We’re back again and here to tell you all about the kid led adventure we took last month near Indiana Dunes National Park. We completed the 3 Dune Challenge as a family, but the rest of our trip was focused on having an experience great for kids. If you’ve been here for a while, you know that my children don’t hold back when giving their opinions about spaces and places we’ve been to, so here are there top picks from our 3 days in the Indiana Dunes area.
Indiana Dunes Area Food
Food is important to us. Really. It’s important that the food we have is easy on the pocket while providing a place where we want to go back to when we visit the area again. Here are our picks for you
The Port Drive In – 419 N Calumet Rd, Chesterton, IN
A Porter County staple, “The Port” as it’s called, has been around since 1953 and has always been home-brewing root beer and making chili cheese dogs. Both of which I decided to try along with a side of fried green beans. I wasn’t disappointed on any of the three fronts of lunch after completing the 3 Dune Challenge and settling down for some victuals. The current owner, who purchased in 2017 was on site helping his daughters focus on orders and run things out to all of the patrons in the dining area. Be forewarned, once the season is coming to a close, more popular items on the menu may not be available, and you’ll know they aren’t by the slash through the line on the menu. Salute to you fried pickles, I hardly knew you.
The prices are relatively decent. For a family of 4, we paid a bit over 30 bucks for our lunch with drinks included, and we left full – which makes all the difference in the world. We did not use the drive in space of the restaurant, but the second time we visited on our trip (yes, we did) someone was quickly coming out to the car seconds after we parked. It’s definitely efficient.
Pictured above is our root-beer served in an icy mug, just the way it should be done!
Northside Diner – 100 N Calumet Rd, Chesterton, IN
This place felt familiar to me even though it was our first time eating here. Let me explain. My grandpapa (my dad’s dad) used to always take his grandchildren to these little mom & pop shops all over the city. I’m STILL not sure to this day how he found so many breakfast spots, but I know that whenever we went to one, the servers always knew him by name, and always seemed to know about us. This is how Northside Diner felt. We were immediately seated and commenced with our people watching. All of the servers seemed to be in conversation with regulars sitting at tables and the breakfast bar, but that didn’t stop them from giving us full attention as well. I ordered a BLET (bacon, lettuce, egg, & tomato) with their diner fries, which are these double-fried potato chip type of fry, and the kids all had variations of some heavy carb and hashbrowns. It’s the life that we chose to live while on this trip, and we regret nothing.
As with all breakfast/lunch diners, the prices were sweet, and I’d definitely recommend returning again. Bonus is the fact that you can watch the freight trains pass by on their way to and from Chicago.
This is the type of diner where you go when you want to feel like a local. Everyone that walked through the door was greeted with friendly banter and given the attention of someone who had been visiting each morning for decades. Exactly the type of feeling that I got whenever I went to one of the local diners with him as a kid.
Indiana Dune Area Attractions
We’re not strangers to semi-farm life, but heading over to the Chellberg Farm and Bailey Homestead gave the kids, and who am I kidding – me, a WHOLE desire to move out where the acreage was way more than our cramped Chicago streets.
The kids met Jake and Duke, two Belgium horses who were HUGE and so gorgeous. Last time we were here, the homestead wasn’t nearly as busy as this recent visit. We were able to see turkeys, pigs, goats and the horses, as well as their resident chickens – Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks thank you very much.
Let me tell you a story about these turkeys. They ONLY gobbled whenever they heard me laugh. It took us a bit of time to figure it out, but they made me feel good either way. The kids are the ones that put two and two together and then attempted to get me to laugh while we were on the farmstead so they could hear them ALL gobble at the same time. It *almost* made me want to raise turkeys on our urban farm. ALMOST.
When you walk along the trails behind the homestead, you can find a treasure trove of space! Nature walks are one of our favorite things to do, and the feeling of being alone in this big world is such a treasure. We did happen to be visiting as several 5th grade classes were on a field trip, so we took advantage of being able to glean from the living exhibits that were on site. There was a native woman who showed the kids how people during her time used every part of the animal, so that nothing went to waste. There was also a stop at a trading post where we saw how animal pelts were used as currency.
We found a road that looked a bit abandoned and got right to business taking photos. We really could have spent the entire day on the grounds, but we had other places to visit.
Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk
As most of us know, walking along the water will always be a few degrees cooler than inland. This walk was no exception, however, we just had to go and see the waves breaking along the shoreline. The girls wanted to walk this entire dock, but the fact that we didn’t have ponchos or any water boots kept us close to the shore. We did find ourselves checking out the different habitats along the shoreline, and maybe having a mini homeschool lesson.
Porter County Museum – 153 Franklin St, Valparaiso, IN
We love visiting museums in different cities and states that we travel to. We love them, even more, when they are priced well enough for our family to visit without breaking our pockets. Porter County Museum, or PoCo Muse for short, hits all of those checkmarks by being right in the thick of things, and free. The museum shouldn’t take more than an hour or two to get through, and the volunteers on site will drop plenty of gems for you to chomp up. For example, the museum used to be the home of the sheriff and had the jail attached to the back so the sheriff could keep an eye on the cells below.
We saw plenty of things from dinosaur fossils found in the area to artifacts used in colonial days. It prompted a great discussion from the kids about how our tools haven’t really changed in theory, we’ve just made them more efficient.
Where to Stay
We couldn’t have done all of this without a good night’s sleep, and we’re happy to have been hosted by the Hilton Garden Inn & Suites. The kids and I had more than enough room to spread out and relax between jaunts outside.
Tell me, have you made your journey to the Indiana Dunes Area just yet? Share your favorite spots to visit with us!