This past summer, we spent a quiet week relaxing in Beachwalk Resort, Michigan City, Indiana (that’s not confusing, is it?) If you’ve never witnessed the beauty of a Lake Michigan beach, then you may not know how the lake looks exactly like an ocean, stretching far out beyond the horizon. For those of us who grew up on the Florida coast, the effect is somewhat uncanny: the air lacks the distinct salty scent of the beaches I’m used to. But golly, if it isn’t gorgeous.
Nestled along the southern tip of Lake Michigan, this town has a rich history, delightful surprises, and an inviting atmosphere that makes it a welcoming destination for family adventures. Let me share with you why you should visit Michigan City!
Why did WE go to Michigan City?
Just a couple hours from Chicago, Michigan City is an appealing destination for a long beach weekend for midwesterners. But we don’t live in Chicago.
So what in the world took us to Michigan City? Home exchange, of course!
We had two home exchanges lined up for summer 2023: two weeks in Chicago and two weeks in Montreal. But we didn’t have any beach time planned for the summer (even though Chicago and Montreal both have lovely city beaches!) and I was trying to figure out the most affordable way to give us some sun and sand time. So I googled where do Chicagoans for a beach getaway? Turns out, when you have a Great Lake in your backyard, you visit Lake Michigan when you want some beach time!
I began scouring homeexchange.com for any beach rentals along the southern shores of Lake Michigan, and after a few back-and-forths, we secured a week stay in the quaint beach resort village Beachwalk. We could walk to the beach! Every house has its own adorable name! There was a clubhouse with a pool and games and small cafe! And even better, the house came with a golf cart (our family goes nuts for a golf cart haha)
Since the husband and I worked full time during our two week stint in Chicago, we both took PTO to enjoy our time by the beach. The week would be mean lots of sleeping and resting, lounging and playing, and unexpectedly time with friends! Yep, some of our friends from Chicago happened to spend a couple days at Beachwalk, where they have been vacationing for a decade, overlapping our time there. Even more perfect!
What did we do in Michigan City?
To be honest, we relaxed. A LOT. The weather was not quite as warm as we had hoped it would be, so we spent less time in the water than anticipated, but we did get plenty of time in the sun. (That water was FRIGID. I do not know how those midwesterners could put their whole bodies in the lake!)
Skyler played by the beach. I read by the beach. Skyler made friends on the beach while Justin and I relaxed on the beach. We zoomed around in the golf cart and let Skyler have way too much ice cream. We introduced Skyler to The Lion King. We tried local restaurants, chatted with other vacationers, and Skyler spent a lot of time playing on the giant slide around the corner from our house. (The playground was literally under construction the whole time we were there, but word on the street is that the new playground is baller.) Our favorite spots for food were Matey’s Grill and Cool Runnings Restaurant and Bar.
There were honestly several kid-friendly things we didnt do in Michigan City simply because we were too busy relaxing! But if you need more doing and less lounging, then be sure to check out the following attractions:
- Washington Park Zoo
- Out Lighthouse Museum
- Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets
- Friendship Botanic Gardens
- The Barker Mansion
- Shady Creek Winery
- Washington Park and Beach
- Blue Chip Casino and Spa
Michigan City, Indiana is a wonderful little beach getaway if you’re in the midwest and can’t get yourself to a coastal beach. Just be wary of timing: I think everything would have been a lot warmer later in the summer, rather than in June.
Getting to Michigan City from Chicago
The drive to Michigan City from Chicago is super simple. Less than 2 hours no matter which route you take. (Traffic dependent, obvs.)
We took a couple detours on the way because we could not check in to our beach house until the afternoon, but we had to vacate our apartment in Chicago that morning. So let me take you on our journey!
First stop: Lunch at La Hacienda Azteca in Hammond, Indiana
I can’t say I’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant that also served traditional American brunch items, but there’s a first time for everything. Hammond seemed like a very small town, with very few food options, so it makes sense that the Mexican restaurant (which was HOPPING) offered such a wide variety of food options (hamburgers, french toast, tacos, pancakes, cheesecake. They had something for everyone).
Next stop: Gary, Indiana City Hall
If any of you are musical nerds like me, then these two simple words – Gary, Indiana – immediately conjures a tune in your head. If you, like my husband, have never seen The Music Man, then you might be confused as to why in the world I would insist on stopping here. But if you, like us, have time to kill on your drive from Chicago to Michigan City, then maybe you will also find value in detouring here.
Founded in 1906, Gary used to be a thriving steel town with thousands upon thousands of people working in the steel industry. By the 1960s, the town’s schools were known for their progressive, skills-based curriculums. People from all over the country moved to Gary, Indiana for opportunity. But in the 70s, following technological advancements in the steel trade and foreign manufacturers becoming more competitive, Gary started seeing layoffs. The people who could leave to find work elsewhere, did so. The promise and opportunity of the city faded.
Sadly, today, Gary has become one of the poorest towns in America. The majority of the buildings that we saw on our short drive were rundown and in disrepair, at best, and abandoned or burned down, at worst. Some statistics claim at least 20% of the buildings in town are abandoned. With a population of less than 70,000 inhabitants, there’s not much left here for the people left here. More then 30% of residents live in poverty. It’s a sad sight, but in much of the reading that I did about the town, it seems that not everyone is without hope and that many are working hard to bring some of Gary’s former glory back to the people.
Last stop: Gary, Indiana: Childhood home of Michael Jackson
Die hard fans of the King of Pop will definitely want to make a quick pit stop to view the childhood home of Michael Jackson! This charming two-bedroom home doesn’t look big enough to raise 9(!) children in, but somehow the Jacksons did it! Wow!
I am glad that we took a few moments to pay our respects to someone whose music we have spent countless hours enjoying. RIP Michael!
Word of caution: this is a working class neighborhood in a fairly dangerous town with a lot of abandoned homes on neighboring streets. I would not wander far from the corner lot this house stands on, nor would I visit it after dark.