Hartigan Beach is fine. The sand is fine, the water is fine, the amount of people and lifeguards is fine. But people don’t take day trips to the beach for “fine.” People don’t use up their valuable personal days for “fine.” People don’t decide that Chicago is the most amazing city on the face of the Earth (which is obviously true) because it has a beach that is “fine.”
To use some teacher vocabulary here, Hartigan Beach is a lost opportunity. It has everything going for it—close to the red line; steps away from Loyola University and its fun students; a nice size and with great views of some natural landscaping; but for whatever reason, Hartigan Beach never tips to really being a destination beach. Everything is just a bit too quiet, almost like its visitors are there out of obligation instead of relaxation.
To its credit, Hartigan Beach has some nice shaded and grassy areas, and a lovely pier that leads out to an abandoned lighthouse. The pier’s view of the city is great, but judging by the abandoned artifacts we found there, it’s a popular place for people to come and drink the cheapest vodka they can find. Unless you’re an 18 year-old whose parents just don’t understand you, I’d avoid that pier after dark.
The park that leads to Loyola Beach is nice. There is a lot of public art and huge open spaces which were mostly used to let dogs run around (watch where you step). Note to people with dogs: if your dog jumps on a complete stranger, please do not give the whole “oh puppy’s just saying hiiiii!” routine. Your dog is poorly behaved, and that is your fault. Some of us are highly allergic to your little poop-machines, and even if we aren’t, nobody really enjoys being mounted by a quadruped. At least not in public.
Anyway, Loyola Beach. It’s good. Unlike Hartigan, it has bathrooms, but we’d still classify them as “emergency only” facilities. It also has a food stand, which is a big help when you don't feel like lugging your own snacks on top of all the other beach accessories you have to carry.
On paper, Loyola Beach has everything needed for a top rating, but in reality, there is something amiss. It’s just not as inviting or laid-back as a beach should be. The people on the sand were sitting on those tall lawn chairs, and it looked more like they were guarding territory than enjoying themselves. People don’t seem to go home from Loyola Beach feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, which to us is the whole point of taking a day at the shore.
So there you have it, a fine beach and a good beach. Loyola’s worth the trip, but only if you’re tired of your local favorite beach. Hartigan…not so much. Do you have any other insights into these beaches? Any other messages you want to send to dog owners in public spaces?
And if you just didn’t feel like reading the whole review, here is your rundown:
*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