should usually be signs directing you to BBQ-appropriate areas.
  • Do not feed birds or wildlife. This not only creates a nuisance to others by inviting flocks of pigeons and seagulls to the sand, but it leads to unsanitary results. According to the Chicago Park District, fecal droppings from birds are strongly linked to high levels of E. coli in the water. Nobody wants E. coli in the summer (or, um, ever).
  • No disorderly conduct. Of course you can let loose a little while on the beach, just not too much. Acts considered a nuisance are not only just plain annoying, but they are illegal. This includes public urination and being a public nuisance (unnecessarily loud and disruptive).
  • Surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding are only allowed in designated areas. For more information, download the free information PDFs from the Chicago Park district.
  • No dogs on the beach unless otherwise posted. Sorry, this means leaving your furry bff at home this summer. However, if dogs are allowed, you may still need to purchase a permit.

Related Resources:

Rules for Chicago Beaches: How Not to Get Cited, Arrested