Hidden gems along the shore

"They come to have a good time. It's a happy place to be."

Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag

Hidden gems along the shore

Written by: Lesly Bailey
June 28, 2018


Along the region’s lakeshore, the beach life is truly a state of mind.

Beverly Shores resident Suzy Vance left behind life in Chicago as a lawyer to find a connection to nature. “When I got married, we bought a piece of property and then moved here permanently in the early 1990s,” she says. “There’s just something that happens when you live this close to the earth as opposed to living with concrete all around. I can open my windows—I couldn’t on the 6th floor—and the dust is from the earth, not the air. You can breathe out here.”

Wells Street Beach Concession owner Alice Pickford sees the spans of sand as the region’s own Disney World. “There’s not really cranky people when it comes to being at the beach. They come to have a good time,” she says. “It’s a happy place to be.”

From food destinations to a floating water park, check out these four spots to visit to help savor the summer season.

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Along the region’s lakeshore, the beach life is truly a state of mind.

Beverly Shores resident Suzy Vance left behind life in Chicago as a lawyer to find a connection to nature. “When I got married, we bought a piece of property and then moved here permanently in the early 1990s,” she says. “There’s just something that happens when you live this close to the earth as opposed to living with concrete all around. I can open my windows—I couldn’t on the 6th floor—and the dust is from the earth, not the air. You can breathe out here.”

Wells Street Beach Concession owner Alice Pickford sees the spans of sand as the region’s own Disney World. “There’s not really cranky people when it comes to being at the beach. They come to have a good time,” she says. “It’s a happy place to be.”

From food destinations to a floating water park, check out these four spots to visit to help savor the summer season.

Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Wells Street Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Wells Street Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Wells Street Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Wells Street Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Wells Street Beach

WELLS STREET BEACH
9501 Lake Shore Dr, Gary
wellsstbeach.com

For 40 years, Pickford has been serving up food to beach-goers at her family’s Wells Street Beach Concession. “This is our 90th year. It was started by my grandfather, who let some college kids start it on the property owned by my family,” Pickford says. “We have good food and we’re right on the lake with a great view.”

From around Memorial Day to Labor Day, the concession stand is open for business with days and hours weather dependent. Food fare ranges from salads and hot dogs to chips and ice cream and a few sandwiches, including a half-pound double cheeseburger. Paid parking is also available, and visitors should bring folding money, because only cash is accepted. Patrons can enjoy beer or wine on the patio.

On Wednesdays, acoustic music is part of Wednesdays at Well Street, which includes free parking with the purchase of dinner. These family-friendly events run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. throughout the season.

“We have a really nice crowd on Wednesday nights and the sunsets are beautiful,” Pickford says.

Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach

WHITING LAKEFRONT PARK AND WHIHALA BEACH
1500 Park Rd, Whiting
whitingindiana.com

With miles of shoreline along Whiting Lakefront Park and Whihala Beach are such amenities as a formal garden, bike and walking paths, fishing pier and concessions, and a floating water park.

“Just adjacent to Lakefront Park is Whihala Beach, where you get the Lake Michigan beach experience,” says Amy Frets, Whiting director of communications. “There are phenomenal views of the Chicago skyline. You get the park experience and the beach experience and now there is WhoaZone.”

The unique floating water park, which includes slides, trampolines, towers, wiggle bridges and monkey bars, launched last year attracting more than 20,000 visitors, says Mark Harbin, Whiting director of special events. “It’s a floating obstacle course with varying levels for ages 7 up to adult,” he says. “The experience changes daily depending on the lake conditions.” Due to the volume of interest last season, WhoaZone can now accommodate more guests per hour with even more floating devices.

Special events are also planned, including symphonies in the park on varying dates, the AquaX Jet Ski Races on August 11 and the annual Pierogi Fest the weekend of July 27.

The Lakefront Park is open daily until 10 p.m. for vehicles. Whihala Beach has lifeguards on duty from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through July 31 and 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from August 1 through Labor Day. WhoaZone is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through August 16, weather permitting.

“We’re really offering quality of life experiences, whether you’re at the Lakefront Park to read a book, enjoying the beach, being active or having a party at the pavilion,” Harbin says.

Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Sunset Grille
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Sunset Grille
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Sunset Grille
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Sunset Grille
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Sunset Grille

SUNSET GRILLE
6 on the Lake, Michigan City

facebook.com/sunsetgrilleatthebeach

New on the scene in an old spot is Sunset Grille, which blends concessions on the lower level and fancy finger foods up top. The restaurant, located at 6 on the Lake in Michigan City at the pavilion, is owned by Patrick Wilkins—a familiar name within Michigan City’s restaurant scene.

“Patrick’s Grille and Sunset Grille have the same owner, but they are two totally separate restaurants. The only thing tying them together are the higher-end appetizers,” says Meghan Johnson, marketing and communications director for Patrick’s Grille and Sunset Grille. “We’re going for a different vibe—beach and summer—at Sunset.”

Sunset Grille launched this season with a menu filled with burgers, dogs, fries and salads available at its concession level, which is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

On the rooftop, guests can munch on items that go beyond beach fare, such as coconut shrimp, Jamaican chicken bites, a cheese and cracker platter and food tray. The rooftop is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 4 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Events are planned over the summer season that include Sunset Social Hour with Thursday Tap Takeovers from region breweries as well as live music.

“Being right on the beach, the views are not like anything else you are going to get in Michigan City,” Johnson says. “On the rooftop, you can see all of the beach and the sunsets are absolutely gorgeous.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Depot Museum and Art Gallery
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Depot Museum and Art Gallery
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Depot Museum and Art Gallery
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Depot Museum and Art Gallery
Photo Credit: Sarah Orsag
Depot Museum and Art Gallery

DEPOT MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
525 S Broadway, Beverly Shores
thedepotmag.org

Beverly Shores’ Depot Museum and Art Gallery gives guests a chance to shake out the sand and take a break from the sun to delve into the town’s past as well as become immersed in a world of art.

“The gallery is a celebration of today and what the region is in terms of art history, and the museum is a celebration of the past and an attempt to really preserve the history of Beverly Shores, which is quite unique,” says Vance, a Depot board member and its communications and publications chair.

The Depot is located within the South Shore Train Station and was formerly the station master’s residence. In 1989, it was saved from demolition and earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places. After an extended fundraising campaign, the space was made into a gallery and museum in 1998.

“The gallery is one of the few in the area that has more than one exhibit a year. Regional artists have to apply to have a juried show that lasts approximately a month,” Vance says. “There’s painting, photography, glass arts, fiber arts. As a regional art gallery, we seem to attract unique artists.”

The Depot is open from May through October from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The new exhibit, “Sidetracked” by Steven Schwab, opens July 13 and runs through August 5. The photographs of trains—captured in Paris, Florence, the Hague, Tokyo, New York and Beverly Shores—are seen through a distinctive lens and perspective.

“There’s something unique about his presentations,” Vance says. “When people know a new exhibit is going up, they know there is going to be something unusual about it.”