*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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is such a beautiful hotel! Your trip looks like it was an absolute blast.
Chrysa Duran says
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.
shelley Zurek says
My Favorite park was the art walk. What fun to see those big murals of the animals.
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.
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. 🙂
Theresa Goodrich says
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.
Bill Sweeney says
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.
Vera Sweeney says
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.
robin rue says
I totally want to visit Indiana Dunes now! I had never heard of it before, but you made it sound so fun 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens says
I have never been to Indian, but it looks like something my family would definitely enjoy!!!! Your kids are adorable!
Tryphena Wade says
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
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
We LOVE Indiana Dunes. It’s so much fun there. I love the atmosphere, too. The people there are so friendly.
Liz Mays says
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!
Jennifer G says
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!
What a fun trip. Your kids look like they’re having a ball!
Meagan Ivie says
What a fun getaway! I think my kids’ favorite part of traveling is staying in a hotel.
EG III says
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!
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.
Claudia Krusch says
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.
Elizabeth Lampman says
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.
Lisa Bristol says
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.
Marcie W. says
It seems like you all had a fabulous family adventure at the Indiana Dunes! The beach alone would be enough to get us there.
Amy Desrosiers says
That is one heck of a breakfast bar! I think this place looks amazing and perfect for families.
Jenn Mitchell says
Such a really nice place. All of the amenities and food look like they were incredible.
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.
Desiree Lopez says
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.
Nellie Blazina says
This looks like like you all had such a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing your fun memories.
Your trip looked like so fun. I’m loving your photos!
Mimi Green says
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.
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.
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!
These are great pictures, looks like fun times! I’d definitely love to visit.