When I first came to Chicago in 1994, I lived off Lake Shore Drive near Promontory Point in a charming, yet somewhat decrepit hotel that had been pressed into service to house the precocious youth in attendance at the University of Chicago. I was one of these youth and I was set on exploring the Point as soon as possible, if only as a safety valve from those who wanted to compare SAT scores endlessly and offer long-in-the-tooth panegyrics inspired by Plato’s Republic.
Created by the government largesse that was the Works Progress Administration, this pregnant outcropping of landfill buttressed by an array of limestone boulders is best experienced in summer. If you’re out in the early morning, you might encounter a clutch of yoga enthusiasts setting up shop, dog walkers leading their charges, along with cyclists and joggers, who are as ubiquitous as squirrels.
Later on any given summer day (provided that thunder has not threatened), the mood becomes a bit more festive. Groups small and large arrive via the lakefront path with picnic baskets, footballs, coolers and other items that make any proper gathering a bit more meaningful. You can’t buy any food out on the Point, so you have to come prepared to make a true day of it.
And there is the water. Water, water, everywhere. Despite the presence of these ponderous boulders keeping the Point on point, intrepid souls will dive off these boulders with reckless abandon. You could walk down the way to the 57th Street Beach and walk into the water, but what’s the fun in just casually strolling into Lake Michigan? Better to make a dramatic entrance. And besides, there are the scolding signs painted on the boulders that indicate “No Swimming.” That’s reason enough to jump on in.
When the sun starts to slide away, things get a bit more salacious out on the Point. Some will bring out a psychoactive substance, while others will bring the most common depressant of them all, whether it be hoppy, grape-forward or something a bit more potent. After all, you’re there to unwind, right? Fireworks are often part of the equation on a hot summer night, and yes, they are forbidden under Windy City edict, but we’re not that far from the free-wheeling ways of Indiana and Krazy Kaplan’s Fireworks emporium. Words cannot catch all that is most wondrous about the Point. Best to experience it yourself. There’s always something doing. (Max Grinnell)