Indiana Dunes Area Provide #BeachesAndBeyond

*The houseful of littles and I were invited to explore and share our opinions of the Indiana Dunes area*

The last time I visited the Indiana Dunes, it was my senior year of high school, and my future sister in law came along as a chaperone so I could get extra credit. Mind you, she’s only 2 years older than I am – hilarious. THIS time however, I drove my houseful of littles to our neighbor to the east, so that we could enjoy three days and two nights of discovering more of the area that people ONLY mistake for being a great beach front. Discover we did! The Dunes Area loves when people love their beaches, but there is so much more to explore beyond the beaches. So we took on the challenge of finding the most to do in our three days there. 

The Dunes themselves,  cover 15 miles of Lake Michigan coastline. The Indiana Dunes AREA covers so much more, and it can not be explored in one day. There is a rich history throughout the area, and if you’re a nature buff you’re going to be in HEAVEN! 

Indiana Dunes Visitors Center Gift Bag

We arrived Monday morning to check into our hotel at the Best Western University Inn on Route 30 in Valparaiso. Check-in was smooth, and we headed to our room. Tiny tip, if you are traveling with a large family, make sure to load up the luggage rack and have them wait for you in the lounge. The front desk is very close to the entrance, and too many bodies there will keep the doors opening and closing with any movement. Our room was a double queen, and came furnished with a desk, a lounging chair, and dresser. The closet was big enough for three kids to hide in to try to scare their mama. The bathroom was spacious enough and came with a sliding barn style door for privacy. 

Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso - Double Beds Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso

There was a free breakfast in the morning that included sausages, mini omelettes, and waffles made to order (you make them) and a toaster for toast/bagels. Cereal, fruit and muffins rounded out the mix and three varieties of juice were offered. Enough seating was available for our family of four, but we’re never really hardcore about sitting together at hotel breakfast if it’s all six of us. 

Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso - Breakfast Waffle Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso - Breakfast Bar Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso - Breakfast Bar Best Western University Inn at Valparaiso - Breakfast Bar

There are a couple of things that I think you DO need to know in order to see if this is a hotel for you. There are currently NO child friendly channels on their basic cable plan, including PBS. If that doesn’t bother you, but you want suggestions, I would tell you to make use of their free WiFi and bring your tablets along. Each of my children have their own Kindle Fires, so they were set. Or you can put the imaginations of the kids to work, and have a basic kit full of crayons, markers, and paper, and let them go from there. There also isn’t a pool. For some that’s a deal breaker, but if that isn’t you, and you were going to make use of the miles of beach, and the several splash pads and pools within the Indiana Dunes territory, then you are all set! For us, we DO like having a pool, and the kid channels, so that Mr. Houseful and I can work if we need to when we come back from exploring, but it didn’t ruin our stay. Not by a long shot. 

On our first day out and about, we made our first stop at the Indian Dunes Visitors Center. It is a stop that you should always make in any city that you visit. The Visitors Center can definitely help you plan your stay in a new city better, and give you insight on where to visit, and if any special happenings are coming up. For us, construction on 94 and 80 was something to take into consideration. No worries there either, as the area is easy to get to without having to take either of those routes.

Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Indiana Dunes Visitor Center

We were able to take in a video about the Dunes, and do some activities in the Visitors Center, including crayon rubbings, and a bit of imaginative play. The ladybug really gets into character when dress up clothes are present. The Visitors Center also had a two different scavenger hunts we could pick from. The one we chose to do was the hunt for hidden Mickey’s on large murals outside the perimeter of the building. The kids had a BLAST searching for every one. 

Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Art Walk Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Art Walk

Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Art Walk Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Art Walk Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Art Walk Indiana Dunes Visitor Center Art WalkIndiana Dunes Visitor Center Art Walk

Of course, we couldn’t just stop there. We had to eat and then head to the Dunes to get some beach time in, since we knew it would rain for the other two days that we were there. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be showing you BEYOND the beach, and I will, but you HAVE to stop by the beach at least once, so that you can say that you did. The entire dune area is considered one of the 50 Natural Wonders in 50 States according to CNN. If you do come, know that unless you have a National Parks Pass there is an entry fee of $7 for in-state cars, and $12 for out of state cars. There is a ton to do in the parks, and the beach in the main park off of 49 has lifeguards. There is also a nature center, and several campgrounds that you can stay in if you’re really into outdoor life. The amount of hiking and biking trails available will also allow for maximum exploration for minimum cost. We just took advantage of the beach for the end of the day, and being in the water and running along the beach was really good for the kids. 

Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park Indiana Dunes State Park

The beach definitely calms a multitude of worries, and these three didn’t have one in the world! Between the rock collection that we came back to the hotel with – seriously, the rocks are kinda cool – and the atmosphere, they were in heaven! So many smooth flat rocks perfect for skipping, and the diving into the water using those great techniques they learned from the swim lessons they have been taking. 

We ended our first day with a meal at George’s Gyro Spot where the ladybug deemed their cheeseburger the best in the world! They loved all of the artwork that boasted a love for OUR city, and they enjoyed munching on fries and telling me how awesome the day had been thus far. I had a ribeye sandwich and Lil’ Miss had a corndog combo while Sir. Twizzler plugged away at a hotdog combo. 

George's Gyro Spot - Chesterton Indiana George's Gyro Spot - Chesterton Indiana George's Gyro Spot - Chesterton Indiana George's Gyro Spot - Chesterton Indiana George's Gyro Spot - Chesterton Indiana George's Gyro Spot - Chesterton Indiana

Afterwards, we drove back to the hotel for a night of slumber, and to recharge for the days ahead. If you are in the Midwest, or heck, if you’re up for a visit to a small town with big payoff, check out the Indiana Dunes area in Northern Indiana.  

 

 

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    TColeman
    June 16, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    This is such a beautiful hotel! Your trip looks like it was an absolute blast.

  • Reply
    Chrysa Duran
    June 16, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    I would love to be able to stay in this part of the country. The kids looked like they had such a great time, too.

  • Reply
    shelley Zurek
    June 16, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    My Favorite park was the art walk. What fun to see those big murals of the animals.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    June 16, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    What a great post. I am in love with the photos. I grew up in Ohio and definitely miss that part of the United States. I love the purple hand statue in the photo, it’s awesome. I’d love one of those as a chair in my living room.
    Sarah recently posted..Morning Coffee (6/16) Daddy Proverbs, Golden Girls Book, 2048 Game, Loaded Pasta Shells & MoreMy Profile

  • Reply
    Hali
    June 16, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Love the photos, have never been but might need to add it to our list. Looks like such a fun time and lots of educational opportunities which I love. 🙂

  • Reply
    Theresa Goodrich
    June 17, 2017 at 8:54 am

    I should probably have known this, but I didn’t realize the Dunes were a National Park! We love camping and have a parks pass, so I’m adding this to our itinerary this summer. Love the tip about the Visitors Center. That’s always my first stop, too, and I make sure to ask the locals where they go to lunch/dinner.

  • Reply
    Bill Sweeney
    June 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    That looks like a great way to spend a few days with the family. I’ve never been to Indiana Dunes, but I’ve visited Lake Michigan, and it’s great.
    Bill Sweeney recently posted..How to Create Unforgettable Birthday Memories for your ChildrenMy Profile

  • Reply
    Vera Sweeney
    June 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    I would LOVE to visit Indiana Dunes with the kids! I have a few friends who’ve been to visit, and they loved it just like you guys did.
    Vera Sweeney recently posted..As A Dad I’m Thankful For…My Profile

  • Reply
    robin rue
    June 19, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I totally want to visit Indiana Dunes now! I had never heard of it before, but you made it sound so fun 🙂

  • Reply
    Jeanette
    June 19, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I love these places. I have not been to this specific one but I have been to other ones like it. It is so perfect because the kids can play and not have to worry about riptides or big waves they can just hang out. For me that’s much more relaxing.
    Jeanette recently posted..Summer Skin Care Tips for the Whole FamilyMy Profile

  • Reply
    Becky
    June 19, 2017 at 9:23 am

    I know this was a family trip…but the kid-at-heart in me makes me want to go now too! I wish it was closer to me, since it seems like the perfect weekend getaway. I’ll need to tack it onto my next Midwest vacation.
    Becky recently posted..I Wish I Learned to Dance Before Going to Spanish SchoolMy Profile

  • Reply
    Tara
    June 19, 2017 at 9:57 am

    It looks like the kids had such a fun time. I haven’t been to Indiana Dunes before but I will add it to my list of places to see.
    Tara recently posted..18+ Perfectly Scrumptious BBQ SaucesMy Profile

  • Reply
    Melissa
    June 19, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Indiana Dunes looks like a great place to get out and check out this summer with family! I love the idea of visiting Indiana Dunes and have a beach of a time!
    Melissa recently posted..Are you too Selfish to be a Parent?My Profile

  • Reply
    Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens
    June 19, 2017 at 10:18 am

    I have never been to Indian, but it looks like something my family would definitely enjoy!!!! Your kids are adorable!
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  • Reply
    Tryphena Wade
    June 19, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Wow! I grew up in the mid-west and never knew that this even existed. It looks and sounds like you all had a good time. And I love the extra surprise on the waffles. LOL
    Tryphena Wade recently posted..The Road to (not so) Secret BeachMy Profile

  • Reply
    Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle
    June 19, 2017 at 10:38 am

    We LOVE Indiana Dunes. It’s so much fun there. I love the atmosphere, too. The people there are so friendly.
    Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle recently posted..Happy Father’s Day To My Husband, BillMy Profile

  • Reply
    Liz Mays
    June 19, 2017 at 11:06 am

    From start to finish, your day looked absolutely amazing. I used to live not too far from there. I can’t believe I never took the opportunity to go. What a cool place!

  • Reply
    Jennifer G
    June 19, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    This looks like it was such an amazing and fun day! I have never been anywhere up there because I am in Canada and don’t seem to leave my country very often…. I may have to make an exception though because you made it look like SUCH a great experience!

  • Reply
    Connie
    June 19, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    What a fun trip. Your kids look like they’re having a ball!

  • Reply
    Meagan Ivie
    June 19, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    What a fun getaway! I think my kids’ favorite part of traveling is staying in a hotel.

  • Reply
    EG III
    June 19, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    As a native of Indiana I LOVE reading posts repping my home state. I grew up in Gary just a few blocks from the dunes and I remember spending countless summers there. I’m glad you were able to go back and give your family the dune experience!
    EG III recently posted..The Path To Adulthood For A Young Black Man In ColombiaMy Profile

  • Reply
    Jeni
    June 19, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Indiana Dunes looks like a great place to vacation. I would love to visit their someday! It looks like you guys had a fantastic time.
    Jeni recently posted..Giveaway! Enter to Win A DVD Prize Pack + $50 Gift CardMy Profile

  • Reply
    Claudia Krusch
    June 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    These are fantastic photos. We stayed at the Best Western and loved it. The free breakfast in the morning was a hit with the kids.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Lampman
    June 19, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    I always choose a Best Western if I can. This looks like it was a great trip. I would love to check out the Indiana Dunes in person.

  • Reply
    Lisa Bristol
    June 19, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    Indiana Dunes looks like a great place to go with the family. I have heard how nice it is to stay at a Best Western. I love how big your room was.

  • Reply
    Marcie W.
    June 19, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    It seems like you all had a fabulous family adventure at the Indiana Dunes! The beach alone would be enough to get us there.
    Marcie W. recently posted..Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa – Day TwoMy Profile

  • Reply
    Amy Desrosiers
    June 19, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    That is one heck of a breakfast bar! I think this place looks amazing and perfect for families.

  • Reply
    Jenn Mitchell
    June 19, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Such a really nice place. All of the amenities and food look like they were incredible.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    June 19, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    This is my first time hearing of this place, but it looks like a great place for a family visit. I’m not too sure about the hotel though, with my three that’s a recipe for disaster. No pool, no kid-friendly channels. We would be forced to spend as little time at the hotel as possible.

  • Reply
    Desiree Lopez
    June 19, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    I think the Indiana Dunes look like a great place to take a family. They offer so many amenities and the art walk is just too cool! Having many different activities keeps everyone in the family happy.

  • Reply
    Nellie Blazina
    June 19, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    This looks like like you all had such a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing your fun memories.

  • Reply
    Brianne
    June 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Your trip looked like so fun. I’m loving your photos!

  • Reply
    Mimi Green
    June 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    This place looks really dope. My son would be into scavenger hunting but my daughter is all about dressing up. They both are fans of the beach though. I’m not mad at them not having kid-friendly TV channels. The art work is incredible.
    Mimi Green recently posted..Power Season 4 Is All About Karma, Time To Anti Up!My Profile

  • Reply
    Kita
    June 21, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    So it looks like I’ll have to pack my kids up and take a road trip up north so I can experience the Indiana Dunes. I love the Dunes in the Carolinas.

  • Reply
    Britney
    June 21, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    You took some great photos! I stayed in a hotel in Florida that looks almost identical, but I’m not sure if it was Best Western. I love going to the beach and seeing your pictures make me that much more excited to go again! I have only been twice! I’ll have to add Indiana Dunes to our family vacation list!

  • Reply
    Kasi
    June 26, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    These are great pictures, looks like fun times! I’d definitely love to visit.

  • Reply
    Exploring Porter County, Indiana - Scavenger Hunt Style | Houseful Of Nicholes
    June 26, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    […] remember that last week I wrote about our first day in Porter County, Indiana which houses the Indiana Dunes. That was our first day, and our only beach day, but we found so much more when we got into our car […]

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