Looking for the best Chicago skyline views for your engagement photos or wedding photos? I’m Ian, a professional wedding photographer here in Chicago. Check out my top 5 downtown Chicago engagement and wedding photo locations with skyline views.
If you’re in town for a weekend want to book a photo session (or your wedding), click here to see if I’m available!
Read on to discover the locations and see examples, along with information for parking, permits, and other backdrop options for each these locations.
The Best Chicago Skyline Photo Spots:
These are Chicago’s best skyline photo locations because they’re all easy to access! For the most part you’ll be able to park within a two minute walk of where you’ll be taking photos. That means it’s easy to keep an extra outfit in the car, or walk in your heels from place to place.
There may be a few more skyline locations, but these are the closest to downtown. That means the skyline will be visible and close up in your photos rather than a tiny spec on the horizon.
I hope this helps as you’re picking a photo location for your Chicago engagement photos or Chicago wedding photos. If you need more help or are interested in scheduling a session with me, click here to get in touch.
#1 North Ave Beach
1601 N. Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive – Chicago, IL 60611
First, North Ave Beach is Chicago’s most popular spot for engagement photos and it’s obvious why. The Hancock view of the Chicago skyline is up close and personal. Lake Michigan is clearly in view as well which adds to the beauty of this photo.
Parking at North Ave Beach is easy as there’s a lot east of the North Ave Lake Shore Drive exit. You can also find street parking during the day just west in the Gold Coast neighborhood but be careful because you’ll get a ticket on those streets after 6pm.
North Ave Beach does not require a photo permit. You’ll be able to hop out of the car and start taking photos and no one will bat an eye.
Another thing that makes North Ave Beach the best location for engagement photos in Chicago is the alternative backdrops. Turn around you have a gorgeous backdrop of nothing but Lake Michigan. Then, for beach photos, just hop off the sidewalk and you’re at the beach!
Last, I love North Ave Beach so much it’s where I do my personal family photos every year!
#2 Lincoln Park Bridge Over South Pond
1911 N Stockton Dr, Chicago, IL 60614
The next top location for Chicago skyline photos is the Bridge Over South Pond in Lincoln Park. This is the best skyline view of Chicago with greenery in the photo. The skyline view is similar to North Ave Beach with the Hancock featured prominently in the middle, and the south pond under the bridge in the foreground.
Parking can be found on Stockton drive for free but you’ll be parallel parking. If you get lucky you’ll be right next to the bridge but often times you’ll have a short walk. If parking is a nightmare on Stockton, you can pay for lot parking on the east side of the Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s $20-$30.
A photo permit for the Lincoln Park Sound Pond area is a gray area. The rumor is technically yes, you do need a permit. But I’ve photographed dozen of couples, wedding parties, and families and never been asked for a permit. That and I don’t know a single photographer who has been stopped and asked for a permit. See end of article for the link to apply for a photo permit.
Backdrop options also include the beautiful nature boardwalk where there is lots of greenery and closer views of the pond. This is also where you’ll find the Lincoln Park ‘honeycomb’.
Last, Lincoln Park is also a popular spot so be prepared to wait your turn for this bridge photo.
#3 Milton Lee Olive Park
E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611
Our third stop for Chicago’s top 5 downtown photo locations is Milton Lee Olive Park. This view again features the Hancock prominently, as well as Lake Michigan in the foreground. The difference here is the jetty and proximity to the skyline. The skyline backdrop is much closer here than Lincoln Park and North Ave Beach.
Parking is more difficult at Milton Lee Olive Park as it’s right next to Navy Pier and there are no neighborhood streets nearby. You could use the Navy Pier or a city garage west of Lake Shore Drive but you’ll have a long walk. I’d recommend Uber for getting to this location. There is a reasonable, 3 or 4 minute walk from the nearest drop-off point to the jetty.
A photo permit is not required for Milton Lee Olive Park but they often close right at sunset so don’t be late!
Last, you’ll have multiple other backdrop options here at Milton Lee Olive Park. Look to the North and you have a clean lake view. Walk back towards the entrance and you’re at Ohio Street beach, giving you an excellent casual vibe for variety in your photos.
#4 Adler Planetarium
1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Next up is Adler Planetarium boasting Chicago’s most iconic skyline photo location. The sunsets fall directly behind the city for a warm glow in your photos and the lake washes up right next to your feet. This view alone convinces me Chicago is the most beautiful city in the world.
Parking is easily accessed along E Solidarity Dr with multiple paid lots nearby. The view from up high above the water on the sidewalk is gorgeous. For the view below you have to walk down a little hill so prepared to hold on to someone if you’re in heels!
Adler Planetarium is another photo permit gray area. Technically you need a photo permit at Adler Planetarium but it is extremely rarely enforced. So rarely that I don’t know anyone who has ever been stopped and asked for a permit. See end of article for the link to apply for a photo permit.
Next, backdrop options at Adler Planetarium are fairly simple. You come here for the view below with the full Chicago skyline on display. Turn to the east and you’ll have a beautiful uninterrupted view of the lake. This makes Adler a great option for a shorter photo session or an ideal second location.
#5 Grant Park
Grant Park is our final photo location with skyline views and stands out from the rest because it is so close to the city. The view has all Chicago’s architecture looming over you in the photos. It’s awesome. The huge courtyard around Buckingham fountain affords a clean, non-distracting foreground. Note that Grant Park does not include Millennium Park (the Bean).
Parking is easy on the streets around Grant Park as long as you’re not there during a festival.
Next, in my understanding, Grant Park enforces the photo permit requirement slightly more than the other locations on this list. Technically you need a photo permit at Grant Park. See end of article for the link to apply for a photo permit. Use your discretion to decide if you’ll pick one up. Through multiple weddings and engagements I’ve never been stopped and asked for a permit.
Last, other backdrop options at Grant Park are plentiful! There are multiple gardens and Buckingham Fountain. You can also take a quick walk across Lake Shore Drive and grab a lake view. I’d recommend walking through the various manicured gardens at Grant Park to add variety to the photo gallery.
Chicago Park District Photo Permits
At the time I’m writing this a photo permit for wedding and engagement photos in the Chicago Park District is a $35 application fee & $45 permit fee. So the full cost of a Chicago photo permit for engagement or wedding photography is $80 dollars. You can find the online application and fees at the Chicago Park District’s website here.
The top 5 downtown Chicago engagement photo locations with skyline views include North Ave Beach, Adler Planetarium, Milton Lee Olive Park, Adler Planetarium and Grant Park. All of these locations are easy to access with unbeatable views of Chicago.
I hope you found the parking, permit, and other backdrop tips helpful. If you choose one of these 5 locations, know that you’ll be getting the best Chicago has to offer with no regrets!
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