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6 Underrated Urban Beaches in the United States

For the best city beach experience, head to the shorelines in Minneapolis, Detroit or Chicago.

Theresa Boehl
Theresa Boehl
Editor
Posted on: August 6, 2015

Looking for an awesome place to soak up some rays in these dwindling days of summer? Don’t overlook the little beach gems found in American cities, and not just in California or Florida. Believe it or not, there are fun, sandy spots to spend a day in cities like Cleveland, Minneapolis and Detroit.

Here are six of our favorite under-the-radar urban beaches in the United States, where you can blend beach fun with the thrilling big city experience.

Hidden Beach (Cedar Lake’s East Cedar Beach), Minneapolis

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

The aptly named Hidden Beach, tucked in a wooded area along the shore of Cedar Lake, is an urban favorite in the City of Lakes. This tiny haven lies only a couple of miles from the city center, so it’s an ideal place for a quick afternoon dip or simply for socializing and sunbathing in the fleeting summer sun. Stroll the nearby walking paths, or join daring souls leaping into the famous Mud Pit.

Nearby attractions
Before heading downtown after a beach day, visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Here, an 11-acre park space serves as the canvas for more than 40 pieces of artwork from the Walker Center’s collection.

To eat
Though it’s a bit of a drive south of the city center, Pizzeria Lola proves to be stiff competition with other city eateries. Maybe it’s the variety of toppings they offer for their wood-fired pizzas – shiitake and portobello mushrooms, sheep’s milk feta, arugula, leeks and even eggs, among other options.

Hipster Beach, Detroit

Just as the name suggests, Hipster Beach in Detroit brings the young and hip crowd to the narrow strip of sand occupying part of Belle Isle, a 982-acre island park on the Detroit River. Summer months are short in the Midwest, and this is where citydwellers live it up while it lasts.

Nearby attractions
Visit the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, also on Belle Isle, and marvel at the lush Palm House. Or escape the sun’s brutal rays at high noon in the Belle Isle Aquarium, free to enter and free to park.

To eat
Head to Corktown for a quick bite at the Detroit Institute of Bagels, which serves up tasty breakfast sandwiches on favorite bagel varieties like sesame, everything and jalapeño. Open every day until 3 p.m.

Loyola Beach, Chicago

It should surprise no one that a Chicago beach made this list, considering the Windy City is blessed with ample Lake Michigan shoreline. North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach seem to get the most attention, but head north of the city to hang out at tranquil Loyola Beach, a favorite of Loyola University students and active families. Up here, the skyline is no longer visible – just a wide stretch of supple sand and the never-ending lake.

Nearby attractions
The Swedish American Museum in the Andersonville neighborhood celebrates the history and culture of the city’s Swedish-American population, and includes an interactive children’s section. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a few miles south along the lakeshore, is another family favorite.

To eat
Walk over to the Heartland Cafe on Glenwood to get your fill of healthy, vegetarian-friendly fare in a down-to-earth environment. Breakfast is served all day.

Edgewater Beach, Cleveland

urban beaches in the US

Photo: Cleveland Metroparks

Move over, Chicago. You’re not the only urban area with a gorgeous shoreline for residents and visitors to enjoy. At Edgewater Beach, just a few minutes from downtown Cleveland, families gather for a picnic or a wet afternoon in the cool waters of Lake Erie. The skyline creeps into view from the shore, a reminder that after a relaxing day at the beach, a vibrant city awaits.

Nearby attractions
Head downtown and spend some time at the group of museums clustered around the lakeshore, including the renowned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lake Science Center and the International Women’s Air and Space Museum.

To eat
Never mind lunch – skip straight to dessert and indulge at Sweet Moses ice cream shop, a Cleveland gem whose cold creations never skimp on the whipped cream and fudge. Opens at noon every day.

Bradford Beach, Milwaukee

When Brew City thaws out after the long Midwestern winters, a brand-new city appears. Even the most discerning beach connoisseur will be impressed by Lake Michigan’s pretty shoreline fringing the downtown area. A special spot is Bradford Beach, an oasis for volleyball champs and low-key sunbathers.

Nearby attractions
You can get to the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, located in a stunning historic villa, on foot from the beach. Be prepared for awe-inspiring views of the lake. The Milwaukee Art Museum is an architectural gem and cultural landmark – you’d be wise not to miss it.

To eat
You don’t actually have to leave this beloved urban beach to grab a bite. Northpoint Custard, located on the beach’s southern end, boasts an impressively large menu for a concession stand, with a variety of burgers, sandwiches and of course, custard. Or head to Lakefront Brewery to sample a local beer and snack on Wisconsin favorites like house-made cheese curds and Bavarian pretzels.

Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis

Just a few miles from downtown Annapolis is Sandy Point State Park, a public recreation area overlooking Chesapeake Bay and offering great views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The golden-sand beach, a favorite of local boaters, fishers and wildlife enthusiasts, can get awfully crowded in the summer. Take a break from the masses and explore hiking trails spanning four miles through the nearby Corcoran Tract.

Nearby attractions
Downtown Annapolis is museum central. Stop at the National Sailing Hall of Fame, the Banneker-Douglass Museum, or the Mitchell Art Gallery.

To eat
Jalapeños on Forest Drive serves up Mexican and Spanish favorites, including happy hour small plates that bring in the after-work crowds in droves. Dinner starts at 4 p.m.

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