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History & culture itinerary
Dunes area exploration
Start your day at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, where you’ll be introduced to the history of the Indiana Dunes with two informational videos. You can also pick up the Indiana Dunes Country Activities Guide and read the History & Culture section for descriptions of museums and more. Then hop in your car and drive to Beverly Shores, where you can drive past the Century of Progress Homes. These unique homes, originally constructed for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, were designed to demonstrate modern architecture and futuristic technology like air conditioning and dishwashers (the homes are open for tours on the third weekend of October).
While you’re there, why not park in one of the designated National Park lots near the homes and enjoy a stroll along Lake Michigan. The Beverly Shores Museum and Art Gallery is a quaint stop on the weekends during the season and is housed in the pink stucco train station.
If you’re in the Beverly Shores area around meal time, don’t miss The Rolling Stonebaker’s wood-fired pizzas or the gourmet-yet-casual Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill & Tavern.
Nearby Chesterton is home to the Westchester Township History Museum/The Brown Mansion. Here, you can tour the 1885 mansion of a wealthy area family and learn about the area’s history. If you enjoy walking tours, pick up the walking tour guides from the museum and walk past such sites as the all-steel Lustron home. Downtown Chesterton is home to many great restaurants, some of which are located in historic homes and storefronts.
Visit the Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm to learn how families lived in the 19th Century. A visit is especially rewarding when the National Lakeshore is hosting a program there.
Looking for a historic place to spend the night. Check out DunesWalk Inn at the Furness Mansion, a boutique hotel inside an 1881 mansion.
The rich history of Valparaiso and all of Indiana Dunes Country is captured in the Porter County Museum of History. Once the sheriff’s residence and local jail, the museum has the largest collection of area history and treasures – from mastodon bones to modern, interactive exhibits.
Take a spin through the architectural history of Valparaiso on a self-guided walking tour. In downtown Valparaiso’s Central Park, give a nod to the city’s popcorn heritage by getting your photo taken at with the statue of popcorn king and native son Orville Redenbacher. While downtown, you’ll find unique shops – like Lifestyles and Renaissance Gallery – which feature artwork and unique gifts.
The downtown area is also home a wide variety of dining options, including farm-to-fork cuisine, ethnic restaurants, steak and seafood, casual fare and more. Art and history enthusiasts will want to stop by Valparaiso University and see the renowned, historic Chapel of the Resurrection and the free Brauer Museum of Art, which features works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Junius R. Sloan and others.
Firefighting buffs should check out the Valparaiso Fire Museum, which offers a fascinating looks at firefighting from the age of leather buckets to the modern era of gasoline fire trucks (yes, they have trucks). Looking for a historic place to stay in Valparaiso. Try Inn at Aberdeen, a charming 1850s home turned into an 11-room B&B.
Portage area exploration
Several times each year, the historic Wolf Mansion opens for tours and events. And on the weekends during the season, see the history of the Portage area come alive at the Alton Goin Museum and Trager farmhouse inside Countryside Park. Then walk the park grounds to complete your visit.