Things to do in Illinois
Lake Michigan
4.5
About
Chicago sits on the shore of this Great Lake.
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The area
Neighbourhood: Streeterville
Streeterville is where visitors head for play at Navy Pier, a pseudo amusement park and development of restaurants, shops, rides, and other activities. You’ll find lots of action and excitement on the docks. Along the pier, you’ll see the statue of the captain for whom Streeterville is named. While you enjoy your fair share of sightseeing at the pier, you can also visit other popular attractions there such as the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Off the pier you’ll find more restaurants from low-cost pubs to high-end establishments. Arts and culture aficionados should be sure not to miss the Museum of Contemporary Art.
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
1,851 reviews
Excellent
1,345
Very good
433
Average
66
Poor
5
Terrible
2

Steve B
Glen Ellyn, IL1 contribution
Aug. 2023 • Friends
I live outside of Chicago and have an appreciation for the lake-shore. I grew up in Connecticut on Long Island Sound and Lake Michigan is a larger body of water...fresh water....blue water. It was foreign to me when I moved here over 39 years ago. Chicago, situated on the lake, is a world class city.

Growing up a boater, however, it took me 39 years to actually captain a boat on the big lake. This review is about those experiences.

What I like:
- Fresh Water
- Clean in comparison to Long Island Sound
- Beaches along Lake Michigan can be fantastic (yet Chicago beaches are inaccessible to boats)
- Views of the city from the lake are terrific
- No smell associated with tidal salt water areas
- Few water hazards such as rocks that may be more common in tidal areas
- No need to wash down your boat with fresh water after every cruise
- No sharks or jellyfish...easily swim-able in nice weather

What I don't really care for:
- The lake is like a big bathtub..not a lot of changing tidal character nor islands
- Lake Michigan can be VERY dangerous as the lake is sensitive to winds and offers little shelter accept for the breakwater areas such as the Play Pen
- There are not a lot of accessible interesting destinations as the lake is huge...a trip across the lake in a boat less than 30 feet is likely not safe if there is any kind of weather in the forecast. Waves can quickly develop with shifts in wind.
- Access to the Chicago River is achieved through a lock, and that makes it inconvenient
- Traffic on the lake can get congested in areas like the Play Pen, which raises the risk level as alcohol is common in these crowds

I enjoy boating on Lake Michigan, however I would not own a boat in Chicago due to limited quality days on the water, congestion on those nice days, and a season that is relatively short.

That said, for anyone touring the city, the lake-shore is a must, and if you can get out on the water, its recommended.

Written August 15, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Teri S
Tulsa, OK102 contributions
Aug. 2022 • Family
We traveled to 4 of the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan was my favorite. It has such a wide variety of things to see and do.
Written June 12, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Neil O
Preston, UK88 contributions
Oct. 2022
Me and my wife recently visited Chicago to run the Marathon.
Over our trip we had a few days spare and decided to roam around the City to take in some of the sites.
You can't come to Chicago and miss Lake Michigan!!!
We walked down to the lake to take in the view - WOW. We bought a drink and took a leisurely walk along the boardwalk in both directions and just chilled for a couple of hours watching the world go by.
Written January 17, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

psudino
Weehawken, NJ4,068 contributions
Sep. 2021
Without the lake, Chicago wouldn't have the appeal it does. The lake provides both a scenic and unique border to the city and allows for attractions otherwise not found in cities not on the water. The lakeside trail, the piers, the boats (and in the summer the boating parties), and in my opinion the most important, the constant breeze of fresh and clean air.
Written June 12, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Taylor B
Chicago, IL8,751 contributions
Sep. 2020
Over the years, my wife and I have experienced some of the most spectacular and beautiful sights in the world...like Pebble Beach and Carmel Bay in California, New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty in New York City, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. As native Chicagoans, we have the pleasure of viewing Lake Michigan. Chicago is the birthplace of skyscrapers, home of deep dish pizza and one of the largest urban cities in the United States. But it also is home to 26 miles of scenic lakefront and sandy shoreline where you can swim, bike, kayak, canoe, boat, jet ski, paddleboard, play golf, volleyball, handball and tennis, fishing, engage in bird-watching and sight-seeing, listen to live music, dine, drink beer, eat hot dogs, walk, jog and picnic amid its numerous beaches, public parks, gardens and 18-mile Lakefront Trail. Visit Navy Pier, the No. 1 tourist attraction in Illinois, or enjoy a cruise on the Lake Michigan or Chicago River. Oh, it's colder than the Gulf of Mexico. But it's fresh water, not salty. And the view of Chicago's skyline from North Avenue Beach is a postcard for photographers. There are eight beaches along the way--Hollywood, Montrose, North Avenue, Oak Street, 31st Street, 12th Street, South Shore, Rainbow--and, although they are closed to swimmers during the Coronavirus pandemic, they remain popular destinations for sight-seers, bird-watchers, walkers, joggers, bikers and picnickers.
Written September 20, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

CaptTrouble
Hudson, WI7,890 contributions
Sep. 2019
My husband and I took a long walk along the shore of Lake Michigan on a very hot day. It was along North Lake Shore Drive, so there was some traffic noise. There was a wonderful breeze off of the lake which was so refreshing after walking in the hot city. Definitely something to look forward to when visiting Chicago!
Written January 2, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Sandie N
9 contributions
Oct. 2019
When I think of a lake I can see the other side. No way that is true. It is huge like an ocean. The water is beautiful!
Written December 31, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

travelwithsachin
Dubai, United Arab Emirates222 contributions
Dec. 2019 • Solo
This is truly a great lake in every sense. It is enormous, gigantic, massive. I have never come across a lake of this scale which actually looks like a sea or ocean. There is lot of calmness to it. It is beautifully blue. It has a beach and waves which I have never seen on a lake. The walk across this lake is an experience you do not want to miss.
Written December 11, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Annaline
Park Ridge, IL7,031 contributions
Oct. 2019
When you visiting Chicago you must see to go to at least take ones a Lake Shore Drive or come to any of the beaches at the Lake Michigan. It is magnificent. Each day different. It feels like an ocean but it is not so laud as an ocean. On top of it there is so many attractions located near the banks of Michigan that it is really hard to miss although I heard and met some tourist who didn't see our city from the Lake Michigan perspective....big mistake!
Written November 11, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

LLHH
Vancouver, Canada1,229 contributions
Oct. 2019 • Couples
Take a walk or rent a bike and go along the lake shore trail. It stretches for 18 miles. A few pop up restaurants along the way. Picturesque. Always something to see.
Written October 10, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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LAKE MICHIGAN - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

Frequently Asked Questions about Lake Michigan

According to Tripadvisor travellers, these are the best ways to experience Lake Michigan: