Centennial Beach: The Ultimate Guide

Centennial Beach is a historic ex-quarry and now aquatic park in the Naperville Historic District, right in the middle of the city. A family-friendly and much-loved Naperville spot, it’s been open to the public since 1932.

Located on W. Jackson Avenue, Centennial Beach is set across nearly 6 acres of land and contains 6.2 million gallons of water, all filtered in from Lake Michigan.

Let’s dive in!

The History Behind Centennial Beach

history of centennial beach

In 1883, George Martin began digging for limestone around the edges of Naperville. This led to the area we now know as Centennial Beach being quarried for stone, which continued until 1913.

For the city’s 100th birthday in 1931, the land was purchased by the Permanent Memorial Committee, headed up by Judge Win Koch. 

A total of 33 Naperville residents each paid $500 to acquire 45 acres of land and a large and small abandoned quarry to the west. It was given the name “Centennial Beach” after the centennial celebration.

It wasn’t until 1932 that the land began to be developed, and opened to the public that summer. 

Naperville residents were given free entry, while those from further away (some who even traveled in by train to swim) paid 35 cents for adults or 10 cents for children. During holidays, the adult fare increased to 50 cents.

Since it was first opened, there have been plenty of improvements and additions. Here’s a brief timeline:

  • 1934: The bathhouse is completed.
  • 1969: Naperville Park District takes over management of Centennial Beach.
  • 1970: A “Save the Beach” committee is formed, consisting of 34 Naperville residents. They present a report to the Park Board, who decide to renovate and restore the Beach.
  • 1976–1977: The diving area is renovated, and they introduce new circulation and chlorination systems.
  • 1981: Centennial Beach celebrates its 50th anniversary.
  • 1999: The Beach Steering Committee is formed and begins to gather information for future renovations.
  • 2002–2004: Renovations take place, costing over $2 million. Works include new concrete decks, staircases, lighting, an improved circulation system, and features for water play.
  • 2006: Centennial Beach celebrates its 75th anniversary.
  • 2007: Shallow-end slide is installed.
  • 2010: Further renovations begin, preserving the bathhouse, adding family locker rooms, a concessions building, and more.
  • 2011: The Grill opens.

How to Get There

how to get to centennial beach

Centennial Beach is located at 500 W. Jackson Ave, Naperville, IL 60540.

If you’re driving, there are several different routes you can take.

From the West

  • Get on the I-88 East towards Chicago and exit at Winfield Road
  • Take a right onto Winfield Road and continue on until you hit Diehl Road
  • From here, take a left onto Diehl Road, then continue on to Mill Street
  • Take a left onto Mill Street and keep going until you reach Jackson Avenue
  • Take a right and you’ll reach Centennial Beach.

From the North

  • If coming from O’Hare Airport, head South on I-294 toward Indiana
  • Merge onto I-88 West (heading to Aurora) and continue until you reach the Naperville Road exit
  • Take a right onto Naperville Road (keep left when it becomes Naper Boulevard)
  • Head South to Chicago Avenue, then take a right onto Chicago Avenue
  • Keep going until you hit Main Street in downtown Naperville
  • Take a right at Main Street and a left at Jackson Avenue.

From the South

  • Take the I-55 North to the Weber Road exit (towards Joliet/Chicago)
  • Turn left onto Weber Road (which becomes Naper Boulevard)
  • Follow to the fork and keep left onto Washington Street
  • Head down Washington Street to downtown Naperville
  • Take the left at Aurora Avenue until you hit the stop light at Eagle Street
  • Take a right, keep going until you hit the Jackson Avenue stop sign, then turn left.

Alternative route from the south no. 1:

  • Take the I-80 East to I-55 North (towards Chicago)
  • Continue on as per I-55 directions.

Alternative route from the south no. 2:

  • Take the I-355 North until you hit the Maple Avenue exit
  • Take a left onto Maple Avenue (which becomes Chicago Avenue)
  • Keep going into downtown Naperville until you reach Main Street
  • Turn right onto Main Street and left onto Jackson Avenue.

From the East

  • If coming from Midway Airport, head down I-55 South (towards St. Louis) to I-355 North
  • Take the I-355 North until you hit the Maple Avenue exit
  • Take a left onto Maple Avenue (which becomes Chicago Avenue)
  • Keep going into downtown Naperville until you reach Main Street
  • Turn right onto Main Street and left onto Jackson Avenue.

Alternative route from the east no. 1:

  • Head down the I-88 West (towards Aurora) to the Naperville Road exit
  • Take a right onto Naperville Road (keep left when it becomes Naper Boulevard)
  • Head South to Chicago Avenue, then take a right onto Chicago Avenue
  • Keep going until you hit Main Street in downtown Naperville
  • Take a right at Main Street and a left at Jackson Avenue.

Where to Park?

There are several places to park for free around Centennial Beach. In addition to the free parking on the west side of Centennial Beach (close to the Bathhouse), you can park at:

  • Naperville Park District — Riverwalk Park (798 Jackson Avenue)
    • 192 spots available
    • Maximum parking time 2 hours
    • Open Monday to Friday, 7 am–4 pm
    • Free.
  • Rotary Hill (440 Aurora Avenue)
    • 56 spots available
    • Maximum parking time 3 hours
    • Open Monday–Friday, 6 am–6 pm, Sunday, 6 am–6 pm
    • Free.
  • Municipal Center Parking Deck (400 S Eagle Street)
    • 357 spots available
    • Maximum parking time 3 hours
    • Open Monday–Sunday, 6 am–6 pm
    • Free.

Can You Walk/Bike to the Premises?

Naperville is an extremely easy city to both walk and cycle in. In particular, the Riverwalk is a very pleasant way to get to Centennial Park.

However, you should be aware that bikes, scooters, skateboards, and “wheeled transportation vehicles” are not allowed on the Riverwalk. This is due to the multi-use policy on the trail.

There is an on-street bike route on the north side of Centennial Park, however. This same route takes you all over the city.

Is Centennial Beach Free?

Centennial Beach is not free. There are, however, various tiers for admission.

Daily Fees

Daily admission can be purchased on the day. Centennial Beach opening times for the season will be announced closer to the summer.


  • Children aged 2 and under go free
  • Youths aged 3–17 cost $7 (resident) or $12 (non-resident)
  • Adults 18+ cost $9 (resident) or $14 (non-resident)
  • Entry after 5 pm is $4 (resident) or $6 (non-resident)


Membership comes either as a pre-season ticket (through May 29), or as a regular season ticket (starts May 30). 

You can purchase tickets either online or from Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center, Fort Hill Activity Center, or Centennial Beach (from May 27).

Pre-season membership tickets also allow you to add the option of bringing up to two friends any day you visit (prices vary depending on if they’re a resident or nonresidents).

Pre-season membership prices:

  • Youths aged 3–17 pay $42 (resident) or $69 (non-resident)
  • Adults aged 18–59 pay $53 (resident) or $86 (non-resident)
  • Seniors aged 60+ pay $42 (resident) or $69 (non-resident)
  • Family passes cost $180 (resident) or $294 (non-resident)
  • Evening/weekend passes for all aged 3+ cost $45 (resident) or $75 (non-resident)

Regular season membership prices

  • Youths aged 3–17 pay $52 (resident) or $84 (non-resident)
  • Adults aged 18–59 pay $66 (resident) or $101 (non-resident)
  • Seniors aged 60+ pay $52 (resident) or $84 (non-resident)
  • Family passes cost $211 (resident) or $333 (non-resident)
  • Evening/weekend passes for all aged 3+ cost $45 (resident) or $75 (non-resident)
  • Group reservations

You can make bookings for 25–300 people. Group bookings allow you to take advantage of reserved areas as well as a group discount.

Note that you can’t make group reservations on Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, or Labor Day weekend.

You can only make bookings via this online form.

Bear in mind that Centennial Beach only takes reservations for large group bookings. Otherwise, entry is on a first-come-first-served basis, regardless of membership.

In case of inclement weather, the park may also close early, open late, or not open at all. As per Centennial Beach’s terms and conditions, there are no rain checks or refunds available for daily admissions.

How Deep Is Centennial Beach?

The water at Centennial Beach starts at zero depth and goes through to 4 ft at the shallow end. At its deepest point, however, the water is 15 ft deep, thanks to its history as a quarry.

The Illinois Department of Health classifies Centennial Beach as a beach and not a swimming pool.

Water Quality of the Swimming Area

The water at Centennial Beach contains a circulation system and is chlorinated and hand-skimmed but, unlike traditional swimming pools, it isn’t filtered. That leads to a slightly cloudy appearance, though the water is perfectly safe and clean to swim in.

Additionally, while there is no heating in the pool, gradually over the summer the water temperature will naturally increase (dependent on the weather).

4 Things to Do on Centennial Beach

centennial beach sup

There’s a big reason why Centennial Beach is so popular with Naperville residents and beyond! Here’s our top 5 things to do:

1. Swim, Sunbathe, and Relax on the Sandy Beach

Down the shallow end of the pool, you’ll find a sandy beach – the perfect place to spread your beach towel and relax in the summer!

This is also a great place to come with the kids, who can play in the water play areas. 

Here, water pours from 10 ft. above, and water spouts shoot water into the air. The deepest depth is only 4 ft., so no need to worry about any mishaps in deeper waters.

Bear in mind that you aren’t allowed to bring pool noodles, floats, or tubes onto the Beach. You may, however, bring soft/squishy balls and small water toys.

2. Play Beach Volleyball or Other Outdoor Games on the Grassy Areas

You can play volleyball on the sand volleyball courts (found in the northwest corner), or other games around the open grass area. 

Games include a permanent bag toss area (close to the volleyball courts), a Frisbee area, and a playground. To the west, you’ll also find a baseball field, used by Naperville Little League.

There are picnic tables dotted around the grassy area, but bear in mind that they are somewhat limited in number! To guarantee extra seating, be sure to bring your own foldable lawn chairs. 

3. Take a Dip in the Water Slides or Jump off the Diving Boards

You’ll find the water slide in the shallow end of the pool, available for all to use. 

However, there are three NCAA/U.S.S.-approved diving boards in the deep end — two one-meter springboards, and one three-meter board — and in order to swim in the deep end of the pool and use the boards, you must pass the Centennial Park Deep Water Swim Test.

This consists of successfully swimming two lap lengths (100 meters) using the front crawl, and demonstrating proper breathing technique. 

Once you have passed the test (which you must take once every season), you’ll be issued a wristband which you must wear when you visit the Beach.

Deep-end swimming hopefuls can take the test daily at 12.50 pm, 2.50 pm, and 5.50 pm.

Bear in mind that even if you pass the test, the on-site lifeguards can remove you from the deep end if they believe that you look too tired or are struggling.

4. Explore the Historic Limestone Quarry That Has Been Converted Into a Beach and Swimming Area

Centennial Beach is an incredible location that’s worth exploring, in and out of the water. 

Despite its extensive renovations, the original buildings (such as the bathhouse) have been preserved as much as possible. What was the quarry is relatively untouched, despite now being filled with millions of gallons of water!

Why not watch the 1992 hour-long film, “Thank You for Your Cooperation: a History of Centennial Beach” for a look into how Centennial Beach has evolved? Then, stroll around and see for yourself what’s changed since then!

Where and What to Eat Near Centennial Beach

Located just to the southwest, you’ll find Centennial Grill close to the skate park. They generally open around 11.30 am and close an hour before the Beach does (with the exception of Sundays).

Here you’ll find a range of classic American grill fare, such as the 1/4lb. Angus Burger with cheese, hot dogs, and chicken strips, as well as a range of snacks (soft pretzels, nachos, and fries are top of the list).

There are kids’ meals, desserts (including a Root Beer Float or Orange Creamsicle), and a range of fountain or bottled drinks.

Nearby, you’ll also find the Riverwalk Café, who has a slightly smaller offering on its menu. 

This includes a couple of wraps, sandwiches, Classic American Burger and Chicago-style Hot Dog, as well as a couple of lighter options and treats for your dog.

The Riverwalk Café is closer to the Paddleboat Quarry, which is just across the way from Centennial Beach.


When is Centennial Beach open?

Centennial Beach opens for the season towards the end of May. The exact schedule will be announced closer to the time.

Does Centennial Beach have lifeguards stationed?

Yes, Centennial Beach has highly-trained lifeguard staff who are certified in first aid, CPR, and SCUBA.

Is the water in Centennial Beach safe to swim in? 

Yes, the water in Centennial Beach is absolutely safe to swim in. Its appearance is cloudier than other swimming pools as there is no filter, but the water is chlorinated, has a circulation system, and is hand-skimmed.

Those who wish to swim in the deep end (which has a depth of 15 ft.) must undertake a Deep Water Swim Test every season to ensure that they can handle themselves in the water.

Does Centennial Beach have chlorine?

Yes, the water at Centennial Beach is chlorinated.

Can you camp in Centennial Beach?

No, you cannot camp in Centennial Beach. The closest campgrounds to Centennial Beach are Bullfrog Lake Campground and Big Rock Forest Preserve.

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