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All About Chicago's Hollywood Beach (Also Known as Osterman Beach)

Updated on February 21, 2012

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).

Parking

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.


View Map

Hollywood Beach is one of the city's cleanest, least crowded beaches.

Hollywood Beach is one of the city's cleanest, least crowded beaches.
Hollywood Beach is one of the city's cleanest, least crowded beaches.

Insider Tips

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 at Hollywood Beach also known as Osterman Beach
the new beach house at Hollywood Beach also known as Osterman Beach

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.

The rules at Hollywood Beach are the same as they are at other Chicago beaches, but the lifeguards are a bit more laid back about enforcing them.
The rules at Hollywood Beach are the same as they are at other Chicago beaches, but the lifeguards are a bit more laid back about enforcing them.

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

new mosaic covering the old bathrooms at hollywood beach also known as osterman beach
new mosaic covering the old bathrooms at hollywood beach also known as osterman beach

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.

Kathy Osterman

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.

More pictures of Hollywood Beach:

Hollywood Beach also known as Osterman Beach in Chicago
Hollywood Beach also known as Osterman Beach in Chicago
The volleyball nets at Hollywood Beach in Chicago
The volleyball nets at Hollywood Beach in Chicago
Osterman Beach in Chicago
Osterman Beach in Chicago

Questions about Hollywood Beach? - I live nearby and can answer any question you have about it

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    • profile image

      john hackett 14 months ago

      It"s nice to know that this beach is their for us.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for the info. Good sleuthing! I think we might go for it w/out permits because we don't even plan on having chairs... It might not be exactly fitting to run during our ceremony but it would be memorable!!! Good idea to avoid lifeguard hours!

    • ChristineRenee LM profile image
      Author

      ChristineRenee LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I wanted to add that I think you could probably get away with not having a permit if you have a small enough group. The only thing is it might add stress to the day if you are worried that someone is going to shut it down.

      If you had it before or after the lifeguards are on duty then I think you would be fine without a permit. Or if you wanted to have it in the grassy area south of the beach where there aren't any lifeguards, you'd probably be fine too.

    • ChristineRenee LM profile image
      Author

      ChristineRenee LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Gutteda,

      What a great location for a civil union. :)

      I assume civil unions are treated the same as weddings, and weddings definitely are allowed., but you do need a permit. This was the best info I found: http://www.cpdit01.com/resources/permits.special-e...

      "There are four different levels of Commemorative Permit for our gardens. Levels 3 & 4 are specifically for the Tiffany Celebration Garden; Levels 1 & 2 are for all other gardens and beaches. Level 1 allows you two hours (including set-up and tear-down), and it allows you bring in chairs and a trellis. Level 2 allows you four hours (including set-up and tear-down), and it allows you to have amplified sound, a small tent (15x15â or smaller) and risers in addition to chairs and a trellis, if desired. However, we require Liability Insurance with Level 2. More information including the fees can be found in the Special Event Application. "

      Hope that helps! And yay about Illinois finally making civil unions legal. It's about time!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Any idea if you have to a permit to have a civil union there? We don't expect to block off any of the beach or anything like that - just couples and an officiant. I can't find any info online. Great article btw. Thanks!

    • I-sparkle profile image

      I-sparkle 6 years ago

      I really enjoyed this day at the beach. Your content was varied and interesting and the pics were great. I don't think that you need to give it an "R" rating. As you said, nothing explicit was said or seen in your lens.