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Top 15 Outstanding Things to Do

Want to make the most of your precious vacation time when you travel to Indiana’s Cool North? Check out our top 15 things to do that are anything but ordinary. Of course this is just a sampling of all the awesome attractions and activities our region has to offer. What will you discover when you visit us?

The Indiana Dunes – Discover a National Treasure

Climb Dunes

Visitors are often surprised to discover 15 miles of sandy beaches in the heart of the Midwest. What’s equally amazing are the towering sand dunes and nearby wooded hiking trails along the shores of Lake Michigan. In all, the Indiana Dunes—comprised of Indiana Dunes State Park and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore—features 70 miles of trails and 15,000 acres of beaches, prairies, wetlands, and forests.

So relax on a sandy beach, explore some of the nation’s most diverse natural habitats, or climb massive mountains of sand on The 3 Dune Challenge. It’s all at the Indiana Dunes. This area is home to more natural orchid species than Hawaii, is a top Midwest birding spot, and was described by noted ecologist Henry Chandler Cowles as “one of the few places on our continent where so many species of plants are found.”

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Fine Dining in Downtown Valparaiso


One of the best parts about exploring a city is discovering its unique culinary scene—and the choices just keep growing in Valparaiso’s lively downtown dining district. Whether you want to tuck in to a juicy steak in a more casual setting, or savor an elegant seafood dish in a romantic atmosphere, you’ll find the right place to please your palate in this vibrant city.
Here are a few of downtown Valparaiso’s best restaurants, many of which offer outdoor dining in the summer months:

  • Don Quijote Restaurant: a delicious array of tapas and dishes created by Spanish owners
  • Meditrina Café: classic Mediterranean favorites
  • Valley Kitchen & Bar: a farm-to-table restaurant with an ever-changing menu
  • Main + Lincoln: offering a fresh take on classic dishes
  • Parea: home of steak and seafood
  • The Silver Spoon: serving comfort food with an innovative twist for breakfast and lunch
  • Casa Del Mar: authentic and innovative Mexican cuisine
  • Pikk’s Tavern: serving up steak, ribs, and a kick-back-and-hang atmosphere
  • Blackbird Café: a fun coffeehouse with great baked goods
  • Stacks Bar and Grill: a hip space with artistic and delicious fare
  • Tony’s Place: a longtime favorite for pizza and Italian eats
  • Figure Eight Brewing: a cool microbrewery with beer-infused food

Don’t forget to sample some of the best desserts around. A cupcake from Designer Desserts or ice cream from Valpo Velvet are sure to be the cherry on top of your Valparaiso dining experience.

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Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets – Shop for bargains galore in Michigan City

Lighthouse Place

Make a day of it at amid pleasant surroundings at Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets—with 120 outlet stores and daily savings of 25 to 60 percent. If you’re looking for clothing and shoes for the whole family, you’ll find all of your favorite brands here, including Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Carter’s, Columbia Sportswear, DKNY, Gap, Guess, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole, Coach, Loft, Michael Kors, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Bradley, and many more.

And there’s even more! Shop specialty stores such as Bath & Body Works, Lindt Chocolate, The Bookstore, Bose and Lancome-Designer Fragrances & Cosmetic Co. Add in kitchenware outlets like Corningware Corelle Revere and Le Gourmet Chef and you’ll find yourself browsing and buying for hours. Take a break and fuel up at Bristol Café or South Bend Chocolate Café.

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Blue Chip Casino and Spa – Be a high roller and get rejuvenated in Michigan City

Blue Chip Casino

Forget every casino you’ve ever visited. Prepare for something entirely different —and even better at Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa. You’ll definitely be in the mood to play with 65,000 square feet of gaming all on one luxurious level. Enjoy open boarding 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. Whether you strike it rich or happen to crap out, Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & offers an exceptional experience in Indiana’s Cool North.

Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa is the ultimate entertainment destination—featuring everything from local bands to A-list performers at the It’s Vegas Baby! and Rocks lounges. Some of the biggest names in music and comedy appear at the Stardust Event Center, a huge entertainment venue.

The stunning 10,000-square-foot spa, salon and fitness center, Spa Blu, is the perfect retreat to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate, featuring nine treatment rooms, individual lounges, steam rooms, whirlpools and water walls. This lavish spa offers comprehensive health and beauty treatments along with customizable services.

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University of Notre Dame – Play, pray, and stay on campus in South Bend

University of Notre Dame

This renowned university in South Bend may be known for the Fighting Irish, but there’s so much more to discover when you pay a visit to the home of the Golden Dome. You’ll find plenty of outdoor fun—no football ticket required! Take a walking tour of the campus with its incredible architecture or play a round of golf on one of the university’s two public courses. Explore spiritual side of Notre Dame by taking a tour or attending Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The best place to start your visit is at the Eck Vistors Center, which provides a look at Notre Dame’s history and offers guided campus tours. It’s also home to the legendary Hammes Bookstore. At the end of the day, turn in at the Morris Inn, a full-service hotel on campus remodeled in 2013. The inn also houses Sorin’s for fine dining, and the Rohr Irish Pub, serving more casual fare.

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South Bend’s Museums – Celebrate old times and new

Southbend Museams

Pioneer roots run deep in South Bend—and you can discover it all right in the city’s downtown museum district. The History Museum chronicles the development of the St. Joseph River valley. Copshaholm is a 38-room mansion built by a local industrialist, and the Worker’s Home sheds light on the life of a Polish immigrant family in the 1930s. South Bend galleries reveal the region’s rise, including a history of the University of Notre Dame and the legendary Knute Rockne.

The Kidsfirst Children’s Museum gives youngsters a chance to find out what it was like to learn in a one-room schoolhouse, bargain at a trading post, and live in a cabin through hands-on exhibits. Just next door, visit the stunning Studebaker National Museum, which showcases the covered wagon that brought the Studebaker family to South Bend, the carriage that took Abraham Lincoln to his fatal night at Ford’s Theatre, and a host of gleaming vintage cars—including the last Studebaker to roll off the assembly line.

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The Quilt Garden Trail – Stop and smell the flowers in Amish Country

Quilt Gardens

It’s Fun. It’s Free. It’s Fantastic. There’s nothing else like it in the entire country! Elkhart County residents honor quilts, a pinnacle of Amish artistry, with 19 gardens planted in intricate patterns. More than a million blooming annuals offer an ever-changing display throughout the growing season. Each quilt garden has its own splendid pattern and unique story.

Like the handmade masterpieces created by the Amish, these nationally recognized gardens express the best of this region’s rural heritage—pretty as a song and crafted with patience, teamwork and loving skill from designs often handed down through generations and sometimes originating on distant shores. The gardens, together with 21 huge hand-painted murals, grace seven welcoming communities in a colorful display that can be enjoyed absolutely free from Memorial Day through October 1.

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The Historic Heritage Trail – Take an audio-guided tour of Indiana’s Cool North

Heritage Trail

The acclaimed, self-guided Heritage Trail driving tour is your personal guide to that Amish furniture shop hidden away on a peaceful rural road, the city gallery with one-of-a-kind jewelry, and that shady riverside park just right for a picnic. Experience the region’s history along this 90-mile loop. Visit the 1835 Bonneyville Mill, which still grinds grain today, or the tombstone of William Tufts in the Bonneyville Cemetary—which notes his service in the Revolutionary War and participation in the Boston Tea Party.

As you explore, the free audio guide (your choice of CD or downloadable MP3) regales you with colorful stories of the region’s settlement and growth, its heroes, and scalawags. With detailed directions you can reach every hidden corner of a region that the editors of Life named “one of the top places to see in your lifetime.” Ready to go? Just pick up your free CD and map at the Elkhart County Visitor Center or download both at

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Flea Market Finds – shop historic Shipshewana

Flea Market

Shipshewana is a bustling Amish community with shop-lined streets, specialty retailers, and home-style dining establishments that serve bountiful Amish fare. Search for handcrafted items, baked goods, antiques and more in picturesque turn-of-the-century storefronts and watch as horse-drawn Amish buggies clop through town. Every Tuesday and Wednesday from the first of May through September, the Midwest’s largest flea market draws serious shoppers and the simply curious.

Half a million visitors per year come to Shipshewana from around the country and around the world. Experience the crafts and food of the Amish and learn more about the unique culture of a people who live life faithfully and simply. Gain a deeper understanding at Menno-Hof—the Amish and Mennonite Visitors Center—enjoy special festivals that take place throughout the year, and be enchanted by sparkling lights during the Christmas season.

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Visit Shingle Shops – Explore the Amish back roads in LaGrange County


LaGrange County’s Amish back roads are full of charmingly simple stores, workshops, and studios (also called Cottage Shoppes). You’ll recognize these small businesses by the signs—or shingles—that advertise their wares: cabinetry, baked goods, candles, honey, quilts, jams, candy, and more. The best part? You’ll often see the work in progress and have a chance to chat with the shop owner about their trade or craft.

The shops are often located on proud Amish farmsteads where these goods are created without the use of electricity. Savor the aroma of baking breads, cookies, pies and other treats coming from the house, or learn that the honey you’re buying comes directly from a hive kept on the property. Amish crafters are renowned for their furniture. In some shops you’ll find rockers, dressers and other finely crafted items with a smooth-as-silk finish that is second to none.

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Unique Art and Eclectic Restaurants – Discover The Village at Winona

Village Atwinona

This thriving arts community along the shores of Winona Lake is a dream come true for shoppers on the hunt for one-of-a-kind finds. Several years ago, residents with a vision restored charming village homes into galleries, studios, shops, and unique restaurants. You’ll find pottery, jewelry, paintings, photography, handmade soaps, candles, woodcrafts, vinegars and more.

There’s an array of delicious dining options, too. The choices range from coffee shops with freshly baked muffins and cookies to restaurants that serve upscale Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. The community of Winona Lake was once the home of legendary preacher Billy Sunday, who spoke to the masses along the lakeshore. You can tour his home and a museum that details this interesting part of the town’s history. The Village also hosts numerous cultural and entertainment events throughout the year.

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Antique to Your Heart’s Content – Shop Historic Pierceton


It’s a small town with a big reputation as one of Indiana’s top antiquing destinations. With many antique shops in the area, plus other stores and restaurants, it’s easy to create a day of shopping fun in Pierceton. Antique shops line up in a quarter-mile stretch of the downtown business district. You’ll find Victorian furniture, fainting chairs, antique and vintage jewelry, American and English armoires, clocks, mirrors, rugs, glassware, and so much more.

In addition, several shops sell the works of local and regional artists, including painters, potters, china decorators, photographers, and jewelry makers. Step back in time and dine in a restored depot. It all started with one antique shop in 1940, and has continued to expand in the following years. It’s no wonder Pierceton is called “The Antique Town.” You’ll be sure to find the perfect treasure to take home.

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Play, Stay, and Say “Ahh” – Visit Swan Lake Golf Resort

Swan Lake

Not only can you hit the links at one of the best golf courses around, you can also stay in posh lodging overlooking the 18th green of the Indiana National Golf Club West Course at this much-loved resort near Plymouth. Swan Lake’s new Fairway Villas feature inviting craftsman-style bungalows that sleep four. Each luxurious villa includes 42-inch flat-screen TVs, an Xbox 360 and queen-sized beds.

Golfers flock to Swan Lake. It’s home to the United States Golf Academy and Indiana National Golf Club and maintains 36 carefully manicured holes. The courses are designed for the enjoyment of both seasoned golfers and those new to the game. Under the direction of PGA Professional and Director of Golf Operations Pay Bayley, the Club and the Academy welcome golfers year-round.

When you’ve finished your round, the Swan Lake Spa offers a wide range of relaxing treatments to refresh and rejuvenate you. Choose from a variety of massages, including a sports massage, as well as facials, manicures, pedicures and more.

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Visit the ‘Cape Cod of the Midwest’ – Relax at the resort town of Culver


A world of fun and relaxation awaits visitors in Culver, which stretches along the glistening waters of Lake Maxinkuckee, the second largest lake in Indiana. Weekenders and vacationers head to the water for sailing and fishing, or just a refreshing dip off the community beach. On land, take in a round of golf or spend an afternoon exploring the area by bike. You’ll find unique shops and boutiques that sell fine art, antiques, sweets and more. Restaurants offer delicious fare with everything from down-home breakfasts to upscale cuisine, and comfortable lodgings to tuck into at the end of the day.

Culver is home to the world-renowned Culver Academies, a private co-ed boarding school that counts actors Hal Holbrook and Joshua Logan among its alums. Watch the school’s legendary Black Horse Troop in action during Sunday afternoon parades. The Troop has ridden in Presidential inaugural parades since 1913.

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Northern Indiana Art and Earth Trail – One-of-a-kind getaways await

Heritage Trail 2

Get ready for a journey of discovery in Northern Indiana that will take you to places that others might overlook. Northern Indiana has a rich and diverse culture of artisans, crafters and farmers, and the Art and Earth Trail perfectly showcases these nowhere-else-to-be-found treasures.

The seven loops of the trail sweep from Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes, to areas known for sparkling inland lakes, past the Golden Dome of Notre Dame, and onto roads where horse-drawn Amish buggies seem to outnumber cars.

Discover a genuine getaway in Indiana’s Cool North. Shake the hand of a crafter who creates unique works, and talk to a farmer while you pick his blueberries. Settle into historic bed-and-breakfasts and inns. Taste foods authentic to the region and sample its abundant bounty including apples, cheese, and artisan breads at farmers’ markets, u-pick farms, and festivals. Explore Northern Indiana’s rich history. Discover trails Native Americans first walked and the mansions of visionaries who built entrepreneurial empires on their dreams.

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