• Edición impresa de Mayo 19, 2009.

Summertime getaways for free (or next to nothing)

Whoever said nothing in life is free hasn’t traveled along the Heritage Trail in Northern Indiana, or climbed a sand dune, gone to an art fair or stopped long enough to smell all the flowers.

This summer, Northern Indiana is making it easier to travel by offering lots of things to see and do that won’t cost a penny – or in some cases, are next to nothing.

Here are 10 trips in Northern Indiana that fit the bill.

Travel the Heritage Trail. This 90-mile-driving trail takes you on the Amish back roads through the rolling countryside that LIFE magazine calls, “One of America’s Most Scenic Drives.” You’ll discover the rich, diverse heritage that’s shaped Amish Country. You’ll explore where some 20,000 Amish make their homes, and how band instruments, Alka Seltzer, quilts, furniture, RVs and even pie have helped shape the region.  Download an audio tour, or borrow a CD from the Elkhart County Visitors Center.  

2.  Take the Quilt Gardens Tour. Beginning Memorial Day, take a tour through seven communities in Elkhart County to see 16 gardens – 80,000 blooms – all planted in traditional and heirloom quilt patterns; incorporates 7 communities. The largest garden spans 2,400 feet, about the length of eight football fields. Also, along the trail are 16 murals painted in quilt patterns.

3.  Hit the beach.  The shores along Lake Michigan stretch about 20 miles from Gary to Michigan City. Along the way, there are eight beaches – most of which don’t charge admission and include hiking trails, fishing, swimming and picnic areas.

4.  Climb a sand dune. At 123-feet tall, Mount Baldy on the eastern edge of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore can be quite a work out, but well worth the views of vast Lake Michigan. And if this hike isn’t enough, there are several nature hikes throughout the park. There are a variety of ranger-guided tours, special events and horseback riding (that will cost a few bucks).

5.  See the Barn Quilts of Marshall County. There’s no better way to experience the culture and history of rural Northern Indiana than by hitting the road to see Indiana’s first Barn Quilts Trail. You’ll find several quilts that adorn barns on family homesteads and public spaces. Maps and information about the Barn Quilts are available at

6. Attend an Art Fair. The 10th annual Village of Winona Art Fair will be held on  June 6 and 7, and will bring together hundreds of artists from around the country, who will display (and sell) art in a variety of media. There also are interactive activities for the kids, music and plenty of shopping.

 Watch a ski show. Bring a picnic and a blanket for the Lake City Skiers Water Ski Show at Hidden Lake in Warsaw. The choreographed show features freestyle jumps, bare footing, pyramids, wakeboarding and more. The free hour-long shows are at 6:30 p.m. each Sunday and Tuesday during the summer.

Go Canoeing or kayaking. For less than $30, you can rent a canoe or kayak and paddle down the Pigeon River near Mongo, the largest nature preserve in the Midwest. Most days, you’ll see otters at play along the river banks in their native habitat. Pigeon River also has hiking trails (free) and fishing areas, where the only requirement is to bring your own pole, your bait and a fishing license.

White water raft.  For only $4, you can white water raft through downtown South Bend. East Race Waterway is the first man-made white water rafting course in the country. Or try your reel at Chinook salmon, steelhead trout or small-mouth bass fishing.

Pedal across Northern Indiana. Whether you prefer the rugged terrain in the woods and nature parks, or whether you’re partial to a smoother ride, you’ll find lots of bike trails throughout Northern Indiana, where admission to parks and bike paths costs nothing at all.



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