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Great Lakes Beach Towns

Is your family craving sun and sand this summer? There’s no need to hop on a plane to enjoy a beach vacation. Instead, choose one of these Great Lakes Beach Towns for a fun and easy Great Lakes getaway.

Chesterton, Indiana

Start your outdoor adventures at Indiana Dunes State Park. The park contains exciting trails and over three miles of beautiful Lake Michigan beachfront. Families with young children may choose to stick close to the beach and nature center. However, for hikers experienced enough to cover substantial distances, Trail 10 (5.5 miles) provides a moderately challenging trek with wonderfully varied scenery.

After your hike, enjoy Italian favorites at Popolano’s. No matter what you order, be sure to sample the restaurant’s “legendary” cream of chicken dumpling soup. If your trip falls between May and October, a Saturday morning visit to Chesterton’s European Market is sure to be a highlight. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the delicious fruit pies sold by Marilyn’s Bakery, a market regular.

Holland, Michigan

Searching for a destination filled with culture and history? Experience Holland’s Dutch heritage by taking a stroll around Windmill Island Gardens or shopping for klompen (wooden shoes) at Nelis’ Dutch Village. The annual Tulip Time Festival, scheduled from May 2 – 9 in 2015, brings with it a variety of entertainment options ranging from Dutch dance performances to carnival rides.

Holland also has all the standard beach town essentials. Visitors can swim, fish and scope out iconic Big Red Lighthouse at Holland Beach State Park. The city’s downtown houses charming shops and eateries, like the not-to-be-missed Alpen Rose Restaurant.

Holland, Michigan
Holland, Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan

For a quintessential beach vacation experience, look no further than Traverse City. Families can relax on one of the city’s public beaches, then enjoy a Moomers Ice Cream Sail through Grand Traverse Bay on the Tall Ship Manitou. The Traverse City branch of Pirate’s Cove offers a variety of family-friendly attractions including two mini golf courses, go-carts and a ropes course.

When you’re ready to get out of the sun, head downtown for an afternoon of boutique browsing or check out the specialty shops at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. If you have time for a side trip, nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes provides a scenic, albeit potentially exhausting, hiking experience. Stop in at the Cherry Republic Grand Café in Glenn Arbor for a grilled cheese on your way back.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

A weekend on peaceful Mackinac Island is basically the definition of “getting away from it all.” This island maintains a strong Victorian-era vibe, thanks largely to its ban on personal vehicles. Get the lay of the land via a self-guided eight-mile bike tour around the island’s perimeter, with stops at Arch Rock, British Landing and other popular landmarks as desired.

Families may also enjoy visiting one of the island’s two butterfly houses or picnicking at Marquette Park. And, of course, no trip to Mackinac Island would be complete without fudge. This writer believes JoAnn’s Cookie Crunch Fudge ranks number one, but you’ll want to conduct your own taste test.

Mackinac is a great vacation for the whole family, even Millie the dog can’t wait to go back!
Mackinac is a great vacation for the whole family, even Millie the dog can’t wait to go back!

Chicago, Illinois

While most wouldn’t exactly call Chicago a “beach town,” its Lake Michigan location means tourists looking for watery fun have plenty of choices. The 18-mile Chicago Lakefront Trail grants pedestrians and cyclers access to Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, parks, beaches and more. Find a detailed trail map at www.cpdit01.com/resources/brochures/pdf/Lakefront%20Trail%20Map.pdf.

In addition, a variety of river-based architecture tours provide a closer look at some of Chicago’s most famous buildings. Shoreline Sightseeing boasts frequent departure times from convenient Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue locations. Advance reservations for your tour time of choice are strongly recommended.

As you can see, freshwater getaways can be just as exciting as saltwater ones. We hope your family can work one of these fun spots into your summer itinerary!

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