You might not think of beautiful beaches when you think of Indiana, but once you have been to Michigan City, Indiana you will. My husband and I spent a weekend in Michigan City, Indiana and here are the cheap and free things we found to do in the area. And yes, the list includes visiting the breathtaking beaches in the area.
Cheap & Free Things To Do In Michigan City, Indiana
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We visited Michigan City in late Spring 2020, while COVID-19 restrictions were still fairly tight. This meant that we did not get to do as much exploring in the area as we would have liked. We knew in advance, however, that many of the area’s attractions and local restaurants were still closed, so we booked an Airbnb with plenty of room to relax. More on our accommodations later, let’s get into what we did explore during our time in Michigan City, Indiana.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Mt. Baldy
We didn’t do a lot of hiking this trip since it was sweltering and humid, but we did take the Mount Baldy Beach Trail to the shores of Lake Michigan. Although at just under a mile, I wouldn’t really call the trail a hike.
Warning; if you plan to pack in items to spend the day at this beach, you need to know that you will have to carry those items up a reasonably steep sand dune at the end of your beach time. I would recommend packing as few items as possible.
We arrived reasonably early in the morning, so there were not very many other people there. The water was calm and refreshingly cool. It was too cold for me to brave taking a dip in it even though it was hot out, but I did place my feet into it and walk around a while, letting it take away some of the heat of the day.
Michigan City East Pierhead Lighthouse
This trip happened during the month of our 25th wedding anniversary so I was hoping for a romantic sunset walk along the pier to Michigan City East Pierhead Lighthouse. The sky didn’t co-operate with us, though, and the sunset colors were minimal. However, we still enjoyed our evening walk out to the lighthouse and back.
The cooler evening breeze felt terrific after the heat of the day. And the color of the water behind the lighthouse was so many beautiful shades of blue.
If you visit the area, don’t let our lack of sunset pictures keep you away from visiting the lighthouse in the early evening as I had a friend who visited this exact spot the week before. Her photographs of that night’s sunset were incredible!
Washington Park Beach
We did lounge at the beach when our kids were little, but the year they lost interest in hanging out with mom and dad at the beach is the same year we ended our beach lounging days. We stroll the beach, but we don’t spend the day there.
If you do like to spend the day at the beach, Washington Park Beach looks like an incredible one to go to. There was lots of parking close by (but you do pay a parking fee for that convenience). They have restrooms and most importantly, soft sand as far as the eye can see.
You can break up the day by spending time at the free splash park nearby and going to the zoo (the admission is under $10 per person). All use the same parking area and are conveniently located side by side.
Since we wanted a low energy output kind of weekend to celebrate our 25th, I thought a walk around Striebel Pond in the midmorning sounded perfect and it was.
I don’t think this is a big tourist spot for Michigan City, but it sure did seem popular with the locals. We saw plenty of bikers and runners along the pathed path, and I can see why. The trail around the pond is paved and well cared for, making it great for biking with kids or walking with a stroller, or for those who want a leisurely stroll while they talk and take in the views.
After we finished walking the path around Striebel Pond, it was still pretty early and we were not quite ready to spend the rest of the day at our Airbnb.
I hopped on Google maps and found Ruby Woods nearby. We scrolled through a few pictures and read a handful of reviews and thought that it looked like a good place to take a short hike.
We did enjoy our time hiking in Ruby Woods until we got lost. The area is filled with paths going off in every direction. We finally resorted to using Google maps to find our way out and back to our car.
The most interesting discovery we made during our time lost in Ruby Woods was stumbling upon an old stone fireplace. If you are going to the Michigan City area, I would skip Ruby Woods and head to the Indiana Dunes National Park for a hike instead.
Our Airbnb While In Michigan City
As I mentioned in my article about getting away for the weekend on a tight budget, we usually camp on our monthly date weekends except for the month of our anniversary and Christmas. We tend to stay in a town or city for those two months and get an Airbnb.
Since this was a pretty special anniversary, being the 25th, we decided to up our budget for an Airbnb and get a whole home with a yard and hot tub. We usually get a private place, but typically stick to condos or suites with no outdoor space as they are less expensive than single-family dwellings.
We were pleased with our pick. The home was spacious and peaceful; the perfect setting for a relaxing weekend of social distancing.
What We Spent A Lot Of Time Doing During Our Time in Michigan City
It might seem strange to some that we spent a lot of our 25th wedding anniversary weekend celebration in different areas of the Airbnb property reading books. But honestly, it was the exact type of weekend we needed.
We are both introverts and have learned that to stay close; we need time alone to refill our energy tanks and calm our minds. The month before our anniversary was a hard emotional month for our family, especially for my husband. His father lost his battle with cancer, and he and I both needed time to be quiet and alone with our thoughts and books. The private home with its large comfy leather couch and the colossal hammock in the shade provided both of us with the perfect spot to do those two things.
Michigan City, Indiana was the perfect place for us to have the quiet weekend we needed, with its beautiful beaches providing areas to stroll hand in hand in the cool of the morning and evening and an Airbnb to retreat to during the afternoon hours to read and rest.
The area does offer so much more than what we explored during our weekend; below is a list of other inexpensive places you might want to explore while visiting Michigan City, Indiana.
More Inexpensive Places To Explore In Michigan City, Indiana
I know the word inexpensive can be relative. To us, it means paying no more than $10 per person for admission.
Washington Park Zoo
I was surprised to see how low admission is for this zoo. If you go, make sure to climb the observation tower for a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. Parking near the zoo is pricey, but it does allow you to stay and enjoy the beach and splash park as well. To avoid parking fees, you could find a free place to park and walk a bit farther away.
Oasis Splash Park
Free admission. The splash park is located in the same general area as the zoo and Washington beach. It operates Memorial Day through Labor Day. The hours are limited, so be sure to Google the details before your trip.
Friendship Botanical Gardens
You are going to want to go here when flowers are blooming.
The Barker Mansion
The website says the home is an example of luxury during the gilded age. If you love historical architecture, this looks worth visiting.
Old Lighthouse Museum
We both had an interest in visiting the Old Lighthouse Museum during our time in Michigan City, but sadly it was closed due to COVID-19 precautions
Lubeznik Center For The Arts
Free admission. It contains a small art gallery with changing exhibits.
Are you looking for an alternative to busy and expensive campgrounds and one-night Walmart stops on the way to your destination? Check out our post about our first time using Boondockers Welcome.