Indiana wants me Michigan City, Ind. By Susy Schultzphoto courtesy of Beachwalk Vacation Rentals The red pannelled wagons that come with each Beachwalk Resort home line the 400-foot boardwalk that takes you to the community's private Lake Michigan beach.
I am always looking for an undiscovered vacation gem. I want a place for a quick but wonderful escape from the Chicago area. Or even a long, languishing time away from the world.
But I am picky. For this type of vacation, I prefer not to drive forever-that's a different type of trip. And I want to be able to fool myself. I want to feel as if home is no where in sight. That means I want to be surrounded by natural beauty.
I can hardly believe I found such a place in Michigan City, Ind.
Michigan City, Ind.? Yes.
Let me say it once again-Michigan City, Ind.
I was skeptical. In fact, I was so doubtful, I really did not want to go when the people from Beachwalk Resort Community called and invited me and my two sons. I agreed to go only for a quick two nights in the dead of winter. I ended up sorry we weren't staying longer, and I hope to get back with the whole family in the summer. (The developers sell houses to individual owners who rent them to vacationers. Rentals are available year-round, so you can pick the season.)
This is the perfect place for an extended family vacation-they have rental homes that accommodate up to 20. There still are homes of that size available in August, starting at about $3,400 a week. Rates vary with the season. (For the summer season, you must rent weekly.)
It's also a great place for just the immediate family-a one-bedroom home with a pullout starts at $1,200 a week in August.
First, it's about an hour away, even if the traffic is rough-an hour and a half tops. I've driven past Michigan City on Interstate 94 many times on my way to and from a Michigan vacation. I get off on exit 34B for my annual pilgrimage to the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets shopping center. I shop until I drop, then stop at the Steak 'N' Shake on my way back to the highway.
But if you go past the outlets, down the road to Lake Michigan and turn right, you find a beautiful lakefront park, Washington Park, which even has its own zoo. About a mile and a half farther down Lake Shore Drive is Beachwalk, a 160-acre resort development community-the gem.
Built on an old sand-mining site, this community is a world to itself. It is built to respect the nature around it. The gardens are filled with indigenous plants. There are no lawns and no lawn mowers to wake up vacationers getting away from it all.
The privately-owned Victorian homes are colorfully painted-bright mango, blue and yellow. It's a taste of spicy Florida in the Midwest. Each is built under strict building codes designed to make this development into a community. The porches face the road. You almost have to say hello.
The development is built across the street from the beach, so you do have to walk to the private Lake Michigan beach down a 400-foot boardwalk. But each home comes with a paneled red wagon, so you can pull the kids and equipment for the full day at the beach.
Still, there things to do within the community's acres. There is a pool, a playground, a putting green, tennis courts and lovely Lake Kai, where you can drop in a fishing line. You're not far for quick trips to New Buffalo, Mich., the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore or a day at Washington Park and the zoo, where you can find picnic places and a miniature golf course. Yes, you can even take a pilgrimage to the outlets, which doesn't have to be a big deal since it's barely 10 minutes away.
Each place has a well-equipped kitchen. We stopped at Al's Grocery, which has specialty foods. That way, I could do what I love-cook-and the boys could do what they love-eat.
Plus, I loved just sticking close to our Beachwalk home. We took a few walks and did some bird watching. (OK, we know little more than the birds are the ones with wings and we count colors. But we enjoy our version.) And on one twilight walk, we were able to count the deer on the hill.
As my older son said, "Geez, Mom, we barely get relaxed and you yank us out. We have to come back."
Resources • Beachwalk Vacation Rentals www.beachwalkresort.com
Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent.