Hollywood Beach, to put it short, is amazing. It's the perfect combination of "family beach" and "gay beach." Leonardo DiCaprio should have come here instead of travelling all the way to Thailand for the idyllic setting in The Beach; once Corona gets wind of Hollywood Beach, they will change their current slogan to “Find This Beach”; Odysseus would have never returned to Penelope had this been the beach Calypso called home (if you haven’t read The Odyssey in a while, just go with me on this one).
Hollywood Beach is one of those places that, regardless of who you are, feels like your own special place. At the north end of the beach, close to a playground, families spread out, building fortresses along the shore and buying treats from the ice cream vendors who (very quietly and un-aggressively!) peddle their popsicles. The mothers looked relaxed (and I don’t think any of them were even on valium!) and the kids…well, they may have been driving their parents crazy, but they never bothered me once. There is always a lifeguard within eye- and ear-shot.
Further south, we spied lots of singletons relaxing and reading their guilty pleasures (to the girl in the pink bandeau suit: no matter how hard you try to hide the title of your book, people will still know you’re reading 50 Shades of Grey. Own it. And when you’re finished, look me up so we can talk about whether or not Christian actually is abusive. I’ll start—I think he is.). Their solitude was a good indication that people feel very safe at this beach.
The southernmost end is where things get more fun. Most days, you can find a grassroots fashion show for the latest thong swimwear. (And I don’t mean “thong” as in what my mom still calls flip-flops.) All the models were of the incredibly tanned, 50+, male variety. While I am no fan of thong swimwear, nor of leathery skin, there is something quite endearing about the combination of the two. I worry that any further elaboration on that point would just get creepy, so I’ll leave you with that thought.
One of the best aspects of Hollywood Beach is how laid-back it is. Without the look-at-me shenanigans of other beaches, there is no one who would have appeared out of place here. We saw groups of women in shiny designer suits; enough fluorescent thong suits to convince me that if I ever become a fashion designer, I could make a killing selling fluorescent thong suits; mismatched bikinis from teenagers who just wanted to have fun; and so forth.
We walked over on Bryn Mawr to get to the beach and picked up food on the way (Subway for me, Indian food for Katie; sidenote—if it’s been a while since you’ve been in this area, the trip alone to see Historic Bryn Mawr is worth it—tons of restaurants and coffee shops!), but there is an impressive concession stand at the beach too, called "Nacho Mama." I love that. They even have a lovely shaded area where you can enjoy the reasonably priced foods.
And finally, the restrooms. Not a place I like to dwell on, both literally and figuratively, when it comes to public beaches. Let’s just say, we know what the Chicago Park District is up against when it comes to a free communal bathroom among patrons who are wet, sandy, and only halfway potty-trained; and they have managed to maintain a respectable facility.
Thanks for reading, and we’d like to hear from you in the comments! Do you have any memorable experiences at Hollywood Beach that would help characterize the place? Are there other features of beach-going that you’d like for us to comment on, either here or on our future visits? Let us know! Until next time, here’s your run-down for the Hollywood/Kathy Osterman Beach:
Location: 5800 N. Lake Shore Drive
Parking: None; nearby neighborhood parking is moderately difficult but manageable
Amenities: Beach Chair Rentals, Nacho Mama's Burrito Beach Bar, Paddle Boarding
Food and Restrooms: Yes to both
Overall Grade: 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.
Filed under: Northside Neighborhoods