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All About Chicago's Hollywood Beach (Also Known as Osterman Beach)
Chicago's best gay beach is also family-friendly
It's called Hollywood Beach because Chicagoans refer to their beaches by the name of the closest cross streets. But its official name is Osterman Beach. Everyone I know still calls it Hollywood Beach.
It also happens to be the top gay beach in the city, although I lived here for a long time before I figured that out. I knew there were a lot of gay guys in Speedos, but there are a lot of other kinds of people too -- like old Eastern European ladies and families. I didn't realize gay men (and it does seem to be mostly men even though the beach is closer to Andersonville than Boystown) come from all over the city to this particular beach. It is consistently named Best Gay Beach in Chicago by any newspaper, magazine or website that puts together a list.
Hollywood Beach is also cleaner than the other more crowded beaches. I dare to say our sand is the cleanest in the city. And we also have a brand new beach house with a concession stand, vollyball nets, eco-friendly toilets that use rainwater, and a beautiful new mosaic covering an old building.
Where is Hollywood Beach?
Hollywood Beach (Osterman Beach) is located just north of the end of Lake Shore Drive at Hollywood Ave (the 5700 block) and extends north to Thorndale (5900 block).
Hollywood (Osterman) Beach doesn't have a parking lot. If you must drive, you can park at Foster Beach about .8 miles to the south and walk up, or you can find parking in the neighborhood.
Hollywood Beach is one of the city's cleanest, least crowded beaches.
1. The gayest (I mean that in a good way) part of the beach is the southern 1/3, near the volleyball nets. If that's where you want to be, get there early for a good spot because it can get crowded, especially on weekends and holidays.
2. If you want to spread out a bit, the northern 2/3 of the beach is much less crowded, but there are more children running around.
3. If volleyball is your thing, bring your own net. Otherwise you'll have to make friends with someone who brought a net.
Save the Date:
Movies in the Parks comes to Osterman Beach on JUNE 24.
The movie? RENT
Start time: dusk
And of course it's free!
This should be good. It's the first time the movie is something I want to see.
New beach house - High-tech, eco-friendly bathrooms + a little concession stand
The new beach house opened up in the middle of the summer 2010 and I didn't get a chance to try out the concession stand. I'm sure it has most of the same stuff they sell at the other concession stands -- like cold drinks, hot dogs and ice cream -- but since each concession stand is independently operated there might be surprises. I will report back with the menu once the concession stand opens up for the 2011 season.
The beach house also contains a first aid station and high-tech bathrooms that run on solar power and rainwater. Outside the beach house are some little showers so you can wash the sand off your feet before you go home. And by the concession stand is a little patio where you can eat at one of the bistro tables. Or you can relax in one of the rainbow-colored (because this is the best gay beach in Chicago, after all) lounge chairs.
Rules to Follow
The rules are the same on all of Chicago's public beaches, although the lifeguards here tend to be a little more laid back than they are at some of the more crowded beaches.
As long as you are discreet about it, you can drink alcohol. I've never heard of anyone getting in trouble for that.
But the lifeguards are strict about a few things. No swimming past the buoys. No climbing on the rocks that mark the northern end of Hollywood Beach. And no swimming at Thorndale Beach. (That's the little beach past the rocks that is connected to Hollywood Beach). And no swimming when the flags are red, signaling high bacteria levels or rough waters.
Of course, the lifeguards aren't there all the time. They are only on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (I'm pretty sure that's right but I'm going to double check) from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. So what you do when they're not around is your own business.
What happened to the old bathrooms? - New mosaic on the building but no word on what it will be used for
When the new bathrooms opened up at the end of last summer the tiny building housing the old bathrooms closed down. Earlier this spring I was surprised to see that the old building was getting a mosaic makeover.
It looks gorgeous. But the question remains, what will the building be used for?
I'll post an update once I know the answer.
Who is she and why was the beach named after her?
Kathy Osterman was a longtime community activist in Edgewater and Uptown. She also served two years (1987-89) as alderman for the 48th Ward, which includes this beach. During that time she was a great advocate for the gay and lesbian community and helped pass Chicago's Human Rights Ordinance in 1988. She died in 1992 and was posthumously inducted into the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame.
However, I think it's just a coincidence that she was a friend to the gay community and the beach named after her happens to be gay-friendly. I doubt that many people even know that the official name is Osterman Beach. Everyone I know still refers to it as Hollywood Beach.
Kathy Osterman was also the mother of Harry Osterman who is the current 48th Ward alderman.