While COVID has kept people inside this summer, a great way to spend some quality time with family outside of the home is finding an outdoor activity to do. Being outside allows people to spend time together in a socially distanced fashion that keeps them healthy and active. The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority has met this need for family fun in the outdoors, shifting its focus to Northwest Indiana's scenic beauty.
“We had to shift our focus. We came out of COVID working hard making sure people knew what was still open," said Spero A. Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore CVA. “We have a live chat feature. We’re seeing a lot of questions and interest in outdoor activities. There is interest in our more than 160 miles of hiking trails, biking trails, kayaking trails, beaches, botanic gardens, and anything that people can do outside. Where it feels safe and socially-distant. They don’t necessarily have to have masks on, so these are the big winners of the summer.”
Quarantining and social distancing have kept people from going to the gym and made it harder to maintain their normal routines. It has also kept children from going to the park and having access to their typical modes of exercise. Spending time outside instead of cooped up indoors will come as a welcome relief for all members of the family.
One struggle of planning quality family time together is finding something that suits everyone’s interest. However, the South Shore CVA has several outdoor attractions listed on its site where families can do a variety of activities to suit their differing interests.
The Indiana Dunes National Park boasts over 60 miles of trails that families can hike.
"We’re seeing a lot of interest in the national park. People want to get to those assets that are wide-open to experience something new," Batistatos said.
On these trails, families can view Indiana’s beautiful landscapes and native wildlife. Different trails lead to a variety of destinations, so parents should be sure to pick the trail that best suits their interests. If families would like to hike to Lake Michigan, they should choose Trail 9 at the State Park to end up at the famous lake.
Families can also get their fluffy family members involved on the hike as long as they follow leash guidelines. For families who enjoy riding their bicycles, they can check out the bike trails offered at the Indiana Dunes State Park.
For families who are looking not so much to hike through trails but rather to stop and soak in the natural landscape, there are a variety of campgrounds in the area where they can enjoy campfire sing-alongs, roasted hotdogs and marshmallows, and the chirping of frogs and buzzing of bugs at night. Families can check specific locations to see where cabins are available for rent and where RVs and tents are permitted. Two popular campgrounds that have cabin rentals and RV and tent sites are Lakeshore Camp Resort in Portage and Caboose Lake Campground in Remmington.
Those who enjoy sitting in their dining room with a cup of coffee in the morning and watching as the birds get their breakfast at the feeder outside the window may be surprised to learn there are several bird watching opportunities in the area. The South Shore CVA lists Hammond Lakefront Park and Bird Sanctuary, Whihala Beach and County Park, and several other locations as great places for people to birdwatch with their families.
Parents and kids who are looking for something a bit more active and aquatic, they can schedule a time to visit water trails, waterparks, and beaches. On water trails, families can go paddle-boating, canoeing, or kayaking, and enjoy the sights and sounds that accompany these natural water sources. Such trails include Calumet Water Trail, Deep River Water Trail, and Lake Michigan Water Trail.
Families who want to spend their time in the water but want the thrill of rollercoasters can check out Deep River Waterpark and the Aquatic Play Center. For those who simply want a traditional beach experience but are not sure what is available due to COVID restrictions, the South Shore CVA has a list of open beaches here.
Northwest Indiana's small towns are in the spotlight as well for what they offer, from restaurants with outdoor seating to plenty of outdoor space to explore.
“There’s a lot of interest in small towns. People are avoiding big cities, and they want the safety and charm of places like Crown Point, Valparaiso, La Porte, and Whiting," Batistatos said. "These are places that are family-friendly. There’s a lot of appeal to the smaller, simpler product right now. We’ve always excelled in those areas. We’re just selling what we always have.”
For more information about the outdoor opportunities in the area, visit South Shore CVA’s Outdoor Recreation page through the following link https://www.southshorecva.com/things-to-do/outdoors/.