Jack Frost may be nipping at your nose as the days grow shorter and colder, but LaPorte County, a vacation haven in the northern reaches of the Hoosier State, revels in winter. This destination, along the shores of Lake Michigan, celebrates the coldest season with old favorite activities and new things to try.
It’s the perfect cure for what health experts call the “winter blues,” a fairly common feeling during the cold months when many people lack their normal get-up-and-go. Some feel less energized and less interested in their normal activities. The National Institutes of Health lists helpful ways to get your mojo back, including keeping active, trying a new activity, getting together with friends and family, or embarking on a mini vacation close to home.
Those suggestions fit right in with things to do in the county’s largest communities – Michigan City and LaPorte – as well as neighboring Indiana Dunes National Park. Plus, this centrally located enclave is just an hour from Chicago and easily accessible from I/80-90, just right for a quick getaway.
Crisp winter days under sunny, cobalt skies invite outdoor adventures. They’re a sure cure for cabin fever and winter doldrums, with the added bonus of quality time together with family or friends.
break out the hiking boots
Indiana Dunes National Park – Winter brings a quiet, peaceful aura to the National Park and adjoining Indiana Dunes State Park, both just west of Michigan City. Hikers traverse towering sand dunes that rise from Lake Michigan and woodland trails that head inland, plus hiking the beach where magical shelf ice forms as Lake Michigan’s waves freeze. Get all the info you need and help from rangers at the National Park office. Don’t miss: Special naturalist-led hikes, one through the forests on Christmas Eve morning and a more rugged trek New Year’s Day through the high dunes.
(Warning: If you are hiking the beach, park officials warn to not walk on shelf ice. These shelves may look sturdy but can break under even a small amount of weight, and there is frigid water underneath. So stay well back from the shoreline.)
LaPorte County Parks – Each of the five county parks features individual natural amenities that make winter hiking a serene pleasure, plus some activities kids will love. Here’s a rundown:
Red Mill County Park, LaPorte – With a State Dedicated Nature Preserve and trails that head through woodlands and wetlands, and past the headwaters of the Little Calumet River.
Creek Ridge County Park, Michigan City – A series of boardwalks allow visitors to experience the entire trail network in an easier fashion.
Bluhm County Park, Westville – A variety of nature trails and paved trails, plus an accessible playground.
Luhr County Park, LaPorte – Hike through and by four ecosystems: upland forest, wetlands, prairie, and pond. Kids will love the awesome nature center, open Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the winter.
Seibert Woods County Park, Michigan City – Hike a half-mile loop through boreal forest, normally found in northern reaches of the U.S., at the county’s newest park.
Washington Park, Michigan City – A stunning stretch of sand along Lake Michigan grows quiet with summer beachgoers gone, creating two miles perfect for strolling and beachcombing.
Soldiers Memorial Park, LaPorte – With nature trails leading through gently rolling terrain lined with native trees and access to Stone, Pine, and Crane lakes.
Fox Memorial Park, LaPorte – Hiking along the shores of Clear Lake.
hit the ice
LaPorte Lakes – Anglers rejoice! Ice fishing abounds on several lakes in and around LaPorte, especially on Stone and Pine Lakes, accessible from Fox Memorial Park and Soldiers Memorial Park. Don’t miss: Fishing tourneys in February with special events on both lakes.
Winterfest Ice Rink, LaPorte – Take a spin on this refrigerated rink, established a year ago.
Michigan City Community Ice Rink, Michigan City – Outdoor skating venue open daily.
savor the snow
Kesling Park and Red Mill County Park, LaPorte – Hills in both parks invite supreme sledding. No snowboarding allowed.
Indiana Dunes National Park – Grab your sled or tube and hit 192-foot Devil’s Slide. Before you zoom down, take in a stunning view of Lake Michigan from the top.
Cross Country Skiing
County Parks (See listing of parks above) – Trail systems in all county parks except Seibert Woods accommodate cross country skiing. Luhr offers flat terrain for beginners, while Bluhm’s hillier landscape provides excellent pathways for intermediate skiers.
Indiana Dunes National Park – Cross-country ski or go snowshoeing on quiet, snow-covered trails. Borrow a backpack at the park office containing binoculars, an animal track guide, and more tools.
Soldiers Memorial Park, LaPorte – Trails through gently rolling terrain draw skiers to this multifaceted park that’s approximately 85 percent woods and water, so the views as you ski are breathtaking.
Even if the weather outside is frightful, inside venues are sooo delightful with activities the whole family will love, plus convivial diversions just for the adults.
Soak in Art, Culture and Flicks
Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Michigan City – Local and world-famous art in airy galleries. Changing special exhibits of regional artists’ work (Abstraction and Love through February 10, 2024, featuring abstract art in soft sculpture, paintings, inflatables, glass, and ceramics). Here’s more: Music and dance performances on First Fridays each month.
LaPorte County Historical Society Museum, LaPorte – Outstanding displays, including 14 period rooms from log cabin days to the mid-1950s, a renowned gun display of 850 weapons, vintage autos, and the story of a murderous maven. Here’s more: Scavenger hunts for kids year-round (gingerbread people in December) and Artisan Fair Dec. 2.
AMC Classic Michigan City 14, Michigan City – With 14 screens for the latest movies from fun to scary to moving to magical to escapist, there’s a show to suit everyone’s pleasure, plus great snacks and occasional bargains. Lower matinee pricing. Don’t miss: Shopping for movie merchandise from your favorite shows and characters.
Bring on the Bargains
Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets, Michigan City – Nestled in a village-like outdoor setting with 100 stores featuring top name-brand designer clothing, shoes, and purses from icons such as The North Face, Michael Kors, and Under Armour, plus housewares, gifts, and specialty items, all at bargain prices. Restaurants include Mexican fare at Lena Al Fuego and lunch and decadent treats at Chocolate Café from the South Bend Chocolate Company. Don’t miss: Joining the VIP shoppers club online before you go for extra values.
Full Tilt Arcade & Pinball, LaPorte – With a total of 60 games, including pinball from the 1980s through today, classic arcade cabinets such as Pac-Man and Galaga, plus Skee-ball, basketball, and baseball. Don’t miss: Terminator Salvation and Big Buck Hunter Reloaded.
Lucky Hatchet, Michigan City – Test your skills at this axe throwing venue, which also features pool tables and a newly renovated arcade and console gaming section, complete with classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario, and Mortal Kombat, plus arcade gaming without the coins, featuring vintage games. Don’t miss: Glow Throw, where the lights are cut, and gamers compete in an eerie glow.
Casey’s Lanes, LaPorte – Under the same owners for 20 years, this spacious, handicap-accessible alley includes Glow Bowling on Saturday nights and a small restaurant serving snacks, burgers, and pizza. Don’t miss: Live, local rock-and-roll acts every weekend.
City Lanes, Michigan City – Popular bowling alley with lower rates for kids and seniors, and food specials. Don’t miss: A stop in the Pro Shop to shop for balls, bags, and shoes.
Lil Porte: The Pink Sheep Plaaaytique, LaPorte – It’s a kid’s dream: shopping in pretend stores just their size that mimic the community’s businesses, driving mini-cars, and playing games. Don’t miss: Scheduling a super-cool private party for your youngsters.
Fun and Games for the Grownups
Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa, Michigan City – With 24/7 gaming action that includes slots, table games, electronic games, and progressive jackpots, all in a spacious area on one floor in this gleaming casino, plus hotel rooms, a spa, and restaurants from a sports bar to Mexican to the fancy William B’s Steakhouse. Don’t miss: The new Lakeside Kitchen with fast and fabulous food in a casual setting, opening Dec. 8, 2023.
Shady Creek Winery, Michigan City – Sipping some of the 30 fine wines produced here and savoring trendy fare combine at this stunning facility with warming fireplaces, porches, patios, and a tasting room, where you can learn more about Shady Creek’s award-winning vintages. Don’t miss: Shopping for bottles to take home and joining the Wine Club.
Shoreline Brewery, Michigan City – Easygoing microbrewery under the same owner for nearly 20 years, known for great brews and delicious food that ranges from uncomplicated to gourmet. Don’t miss: A chance to join the Mug Club, offering members a classy hand-blown mug, special deals, and two annual parties.
Burn ‘Em Brewing, Michigan City – With unique ingredients including chocolate, spices, and spruce tips, the beers created here draw raves. Clever brew names such as Raspberry Mr. Tea and Dark Side of The Moo spell terrific flavor. Don’t miss: Carrying out some beers so you can collect those incredibly artsy labels.
Zorn Brew Works, Michigan City – With roots reaching back to 1871 when a German immigrant established a brewery here, celebrate today in a beautifully restored brick-walled building with unique beers and hard seltzers, plus scrumptious food. Don’t miss: Upcoming live music performances and other special events in The Backyard at Zorn.