New in July 2013: Rainbow Beach offers free wifi for beach visitors.
Located in the South Chicago neighborhood, Rainbow Beach and Park totals 60.98 acres and features a gymnasium, fitness center and multipurpose rooms, handball courts, and one of the oldest community gardens in Chicago.
A natural area located at the northeast end of the beach includes 9.18 acres of dune habitat.
In 2013, the Park District is partnering with the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Chicago to install a prototype stormwater filter to clean the rainwater that washes off of the parking lot onto the beach. This project is funded by a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Pay & display parking
The following public bus & train routes serve this beach:
Beach house and restrooms
- Life guard first aid station
Rainbow Beach Park has a playground near the north end of the beach
Food and beverage
11 AM - 8 PM
Rainbow Beach features an accessible beach walk, parking and restrooms.
Please follow the rules while you’re at the beach:
- Swim only when lifeguards are on duty.
- Follow lifeguards’ instructions.
- Only Coast Guard approved flotation devices are permitted.
- No smoking.
- No alcohol.
- No dogs on the beach.
- Do not feed birds or wildlife.
- Dispose of trash and recycling in appropriate containers.
- Grill in designated areas only and dispose of coals in red barrels.
- Keep accessible beach walks clear. No bicycling, skateboarding or rollerblading is permitted in these areas.
- Access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail for sports such as kayaking, canoeing and other non-motorized board or paddle sports is allowed at Rainbow Beach. For more information, go to the rules page and download information on Lake Michigan water trails.
- Kiteboarding is not permitted at Rainbow Beach; kiteboarding is ONLY permitted at Montrose Beach.
Named for the U.S. Army's 42nd Rainbow Division that fought gallantly in World War I, Rainbow Beach and Park began as two separate municipal beaches. The first was established in 1908 by the Special Parks Commission, a city agency that studied open space needs and created parks, playgrounds and beaches in densely populated areas of Chicago.
At the time, this small site at 79th Street and Lake Michigan was known as Rocky Ledge Beach. The name referred to the area's rocky terrain, and to the manmade limestone ledge that served as a shore promenade and prevented shoreline erosion.
By 1912, the heavily used beach had bathrooms and changing rooms. Illuminated by electric lights, the beach remained open until 9:30 p.m. for the benefit of working men and women.
In 1914, the city began efforts to expand the beach, and soon acquired land between 75th Street and Rocky Ledge Beach. The City Council officially named the new site Rainbow Beach in 1918. The smaller, adjacent Rocky Ledge Beach continued operating as a children's beach. The two beaches were consolidated in 1959, when the Chicago Park District began leasing the site from the city.
For many years the park lacked sufficient indoor recreational facilities, so in 1999 the Chicago Park District constructed a large field house. Designed by David Woodhouse Architects, the field house takes full advantage of Rainbow Beach and Park's breathtaking views of the lakefront and skyline.