With temperatures rising into the mid to upper 90s over the next several days -- and the heat index rising even higher -- going for a dip in a lake or swimming hole can be one of the best ways to refresh.
The best swimming holes in the suburbs are either surrounded by thatches of plush grassland or velvety sand beaches. And, while some require a nominal entry fee, others are free, and come with well-stocked concession stands nearby and regular lifeguards on duty throughout the season.
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Here a highlight of just a few:
500 W. Jackson Ave., Naperville
Naperville's Centennial Park includes a sprawling six-acre swim park called Centennial Beach. Before taking a dip use the newly renovated bath house, updated locker rooms, family changing rooms and enhanced drop off and pick up areas.
The swimming area -- once a limestone quarry -- is surrounded by thick grass and trees and includes a diving complex and several lifeguard stations. The depth goes from zero at entry and graduates to 15 feet.
If you go:
Park schedule: May 28-Sept. 5
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday and holidays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Daily admission: $6 for residents; $10 for nonresidents; membership passes available for residents and nonresidents.
crystallakeparks.org Y (815) 459-0680\
There are two beaches in Crystal Lake: West Beach at 2330 Lake Avenue and Main Beach at 300 Lake Shore Drive. Both are the kind of place that families of all sizes and ages can splash around in.
Enveloped by big oak trees, West Beach's sandy play area and swimming nooks are bound to offer everyone a great time.
Swimming options include a zero-depth swim area as well as deeper waters for advanced swimmers.
"Kids can bury themselves in the sand and play in the swimming hole. It's a different experience than a pool," says Robert Sebesta, recreation superintendent for the Crystal Lake Park District. "It's more enjoyable and more relaxed. It's what I grew up with."
Yet, Sebesta strongly advises visitors to carefully watch their little ones.
"We have an experienced lifeguard staff and have an outstanding safety record, but parents need to be aware of what's going on," he says.
People can also fish, boat and bike at West Beach.
If you go:
Park schedule: Memorial Day to Labor Day
Hours: 9 a.m. to dusk daily
Daily admission: $1 for residents; admission is free to seniors 60 and older and children 5 and younger. Nonresident adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $6; children, 4-15, $6. Seasonal passes available for both residents and nonresidents.
Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park, Zion
Lake Front/Park Office, Zion
IDNR website Y (847) 662-4811
This state park, which extends down six miles of Lake Michigan, includes more than 4,160 acres for hiking, camping, boating, fishing and swimming. But consider its beach for the advanced swimmer or for parents when the kids are away, as there is never a lifeguard on duty here. And, as for the depths of the water? Let's just say they can reach Lake Michigan proportions. Yet, with natural walking paths, foamy shorelines and crashing waves, what's not to like here? Plus, there is a private resort on the beach and concession stands along the camp and main beach areas.
"It's a getaway in a rural area," says Greg Behm, the park's superintendent.
If you go:
Park schedule: Memorial Day and Labor Day
Hours: Sunrise to 8 p.m.
Daily admission: Free
1019 Lakeshore Drive, Round Lake Beach
villageofroundlakebeach.com Y (847) 546-2351
The Round Lake area encompasses a large body of water with various swim sites.
One of those is Round Lake Beach, open to residents and nonresidents alike. First-timers may want to look out for the buoy marker that alerts swimmers of the depth differences as the lake goes from zero to 4 feet, says Matt Hartnett, the aquatic and senior center supervisor for the Round Lake Area Park District.
He urges swimmers to pair up for safety's sake. "Don't go by yourself. Swim with a buddy," he says.
Like other beach facilities discussed here, the lake provides free life jackets to those who need them. And, Hartnett says, you can bring toys, floats, even buckets and shovels for the sand area. "This is a low-cost place to go to enjoy the summer and cool off," he adds.
If you go:
Park schedule: Open Memorial Day to Labor Day
Hours: June 4-Aug. 14, noon -- 7 p.m.
Daily admission: Free
Paulus Park Beach
200 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich
volz.org/parkandrecY (847) 438-5146
There are two beaches in Lake Zurich, including Breezewald Park Beach and the larger Paulus Park. Once the weather figures out that its spring, Mike Perkins, director of Paulus Park, says park-goers and swimmers "will have a fantastic time coming" to this beach that sits on 41 acres of park land.
In addition to the swimming hole at Paulus Park beach (the swimming beach depth tops at 5½ feet), the park is also home to a popular water "spray ground" that was built in 2008. While it is mostly for kids ages 12 and under, Perkins says, "I've seen some adults using it as well."
If you go
Park schedule: June 4-Aug. 14; Aug. 20-21, 27-28; and Sept. 3-5.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Swimming only permitted when a lifeguard is on duty.)
Daily admission (for residents and nonresidents): $8 for persons 18 and older; $5 for children, ages 4-17; seasonal passes also available.