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Naturally Indiana

Surrounded by water on all four sides, with myriad lakes and rivers in between, the Hoosier State is made for boating.

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Michigan City Lighthouse
The Michigan City Lighthouse.

Michigan City
A large port on Lake Michigan’s southern coast, Michigan City was founded in 1830 as the site for a harbor where Trail Creek meanders into the lake. The city offers something for everyone, like the 65,000-square-foot Blue Chip Casino and Spa, with 42 table games, eight live poker room tables and more than 1,900 slots, as well as a 10,000-square-foot spa and several restaurants. Also a Mecca for shoppers, Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet features some 120 stores.

Families and beach junkies will want to take a fall stroll looking for sea glass and stones at Washington Park, the city’s fun-time beach, featuring a bird sanctuary and a zoo with two clouded leopards who just moved in.

You can’t miss Michigan City’s Old Lighthouse Museum, built in 1858 and the only working lighthouse on Lake Michigan’s Indiana shore. Open to tours, it’s said to be haunted by the friendly ghost of lighthouse keeper Harriet Colfax, who for 43 years climbed the 40-foot staircase to the lantern tower at least once a night.

Like Mediterranean cuisine? Try some of the signature dishes at Sahara, including its pan-seared tilapia or its spanakopita (spinach and Bulgarian feta baked in sheets of phyllo sauced with tomato cream). Order freshly brewed, foam-topped root beer or the secret recipe chili at Carlson’s Drive-in, one of the few remaining drive-ins in Indiana and a part of Michigan City since 1947.

Tie up at either the Washington Park or Trail Creek marina, both managed by the Michigan City Port Authority. Transient slip rental rates at Washington Park, which can accommodate more than 500 boats ranging from 25 to 100 feet, are $1 per foot per night with a minimum fee of $35. Trail Creek, about 10 minutes upriver from Lake Michigan, offers both a 25-foot floating dock and fixed dock. Rates are $1 per foot per night with a $25 minimum.

Mark your calendar for the Tri State Regatta, which goes from Chicago to St. Joseph, Mich., and then Michigan City, to see hundreds of sailboats arrive on Labor Day Sunday and leave the next day. The Labor Dayz Festival in Washington Park offers a chance to sample a variety of foods, listen to live music and peruse locally made arts and crafts. Music buffs will want to visit the lovely, 106-acre International Friendship Gardens on September 8 for the Annual Preview of Chicago’s Lyric Opera, as well as a chance to wander around the lakes and streams set amidst glens and gardens inspired by different countries.

Visit nearby Hesston Steam Museum in tiny Hesston, Ind., for rides aboard its narrow-gauge, steam-engine pulled trains. Open on Sundays, there’s also an Art Deco-style soda fountain built in 1930 for ice cream treats, food and other goodies. Special events include the 57th Annual Hesston Steam & Power Show on September 1 and 2, and ghost train rides in October.

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