Parks: Centennial Beach signals start of summer fun

Like the starting gun for a race, the lifeguards’ whistles signal the beginning of summer this weekend at Centennial Beach. Time to put away the winter coat, find your flip flops, grab your swimsuit and head for the Beach — conveniently in downtown Naperville.

Summers in northern Illinois always speed by, but this year, after the winter we experienced, the daily delights of a place like Centennial Beach can help us savor every day of the coming season.

The beach is a friendly place, welcoming first-time visitors as well as members, teens who can spend the day there with friends, parents with young children, young adults who enjoy sand volleyball, and the “beach bums” who have spent decades together.

Funded by contributions from citizens in the 1930s, Centennial Beach was built from a limestone quarry to commemorate Naperville’s 100th birthday. The Naperville Park District acquired the beach from the city of Naperville in 1969 and completed several major renovations over the years, including enlarging the historic bathhouse, reconfiguring the entry and adding Centennial Grill in 2011.

www.centennialbeach.orgRead more about the history of the beach at and on a series of interpretive panels in the bathhouse.

Favorite beach amenities include the zero-depth entry with spray features, the slide, diving boards, plenty of sand for building sand castles, colorful umbrellas and large trees for shade, comfortable Adirondack chairs, picnic tables and Centennial Grill.

“The beach is unique; it is more than a pool, yet different from a water park,” said facility manager Andrea Coates. “The open-air bathhouse, the depth of the water, and the location give it character. In all of our improvements to the beach, we honor its history but also look for ways to make our beachgoers’ experience even better.”

Improvements at Centennial Beach this year include a new pergola over the front entry to shade customers and staff from afternoon sun, and new bag toss equipment next to the sand volleyball court.

A few tasty items have been added to the Centennial Grill menu, from hummus and veggies and a sunflower nut sandwich on the healthy side to a refreshing Beach Chiller made with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and ice cream. Beach members also will enjoy a 10 percent discount at Centennial Grill and two members-only days in August.

In addition to offering swim lessons, the Mudrats swim team, water aerobics and adult float, new programs this year include beachside yoga, aqua Zumba and an open water triathlon training program. Register for these programs at www.napervilleparks.org or www.centennialbeach.org.

However hectic and full your summer might be, my advice is to take time to visit Centennial Beach. Walking through the gates is like stepping into a different world, where you can find a peaceful spot in the sun or shade, watch your kids play to their hearts’ content, read a book, take a refreshing swim, or enjoy a relaxing picnic.

And if you like to swim laps, try swimming backstroke so that you can look up at the beautiful summer sky.

Sue Omanson is the community development manager at the Naperville Park District.

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What a difference five weeks can make when you consider Centennial Beach on May 19 (left) and April 15 (right). The beach opens this weekend. | Submitted

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