indiana dunes.

This summer is a weird one in my household. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going well, and the weather’s been beautiful for the most part. But it’s just not a typical summer around here. I’m finally getting settled into a new role, teaching two classes, and the whole one parent to one child ratio keeps our evenings pretty tied up. So, when I started thinking about a big vacation, I knew it was going to have to wait until Caiden and I adjusted to the new routine. Luckily, a random idea, suggestions from those around me, and a quick drive up north offered us an incredible weekend away.

I’ve been a Hoosier for 28 of my 30 years, and I’d never seen the Indiana Dunes—until this past weekend. When I was brainstorming locations for a quick weekend away, I immediately thought of the dunes. I’ve heard great things from many people, and I decided it was time to see what the hype was all about. Plus, there’s so much of Indiana I haven’t seen. [Sidebar: if you search #H2GIndiana it’ll give you a glimpse at just how much there is to see in this state!]

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We arrived at Broken Wagon Bison Ranch earlier than expected (huge thanks CDT!) and we were immediately ready to make a few new friends of the bison kind. I thought we signed up for a tour of the bison ranch, and to my surprise we got that and so much more. The visit started with an educational overview of the history of bison. It turns out bison really are an American icon. After a brief history lesson about how our civilization almost eradicated this species, and then helped restore the species, we were off on our bison hayride.

After our visit at Broken Wagon, we jetted off to check into our hotel in Chesterton, Indiana. I won’t lie to you, I found the hotel through Google, read the reviews, and appreciated the central location. Hotel, booked. But even had I been familiar with the area, I couldn’t have booked a better place to stay. The room was sparkling and comfortable, the indoor pool was heated, and there was a layout deck overlooking a river which brought friends of the geese variety for evening entertainment. Best Western Indiana Oak, you get two thumbs up! PS check out this view:

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And then we were off to the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to grab a tour guide and figure out where we’d access the dunes. (Here I learned dune buggies aren’t allowed on the dunes in Indiana as they destroy them. I can appreciate why they’d be banned, but man I was hoping to ride a buggy!)  I won’t try to tell you where we actually accessed the dunes (Thanks to my dad for being our chief navigator this trip, but I believe it was the Porter County access point!).

We finally arrived at the dunes, we parked and noticed the stairs. Fact: I think we were all a little intimidated, but the views from the top were stunning.

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In full disclosure, I’m not a lake girl. Take me to a beach, and I’m in my happy place. But I just don’t get too excited about lakes—until Lake Michigan. The sights were beautiful. The luscious green grasses and sandy paths led us to the crystal blue water that met the clear sky showing off Chicago’s beautiful skyline (squint near the horizon line in the photo to the right of the group selfie—Chicago is there I promise!). It was stunning. We only planned an overnight, but I would head back to the dunes any weekend to hike the morning away and splash around all afternoon. (Er, maybe, at a mere 57 degrees I may prefer to limit my toes to the water.)

Before we started thinking about dinner, the boys hit the pool (thanks to grandpa of the year), and the girls hit Chesterton. We explored adorable boutiques and found a winery (found, sought out, same thing!). Though Butler Winery is located in Bloomington, Indiana (closer to us than they are to the dunes), we really enjoyed sampling local wines in their tasting room. Need a suggestion? Start with the 2017 Chambourcin Rosé (if you’re of age, of course).

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We regrouped quickly as we feared we’d be met with the dinner rush, but to our surprise, we found the perfect spot and were seated upon entry. Lucrezia® Café was truly amazing. From appetizer, to drink, to entrée, through dessert—every bite got better. Rumor has it they’re voted best place to eat in town year after year. You can learn more about their menu, and accolades, here.

Our first day was filled with nonstop adventures and new sights we hadn’t seen. So back to the hotel we went for a good night’s sleep, and geese entertainment as eluded to above.

Sunday was going to be a shorter day due to the commute (and the fact we’d lose an hour coming back to Indy—booooo.) Our final destination was Taltree Arboretum and Gardens. This stop might not have been totally our style, but we were reminded of the beauty that can be found at state parks. At Taltree we encountered a small adventure area, complete with two turkeys and a handful of goats. We also walked the fairy trail, lined with tiny fair houses to discover along the way. The grounds were beautiful, but nothing caught our attention quite like the final two sights: a 100-year-old oak tree and the life-size train display that walks guests through the development of the railway in America. It was really neat to watch the trains, but it was educational to learn about transportation throughout history.

It was a short overnight trip, but it really was affordable and fun. I’m certain we’ll head back to the dunes for another weekend away in the very near future! Have questions about our trip? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you soon.

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