Rolling sand dunes are the backdrop to swimming, hiking and biking along Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Spread your towel, then spread out—there are casual dining spots, cool shops and comfortable lodgings in nearby Chesterton and Valparaiso.
Hiking and biking trails, sandy beaches, fragrant forests, wetlands and sweeping lake views await in the 15-mile-long Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Set within is Indiana Dunes State Park; which spreads from beach to marshlands and is a haven to a range of birds. Check at the nature center to find out about the day's birding hot spots.
At lunchtime, hop over to the Red Cup Cafe and Deli in Chesterton for a grilled portobello and goat cheese panini.
Another casual option is the Rolling Stonebaker for pizzas cooked in antique Studebaker trucks; one in Beverly Shores, the other at area farmers markets.
For dinner, rustic-chic Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill and Tavern changes its menu seasonally, with entrees like Indiana duck breast and bourbon-glazed meat loaf.
Rooms with fireplaces and whirlpools overlook woods at Songbird Prairie Inn, Spa and Boutique in Valparaiso (from $229).
After a French toast soufflé at the inn, head downtown for choice shopping. Creative gifts, tableware and garden accents star at Lifestyles. Seasons on the Square carries contemporary clothing.
Old World Market sells cheeses, meats, artisanal breads and wine.
Try the salad tossed with shrimp dusted in ancho chili at The Silver Spoon.
Burn off a few calories with a bike ride on Valparaiso's pathway system's miles of paved trails through neighborhoods and parks.
Or walk the wetlands and prairie at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens, popular for its Railway Garden where G-scale model trains chug through intricate vignettes.
Industrial Revolution Eatery and Grille specializes in meat-and-potatoes meals.
More information: (800) 283-8687; indianadunes.com 
Century of Progress Homes Futuristic homes originally built for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair stand like works of modern art along Lake Front Drive. The Florida Tropical House, a boxy bubblegum-pink abode, highlights the group of five. Though typically closed to the public, the structures open for tours one weekend each October. Reservations required. (219) 926-7561; nps.gov/indu 
Bring the Kids
Camp Stop General Store This kitschy joint next to Dunewood Campground and Beverly Shores beachfront supplies rental bikes. Pedal along the dune’s many routes, like 10-mile Calumet Bike Trail. Then stock up on snacks, souvenirs and camping supplies. campstopgeneralstore.com