I've always loved cooling off in the water on hot summer days. Growing up in suburban West Michigan, there was always an opportunity to kill summer boredom and escape the heat by jumping in a lake (whether it was "The Lake" or a smaller one) or heading to a friend's backyard to swim in their pool.
Living in the city for the past 4 summers, though, has been different. No friends here can afford land with a pool, and there are not many lakes located within the city. However, there are still plenty of ways to cool down by the water.
1. Head to the beach
This is the most obvious water option, but still noteworthy. My favorite north side beaches are:
Foster - It isn't huge but is usually one of the less crowded options.
Montrose - Very crowded but very big. Also there are multiple food stand options!
Oak Street - That classic downtown meets beach vibe.
2. Go kayaking down the Chicago River
This is seriously one of my favorite things I've ever done in Chicago. You get to see downtown from a new perspective, going at your own pace, while getting a gentle workout in. Be warned, though, the water itself is not pretty... just don't fall in.
3. Find a public pools or splash pad
Did you know that the Chicago Park District has 49 pools?? There are indoor ones that are open all year and outdoor pools that are, of course, only open in the summer. You can pay for a lap swim pass, or if you stick to open swim times, the pools are completely free! My favorite outdoor pools are the ones at River Park and Chase Park. Be sure to check the website before you go to see what times open swim is available.
4. Take a walk along the lake
Is swimming not your thing? That's okay, you can still enjoy the water without getting in. My favorite spots to walk by the lake, in the nice cool breeze, are the following:
Buckingham Fountain - this is a touristy area but is really beautiful.
Montrose Harbor or Belmont Harbor - Both are quieter spots with a variety of scenery, including a killer view of the skyline, right on the water.
Northwestern University campus - To escape the city feel, head up to Evanston and take a walk through Northwestern's beautiful campus.