Lake Michigan is one of the United States’ five Great Lakes, together with Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie. The lake stretches north-south and borders the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and, as its name suggests, Michigan. Chicago is the biggest city on Lake Michigan, which is the largest lake in the world that sits within one country. In fact, the lake is so vast that its waves are surfable—even in icy winters.
The city of Chicago boasts 26 miles (41.8 kilometers) of Lake Michigan shoreline, 15 beachfront areas, and several marinas housing thousands of boats. Activities along the lengthy Lake Michigan shoreline include something for everyone, from kayaking, canoeing, or sailing to sightseeing cruises, biking along the lakefront path, and relaxing on one of the many beaches. Travelers to Chicago can see the lake on waterfront Segway tours, sunset dinner cruises, and speedboat rides.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Two major beaches easily accessible from downtown Chicago are North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach.
- Sightseeing cruises and kayak and canoe rentals on Lake Michigan are generally available only from May to October.
- The lakefront path in Chicago is shared by pedestrians and bicyclists. Pay attention to your surroundings and always stay to the right.
How to Get There
Chicago sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, so the lakeshore is easily accessible by public transportation, walking, or biking. You can also take a day trip from Chicago to see Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is just a train ride away.
When to Get There
Lake Michigan is best visited in the summer months. Beaches are open all along the lakeshore, sightseeing cruises run along the lake and the Chicago River, and it’s a pleasure to get out onto—and into—the water.
Lake Michigan Beyond Chicago
If you’re looking to experience the Great Lakes from a different perspective, head to Mackinac Island. Half a day’s drive from Chicago, Mackinac is located between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. Go for a hike or bicycle ride around the island, play a round of golf, or take a sunset cruise from Mackinaw City that takes you between the strait that separates the peninsulas and under the Mackinac Bridge. Other great vantage points from which to experience Lake Michigan are Green Bay, Wisconsin, Traverse City, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.