story by ELIZABETH GRANGER
It’s beach living, Michigan City style.
That’s Michigan City, Indiana, on the shore of Lake Michigan, just east of the Indiana Dunes National Park & State Park. With one of the best beaches along the Hoosier lakeshore, it has options for any interest or budget.
Start with Beachwalk, a stunning surprise that evokes scenes of oceanside beaches far to the south. Think summery colored houses, yellow next to blue next to lavender. It’s a neighborhood of 200 homes with more than 100 offered to vacationers. “A hidden gem,” says Leanne Washluske of Beachwalk Vacation Rentals.
But Lake Michigan, a walk across Lake Shore Drive at Bus Stop 7, is clearly the star. No buses run nowadays, but the bus stop signs remain and people use them as meeting spots, as in “Meet me at Stop 7” or “I live near Stop 11.” Clever.
Private Vrbo and Airbnb houses are plentiful, along with hotels and additional rental options in town. One popular rental agency is North Star Properties, which offers a variety of cottages and condos, some with views of Lake Michigan.
To the west, still along Lake Shore Drive, is Washington Park Zoo. It opened in 1928 as a sanctuary for wildlife in need. Just beyond the zoo is Washington Park with a beach, sand dunes, lighthouse, marina and boat launch, and public fishing. There is a parking fee.
The park is popular year- round, but the peak season is of course summer. Sunset Grille opens in May.
And always, special events. The Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival debuted last year with a professional sand sculpting competition and exhibition. Visitors were beyond wowed; the city is already buzzing about this year’s June 9-11 festival.
Also popular is the return of Oktoberfest, on Labor Day weekend. Michigan City native Terry Greetham lived away for years, returned a couple years ago, and is the city’s director of events. “For many years this was a summer town,” he says. “I want it to be year-round.”
Other big draws are Blue Chip Casino and Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet Mall.
The downtown area, especially along Franklin Street, combines Hoosier Hospitality with a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel with items from Ireland, Denmark, Italy and South Africa in shops that include Ballyea, Line Mullins Group Interior, and Darling. The flagship for the Unsalted No Sharks brand, uber-popular in the Great Lakes Region, is here.
And then there’s Good News Vintage, where you’re sure to find exactly what you aren’t looking for. Owner Amy Bowman is as quirky as her merchandise. She’s all aflutter about the filming of the movie “Bulls,” by city native Dan Meyer, because her shop will be among sites included. As for the plot, think struggling bar and a world championship dart- throwing competition.
The Market on 12 – that’s U.S. 12 – is filled with locally-made art that includes jewelry, clothing, and home décor.
Eateries range from beach-y places to more grown-up spots. The specialty at Patrick’s Grille, a 21-and-over-only restaurant/bar, is steak, but there’s also a surprising list of worldwide items that include Greece’s Flaming Saganaki. It’s cheese like you’ve never had it before. Other dining options include Leed’s Public House and Fiddlehead.