Best Time to View Sunrises in Chicago

By Amy Curtis

Welcome to morning in the Windy City

Best Time to View Sunrises in Chicago

From Millennium Park to the Magnificent Mile, there’s so much to see and do in Chicago, it would be a shame to waste a minute. Waking up for the sunrise is one way to make the most of the day, and the Windy City has some beautiful spots for viewing it. In fact, there may be no better way to start the day than watching the sun rise over Lake Michigan.

The best time to watch sunrises, whatever the season

In January, 7 to 7:20 a.m. is the approximate range for sunrises in Chicago, and they get earlier as the year progresses, moving to an average time of about 6 a.m. by early March. Of course, it moves back to 7 a.m. with Daylight Savings Time, and until mid- April, sunrise times hover between 6 and 7 a.m.

In the summer, sunrise viewing requires early rising. By the end of April, the sun is peeping over the horizon before 6 a.m., and it gets progressively earlier. By June, sunrise is as early as 5:12 a.m., and it stays that way into the beginning of July. From mid-July, sunrise starts moving later. By September, the average sunrise has moved past 6:15 a.m. and continues moving in that direction through December, when 7 to 7:20 a.m. is the average range.

Tip

For specific sunrise times on any given day, check an online weather site such as Weather.com, or look for the time listed in the newspaper.

Environmental considerations

Of course, it’s good to think about pollution and weather when planning to view a sunrise or sunset. In 2015, Chicago had an estimated 151 “dirty air days,” with soot and smog filling the air. On days when air pollution is bad, it doesn’t necessarily mean the sunrise won’t be pretty, but it may be hazy, the sun won’t be as clearly defined and the color will be different. Sunrises and sunsets on polluted days are typically redder than the ones visible in clearer skies. Even though the color might be pleasing to the eye, it’s not good to be out breathing in the smog.

Especially if you plan to take photos, pay attention to the weather. While overcast skies are not optimal for viewing the sunrise, a scattering of clouds can have a dramatic effect, and light fog can make it interesting. Going during the “golden hour,” that first hour of sunlight, when the sun is low on the horizon, can lead to some stunning photographs.

Where to watch the sun come up

Because Lake Michigan is to the east of the city, there are many places along the lakeshore that are great places to greet the sunrise. Montrose Beach is a nice spot to capture nothing but lake. Indiana Dunes and Promontory Point are also good vantage points, and the Lakefill at Northwestern University just north of Chicago offers stunning sunrise skyline views. Of course, the Lakefill is a popular spot for students to watch the sunrise, so it might be a better bet between terms. Parking by the Adler Planetarium and walking around affords the opportunity for breathtaking sunrise views, including some gorgeous skyline views. Of course, a hotel with rooftop access can also make for an amazing sunrise.