Sun, Sand, Surf . . . Chicago
The challenge was straightforward enough, if not exactly easy: We needed a vacation house that could sleep 19, near a large body of water—that was not a water park. And while meeting those requirements on either coast might not have been too hard, we also needed a place that was somewhere within driving distance of the Twin Cities, Iowa, and Michigan.
That’s how the family reunion landed an hour’s drive east of Chicago, in Michigan City, Indiana, which—once you get past the outlet mall on Interstate 94—boasts a glorious stretch of beach that might make you rethink the notion of a Midwest beach vacation. In fact, for those used to the log cabins and deep woods that define “going to the lake” in Minnesota, the beach towns along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan seem like a different world, with an atmosphere reminiscent of Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, with painted clapboard houses and long boardwalks that cut through tall grasses before opening onto wide, sandy beaches.
We rented a big ol’ beach house—complete with a front porch swing, several decks, a pool table, beach gear, and a kitchen table long enough to seat our entire gang. It turned out to be both convenient and economical—the price per family was considerably less than most hotels would have been.
The house, located across the street from the beach, was part of a community of colorful coastal cottages along several winding blocks, and it offered the best of both worlds: a private house, but with access to a community pool, playgrounds, tennis courts, and an activity center with canoes and kayaks that could be checked out by guests. The only thing that would have made the whole thing better: a Starbucks. And maybe a little ice cream shop or corner store. And yet, the absence of these amenities was also part of the appeal. Instead of going out each night, we made use of our full kitchen and barbecue, packed picnics, and ordered pizza. We spent most of our time relaxing by the beach and taking in the stunning sunsets.
After several years of vacationing with extended family, I’ve learned it’s good to know there are activities nearby, and we took the time to take a few field trips in and around Michigan City. But the surest sign that the trip was a successful summer vacation was that we never made it to the movie theaters—or that outlet mall.
How to find that beach house she was talking about, plus activities and eats to fill your days with fun.