Indiana might be known for the Indy 500 and basketball, but the Hoosier State is so much more. We have traveled from French Lick in the south, to South Bend in the north, and have found there is amazing diversity in this state. There are plenty of things to do in Indiana, and on our latest visit we explored its South Shore, the area bordering Illinois and Lake Michigan. All I can say is we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.
This post is sponsored by Indiana Tourism; but, as always, all opinions are my own.
What Not to Miss on the South Shore of Indiana
South Shore of Indiana: Day 1
Edge Adventures – Deep River
Indiana’s South Shore has plenty of things to do for adventure loving families. We started at Edge Adventures-Deep River, about an hour south of downtown Chicago. Edge Adventures is a ropes course combined with zip lining. We have visited a different Edge Adventures obstacle course (Koteewi), so we were very familiar with the experience.
The first step is safety first, and we put on our helmets, harnesses, and gloves. Then we hooked into the cables on the first obstacle course. I love that these courses allow you to go at your own pace in case you get nervous or stumble. There are over 50 obstacles along the way, from suspended swinging bridges to cable walks to zip lines. We chose one of the five courses and set off on our adventure. I’ve found it is a lot easier to do this with older kids because they are super confident in their abilities. Mine zoomed through the first course and then wanted to try another.
The ropes course is open to kids ages 8 and above, and they must weigh at least 40 lbs. Adults can not be taller than 6’6” or weight over 275 pounds. Younger children ages 4-7 can enjoy the Kids Course which gives them a similar experience just above the ground. It’s a fun family activity and we were exhausted when we finished.
The boys had worked up an appetite, so we drove up the road to ChicagoLand Popcorn. This cute shop has over 250 flavors of popcorn, with 130 different ones available to sample in the store. Each of the boys tried a different flavor, with the winners being Puppy Chow, Cherry Flavored, and Birthday Cake. The store sells different sizes, from a mini bag up to a 9 gallon drum. We took home a small bag of the three flavors we enjoyed, but the boys wished we had more for the drive.
Where to Stay in Michigan City, Indiana
After everyone had their road trip snacks, we headed to our accommodations in Michigan City, Beachwalk Vacation Rentals. This is a community of 90 or so beach vacation homes of all shapes and sizes. Every home is different, but they each have access to private (and community) golf carts, a fishing pond, a community swimming pool, and the local beach. There’s even a playground, snack shop, and bike rentals. It’s one of those places you know you will never want to leave.
Our accommodation was a beautiful custom home, called Siesta Sunrise. It is a stunning, like new, 6 bedroom, 5 bathroom home with a lovely front porch. We walked into a beautiful open floor plan with a large modern kitchen and living room, with a half bathroom and master with a king bed and bath at the end of the hall. The boys were quick to discover the basement with a living area, a queen bedroom, a room with bunk beds, and a room with double bunk beds! All rooms had en-suite bathrooms. The boys immediately claimed the basement as theirs. Upstairs (the second floor), had two queen master suites with en-suite baths. One room had a balcony, which is the one I claimed, because there’s just something I love about a morning coffee outside with a view.
After we settled in, the boys insisted we take out the golf cart for a spin around the complex. We loved seeing the different houses in all shapes and sizes. The boys thought it would be too cold for swimming at the pool, so we headed for the beach. Beachwalk has a parking area for golf carts, so we parked and went down to the sand. The area is lovely with tall beach grass and soft powder sand. It has the perfect location for sunset views.
Dinner at Shoreline Brewery
Shoreline Brewery is in the heart of Michigan City. They serve handcrafted beers and globally inspired cuisine, which means I knew everyone would be happy. We started with the Baked Soft Pretzel with ground pub mustard and ale spiked beer cheese. I can honestly say, it did not last long. The boys had the Grecian Lamb Burger and the Shoreline Mac, and they both finished their meals before I could sample, so I’m assuming they were delicious as well.
South Shore of Indiana: Day 2
Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes is the newest US National Park, as of February 2019. The dunes run 15 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan and the park covers over 15,000 acres with wetlands, dunes, and forests to explore. Our first stop was the Visitor Center to grab trail maps. (Those who don’t want to pay the fee to park inside the park ($12), can take a bus from the visitor center to the trails). We decided to drive to West Beach and paid to park there.
About ten minutes into our hike along the shore, the lightning sirens went off. There weren’t any storm clouds, so I checked my phone and sure enough, it was just a drill. We continued on, walking along the dunes, until we headed into the forest. It’s so unique to see the sand transitions into dirt and shrubs turn into trees. The boys set off ahead of me, because I was taking photos, and I quickly lost sight of them. As soon as I caught up, we made sure they never went too far ahead.
There are fifty miles of trails in Indiana Dunes National Park, and we just wandered along until we came to a fork in the road. From there, we followed winding trails back to the parking lot. It took us about two hours and not only did we see the beach and the lake, but we saw plenty of wildflowers and creeks as well. I’ve found there is one place my kids don’t fight, and that’s on the hiking trails. This adventure was no different.
Lunch Stop: Third Coast Spice Cafe
We had worked up quite an appetite, so we headed to lunch at Chesterton. Our choice was the Third Coast Spice Cafe, which sources locally to create a large variety of dishes. They also accommodate all types of diet preferences, from gluten free to nut allergies. We ended up ordering breakfast for lunch, trying the biscuits and gravy, chocolate chip pancakes, and make your own omelette. Everything was delicious and the service was fantastic. With full bellies, we headed back to the house to rest.
The house had a tv in almost every room, so the boys were content to just hang out. I took a book out on the porch, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. If we had more time, we could have cooked on the BBQ, gone out on kayaks, or played basketball. There just wasn’t enough time to do everything we wanted to at the Beachwalk Resort.
Dinner Time: Sunset Grille
After we relaxed, we headed to the Sunset Grille, an awesome outdoor restaurant overlooking the beach in Michigan City. The downstairs area has concessions for beach visitors, and upstairs is a restaurant and bar. It was the perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunset over the beach. *Note: There is a cash only fee to enter the parking lot of Washington Park where Sunset Grille is located.
South Shore of Indiana: Day 3
Mascot Hall of Fame
After packing up and leaving our beautiful vacation home, we headed back toward Chicago. Our first stop was the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana. This newly opened interactive museum has a ton of hands-on exhibits for kids. My boys enjoyed creating their own mascots and taking the “do you know your mascots” quiz. We didn’t spend much time there, but it is definitely a fun stop for an hour or two.
Lunch: El Taco Real
Two words our family loves to hear are: Mexican food. Our lunch stop was El Taco Real in Hammond, Indiana, not far from the Mascot Hall of Fame. We were so hungry, we forgot to take photos of our burrito and taco plates. Trust me when I say they were delicious.
We had a wonderful time exploring the South Shore of Indiana, and it reminded me why I love the Midwest. The gorgeous shores of Lake Michigan, endless outdoor adventures, and a friendly welcome wherever you go. There are so many hidden gems to discover in this part of the country, and Indiana’s South Shore is certainly one of them.