A Review of Foster and Montrose Beach

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Katie and I started this day at Foster Avenue Beach. Despite the hordes of mating dragonflies in the air, this beach is quite lovely. One of its unique amenities is a grassy area that leads right up to the water, where people picnicked, strummed on their guitars, and dozed in the shade of trees. The beach area is sizeable, with more than enough room for everyone to spread out. It’s a family-friendly beach at its southernmost, but if you’re looking for some solace, it grows into an older, quieter beach farther up. At the northernmost end is a dog beach, and though I am not one for canines, admit that the dogs definitely left everyone else alone. And they didn’t even smell that bad!

What Katie and I liked about Foster Ave as a whole is its “Choose Your Own Adventure” quality—all different sorts of people were there, and they all had a place to belong. If you’re going to the beach with a bunch of different friends, this might be a great choice because you can all find a little of what you’re looking for.

The concessions are housed in a lovely, prairie-style building. And as usual, the restrooms were (say it with me, folks): emergency-only. Also available at this beach is a rental stand for those covered family bicycles (you know, the ones that they have at Navy Pier that you always roll your eyes at, but you secretly hope that someone in your group wants to try with you?). The surrounding park is well maintained and a great destination for a day-trip. Our only complaint is that the beach itself was a little dirty, but considering how many kids were at the beach, a Cheetos bag here and an empty juice box there is expected.

We then drove down to Montrose Beach, just a short trip down the lakefront. On the way, we stopped in at the bird sanctuary and walked through the trails. There were breathtaking views of the skyline across the water, but uh...just watch where you step. Anybody who has been through this bird sanctuary will know what I mean.

Anyway, we progressed to Montrose Beach from here, and this beach, people, is HUGE! It’s so big that an entire outdoor gymnasium (with parallel bars and a spot for floor exercises and everything) was set up for a Beach Meet and it hardly took up any of the space at all. (Montrose Beach: 1, Oak Street Beach: 0.) Unlike the rest of Chicago’s eastern-facing beaches, Montrose faces North/Northeast, and for some reason that slight shift lends an entirely different atmosphere here. At the top of the beach is a boathouse with the requisite emergency-only bathrooms, but more excitingly, a full-service bar and restaurant! This place was hopping the whole time we were there, and there’s even a performance area to the side for bands to perform. The perfect place to sip on a Corona and listen to some live reggae. The concessions also had a healthy variety of fancy coffee-drinks, making this a great destination even after it starts to get chilly.

Between the bustling restaurant, the immense size of the sandy plot, and the five kite-surfers on the water (it was a windy and wavy day), this beach has a feeling that is more California than Chicago. In addition to kite-surfing, there is jet-skiing and banana boating, beach soccer, and beach volleyball. And let me assure you, there is plenty of room for everyone.

We felt very relaxed at this beach (or would have, if the lifeguards didn’t announce that there were three missing kids and therefore cleared the water of all swimmers—don’t worry, they eventually found the kids, or they just gave up looking and let everyone back in). The sun was on our backs and we didn’t have that sweating-to-death feeling that has been all too commonplace this summer. We refused to look at our phones because we never wanted it to be time to go. It’s a great beach, but we worry that on other days, between all the sports and whatnot, it might get a little too busy to be relaxing. Still, if you, like 99% of Chicagoans I talk to, love the beach but are totally sick of North Ave, this is a great alternative that isn’t quite as far as some of the other bigger beaches.

Until next time, be kind and use protection! (At least SPF 30.)

Address: Foster Ave, 5200 N.; Montrose Ave, 4400 N.
Parking: Lot and street parking available, some free and some $1/hour, might be harder to find on weekends
Atmosphere: Foster, pleasant; Montrose, California-esque
Food/Restrooms: Yes to both
Overall Grade: Foster Ave, A- ; Montrose Ave, A-

*Note: Katie Porter and Christine Adams spent a full summer traveling to every single Chicago beach. A review of each will appear on Spacing Out every 1-2 days, so keep checking back! Material has been revised and republished from their original blog.

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