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Boating Essentials for a Memorable Party at The Playpen, Chicago

Chicago’s lakefront is a vibrant hub of activity during the warmer months, with The Playpen taking center stage as the go-to destination for boaters looking to unwind and revel in the sun. This enclosed area off the shore of Lake Michigan is synonymous with fun, offering stunning skyline views and a lively atmosphere. However, the difference between a good time and a great one often lies in the preparation. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time boater, this comprehensive guide will ensure your party at The Playpen is memorable for all the right reasons.

Safety Comes First

No matter how experienced you are, safety should always be the paramount concern. Ensuring that your boat is stocked with the necessary safety equipment can prevent accidents and provide peace of mind, allowing you and your guests to focus on having a good time.

  • Life Jackets: It’s not just about having enough life jackets for everyone on board; it’s also about making sure they fit correctly. A poorly fitting life jacket can be as dangerous as not wearing one at all.
  • First Aid Kit: A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for addressing minor injuries or seasickness. Make sure it includes items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and motion sickness medication.
  • Fire Extinguisher: Verify that your fire extinguisher is not expired and that everyone on board knows where it is and how to use it.
  • Communication Devices: A functioning VHF radio is crucial for emergency communication. Additionally, a fully charged cell phone in a waterproof case can be a lifeline in unexpected situations.

Navigation Tools

While The Playpen is relatively close to the shore, proper navigation is crucial to ensure a smooth journey to and from your destination.

  • Marine GPS System: A reliable marine GPS can help you navigate to The Playpen efficiently and avoid any restricted areas.
  • Weather Apps: Stay ahead of the weather by using apps that provide real-time updates. Sudden changes in weather can impact your party plans, so it’s best to be informed.

Comfort is Key

The essence of a great boat party lies in the comfort and enjoyment of your guests. Here are some essentials to keep everyone happy and comfortable:

  • Sun Protection: Continuous exposure to the sun can be harmful. Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses are must-haves to protect against sunburn and glare.
  • Seating and Shade: Ensure there’s ample seating for everyone and consider installing a bimini top or bringing umbrellas for shade.
  • Coolers: Stock coolers with ice to keep beverages and perishables chilled throughout the day.
  • Towels and Dry Clothes: A quick dip in the lake is refreshing, but not having something dry to change into afterward can be uncomfortable. Ensure you have enough towels and a change of clothes for everyone.

Entertainment Essentials

What’s a party without some entertainment? To keep the vibe lively and engaging, consider these must-haves:

  • Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers: A durable, waterproof speaker is essential for setting the mood with your favorite playlists.
  • Water Toys: Inflatables, paddleboards, and water guns can elevate the fun, providing both relaxation and entertainment.
  • Games: Card games or waterproof board games can be a great way to engage your guests and spark some friendly competition.

Food and Beverage

A well-fed crew is a happy crew. Planning your menu ahead of time can save you from the hassle of preparing food onboard.

  • Non-alcoholic Beverages: It’s essential to stay hydrated, especially on hot days. Water, sodas, and iced teas are perfect for quenching thirst.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: If alcohol is on the menu, ensure there is a designated sober captain to navigate the boat safely.
  • Easy-to-Eat Foods: Opt for finger foods and snacks that are easy to manage on a moving boat. Sandwiches, fruit, and chips are great options that don’t require utensils.

Environmental Responsibility

Celebrating on the water means we have a responsibility to protect it. Being environmentally conscious ensures that The Playpen remains a beautiful and clean space for everyone to enjoy.

  • Trash Bags: Bring ample trash bags to collect all your garbage. Nothing should be thrown overboard or left behind.
  • Eco-friendly Products: Consider using biodegradable products such as sunscreen and cutlery. These small choices can make a big difference in reducing our environmental footprint.


Partying at The Playpen in Chicago is an experience like no other. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the city’s beautiful waterscape while soaking in the sun and good vibes. However, the success of your boat party hinges on preparation. By ensuring that you have all the essentials listed in this guide, you’re setting the stage for a safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable day out on the water. Remember, the key to a memorable boat party is not just in the planning but also in practicing safety, respect for the environment, and consideration for your fellow boaters. Here’s to smooth sailing and fun-filled adventures at The Playpen!

About the Author: Ashley F.
"Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music" John Milton, L'Allegro (l. 96)

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