Illinois Beach State Park
Address: 1 Lake Front Dr., Zion IL 60099
Time from Chicago: 1 hour, 8 minutes (48 miles)
Camping at Illinois Beach State Park
A lot of Chicago-area campgrounds don’t allow you to bring alcohol. That’s fine for people who just want to experience nature, but there are some campers out there who want the option to bring booze and have a few brews while grilling and enjoying the great outdoors.
For those folks, Illinois Beach State Park is a great option. Less than 50 miles north of Chicago, near the Wisconsin border, the park is conveniently located on Lake Michigan and offers 241 Class A campsites, the majority of which permit alcohol use. Woohoo, pop a cold one now! Many of the sites are forested, and there’s a dump station, a playground, and multiple water faucets and bath houses.
Campground reservations are accepted from May 1 to September 30, and they’re highly recommended during busy summer weekends. Check out the Illinois Beach State Park campground map (PDF) to make sure you’re picking a site that allows alcohol, if you so desire.
The state park attracts plenty of visitors who aren’t camping, so if you want to spend time at the beach, expect to deal with lots of other Chicago families. Dogs must be leashed.
Another draw of this park is that it’s easily accessible from Chicago by bicycle. Cyclists can follow the lakefront path, and then the North Shore Channel Trail to the Green Bay Trail, which will take you most of the way there. Google Maps says the ride is four hours from the heart of Chicago, but it’s obviously much shorter if you’re starting from a northern suburb.
Fore more info, you can find this park on Facebook.