Nestled along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan’s southern coast, Michigan City is a scenic and welcoming small city located in La Porte County, Indiana. Situated only about 50 miles east of Chicago and just across the state border from Michigan, Michigan City offers visitors the perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, historic charm, and modern amenities.
With the population of around 31,000 residents, Michigan City has the friendly vibe of a close-knit small town yet offers amenities and attractions to rival much larger cities. So much natural beauty, numerous attractions, and quick access from Chicago, it’s easy to see why Michigan City’s scenic location continues to draw visitors throughout the year.
Read on to discover the wealth of top-notch attractions and activities in store during a Michigan City escape.
1. Relax at Washington Park Beach
No trip to Michigan City is complete without spending time at Washington Park Beach, the city’s prime public beach. Conveniently located right downtown along Lake Michigan, this beloved beach stretches over a mile providing plenty of space to spread out on golden sand or swim in the cool blue lake waters.
Washington Park Beach is perfect for people watching, swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, yoga, building sandcastles, and other family-friendly fun. Lifeguards are on duty during peak seasons to ensure water safety.
After playing on the beach, rinse off at one of the outdoor showers. If you forgot beach gear, convenient rentals are available for umbrellas, chairs, toys, and towels.
When you need a break from the sun, take refuge under one of the shade shelters and trees in Washington Park just steps off the beach. Here you’ll also find restrooms, picnic tables, playground equipment, and green space for games.
The park often hosts concerts and events during summertime too. Stop by the concessions stand located in the pavilion for snacks and beach-friendly foods like ice cream, pizza, and cold drinks.
One of the highlights of Washington Park Beach is its beautiful backdrop. As you lounge on the sand, you’ll enjoy stunning views looking west over the shimmering blue Lake Michigan waters.
The park’s most iconic landmark, the Michigan City Lighthouse built in 1858, makes for great photos and creates an quintessential beach scene.
Address: City Hall & 100 E Michigan Blvd, Michigan City, IN 46360
2. Climb to the Top of Michigan City Lighthouse
One of Michigan City’s most iconic attractions is the lighthouse situated along the lakefront in Washington Park. For unforgettable views of Lake Michigan, you can climb to the top of this 59-foot tall lighthouse during summer months for a small admission fee.
Completed in 1858, the Michigan City Lighthouse aided navigation for ships along this hazardous stretch of coast for over 100 years.
Today, the iconic lighthouse still stands proudly in Washington Park, though its beacon was deactivated. From May through September, guided tours allow visitors to ascend 87 steps up the winding spiral staircase inside the lighthouse to reach the balcony viewing platform.
From the top, prepare to be amazed by 360-degree panoramic views of the Michigan City shoreline, Washington Park’s beach and green space, and crystal blue Lake Michigan waters extending to the horizon.
On extra clear days, you may even spot the Chicago skyline far in the distance! Gaze straight down the 59-foot tower to see the black pier below. Listen to interesting facts about the lighthouse’s history and operation from your guide.
Inside the attached former keeper’s dwelling is a museum with exhibits on Great Lakes lighthouses and maritime history. Artifacts from local shipwrecks, maps, photos, and the huge original Fresnel lens are on display. The dwelling also contains a gift shop filled with nautical-themed souvenirs.
Address: Washington Park 10 on the Lake Michigan City, IN 46360
3. Tour the Old Lighthouse Museum
One of Michigan City’s most fascinating museums provides an in-depth look at Great Lakes lighthouse history. Located inside the original 1868 lighthouse keeper’s dwelling, the Old Lighthouse Museum overflows with interesting exhibits on maritime navigation, Michigan City’s crucial role along the hazardous Lake Michigan coast, and artifacts salvaged from regional shipwrecks.
The museum’s main attraction, displayed prominently in the center, is the magnificent original lens from Michigan City’s lighthouse.
This engineering marvel with over 1000 handmade prism lenses stood 12 feet tall and visible up to 15 miles away. Learn how the intricate lens works at a hands-on display.
Equally sobering are the exhibits on regional shipwrecks of commercial schooners and barges that sank over time due to storms and collisions.
Salvaged artifacts like dishware, lanterns, and navigation equipment provide tangible connections to the brave sailors who traversed the lake. Their stories remind visitors of the immense power and danger lurking in the waters.
Address: 100 Heisman Harbor, Michigan City, IN 46360
4. Ride the South Shore Line to Chicago
One of the easiest and most scenic ways to visit Chicago for the day or weekend is by riding the South Shore Line commuter train that connects Michigan City directly to downtown Chicago in about 90 minutes.
The South Shore Line train originates in South Bend, Indiana and makes numerous stops along the southern shores of Lake Michigan before arriving in the heart of Chicago at Millennium Station.
Parking at the station in Michigan City is free and abundant. Trains run daily, making it convenient for single-day excursions into the city.
Once aboard, sit back and relax in comfortable seats or the observation car while taking in panoramic views of Lake Michigan’s sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, wooded landscapes, and tranquil blue waters. During warmer months, the window vistas are unparalleled.
By riding the train in, you avoid traffic jams and expensive city parking. The South Shore Line drops visitors off in the heart of downtown near all the top sights.
At the end of the day, hop back aboard for a peaceful ride back to Michigan City with your Chicago memories and photos.
5. Hike the Indiana Dunes National Park
Sprawling along 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline just minutes from Michigan City lies the awe-inspiring landscape of Indiana Dunes National Park.
Encompassing over 15,000 acres, Indiana Dunes showcases an incredible diversity of habitats including towering sand dunes, secluded beaches, lush forests, and meandering wetland trails.
Within this national park, outdoor lovers will find over 50 miles of hiking trails winding through woodlands, along the lakeshore, and up enormous sand dunes that offer amazing vistas.
Popular trails include the Dune Succession Trail that explores how the landscape evolves through four distinct habitats as you hike inland from the lakeshore.
Beginner and expert hikers alike will discover new depths and perspectives in this diverse landscape. Stop by the Dorothy Buell Visitor Center for maps and expert advice on trail options matching your interests and abilities.
Ranger-guided walks also available. With proximity to Michigan City and immense natural beauty, Indiana Dunes National Park is a must-visit attraction.
Address: 1215 IN-49 Porter, IN 46304
6. Charter a Lake Michigan Fishing Trip
Boasting over 14 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Michigan City serves as the perfect hub for unforgettable charter fishing trips out on the big lake seeking salmon, trout, steelhead, walleye, and more.
Lake Michigan offers the chance to hook salmon over 15 pounds, steelhead exceeding 10 pounds, hefty lake trout surpassing 20 pounds, and more! Full day and half day fishing charters are available taking groups of up to six people at a time. No prior fishing experience is necessary.
Your knowledgeable captain and mate will provide all the necessary rods, reels, tackle, bait, and fishing licenses needed.
They’ll also scout for the hottest fishing locations using fish finders while sharing tips and techniques to reel in trophy catches. Sit back and take in the peaceful atmosphere on the open water while waiting for bites.
Coolers of ice and water keep your catch fresh until the boat heads back to dock. Charter crews will even fillet, bag and pack your fish so you can travel home with a bounty of fresh fillets ready for the next fish fry.
7. Tee Off at Lake Michigan Hills Golf Course
Designed by legendary golf architect Arnold Palmer, this scenic course winds through woods, wetlands, and towering sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shore.
Vistas of the incredible blue lake can be seen from many of the holes thanks to the elevated greens and open layout.
The challenging 6,809 yard, par 72 course features undulating fairways, pot bunkers, elevated greens, and risk-reward opportunities catering to pros yet remaining enjoyable for all skill levels. Carts are equipped with GPS for easy navigation.
The practice facility includes a driving range and putting green to warm up your swing before the round.
The charming lakefront clubhouse is home to the Dunes Grill and Bar which serves up delicious burgers, wings, pizza and other pub fare to enjoy on their outdoor patio overlooking the course and lake. It’s the perfect 19th hole spot for drinks, meals, and sunset views after your round.
Address: 2520 Kerlikowske Rd, Benton Harbor, MI 49022
8. Bike the Marquette Greenway Trail
One of the best ways to take in the beauty of Michigan City’s lakefront and sights is by bicycle while cruising along the Marquette Greenway Trail. This multi-use recreational trail runs for nearly 10 miles through the heart of Michigan City along the shores of Lake Michigan.
The paved urban trail features several access points and trailheads convenient for hopping on your bike and pedaling through the city’s scenic lakefront parks and attractions.
Glide past the iconic Michigan City Lighthouse, downtown harbor front, Washington Park’s beach, the zoo, and more.
Plentiful parking, bathrooms, and water fountains can be found along the route. Benches allow places to stop and relax with pretty views of the lake.
Bikers share the wide path with walkers, joggers, and skaters. The flat terrain makes it suitable for all ages and abilities.
Rent bikes by the hour or day from several nearby outfitters such as Trailside Outfitters, Zen Bicycle Works, and Harbor Country Adventures. Remember to pack a picnic or pick up snacks along the way.
9. Shop and Dine Downtown
Get to know Michigan City’s local flavor and small town charm by spending time strolling, dining, and shopping downtown. Centered around the pedestrian-friendly streets of Franklin and Michigan, downtown Michigan City offers visitors a great mix of boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, antique stores, galleries, brewpubs, and more.
Wander through the artsy Uptown Arts District to browse the handmade creations at artisan studios and galleries like ArtLife, KatArthur, and Desert Rose Gallery showcasing works by local artists. Nearby independent boutiques like The Curated proposes thoughtfully curated fashions, home goods, and gifts.
For antique hunters, downtown contains numerous vintage shops packed with treasures of the past.
Find deals on old maps, vinyl records, mid-century decor, classic clothing and jewelry. Midwest Antique Market and Antique Emporium are favorites.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, downtown offers everything from quaint bakery cafes like Sip Coffeehouse and Sweet Obsessions to local craft brewpubs like Zorn Brewing Co, and upscale farm-to-table eateries like Creative Catering.
Outdoor patio seating, specialty coffee drinks, craft cocktails, and fresh local ingredients shine at the eclectic mix of downtown dining options.
Downtown hot spots centered around: Franklin St & Michigan Blvd, Michigan City, IN 46360
10. See Nature at Friendship Botanic Gardens
Spread across 38 stunning acres just 10 minutes from downtown Michigan City, the picturesque Friendship Botanic Gardens offers visitors gorgeous gardens, nature trails, water features, and outdoor art that create a relaxing oasis just steps from the city.
At Friendship Gardens you’ll find diverse garden spaces including rose gardens bursting with hundreds of rose varieties, from hybrid teas to heirloom roses climbing on trellises.
The Japanese garden features tranquil koi ponds, waterfalls, and pagodas. Don’t miss seeing tropical plants and flowers in the glass-enclosed conservatory.
Whimsical sculpture installations are artfully placed throughout the grounds, like a glass orb reflecting the landscape or kinetic spinning disks.
Benches provide quiet spots to enjoy the beauty. Paved and grassy winding paths make the sprawling gardens easy to explore on foot. The grounds also contain wetlands, prairie grasses, and coastal vegetation.
Special events, photography walks, garden classes, and hands-on gardening seminars are regularly held to learn, create, and engage with nature. Something is always in bloom. The gift shop offers books, garden themed gifts, and souvenirs.
Address: 2055 E US Highway 12, Michigan City, IN 46361
11. Tour the Old Michigan City Jail Museum
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the old stone jail building contains three cells that have been faithfully restored to accurately depict the sparse conditions within. Mannequins dressed in vintage prisoner uniforms allow you to visualize inmates’ grim existence confined to the tiny barren rooms containing only a cot and toilet.
Display cases feature actual artifacts used at the old jail including restraints like straitjackets, balls and chains, and registry record books listing former prisoners and their offenses. Costumed tour guides provide insightful narratives on punishments inflicted and notable inmates who served time there. You’ll gain a chilling understanding of “law and order” in the late 1800s.
The museum also showcases history on the jail’s original construction, expansion, and eventual closure in 1982 after 124 years of operation.
Interactive exhibits let you hear sentences handed down or try your hand at breaking rocks like inmates did in the yard. Allow about an hour to take in this compelling snapshot of Michigan City’s hidden history.
Address: 113 Walnut St, Allegan, MI 49010
12. Marvel at the Barker Mansion
For an glimpse into lavish Victorian-era living, visitors can tour the stately Barker Mansion located in Michigan City’s historic district. This stunning Italianate-style home was built in 1869 for John Barker, a successful Michigan City lumber baron.
The gorgeous three-story mansion exemplifies ornate period architecture with its decorative limestone facade, prominent tower, slate mansard roof, elaborate brickwork, grand entrance, and regal proportions.
Inside, the home’s 36 rooms overflow with original ornate details including hand-painted frescos, imported Italian marble fireplaces, stunning custom stained glass windows, and painstaking Eastlake-style wooden inlays.
Guided tours allow you to experience the opulence while learning about the family who lived here and the meticulous historic restoration completed in the 1990s.
The main public rooms include an elegant music room crowned by a carved frieze, a lavish formal dining room, and the grand staircase accented by a palladian style window. Upstairs are the family’s bedrooms and nursery.
The grounds contain old growth trees, fountains, gardens, and a carriage house. History and architecture buffs will be amazed touring this impeccably preserved time capsule showcasing 19th century craftsmanship and luxury.
Address: 631 Washington St, Michigan City, IN 46360
13. Ride the Singing Sands Trail
The Singing Sands Trail in Michigan is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. The trail gets its melodious name from the sound generated by feet walking across the sand – a unique auditory experience.
The Singing Sands Trail is a relatively easy trail suitable for all skill levels. It is a 12-mile loop trail that meanders through picturesque forests and dunes. The trail is well-marked and maintained, making it accessible to beginners and families with children.
This trail is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. You’ll encounter towering sand dunes, dense forests, and possibly even spot wildlife like deer and various bird species. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning vistas along the trail.
Rent a bike and pedal along this paved trail that meanders through dense oak woodlands. The highlight of the Singing Sands Trail is the unique phenomenon of the sand “singing” beneath your feet.
As you ride along the sandy trail, the dry grains of sand create a distinct squeaking sound, resembling the tune of a distant flute. It’s a surreal experience that you won’t find on any other trail.
Remember to stay on the designated trail and respect the natural surroundings. And don’t forget someone know about your plans and estimated return time.
14. Sip Local Wine at Four Winds Casino
Just a 10-minute drive from Michigan City, Four Winds Casino offers gaming and entertainment plus the chance to sip locally made wine.
Opt for a glass or flight of Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet and other varietals along with your meal at the restaurant. Or visit the Lemon Creek Tasting Room next to Copper Rock for full wine flights, bottles to go, and wine accessories.
Both experiences allow you to taste regional wines without leaving Four Winds.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, the knowledgeable staff at Four Winds Casino will guide you through the tasting experience, introducing you to the distinct characteristics of each wine.
They can provide recommendations based on your preferences and help you discover new favorites.
The casino also offers cozy lounges and stylish bars where you can relax and enjoy your favorite glass of wine. The elegant ambiance provides the perfect setting for a romantic evening, a gathering with friends, or simply a moment of serenity while savoring the flavors of Michigan’s finest wines.
Address: 11111 Wilson Rd, New Buffalo, MI 49117
15. Tour LaPorte County Historical Society Museum
To fully immerse yourself in the history and heritage of the Michigan City area, spend an afternoon exploring the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum in nearby historic La Porte.
The exhibits are thoughtfully curated to provide a comprehensive overview of the region’s past, from its Native American roots to its industrial heyday and beyond.
You’ll find everything from antique farming equipment and vintage automobiles to artifacts that highlight the area’s cultural heritage.
As you explore the different galleries, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the people, events, and industries that shaped LaPorte County. Learn about the early settlers and the challenges they faced, or discover the impact of industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.
One of the highlights of the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum is its interactive exhibits. Engage with hands-on displays that allow you to experience fragments of history firsthand.
Try your hand at traditional crafts, explore a replica of a historic storefront, or test your knowledge with engaging quizzes and activities. Allow at least 2-3 hours to take it all in!
Address: 2405 Indiana Ave, Suite 1 La Porte, IN 46350
16. Shop the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets
For discount shopping just minutes from downtown, the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets is a shopper’s paradise. You’ll find an impressive collection of over 120 stores, each offering their own unique style and products.
From high-end luxury brands to popular retailers, there’s something for everyone. Browse through renowned fashion outlets like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Coach, and Ralph Lauren, where you can find the latest trends and timeless pieces.
When you need a break from shopping, indulge in a meal or a snack at one of the many on-site dining options.
Choose from a variety of restaurants, cafes, and fast-food chains that cater to various tastes and cuisines. Recharge and refuel before diving back into the shopping adventure.
Address: 601 Wabash St, Michigan City, IN 46360
17. Go Kayaking on Trail Creek
For scenic paddling right in town, rent a kayak and explore Trail Creek – a winding river that flows through Michigan City on its way to emptying into Lake Michigan.
Beginner paddlers can launch downstream from Karwick Nature Park where the creek is calm and surrounded by wooded banks and wetlands where herons, turtles, and other wildlife may be spotted.
More experienced kayakers can put in upstream near Dunn’s Bridge and paddle 2.5 miles down to the mouth of the river at the lighthouse.
There are various rental services in Michigan City where you can get your kayaks for use on the creek. Among them are Third Coast Paddling and Michigan City Kayak. These rental outlets will usually provide necessary equipment such as kayaks, paddles, and life vests.
18. Explore the Hesston Steam Museum
Transport back to the age of steam at the Hesston Steam Museum located on the grounds of the LaPorte County Historical Society. This collection features antique steam engines and tractors, many of which still operate during demonstrations and give train rides on summer weekends.
See collections of belt driven machines, industrial and farm equipment, and vintage carriages to visualize industry at the turn of the century.
The museum’s showstopper is a massive 40-ton steam locomotive. Die-hard steam fans can even take a course on steam engine operations and earn an engineer’s certificate.
The Hesston Steam Museum is usually open on weekends from May through October. It is best to check the official website or call ahead for current opening hours.
There is an admission fee for entry into the museum and additional charges for train rides. However, the experience and memories you gain from visiting are well worth the cost.
Address: 1201 E 1000 N, La Porte, IN 46350
19. Ride the Rustic Roads
Michigan has several Rustic Roads, which are beautiful scenic routes that are known for their unspoiled natural beauty. Designed to preserve rural charm, these routes wind through forests, farms, and natural areas at slow speeds ideal for sightseeing by car, motorcycle, or bicycle.
The Rustic Roads are a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in Michigan’s stunning scenery.
Highlights include Trek the Tunnel’s 2,000 foot abandoned railroad tunnel, vistas along the Kankakee River, and the shady oak canopies of Pinhook Road. Stop at farm stands and antique shops dotting many byways. Rustic Roads offer a peaceful driving alternative to highways with plenty to discover.
20. Catch a Musical Performance at Blue Chip
While known for gambling and Vegas-style shows, Blue Chip Casino also brings major musical performances from classic to contemporary acts to its event center stage.
Concerts span genres like Motown and classic soul, country legends, soft rock hits, heavy metal bands, and more. Upcoming musicians include The Beach Boys, Travis Tritt, Sara Evans, Styx, Boyz II Men, and Eddie Money.
The Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip Casino is an intimate venue that hosts various musical performances from local and international artists.
The center is equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, and can accommodate up to 1,200 people. Some of the musical performances that you can enjoy at the Stardust Event Center include rock, jazz, blues, and country music.
Tickets for the musical performances can be purchased online or in person at the Blue Chip Casino hotel. Make sure to adhere to the dress code when attending a musical performance. for Stardust Event Center, casual attire is allowed.
The Stardust Event Center also requires guests to be at least 21 years old for entry during performances.
Address: 777 Blue Chip Dr, Michigan City, IN 46360
With its small-town charm, natural scenery, and variety of museums, parks, trails, and other attractions, Michigan City offers the perfect blend of history, culture, shopping, dining, and outdoor adventure. Use this list to help plan your own ideal Michigan City getaway.