This “best beach” is nowhere near the ocean!

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In 2011, Parents Magazine said that the fifth best beach in the U.S. was in Indiana.

Indiana? Are you kidding me?! There are no beaches in Indiana!

Au contraire! The Indiana Dunes are on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, and the beaches there are, in fact, beautiful and very family-friendly. We recently visited with some friends and had a fabulous trip.

To help make sure we experienced all that the Dunes had to offer, I was provided with a few certificates and travel comps from the department of tourism; however, the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. With or without travel blogger perks, my family will be returning to the Dunes!

Nate and I have been to the Dunes before. We did some biking with my family during college, and we visited again with another couple in 2007. However, this was the first time we visited the Indiana Dunes with kids in tow.

So what does a family trip to the Dunes look like?

Indiana Dunes with Kids

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes and Taltree Arboretum.

Adults and kids alike enjoyed our trip to Taltree Arboretum and Gardens. There are trails to hike, chickens and goats to watch, butterflies to spot, and trains to admire. Trains? Really? Yes! In fact, The Railway Garden was the main attraction for our little posse of parents and toddlers. With 3,000 feet of track, several ornate, small-scale villages, and real, working miniature trains, The Railway Garden is clearly someone’s labor of love.

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes and Taltree Arboretum.

I’m amazed by the level of detail that went into the scenes and villages!

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes and Taltree Arboretum.

It’s worth noting that the trains shut down when it rains.

Had we had more time, we also would have made a point to visit the The Broken Wagon Bison Farm while we were in the area.

If and when you venture inside the state park, it’s worth taking an hour or so to pop into the nature center.

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes State Park.

I read about all of the shipwrecks on Lake Michigan while the little ones checked out turtles and snakes, used binoculars to spy colorful birds in the woods, and pretended to navigate through the water on a life-size canoe, This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Kid-friendly trip to Indiana Dunes State Park.

I teased you with talk of a fantastic beach, so where’s the beach info!? Thanks for sticking with me! We went over Labor Day weekend; yes, there was a crowd.

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! What to do near the Indiana Dunes with kids.

But that didn’t stop us from picnicking on the beach.

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes State Park with kids.

Playing in the sand.

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes State Park for families.

And getting some quality friend and family time!

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes State Park.

If you love beach trips as much as I do, click on the following links to read more about family beach vacations!

Baby Beach Bum–Tips and Ideas for Taking Baby to the Beach

And for toddlers and preschoolers, my very favorite post–35 FREE Things to Do at the Beach with Kids.

Where we ate near the Dunes:

Lucrezia–We recommend the eggplant and tilapia!

Popalanos–Delicious Italian food!

Insider tip: Grab a coupon book for potential discounts at places like the Arboretum and local restaurants!

Where we stayed near the Dunes:

My friend found an adorable and affordable house just a few blocks from the beach on VRBO.com. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, fireplace, grill, updated kitchen, and laundry facilities, “The Cabin” (see the listing here) was a great shared space for our two families.

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! "The Cabin" vacation home rental.

Is there any doubt that we had a great time? I have a feeling that this will be a beach our girls visit often throughout their childhood!

This "best beach" is nowhere near the ocean! Indiana Dunes State Park with kids and families.

We'd love to hear from you!

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