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The Indiana Dunes Destination spans the states of Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan. The largest city in the destination is Chicago, which many people often visit while in the region. Other notable cities in the destination include Michigan City, Aurora, and Gary. There are a number of different types of activities that visitors to the area can do. Some of these activities are more active, such as hiking, biking, or swimming at various state and national parks in the area. Other attractions that are more observational and informative include visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo and Alder Planetarium in Chicago or the Michigan City East Light in Michigan City. Typically a high volume of people visits the area between May and July due to the warmer temperatures and lower amounts of wind. Indiana Dunes National Park is home to a number of sand dunes that visitors can explore as well as over 1,000 species of plants and 350 different species of birds. The park itself has a number of other natural formations in addition to the dunes, including rivers, forests, prairies, and 15 miles of beaches along the Lake Michigan shoreline.[3]

What Chicago is known for

While the Indiana Dunes Destination is named after the Indiana Dunes National Park, the city for which the destination is most well known is Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, visitors can find a variety of popular attractions. One of these attractions is Millenium Park in downtown Chicago, which contains a number of sculptures and monuments such as the Millennium Monument and the Cloud Gate (also known as the Bean). Another attraction is the Alder Planetarium, which was the first planetarium built in the Western Hemisphere. Here guests can see different exhibits about the cosmos and the accomplishments of various scientists in the field. People can also visit the top of Willis Tower to see views of the city.[6]

One of the most notable places in the Indiana Dunes Destination is Lincoln Park, which is located on the north side of Chicago and comprises 1,208 acres. The park contains several monuments to famous individuals like Ulysses S. Grant and William Shakespeare, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and different community and city gardens. Lincoln Park Zoo is particularly unique in that it is one of the only free admission zoos in the United States. In total, the zoo contains over 200 species spread across 16 exhibits that guests can observe.[6] The park also has many different sports courts and fields so people can play basketball, baseball, and soccer.

For those desiring more outdoor experiences, the Indiana Dunes National Park provides trails for hiking and biking, beach access to Lake Michigan, and the opportunity to observe and explore the namesake of the park: Indiana Dunes. Some of the towns close to the national park have additional events and activities for tourists. In the town of Chesterton, people can visit the Evexia Salt Cave, which is styled after the first salt mine health resort that opened in Poland in 1839. Should tourists desire to do some shopping, Chesterton’s European Market offers various products, including handmade artwork, farm-grown produce, and clothing, among other things.[5] In nearby Michigan City, visitors can get a close look at the Michigan City East Light, which is the only functioning lighthouse in the city. The Friendship Botanical Gardens also provide another place to observe the natural flora and fauna of the Indiana Dunes Destination.[7]


Most of the geography in the Indiana Dunes Destination is flat with access to Lake Michigan from cities such as Chicago, Gary, and Michigan City. Visitors to the region are able to participate in activities on Lake Michigan, such as boating, fishing, and swimming, as well as visiting some of the beaches in cities along the lake’s shore like North Avenue Beach in Chicago proper or beaches at the Indiana Dunes National Park. The destination is more urban the closer one travels toward Chicago and becomes more agricultural to the south of the area’s boundaries.

Based on the average temperature and humidity of the area, the ideal time for many people to visit the destination is between the end of April and the beginning of July. Typically, the average temperature during this time is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest time to visit the Indiana Dunes is between June and August, where, at its highest point, the average temperature is around 86 degrees Fahrenheit. With that being said, the weather for the region varies a relatively large amount throughout the year. The region is also known for having a noticeable amount of wind, with wind speeds usually blowing between six to ten knots, which is often described as a “gentle breeze.”[4]

In the Indiana Dunes National Park, there is a wide variety of different natural formations, including dunes, swamps, forests, rivers, bogs, and others. The park itself is comprised of 15,000 acres and contains 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Many people visit the park to make use of the beaches along the shore. A unique feature of the park’s beaches and dunes is that they are constantly being changed and reshaped by the wind, the lake’s tides, and other weather phenomena. Another aspect of the park is the biological diversity within it, as there are over 1,100 different flowering plant species and ferns that visitors can observe during their explorations. There are also more than 350 species of bird that people have seen within the location.[3]


The early people who lived in the Indiana Dunes Destination were Native Americans; however, they weren’t permanent residents of the area. Instead, it was mostly a seasonal hunting ground for tribes living in the region surrounding it. The first person to settle in the area and start building a community was Joseph Bailly, who was followed by others who established settlements. There were plans for a city to be built called City West that was planned to be an alternative city to Chicago, however, the city failed to be made due to an economic panic in 1837. Other towns were built around the same time which met a similar fate. The area today mainly contains houses, businesses, and different parks for people to visit.[1]

History regarding the Indiana Dunes National Park begins near the turn of the 19th century. Following the publication of an article by botanist Henry Cowles in 1899, a struggle emerged between people who wanted to preserve the unique ecosystem in the dunes and companies desiring to use the sand for glass and other products. Through the early 1900s, a group was formed called the National Dunes Park Association, which sought to make the area a national park. Eventually, they succeeded in establishing the Indiana Dunes State Park in 1926. Several local groups continued to petition for the park’s expansion to become a national park, with the area being designated as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966. In the years following its creation, additional land has been added to the park, and the name of the park was changed to the Indiana Dunes National Park in 2019, making it the 61st national park in the United States.[3]

Chicago’s original inhabitants were the Potawatomi Native American tribe. The first known non-indigenous settler to the region was named Jean Baptiste Point de Sable, who is commonly referred to as the “Founder of Chicago” because he established a settlement in the 1780s. The town of Chicago was organized in 1833 and saw a large amount of growth over the next several decades. Due to its location on Lake Michigan and the site of the Chicago Portage, Chicago became an important transportation and shipping center for people and goods traveling between the eastern and western United States. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed a large portion of the city. Despite this event, much of Chicago’s infrastructure remained intact, and what was burned in the fire was upgraded from wooden construction to stone and steel.[2]

In the 1900s, Chicago continued to see a large amount of growth as many people traveled there seeking work. Especially during World War I, industry in the city experienced a large expansion. One group that experienced a significant increase was the African American population as part of the Great Migration of the time. The 1920s era in Chicago is known as the Gangster Era due in large part to the 18th amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Many infamous figures rose during this time, Al Capone arguably being the most well known. By the time World War II occurred, the city's industry had grown substantially again, with steel production outpacing that of the United Kingdom between 1939 and 1945. During the 1960s and 70s, many major construction projects were completed, such as Sears Tower (now known as Willis Tower), O’Hare National Airport, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, among others.[2]

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Located just outside Michigan City, Indiana is Michigan City Campground—a 150-site campground with both RV spaces and cabins available for reservation. There are a number of different types of cabins that guests can reserve, ranging from what one of the owners describes as a “hard-sided tent” to a two-bedroom cottage with a full kitchen and private bathroom. Similarly, there is a range of RV spaces one can reserve, from primitive sites with a picnic table and fire ring to large pull-through spaces offering water, sewer, and 30- or 50-amp electricity. Many guests, according to one of the owners of the park, travel to the area to visit nearby Indiana Dunes State and National Parks as well as Washington Beach in Michigan City proper. As such, the busiest time of year typically occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the weather tends to be warmer.

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