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Enjoy Northern Indiana’s Outdoor Offerings this Summer

Indiana DunesWhen Mary Glenn wants to get away, she knows she can pack up the kids, drive for a couple of hours and be in a very different place.

“We are absolute groupies of the Indiana Dunes,” says the Naperville resident. “It’s such a beautiful place. I could sit on the beach and stare at my surroundings for hours.”

Of course, she doesn’t, considering she’s playing around with the children, splashing in the waters of Lake Michigan and running up and down the pristine beaches, just like she did when she was younger.

“I grew up in Oak Lawn and my dad used to love going to the Dunes,” Glenn says. “It was part of so many weekends growing up. The fact that my kids start bugging me to go there once April starts is really sweet to me. It reminds of my dad. It reminds me of how important it is to get some time away with my family.”

Glenn says it’s also important that the time away isn’t spent sitting in front of a movie screen or walking around a mall.

“I want them to enjoy the outdoors,” she says. “It seems like kids from the Midwest have less of an appreciation for nature than kids from say, Colorado or California. That’s a mistake. We’re surrounded by so much beauty here – you just have to go and find it.”

Northern Indiana offers numerous outdoor locales, offer natural and manmade beauty all summer long. Here’s a look at some top outdoor attractions:


Quilt Gardens on Heritage Trail

Where: Elkhart, Indiana
When: Through Sept 15

Prepare yourself for a stunning display of beauty as you visit the colorful, quilt-patterned gardens up and down Amish Country’s Heritage Trail. You’ll find 17 gardens that are home to more than a million blooms this summer, offering you a glimpse of natural beauty inspired by traditional and original quilt patterns. Stroll through gardens as large as 3,200 square feet for an up-close look at the floral varieties, then pull back for an all-encompassing view of this unique slice of Americana.

Wildwood Nature Preserves

Where: 1802 Chapman Rd., Huntertown, Indiana

If you’re looking for a serene setting filled with prairies, woods, farmland, wetlands and more, be sure to hike the 5-mile trail at Wildwood Nature Preserve, a trust-owned swath of land consisting of 240 acres near Silver Lake. You’ll spot numerous forms of wildlife, including frogs, turtles and several species of woodpeckers.

Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area

Where: 8310 E. 300 N., Mongo, Indiana

Midwestern hunters, fishermen and trappers have been visiting the Pigeon River Valley for decades. The Mongo, Nasby and Ontario reservoirs offer 11,605 acres of land, 529 acres of lakes and impoundments, and 17 miles of rivers, meaning there’s plenty of space and opportunity to interact with Northern Indiana’s unique and prolific wildlife. Type of fish include catfish, crappie, bluegill, Northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rough fish, trout and yellow perch while animal species include deer, quail, rabbit, squirrel, waterfowl, dove, pheasant and wild turkey.

Trading Post Canoe, Kayak and Campground

Where: 7525 E 300 N., Mongo, Indiana

If you’re looking for a new mode of transportation this summer, consider the canoe or kayak. The Trading Post in Mongo offers several trip options for your on-the-water pleasure, including a 16-mile jaunt. Located on the Pigeon River, Trading Post also offers campsites for those looking to extend their trip. “I don’t think of kayaking when I think of Indiana, but I should,” says Helen Frolich, a Chicago resident who plans on making a visit to Trading Post an annual daytrip each summer. “The entire trip was beautiful. Rowing down the river with my husband and kids was probably one of the highlights of our year.”
Prices on rentals and overnight stays vary.

Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Where: Trail runs through Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana, Indiana.

Enjoy the greenery of summer while putting your pedal to the pavement. Miles and miles of paved paths await both bicycling amateurs and enthusiasts looking to escape their suburban locales and urban routes. A great respite from the crowded paths along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail links several Northern Indiana communities. If you have plans to be in the area but don’t feel like transporting your bikes from home, there are businesses along the trail that rent bicycles for your riding pleasure.

Michigan City Port Authority Charter Boats

Where: 200 Heisman Harbor, Michigan City, Indiana

Looking for a family outing that offers more than sitting around and staring at a movie screen? Maybe you’re looking for something to do with the guys from your neighborhood that’s more involved than standing around and watching your kids play soccer. Go ahead and grab some friends and charter a fishing boat in Michigan City. You’ll find salmon, steelhead, Chinook, brown trout and more in the waters of Lake Michigan, among other types of fish. The MCPA lists several individual charter boats for your fresh-water adventure. Call around and see which boat and which captain meets your needs.
Rental rates vary.

Marshall County Barn Quilt Trail

Where: 220 N. Center St., Plymouth, Indiana

Quilting is a way of life for many, encompassing so much more than an evening craft. It’s a way to express creativity, interact with others and create personal items that are passed on from generation to generation. A quilting road trip to Northern Indiana is a natural way for enthusiasts to immerse themselves in this unique American art. Take a leisurely drive through Marshall County to check out 42 quilt patterns mounted on barns, homes and other buildings throughout the community.

Indiana Dunes

Where: 600 N CR-25 E, Chesterton, Indiana

“We’re headed to the Dunes.” It’s a rally cry for many, a statement that signifies summer is here and it’s time to hit the beach. For decades, Chicagoland residents have packed up the kids and coolers and headed to the 15 miles of shoreline just over the state line. Forget about your kids’ faces when they see Mickey Mouse for the first time – check out their expressions when they see a colossal hill of sand inviting them to take a run up and a roll down its majestic mass. More summer memories have been created along Indiana’s shoreline than one can count. If swimming in the pristine waters of Indiana’s claim of Lake Michigan isn’t enough, the Dunes offer trails, parks, sightseeing and more. “You feel like you’ve crossed over into another area of the world,” says Naperville’s Mary Glenn. “It’s an amazing place.”

Lee’s Kayak Tours

Where: 240 EMS T49 LN, North Webster, Indiana

Kayaking may look intimidating to the uninitiated, but frequent kayakers will tell you that it’s a wonderful form of exercise or relaxation once you give it a try. Novices can turn to Lee’s Kayak Tours for a fun yet controlled foray into the activity. Specializing in family excursions and first-time kayakers, Lee’s patrons find that this scenic trip is just what they need after a week of hustle and bustle.

East Race Waterway

Where: 126 South Niles Ave., South Bend, Indiana
When: Open Saturdays and Sundays through August 31

Feel like trying a little whitewater rafting without heading to Colorado? Check out one of Northern Indiana’s best-kept secrets, the East Race Waterway, a 1,900-foot waterway located in South Bend. Designed for both novice and experienced rafters, this manmade river cuts through a portion of the city along the St. Joseph River. Since the Waterway opened in 1984, more than 300,000 people have taken the trip down the rapids.