The hardest decision is not whether to go to Indiana Dunes State Park, but what to bring. Swimming suits could be on your list, as the clean and pretty swimming beach has a lifeguard and a pavilion with a snack bar, small store and updates on the water safety. Binoculars and a bird field guide are a good idea. The Dunes area includes habitat from beach to marsh, drawing a big range of birds. Check in at the Nature Center (which also has observation room with floor-to-ceiling windows) to find the day's hot birding spots. Definitely bring your favorite footwear for exploring, because the park's 16-plus miles of trails lead through a remarkable collection of some of the Midwest's most diverse plant communities and wildlife habitat. Some of the dunes are "living," which means they slowly push inland. In some places, the dunes buried forests, then exposed the "tree graveyards" as they continue to creep along. However you plan to spend your time, the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center should be your first stop. In addition to activities for kids (pioneer-style dress-up, interactive Dunes nature/ecology game), the Center stocks an extensive array of park literature. The maps of every trail in the Dunes and pamphlets about park projects are great, but our favorite was a brochure about what to do if you had an hour, a day or a week to spend at the Dunes. This is also the place to check for daily programs and special events such as star-watching and sand-sculpting contests.