Category Archives: Indiana Beach Towns

Ship and Shore Blues Festival, Michigan City, IN

blues art

For two days national and local artists will head to Michigan City to croon the blues to the audience gathered at the lakefront Guy Foreman Amphitheater for the Ship and Shore Blues Festival. The first singer takes the stage at noon and the last act of the day goes on at 10:00 PM.

Not only is there great blues, but  festival-goers can express their creativity with Wine & Canvas, or Cookies & Canvas for the kids. Local artists provide step-by-step instructions to help participants create a painting while sipping wine or cocktails.

Even those who have never ridden a motorcycle can experience  a Harley Davidson – on a stationary stand under the supervision of a pro. Fire up the engine and switch through the gears for a taste of the Harley experience.

Kids can hang out in the Kids Quest area for arts and crafts, face painting and other activities, or play video games in the climate controlled Game Truck.

Tickets are available online at the festival website or at the gate the day of the festival.

For the music lineup, ticket prices and additional information about the  Ship and Shore Blues Festival, please visit the festival website:

The 2017 Ship and Shore Blues Festival dates TBD. Please check the festival website for updates.

West Beach, Portage, IN

Hiking trail disappearing into West Beach Dunes
Hiking trail disappearing into West Beach Dunes

The day I visited West Beach was overcast, but the moody atmosphere didn’t detract from the park’s appeal. The short road I took from the parking lot to the beach wound through picturesque sand dunes before arriving at the bathhouse, and visitors can explore them on one of the park’s hiking trails.  There are more than three miles of trails and hikers can opt for majestic views of Lake Michigan from the top of a forested dune, a less strenuous stroll through an oak savanna or bird watching along Long Lake.

West Beach
West Beach

West Beach stretches along the Lake Michigan shore, and was named one of the ten top beaches for families by Parents’ Magazine.  There’s a wheelchair accessible ramp down to the sand and during the busy summer months there’s a lifeguard on duty. My kids and I like to skip stones – my son holds the family record with 8 skips -so I gleefully collected an abundance of flat, smooth, perfect skipping stones from the beach and flung them into the water.

Bathhouse at West Beach

Beachgoers can take advantage of the showers and lockers in the bathhouse, which opens for  the season during Memorial Day Weekend, as well as a concession stand during the season. The restrooms by the parking lot are open year round.

West Beach
N County Line Road
Portage, IN 46368

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, Portage, IN

Beach at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
Beach at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

While the beach at the Indiana Dunes State Park is the largest and most popular Lake Michigan beach in northwest Indiana, there are several smaller beaches in the area that are worth a visit. One of these is the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.

Looking out along the breakwater
Looking out along the breakwater

Part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Portage, Indiana’s Lakefront and Riverwalk is small, but pretty and picturesque. On a sunny morning one finds kids splashing in the water while their watchful mothers soak up the sun on a beach blanket, a fisherman perched on the pier casting his line, a motorboat slowly making its way from the river out onto Lake Michigan and couples wandering hand in hand along the riverwalk.

Portage Dunes

The lakefront is free, but parking is limited and can fill up quickly, so it’s best to get there early to find a good spot. Just off the parking lot is a modern, clean pavilion with a concession stand during the summer months, a meeting room, information desk and restrooms. Paths lead out to the fishing pier, the walkway along the 900-foot breakwater, and the beach. The Riverwalk begins at the pavilion and follows the Portage-Burns Waterway a half mile through dunes and a rare freshwater panne ecosystem.

Pavilion at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
Pavilion at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

Opened in 2008, the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk lies next to a large steel plant and I actually got lost when looking for it because I didn’t believe my GPS when it instructed me to head toward the plant’s campus to get to the beach. A placard inside the pavilion details how the land was once polluted, but through the efforts of the National Park Service, the City of Portage and other partners, the lakefront was cleaned up, given a Clean Closure designation by the EPA, and turned into the scenic recreation area it is today.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
1000 Riverwalk Dr
Portage, IN 46368

Note: Stay on Midwest Steel road, take a left at the four way stop to cross the river, and the first right across the river is Riverwalk Drive.

Indiana Dunes Sand Sculpture Contest

Photo by Victoria Pickering
Photo by Victoria Pickering

If you’re a closet Da Vinci or just like to appreciate a work of art, a good time at the beach, or all of the above, the Indiana Dunes State Park’s Sand Sculpture contest might be right up your alley.

Each year teams descend on the Chesterton, IN beach and mold castles, dragons, whales and more from sand and water. Registration begins at 9AM, but eager sand sculptors can begin their projects at 7.

Judges award two prizes: one for teams of kids aged 15 and under, and one for individuals and families of less than 8 people. Judging begins at noon and prizes are awarded at 1PM. Bystanders can get in on the fun by voting for a Viewer’s Choice award.

The 2017 Indiana Dunes Sand Sculpture Contest takes place on July 15.

Soccer in the Sand, Grand Haven, MI & Michigan City, IN

Photo by Victoria Pickering
Photo by Victoria Pickering

Each summer the Soccer in the Sand tournament takes place nationwide on beaches from San Diego, California to Rochester, New York, with stops in Chicago and at popular Lake Michigan beach towns Grand Haven, MI and Michigan City, IN.

Games in Grand Haven take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday and those in  Michigan City and Chicago take place over two days, Saturday and Sunday. The beach is divided into several soccer fields where teams made up of boys, girls and adults show off their skills to throngs of onlookers. Don’t be surprised if you spot players and spectators alike taking a dip in the cool Lake Michigan water in between matches.

Groups can sign up at the Soccer in the Sand website. There are 4 players and a goalie on the field per side, and event organizers recommend having 7 to 10 players per team. Players play barefoot or in socks, with special “sand soccer socks” available for purchase at the event.

The 2017 Soccer in the Sand tournaments on the lakeshore take place:

on June 23 – 25 in Grand Haven

on July 22 & 23 in Michigan City

on August 5 & 6 in Chicago

Amtrak Chicago Style

I love this video. I think the point is that Michigan’s college kids can take Amtrak to Chicago for fun mini-breaks?

But I think it’s useful to note that Amtrak serves Lake Michigan Towns from Holland, MI to Michigan City, IN on to Chicago, IL and up to Milwaukee, WI.

So if you’re craving a beach vacation but don’t feel like driving, relax with a good book for a few hours and let Amtrak take you there.

Downtown Chesterton, Indiana

Charming and cute, downtown Chesterton is a fun spot to spend a leisurely afternoon. My kids and I did just that, visiting shops and enjoying the town’s relaxed tempo.

We window shopped at Ashley’s Jewelry by Design, and stopped in to look at the works on display at the Holly Jackson Art Studio and Gallery. We browsed at gift shops and clothing stores, saw Peggy Sue’s Diner – the embodiment of the traditional midwestern small-town diner.

A few people sat busily pecking at their laptops in the Red Cup Cafe and Deli. It looked like just the sort of coffee shop where I love to hang out and enjoy a hot cup of joe while I write about Lake Michigan Towns.

The heat of the day led us to Dog Days Ice Cream Parlor, a real find. The décor harks back to a more elegant time, with chandeliers and pretty white iron tables and chairs. A mural depicting a sunny summer day in Chesterton in the days of horse-drawn wagons and Model T cars takes up an entire wall. Guests can savor delicious gourmet gelatos and sorbets like Bananas Foster and Almond Joyful from a menu that changes weekly. Good stuff.

The cool shade beneath the trees of Thomas Centennial Park beckoned us, and we finished our ice cream there, pausing to take pictures on its pretty white gazebo, before heading off to Indiana Dunes State Park Beach.

Red Cup Cafe & Deli
‪115 Broadway
Chesterton, IN
‪(219) 929-1804

Dog Days Ice Cream Parlor
‪119 South Calumet Road
Chesterton, Indiana
(219) 661-7890