Permits & Picnics

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If you’re planning a gathering with more than 30 people in a City of Evanston park, please call the Evanston Recreation Division at 847-448-8237 and we’ll let you know which parks can accommodate your group. Policies and procedures for picnics at the lakefront are different and are listed separately.

Park Permits (in parks other than at the lakefront)

Park permits are issued to Evanston residents (60201 & 60202). One permit is issued per day per park. Some of the more popular parks are: Leahy, Mason, James, Butler, Harbert and Lovelace. A few park locations have washroom facilities.

  • Small gathering (30 or fewer people; without permit): There is no fee if you do not wish to purchase a permit. However, picnic areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No deposit and no insurance is required.
  • Small gathering (30 or fewer people; with permit): If you want a permit in order to reserve a section of the park for four hours, the fee is $40. No deposit and no insurance is required.
  • Medium gathering (31-99 people): There is a $50 permit fee. A $100 deposit is required, which will be returned if your guests do not damage the park. Insurance is needed.
  • Large gathering (100-249 people): There is a $105 permit fee. A $100 deposit is required, which will be returned if your guests do not damage the park. In addition, the permit holder must clean up all trash in the park in order to have their $100 deposit returned. Insurance is needed.
  • 250 or more * There is a $125 permit fee. A $100 damage deposit is required, which will be returned if your guests do not damage the park. In addition, the permit holder must clean up all trash in the park in order to have their $100 deposit returned.  Insurance is required.  Non-lakefront park events of 250 or more and lakefront parks events of 100 participants or more are considered special events and require a special event permit in addition to the park permit.  Special event permit applications can be obtained through the Parks, Recreation and community services department or online at 

Lighthouse Beach Picnic Shelter

DSCF7902-webStarting in 2008, the City of Evanston became the agency responsible for issuing year ’round park permits for the Lighthouse Landing park and picnic shelter. Permits are issued from the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Avenue, not the Dempster St. Beach Office. There is a $80 permit fee for gatherings of 99 or fewer people. Insurance coverage and a $100 damage deposit is required for all picnics at this site. Questions? Please call 847-448-8237 or download the application form for the Lighthouse Beach Picnic Shelter.

Please note that tents, amplified music, dance floors, disc jockeys, and inflatable play apparatuses are not allowed.

Park Permit Application


Please use this application for gatherings in Leahy Park, Lovelace Park, Mason Park, the "Lighthouse Beach picnic shelter" and Harbert Park (canal lands). Harbert Park use is restricted because there are no bathrooms on site.

Permit Fees are based on gathering size. For 99 or fewer people, the fee is $50. For 100 or more people, the fee is $75. Gatherings of 100 or more people at the lakefront are considered “special events” and must be approved by Evanston’s City Council. Please call 847/866-2914 for more information or download the Special Events application form.

Lakefront Picnic Permits

Garden Park at Keeney St.
Elliott Park at Dempster St.
Dawes Park - Greenwood St. to Church St.
Centennial Park - Church St. to Clark St.

Lakefront picnic permits are now issued to both Evanston residents (60201 & 60202) and nonresidents for lakefront picnics. Any table not posted as reserved may be used by any person on a first-come, first-served basis. Evanston residents can reserve picnic tables and grills for 2 hours for a $30 fee and for 4 hours for $50. The nonresident fee is $40 for two hours and $65 for four hours. Lakefront picnics are limited to 99 or fewer people.

To reserve a picnic area on Evanston’s lakefront (except the Lighthouse Beach/Landing) from May 1 - October 31, here is the process for purchasing a permit:

From March 19 - May 18, you can mail-in the application, along with full payment, to the Morton Civic Center (2100 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL 60201 Attn: Ray Doerner)

From May 19 - September 3, you can walk-in and purchase a permit at the Dempster St. Beach Office (1251 Lakeshore Blvd.) Click here for beach office hours.

Picnic Permit Application 2018

Permits must be purchased before the day of your picnic so the reservations can be posted.

If you wish to have a picnic at the lakefront with 31 or more people before or after the picnic season, a permit will be issued from staff at the Civic Center. You may download the Park Permit Application posted above on this page and mail it, drop it off or fax it to the Civic Center. Just check "other" and list the lakefront park name. Please call 847/448-8237 for more information. See below for Lighthouse Beach/Landing information.

Arrington Lagoon Picnic Shelter

The Arrington Lagoon Picnic Shelter is located at 1631 Sheridan Rd., at the north end of Dawes Park.  The shelter has lovely views of the park, indoor picnic tables, public washrooms, and an outdoor BBQ grill. You and your guests may enjoy the adjacent public brick patio, but the patio area is not included in your reservation.


Evanston residents may rent the shelter between 11am and 8pm, May 1 - October 31. The fee is $30 per hour (3-hour minimum). The nonresident fee is $50 per hour (3-hour minimum). 

Reservations will follow the same process as the Lakefront Picnic Permits.