Indiana Dunes National Park
For kids, being here is like playing in the best, most gigantic sandlot ever created. Fifteen thousand acres on the southern curve of Lake Michigan provide miles of beaches, bogs, wetlands, and forests. The dunes are multistory mountains of sand; kids love scrambling to the top, surveying the horizon for ships, and sliding down. Conquering Mount Baldy, a 125-foot dune, is a rite of passage for locals and tourists alike.
Setting Up Camp
The lakeshore has only one campground, Dunewood, which is available on a first-come, first-served basis ($10 per night, April through October). Chesterton, LaPorte, and Michigan City offer affordable hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and kid-friendly eateries.
The highlight for kids on ranger-led tours is the insect-gobbling sundew and pitcher plants at Pen Hook Bog. Preschoolers love the baby pigs and chicks at Chellberg Farm, and little pioneers learn about 19th-century life at Bailly Homestead's trapper cabin.
Lake Michigan currents are highly unpredictable. Rangers advise swimming strictly at the West Beach, the only life-guarded area.