Lake Shore Drive at night — Photo courtesy of City of Chicago
Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive has been featured in movies and memorialized in a song. It's considered one of the city’s gems, since it runs alongside beautiful Lake Michigan and the Lakefront Trail. For families, there are plenty of things to do and see along this famous roadway.
Pack a picnic and some snacks before your Lake Shore adventure, because while there are restaurants along the way, there are even more great spots to lay down a picnic blanket and enjoy the sites.
Start the 15-mile drive along "The Drive" at Jackson Park, where the Museum of Science and Industry is located. Heading north, the next stop will be Burnham Park. Get off here and enjoy one of the best uninterrupted views of the city’s skyline from Promontory Point.
Continuing northbound, you'll find the spaceship-style stadium that is Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears football team. To its immediate right is the Museum Campus, home to Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum.
Chicago's downtown comes into clear view, as skyscrapers create shadows along Lake Michigan in the afternoon light. To the left is Buckingham Fountain, which delights visitors and locals alike during the summer months.
Lake Shore lights dazzle. — Photo courtesy of Cesar Russ Photography / City of Chicago
Curve around The Drive - past the Chicago Yacht Club and Navy Pier - and Oak Park Beach comes into view, as well as some of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings. Parking near Oak Street Beach is hard to come by, so continue northbound until you reach Lincoln Park. The park starts at North Avenue (the next major street), which is also home to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Parking for the zoo can be found off Lake Shore Drive for about $20, but it’s possible (although not always easy) to find metered parking along North Stockton Drive.
If you can snag a parking spot, head to The Patio at Café Brauer on the zoo grounds, which offers some spectacular skyline views. For fine dining and Sunday brunch, check out North Pond, also located on Lincoln Park's grounds.
Beaches line the shoreline along Lake Shore Drive. — Photo courtesy of City of Chicago
Make your way back onto Lake Shore Drive, heading north, where you’ll continue to enjoy the ride until you hit Hollywood Avenue in the Edgewater neighborhood. Here, the drive ends (and the street becomes Hollywood Avenue and heads west). This neighborhood, and its neighboring Andersonville, is brimming with ethnic food spots and indie shops. It’s worth taking a stroll through the neighborhoods to get the local flavor.
The speed limit on Lake Shore drive is 40 to 45 mph (depending on the season), so it’s not like typical expressways where you’re driving at warped speed and can’t enjoy your surroundings. Even so, it’s highly recommended that you get off Lake Shore Drive and park in one of the lots to soak in the views, enjoy some great people watching and even snap some photos.
From the Kwagulth Totem Pole that stands in Lincoln Park, overlooking the intersection of North Lake Shore Drive and West Addison Street, to the stunning skyline view from Promontory Point in Burnham Park, Lake Shore Drive may only run 15 miles, but it’s packed with history, architecture and cultural attractions - not to mention a priceless view of one of the country’s Great Lakes.
One more thing: if the opportunity to drive into the city from the south at night, either off the Dan Ryan expressway or I-55, is an option, take it. That view, of the glittering Chicago skyline, is one of the reasons so many people proudly call this city home.
Chicago's Lake Shore Drive may not be the road less traveled, but as the song goes . . .
"Well there ain't no road just like it anywhere I've found,
Runnin' south on Lake Shore Drive, headin' into town
Just slippin' on by on L.S.D. Friday night, trouble bound."
- Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah