Stories & Ideas

There are so many stories to tell in Indiana Dunes Country. Check out these story ideas or put together a story that interests you by talking with Promotions Director Dustin Ritchea:
800-283-8687
219-926-2255, ext. 223,
email at dustin@indianadunes.com.

  • 1. The 3 Dune Challenge: Come hike the three tallest dunes in the entire Indiana Dunes and report on it.
  • 2. Birding: Indiana Dunes Country is one of the top birding spots in the Midwest, with at least 369 different species living in and migrating through the area.
  • 3. 50’s fun: Indiana Dunes Country is home to one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters, one of the last drive-in restaurants and a hopping classic car and motorcycle scene – both cruise-ins and scenic drives.
  • 4. Trains: Indiana Dunes Country is home to one of the nation’s best model railway gardens, a train-themed bed and breakfast and other train attractions.
  • 5. Check out the great – and growing – craft brewing scene.
  • 6. Come for the beach, but then discover all that is on the Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail.
  • 7. Northern Indiana is home to great artisans and we’ll tell you about some of the unique products that are made in Indiana Dunes Country.
  • 8. Take the Culinary Tour through Indiana Dunes Country.
  • 9. Explore the seasons in Indiana Dunes Country, from the cross-country skiing and shelf ice of winter, to the summer beach weather to the fall colors.
  • 10. The Indiana Dunes area is known for its diverse ecology. Learn about how there are more orchids types native to this area than Hawaii, as well as other interesting facts.
  • 11. The food truck craze is sweeping the nation, and we’ve got the famous Rolling Stonebaker pizza truck and the Hungry Inc. wagon serving up food throughout the area.
  • 12. Have a sweet tooth? Indiana Dunes Country is home to the famous Valpo Velvet ice cream, as well as Designer Desserts’ mouthwatering cupcakes and many other, well, sweet places to visit.
  • 13. Learn about the Must See and Do Places in Indiana Dunes Country.
  • 14. Do the Dunes from the Air for a different vantage point.
  • 15. Experience the dunes and Lake Michigan from the water on your own boat, a rented boat or with the help of a fishing charter.
  • 16. Indiana Dunes Country is home to some great museums, like a museum that pays tribute to the firefighting profession.
  • 17. Trails, trails and more trails. Whether you like hiking or biking, Indiana Dunes Country is the premier place for outdoor recreation.
  • 18. There’s only one thing to do in a destination known for burgers: have Burger Wars to pick the 10 Best Burgers.
  • 19. With plenty of kid-friendly attractions and restaurants, this is the place for kids to be kids.
  • 20. Bring your four-legged friend to a destination with plenty of pet-friendly things to do and places to stay.

*Whether you want more information about these story ideas or want help with an idea of your own, contact Promotions Director Ken Kosky at 800-283-8687 or 219-926-2255, ext. 223, or by email at ken@indianadunes.com. He is also glad to assist with photo and video requests.

Littleville: Chesterton was once home to “Littleville,” a “town” of more than 125 miniature buildings. During its heyday in the 1930s, it attracted 110,000 visitors a year from as far away as Japan. It closed when World War II broke out.

A taste of Europe: Chesterton’s European Market, open Saturdays from spring to fall, is an open-air downtown market selling everything from local produce, honey and shrimp to jewelry and art.

Can you guess the most popular flavor? Although Valpo Velvet ice cream shop in Valparaiso makes 65 to 70 different flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and sorbet, vanilla remains the most popular by far.

Going batty for bats: A small baseball bat manufacturer in Valparaiso — Hoosier Bat Company — is actually the third oldest bat company in the nation, making 35,000 bats annually for players in Little League up to the major leagues.

Now that’s a model train: At Taltree Arboretum in Valparaiso, their model railway garden features wonderful waterfalls, elaborate bridges, an impressive 14-foot change in elevation, and more than 3,500 tiny trees and bushes.

Boo! Indiana Dunes Country is rich in possibly-haunted places, Legend has it that the dunes are haunted by Alice Gray, the woman who reportedly skinny-dipped in Lake Michigan and on whom the Diana of the Dunes legend is based. Ghost tours are offered by Chaos Haunted & Historical Tours.

Gobble, gobble: Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso is famous for turkey dinners, and the birds once roamed the grounds. Each Turkey Day, the restaurant serves 3,500 people. That means cooking 130 turkeys weighing 30 pounds apiece.

All aboard: Chesterton is home to Riley’s Railhouse, a train-themed bed & breakfast. Guests can stay in a refurbished freight station and soon will be able to stay in the train cars outside the building.

Made in America: Industrial Revolution restaurant in Valparaiso features life-size statues of ironworkers on the roof, inspiring quotes on the walls and a weekly salute to a great American.

Dragon and gators: Want some fun? Visit Zao Island amusement center for mini-golf, laser tag, go-carts, batting cages and, if you can believe it, a three-story tall dragon and live alligators.

Shop till you drop: With more than 56,000 products to choose from, shoppers at Bass Pro Shops in Portage can shop for outdoor stuff until they drop, then can dine in view of giant aquariums.

Lets roll: You don’t need to go to Italy to enjoy award-winning pizzas. You don’t even need to visit a restaurant. The Rolling Stonebaker food truck is developing a huge following at the Beverly Shores town entrance.

Picky eaters: Indiana Dunes Country is home to wild lupine. It’s also home to Karner blue butterflies. You see, the butterfly larvae dine exclusively on wild lupine leaves.

That’s incredible: Visitors can walk on water at Pinhook Bog in LaPorte, thanks to a floating boardwalk. They can also see insect-eating plants and a variety of orchids that rivals Hawaii.

Going with the flow: A cottonwood tree possesses unique adaptive skills. When buried by blowing sand, its branches can form roots. When uncovered, its roots can form branches.

Birder’s paradise: More than 350 species of birds live or migrate through Indiana Dunes Country, but the area is best known for the autumn migration of sandhill cranes. More than 10,000 can be seen at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area.

Behind the scenes: Request a tour at great attractions like the Broken Wagon Bison Farm in Hobart, Brown Mansion in Chesterton, and these Valparaiso sites: Memorial Opera House, Valpo Velvet ice cream, Hoosier Bat Company and the Valparaiso Fire Museum.

Busy, busy: On holiday weekends, the Indiana Dunes fill up, so get there before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to avoid lines. Or better yet, escape to the dunes during the week.

More than one way to enjoy dunes sites: Indiana Dunes State Park has one entrance at the north end of Ind. 49, but the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has several entrances or “access points.”

Dine along the Kankakee River: For a riverside dining experience, venture to Marti’s Place at Ramsey’s Landing in Hebron. You can even arrive via boat.

See the giant cow: Stop by Kelsey’s Steak House in Valparaiso to feast on steak and seafood, and don’t forget to get your picture taken with the giant cow statue out front.

1950s fun: You can enjoy a blast of 50s fun at The Port Drive-In Restaurant in Chesterton and the 49er Drive-in Theatre in Valparaiso.

Game room: Tony’s Place in Valparaiso has a game room, but it’s not what you think. The Italian restaurant is adorned with a variety of preserved animals.

Pop on in: Valparaiso’s popcorn heritage is celebrated each September with the Popcorn Festival. And year round, people can get their photo taken with a life-size statue of popcorn legend Orville Redenbacher at downtown Valparaiso’s Central Park Plaza.

Biggest dune? Well, if you want to climb the biggest dune in Indiana Dunes Country, go to Indiana Dunes State Park and scale 192-foot Mt. Tom.

Ahead of their time: The Century of Progress Homes on Lake Michigan in Beverly Shores were originally constructed for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair to demonstrate new design and materials, and new technology like air conditioning. People can walk past the homes year round, or sign up for the annual tour in October.

Food challenge: If you’re really, really hungry, we dare you to take the 6-pound steak challenge at Kelsey’s Steak House or the 2-pound burger challenge at Industrial Revolution in Valparaiso.

Pavilion restoration: The iconic pavilion along Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park is being refurbished and will feature a restaurant.

Best trail in Indiana: Indiana Dunes State Park’s Trail 9 was picked by USA Today as the best hiking trail in Indiana, and it features a woods experience and a Lake Michigan view from atop a dune.

Splash time! Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland, located just minutes from the Indiana Dunes, is one of the largest water parks in Indiana, with 15 water slides — everything from 70-foot tall free fall drop-slides to kiddie slides. The wave pool and lazy river are fun, too.

Rainy day fun: If it’s raining, catch a movie at Portage 16 IMAX or some of the other great indoor things to do in Indiana Dunes Country.

Made in Indiana Dunes Country: Stephanie Swanson Jewelry Design in Chesterton makes and sells beach glass jewelry, and Stephanie is just one of many local artists and artisans.

One of the best: Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection was named one of the 30 most beautiful college cathedrals in the world.

Who’s your decorator? At Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant in Portage, reals cars, motorcycles and more are hanging from the ceiling and otherwise displayed for a unique experience.

Train your sight on Porter: Go to downtown Porter to watch numerous trains go by. It’s one of the best spots around for train enthusiasts.

It may be true: It has been said that sand from Indiana Dunes Country is of such quality that some of it was transported to Hawaii for use on their beaches.

World’s first Ferris Wheel here? Legend has it that steel salvaged from the world’s first Ferris Wheel, which was at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, was salvaged and used to build Dunn’s Bridge in Kouts. See the bridge from Dunn’s Bridge County Park.

Get your thinking cap on: Stop in the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to watch an orientation film about the dunes, to get coupons and insider information about the area, and to pick up a souvenir.

Courthouse will go right here: Two men were vying to have the Porter County seat near their land, when one of them decided to donate the land to sweeten the deal. His site was chosen, and the courthouse in Valparaiso supposedly rests on that donated land.

Kouts by any other name would not sound as sweet: The story goes that railroad speculators who came to the area approached the Trinkle residence, but the woman of the home was too busy making apple butter to help them. They went down the road and were helped by the Kouts family — leading to the town eventually being named for them.

Isn’t that a bit harsh? Porter County Museum of History staff said that in the old days, people caught speeding on Lincolnway in Valparaiso would be jailed, sometimes overnight or longer.

Debauchery exposed: Porter County Museum of History will have an exhibit of the prohibition era that will run from March of 2014 to March of 2015. Included is a list of all the people held in the jail during prohibition — including some prominent names in the community.

Interesting cemetery find: In Union Street Cemetery in Valparaiso, William Talcott’s headstone contains writing using the phonetic alphabet he invented.

Oddities at the museum: The Porter County Museum of History is home to Daisy, a stuffed pet dog that belonged to a Portage family until it died in 1930. The museum also owns some bones that appear to be a half man/half primate creature. They are working to determine what it is.

Undoing a good deed: Back when the roads of Indiana Dunes Country were dirt, a heavy rain would turn them to mud. Notable resident Gilbert Pierce reportedly once rescued a woman trapped in the middle of mud and puddles by picking her up and carrying her to safe ground. She was apparently offended by being picked up and complained so much that Pierce picked her up and put her back where he found her.

The vacation spot of a president: One of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite hunting and fishing spots when he was president was the Kankakee River area.

Famous people were there: Valparaiso’s Memorial Opera house has hosted notables such as “March King” John Philip Sousa,The Marx Brothers and actress Beulah Bondi.

Famous ski jump once graced lakeshore: In 1927, the top of the dune now known as Ski Hill Road in Ogden Dunes was billed at that time as the site of the United State’s highest ski jump. International competitions were held at that site until 1932. Three years later the jump was dismantled and removed.

Ice age relics: Mastodon remains have been found in Indiana Dunes Country, and the evidence is that either the retreating glaciers caused a flood that killed them, or a meteorite is to blame.

Dividing the estate, literally: The Powell mansion in Valparaiso was cut in thirds and became three separate houses, which still stand, after its owner’s death.

Underground railroad site: A farm in Porter County was a stop along the underground railroad. Slaves were delivered in grain sacks, which the farmer would accept as long as the sheriff wasn’t around.


Articles

By Indiana Dunes Tourism

If it’s been awhile since you’ve had a weekend just to yourselves, now is the perfect time to enjoy a relaxing, adults-only getaway.

Indiana Dunes Country — in addition to being known for breathtaking Lake Michigan beaches and towering sand dunes — is home to a renowned winery and an emerging craft brewery scene.

Uncork a bottle of great wine

The staff at Anderson’s Vineyard & Winery enjoys uncorking their 21 different wines and telling customers a little bit about each variety while the customers enjoy tasting each one.

Invariably, people leave with a bottle wine that’s a new favorite.

Anderson’s has been producing unique, quality wines — some of which have gone on to win awards — since 1994.

Winery Manager Tammy Carmichael said a visit to a local winery gives people a chance to find something unique and local. Visitors to Anderson’s can also purchase wine by the glass or bottle and enjoy it with crackers and Fair Oaks Farm cheese.

People can hang out in the scenic sculpture garden and shop the market. The winery offers wagon rides and tours for a nominal fee at 2 p.m. each Saturday from August to October. Anderson’s is located at 430 E. U.S. 6 in Valparaiso. Visit www.andersonswinery.com or call 219-464-4936 for more information.

Anderson’s is not the only place in Indiana Dunes Country to enjoy wine tasting. If you’re in Chesterton, check out the Butler Winery tasting room.

Butler Winery’s actual vineyard and winery are located in the Bloomington area, which is within the northern boundaries of the Indiana Uplands viticultural area — a region in south central Indiana produces wines of distinctive character. Their Chesterton tasting room is located at 401 Broadway. Visit www.butlerwinery.com or call 219-929-1400 for more information.

Something great is brewing

In a world where the big box retailers and chain restaurants are the same from town to town, Tom Uban believes people are yearning for something unique, something better.

Uban, brewmaster and owner of Figure Eight Brewing in Valparaiso, has developed a growing legion of fans who regularly stop by to enjoy their favorites among the 11 hand-crafted beers he and Figure Eight’s other brewmaster make and put on tap at any one time.

“Here, they can drink something with flavor versus something mass marketed,” Uban said.

Figure Eight’s spacious downtown Valparaiso location — at 150 S. Washington St. — allows Uban to have a kitchen to create healthier-than-pub-food choices.

Visit www.figure8brewing.com or call 219-477-2000 for more information.

Indiana Dunes Country is also home to Hunter’s Brewing, a Chesterton-based nanobrewery. This brewery, located at 1525 S. Calumet Road, focuses on hand-brewed beers that range from the traditional to the creative. Owner-brewers Justin Reisetter and Amy Gentry use the one-barrel system to bring high-quality, small-batch boutique brews to the Duneland region. Visit www.huntersbrewing.com or call 219-728-6729 for more information.

The newest craft brewery on the scene is Ironwood Brewing Co. in Valparaiso. Owner Barb Kehe, after brewing as a hobby for many years, decided to open a brewery and tasting room at 6 Roosevelt Road in Valparaiso. Find Ironwood on Facebook or call them at 219-405-4644 for more information.

Opening in 2014 is Four Fathers Brewing, located at 1555 W. Lincolnway in Valparaiso. They produce beers that nod at traditional beginnings but, like the revolutionary ideas that founded this country, follow a slightly different path to new territory. Visit www.fourfathersbrewing.com for more information.

The premier event for craft beer enthusiasts is Valpo Brewfest, which each September allows people the opportunity to sample more than 150 different styles of beer from America’s best craft brewers.

Valpo Brewfest is always the last Saturday in September, but it generally sells out long before that. People are encouraged to visit www.valpobrewfest.com to secure VIP tickets or regular tickets.

By Indiana Dunes Tourism

When you order an ice cream cone at Piggies and Cream at the Depot in Kouts, you can be sure that it wasn’t manufactured with artificial flavors by some large corporation hundreds of miles away.

That’s because Piggies and Cream makes its own ice cream — just as they make many of the other menu offerings.

“We just like to do a lot of unique, homemade things,” owner Chris Birky said.

What that means is that the mint chocolate chip ice cream has real mint grown in a field in nearby North Judson. And it means Piggies and Cream can create new flavors when a customer comes up with a great idea.
Piggies and Cream makes more than 25 flavors, a dozen of which are available at any one time. When in Kouts, try “The Mustang,” a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream. Birky also welcomes people at his bakery, Birky’s Bakery & Coffee Shop in Kouts.

Indiana Dunes Country’s most famous ice cream is at Valpo Velvet in Valparaiso, which was named one of the Top 10 Places for Ice Cream in Indiana.
People who’ve traveled the world have told Cathy Brown there is no finer ice cream than the rich, creamy, old-fashioned kind that’s made and sold at Valpo Velvet.

Although the five simple ingredients in the basic mix haven’t changed over the years, unique new flavors have been. They now make 65 to 70 different kinds. Valpo Velvet also offers tours.

Other local shops serving up frozen goodness include Dari-Dip in Portage, Dog Days Ice Cream Parlor in Chesterton, and, in Valparaiso, Kernels and Kones, Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor and YoAmazing Yogurt Shoppe.

Cupakes, candy, popcorn and more…

Indiana Dunes Country is known for more than ice cream. People come from all around to enjoy the famously beautiful and delicious cupcakes and other desserts from Designer Desserts in Valparaiso.

It’s hard to pick a favorite among the 80 flavors of cupcakes with flavors such as key lime pie, dark chocolate raspberry, and creme brulee — and seasonal flavors such as root beer float, watermelon fizz, and peppermint mocha.

Another Valparaiso favorite is Simply Amazing Market, where gourmet popcorn and fudge is made and packaged by some pretty remarkable people — the clients at Opportunity Enterprises. Your purchase will leave you satisfied and will benefit adults with disabilities.

Valparaiso is also home to Kernels and Kones/Kim’s Specialty Chocolates, a shop next to downtown’s Central Park where people can get popcorn, ice cream cones and handmade candies. Across from the same park is the bright and cheery Sticky Fingers Candy Co., which sells candies, chocolates and fudge.

Downtown Valparaiso is also where you’ll find South Bend Chocolate Company’s fine chocolates and cafe offerings.

Head to Chesterton and indulge at Sweetville, a fudge factory and candy shop, or enjoy beautiful and tasty cakes, cupcakes and cookies from Chesterton Cake Shoppe. Another popular Chesterton eatery is Tonya’s Patisserie, a bakery cafe with awesome desserts and pastries, fresh breads and daily lunches.

Visit www.IndianaDunes.com to learn more about all the great places to find ice cream and other sweet treats in Indiana Dunes Country.

Find quaint downtowns, antique shops and products made right here

By Indiana Dunes Tourism

Take one step onto the Saylor Basket Place property and you’ll instantly be surrounded by hundreds of mermaids, lions, angels, frogs, aliens and Bigfoot creatures — all made of concrete.

“We make our own statuary…possibly 1,0000 different things,” said owner Judy Wilson.

Inside the building, you’ll find even more whimsical gifts, like wind chimes, clay pottery, wicker baskets and clothing for concrete geese.

Saylor Basket Place, located on U.S. Highway 20 in Porter, is just one of the many great, unique places to shop in Indiana Dunes Country. From the great downtown shopping in Valparaiso and Chesterton, to mammoth Bass Pro Shops in Portage, Indiana Dunes Country is the place to go for a wonderful shopping experience.

Portage

With its 2 1/2-story indoor waterfall, massive aquariums and intricately arranged scenes featuring animals like a bear and deer, it doesn’t take visitors long to realize Bass Pro Shops is more than a store — it’s an experience.

Store general manager Jim Osborne said there are 56,000 different products for outdoors enthusiasts.

“We have everything from fishing tackle to hunting items and firearms, clothing, footwear, a nice camping department, nice gifts, home decor and food,” Osborne said.

“We also have a full boat dealership and a restaurant (Islamorada Fish Company) at the store.”

People from across the world have visited the 135,000-square-foot store.

Chesterton

Chesterton is known for its one-of-a-kind downtown stores — like Ella’s Bella, Indian Summer Boutique, Flower Cart, Holly Jackson Art Studio and Gallery, and Chelle’s — and its numerous antique shops.

“I think it’s the small town shopping that people enjoy,” said Chelle’s owner Machelle Blount, adding that people are looking for something different, something of better quality.

Chelle’s, for example, focuses on eco-friendly products, including clothing made of cotton, hemp and silk. The store also sells fair trade headbands, art and decorations made of recycled olive oil barrels and car windshields, purses made of pop tops, and wash cloths made of the remnants of the rug-making process.

Valparaiso

Downtown Valparaiso is home to great stores like Lifestyles, Seasons on the Square, Renaissance Gallery, Bangles, Martin Binder Jeweler, David’s Mens Clothier, and Piper Children’s Boutique.

Lifestyles owner Renee Blosky said people enjoy shopping in downtown Valparaiso because of the one-on-one service they receive — and because there are great restaurants, ice cream parlors and a cupcake shop to fuel people for their shopping adventure.

The 10,000-square-foot Lifestyles features home decor, jewelry, art, cards, garden items, toys, kitchen gadgets, novelties and more.

Seasons on the Square owner Donna Phelps said people come downtown because it’s a vibrant spot with lots of events, restaurants and shops. She believes women return to her store time and time again because of the welcoming, personal service and the “casual to cocktail” apparel and accessories — including frequent new arrivals.

For more information about shopping in Indiana Dunes Country, visit www.indianadunes.com/things-to-do/shopping.

By Indiana Dunes Tourism

Indiana Dunes Country is the perfect place for kids to burn off some energy running up and down sand dunes or building giant sand castles.

But it’s also a place where they can drive go-carts, splash at a water park, tour a bison farm, see one of the nation’s best model railway gardens, catch an IMAX movie or enjoy the experience at an old-fashioned drive-in theater. There are also numerous kid-friendly restaurants and ice cream parlors. Here’s the scoop on fun for kids…

Sand and splashing

The top reason families bring their kids to Indiana Dunes Country is to experience the Indiana Dunes and all it has to offer — sand dunes that reach nearly 200 feet into the sky, 70 miles of hiking trails and 15 miles of glorious Lake Michigan coastline for playing in the sand or splashing in the water.

Dunes visitors can check out Indiana Dunes State Park or one of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore access sites.

Indiana Dunes Country is also home to another place to splash in the water — Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland in Porter. Seven Peaks is one of the largest water parks in Indiana, with 15 water slides — everything from 70-foot tall free fall drop-slides to kiddie slides.

In addition to the water slides, Seven Peaks features a 500,000-gallon wave pool, a quarter-mile Lazy River, kids areas with splash features, group cabanas and food choices ranging from fast food to health food.

Other great attractions

Indiana Dunes Country is home to two amusement centers — Zao Island Amusement Park and Inman’s Bowling and Recreation, both in Valparaiso.

Inman’s features go-carts, mini-golf, bowling and more.

Zao Island is home to mini-golf, go-carts, laser tag, batting cages, a baby alligator feeding area and an onsite pizzeria and bar.

Another great spot is the Taltree Arboretum Railway Garden in Valparaiso, where the train master has seen visitors leave amazed and impressed.

The railway garden’s wonderful waterfalls, elaborate bridges, impressive 14-foot change in elevation, and its more than 3,500 tiny trees and bushes are a hit with both kids and adults.

The trains currently run daily from April to October. Kids will recognize Thomas the Tank Engine chugging around the bend.

Another popular spot is Broken Wagon Bison Farm, located west of Valparaiso. Groups can arrange a tour, or individuals can take part in the open tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays from June through September. Visitors can see bison up close and purchase bison jerky and other products in the farm store.

And if you love movies, you’ll be blown away by the coolness of IMAX on an eight-stories-high screen at Portage 16 IMAX. Or, for a touch of nostalgia, why not watch movies under the stars at 49er Drive-in Theatre in Valparaiso?

49er co-owner Steven Cotton said a trip to the drive-in movie theatre means arriving early to run around and play. It means getting to see two movies instead of one. And it means eating something delicious from the concession stand.

“To me, it’s a much nicer experience and it’s a lot more fun,” Cotton said. “It’s an experience.”

Grab a bite to eat

After a day of playing, there are plenty of places to eat or grab a snack. The locals know to grab a frosty mug of root beer and a chili dog at The Port Drive-In in Chesterton.

Another fun spot for kids is Quaker Steak & Lube in Portage, where full-size cars and motorcycles decorate the restaurant. Or enjoy ice cream from Valpo Velvet in Valparaiso or Piggies and Cream in Kouts.

For more ideas about fun things to do and places to eat, view the complete Kids Guide to Indiana Dunes Country at www.indianadunes.com/destination-guides/electronic-guides/ .

By Indiana Dunes Tourism

Tim Wilk has eaten at every restaurant around so when one of his guests at Gray Goose Inn in Chesterton asks for a dining recommendation, he can guide them somewhere that will suit their tastes perfectly.

It’s that type of service and expertise that draws people to unique, local lodging.

Indiana Dunes Country is known for it’s excellent inns, cottages, and bed & breakfast facilities. Each one is different, but they are united by personal service and unique settings. Here’s a snapshot of some of the great, local places.

Valparaiso

Inn at Aberdeen

The 11 rooms of this 1850s home feature Jacuzzis and fireplaces, and guests are treated to a three-course breakfast as well as an evening dessert and beverage bar.

“It’s not a vanilla box you can see anywhere in the country,” Dr. John Johnson, the owner, said of the inn.

He said guests love the peacefulness and the privacy.

“We get quite a few repeat customers. It’s their retreat.”

The inn also does wine tasting dinners, mystery dinners and other events.

Songbird Prairie

The worries of everyday life start to fade the moment you head up the long, winding driveway toward this stately red inn, nestled on six acres of woods and prairie.

It is even more relaxing inside, with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs in each guest suite, and available spa services. But perhaps the guests’ favorite room is the dining room, and that’s not just because of the inn’s famous three-course breakfasts. The dining room’s nearly full-length windows offer great views of the birds visiting the feeders hung outside the windows.

“Most people appreciate the peaceful and quietness at Songbird,” said owner Barbara Rivera.

Duneland Communities

At Home in the Woods

This National Park-themed bed and breakfast combines the luxury of a hotel with the comfortable casualness of staying with family.

This home in the woods features gourmet four-course breakfasts (with berries and herbs from the owners’ garden), a hot tub, a pool, and a sauna. Guests enjoy sitting on the swing near the pond or strolling the nature trails of the four-acre woods.

“People say they like the personal attention and homey feeling when staying,” said owner Victoria Phillips.

DunesWalk Inn

Set in a restored mansion just one mile from the beaches of Lake Michigan, this boutique inn pairs modern amenities with historic touches — all set on spacious grounds. It has become a favorite spot for couples enjoying one of the five rooms or families renting the entire inn.

“Our location a mile from the lake…we feel that makes DunesWalk Inn extremely unique,” said owner Ari Killian.

“And the inn offers a feel like you’re at home. We didn’t want to give it a hotel feel.”

Gray Goose Inn

The inn, set on 100 wooded acres and overlooking a small lake, was summed up best by a guest who said, “This could be a writer’s paradise.”

Owner Tim Wilk said the setting is “very peaceful.” But he said the service is what ensures the inn has a lot of regular customers.

“Here, we’ll spend time with them and explain everything to see and do. They enjoy that,” Wilk said.

Inspiration Wood

Nestled among 60 acres of pines, woodlands and grassy meadows, guests of Inspiration Wood have plenty of room to relax both indoors and outdoors. The accommodations consist of seven beautiful, new cottages.

“I think people seek us out because they want an environment that helps them reconnect with each other and to grow,” said owner Ron Van Sessen.

“I see the same results whether we have a corporate group, church group, university group, family reunion or any other kind of group. There is a dramatic change in our guests between the time they arrive and the time they leave Inspiration Wood.”

Riley’s Railhouse

You need not be a train enthusiast to enjoy staying the night at Riley’s Railhouse bed & breakfast.

But if you do appreciate trains as much at the establishment’s owner, Richard Riley, you’ll get a kick out of the decorations, like old train oil cans, a telegraph and an old railroad scale.

Riley’s Railhouse opened in 2011 in a former railroad freight station in Chesterton. It features guest rooms in the freight station and in the train cars outside. But it’s more than interesting ambiance.

“We say people come as guests and leave as friends,” Riley said.

By Indiana Dunes Tourism

For an avid birder like Brad Bumgardner, the best thing about working at Indiana Dunes State Park is that his binoculars never have to collect dust — even if it’s not the busy spring and fall bird migration times.

“There’s something going on every month. Any time of year, you can see something,” said Bumgardner, an interpretive naturalist for Indiana Dunes State Park.

“The Indiana Dunes, for birdwatching, is the top spot in Indiana. We’re one of the best spots on Lake Michigan and one of the top three sites in the Midwest or Great Lakes for birding.”

Just like in real estate, good birding is all about location, location and location.

The Indiana Dunes’ location at the southern tip of Lake Michigan creates a “funnel effect,” funneling birds along the shoreline as they migrate. And even in the winter, when birders put up their binoculars in other parts of the Midwest, dunes birders are rewarded with sights like snowy owls.

Bumgardner said there are at least 369 species of birds identified in the dunes area. Not only does the dunes area boast a variety of birds, but it also shows higher numbers of them than in other Midwest locations.

“People come from several states to bird the dunes,” Bumgardner said.

“We have gotten folks from all over the world.”

Indiana Dunes State Park is a popular stop for birders because it has so many habitats, so it attracts many species. He said the opening of the bird observation platform on the west side of the park is just one more way to enhance the birdwatching experience.

The park offers regularly scheduled hikes that are good for birdwatching, bird-related events and a field trip to see the tens of thousands of sandhill cranes that come to Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area.

There is also plenty for birders to see at the nearby Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sites as well, Bumgardner said.

National Lakeshore Supervisory Park Ranger Bruce Rowe said the Great Marsh Trail is a great trail for waterfowl, and Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk has become a popular spot when birds are migrating. The Heron Rookery is another great birding spot, he said.

To enhance the birding experience, Bumgardner recommends people pick up a birding field guide and Kenneth J. Brock’s book Birds of the Indiana Dunes.

For more information about birding in Indiana Dunes Country, visit www.indianadunes.com/beyond-the-beach/birding or read the Indiana Dunes Country Birding Guide at www.indianadunes.com/destination-guides/electronic-guides/. Visit www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2980.htm to see Dunes State Park’s monthly calendar.