...because home doesn't happen overnight.

michigan city sunset

A few weeks after school let out, the kids and I spent five days in Michigan City, Indiana. It was such a (surprisingly!) great getaway that I thought I’d share a little more about our trip.

tryon farm

Since it was just me and the kids (Steve couldn’t slip away from work), I was hoping to keep the drive time under six hours. I can’t remember when or where I heard about Tryon Farm, but it was one of the few possibilities that came to mind when I started planning the trip. When I mapped it, I was stoked to learn we could make the drive in less than five hours. (We’re in southwestern Ohio.) You can read more about the green farming community here. Essentially, it’s the real life intersection of nature + modern architecture, and it happens to be located a mile and a half from Lake Michigan in Indiana. It sounded like the perfect spot for an adventure.

the nest

Several Tryon Farm homes are available as short-term rentals. We rented the coziest little house nestled among the trees. It was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom modern cabin with all the essentials but nothing over the top. There was no television and no internet service. I loved how all the windows cranked open to get a good breeze going. No need for A/C even on the hottest of days!

triple bunk

triple bunk

The kids’ favorite feature was the triple (!) bunk beds built into a tower hallway between the kitchen and bedroom. A pocket door separated the bunk nook from the kitchen. Each bunk had its own window, reading light and book shelf. A sturdy ladder reached from the floor all the way to the top. The highest bunk even had sliding doors with frosted panels to create a secret hideout. Naturally, the kids fought over it. They ended up taking turns sleeping on the top bunk. A huge skylight in the ceiling of the “bunk tower” kept the space bright during the day. It also acted as a silent alarm clock early every morning, but I actually enjoy waking up early on vacation so it wasn’t a big deal.

tryon chickens

tryon tire swing

Each morning after breakfast we’d explore the farm by way of various trails. There were ponds, dunes, meadows and woodlands. Mabrey loved visiting the chickens. The boys had a blast playing on the tire swing.

tryon architecture

I couldn’t get over all the amazing homes and how they were seemingly built into the landscape. Raw materials like corrugated steel and concrete were softened by creeping vines and leafy canopies. My absolute favorite house was a low slung ranch built into a sloping hillside. It had a green roof that you could walk on! (It was empty during our visit.) I loved the juxtaposition of modern lines against the wild landscape.

tryon farm

I used basil and oregano from the community garden to make meatball subs and spaghetti in the kitchen of our little house.

my three

wet clothes

all day long

me and lils

mabrey lake

After lunch we would venture off the farm to take in some of the local attractions. Namely, the lake beach. It wasn’t really warm enough to swim until the latter part of the week, but that didn’t stop the kids from getting in – sometimes fully clothed. I decided I prefer freshwater lakes over salty oceans. (Plus, no stingrays. I was stung once as a teenager, and the ocean just hasn’t been the same for me since.)

michigan city lighthouse

One windy afternoon we started walking west toward the Michigan City lighthouse. I thought we’d walk to the pier and turn around. But as we got closer, there weren’t any restrictions against walking along the pier. In fact, there weren’t any railings or warning signs or anything. We literally walked out and onto the lighthouse. I’m not much of a helicopter mom, but I was a little anxious trying to keep three kids contained on a narrow pier. Luckily, we made it all the way out to the lighthouse and back with no casualties.

south shore line

We had planned on taking the train into Chicago one day to visit a museum, but that plan was thwarted by an overly tired and whiny four-year-old. (Just look at her disgruntled face!)

south shore line

I couldn’t see spending all that money just to make everyone miserable, so we did the next best thing and rode the train two stops west then back again. Everett especially liked the train. The boys later confessed to only wanting to ride the train anyway, so it worked out perfectly.

3 dune challenge

The highlight of our trip was visiting Indiana Dunes State Park in nearby Chesterton. We completed the 3 dune challenge. The wind was whipping. The sun was beating down. Our shoes filled with sand and instantly became two sizes too small. Everett and Mabrey complained most of the way. I refused to carry them. (I couldn’t carry them.) At one point Mabrey dropped to her knees and raised mini fists to the sky and cried, “I’m soooooo tiiiiiiiiiired!” I had to stifle my laughter. It was like a scene from a movie where the main character is stranded, dying of thirst, in the desert. Only, replace the main character with a preschooler. Who has a water bottle, sunscreen and snacks.

But. BUT!

indiana dune state park

We were rewarded with the most AMAZING view! The kids begged to walk down to a private beach after we crested dune #2. I warned them that it would turn the 3 dune challenge into a 4 dune challenge, but they weren’t fazed. It was the best detour. We felt like we were in a different world. (If you look closely, you can see all three kiddos in the shot above.)

A few other local hot spots that we tried and loved:

*49er drive-in movie theater in Valparaiso, Indiana – Affordable and family-friendly, they play new releases. Named one of the top 10 drive-ins in the country.

*Mucho Mas! in Michigan City, Indiana – Tex-Mex cuisine. Great lunch option.

*Stop 50 wood fired pizzeria in Michiana Shores, Indiana – Probably some of the best pizza to ever grace my taste buds. Get the firecracker appetizer. (Homemade marinara + hot sauce + a dollop of melty goat cheese + flaky breadsticks = fireworks in your mouth.) The house salad is incredible, too.

lake house

lake house

In the evenings, we’d drive down to the lake and watch the sun melt into water. In reality, I was house-stalking.

lake michigan

On our last day, we didn’t have to check out until 5:00 p.m. We milked every last minute. It was in the 90s, so we spent the afternoon at the beach. It was so hot and the water felt so refreshing that even I got in. (I liken my swimming habits to a rare eclipse.) The kids built sandcastles and buried their feet. Mabrey collected a dozen teeny shells and smooth rocks. A stunt plane practiced its aerobatic routine over the lake directly in front of us, looping, rolling, ascending and diving, leaving its temporary, smoky signature in the blue sky.

lake michigan

As I lay on my towel watching the kids and the plane, an unexpected parenting milestone snuck up on me. I was able to lie uninterrupted on the beach for a full thirty minutes. It was glorious. Well worth the wait ;)

Late in the afternoon we headed back to the little house, showered, packed, locked up and hit the road. On our way out of town, I asked the kids what they would miss most.

Layne said, “The laid-back atmosphere.”

Everett said, “The tire swing.”

Mabrey said, “The chickens.”

I was already missing those thirty minutes on my beach towel.

My only regret of the entire trip was Steve’s absence. Everywhere we went one of us would say, “Dad would love this!” We have to get him there. Soon.

Thanks, northern Indiana, for giving the midwest a good name. Can’t wait to visit again!

Do you have any recommendations for vacation spots in the midwest and/or within a six-hour drive of Ohio? We’d love to add more midwestern cities to our wish list.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

84 Comments

20.June.2016

It is farther then a 6 hour drive for you, probably, but you should go to Northern Michigan. Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes are amazing. I live on Beaver Island, Michigan and it is a beautiful hidden gem, surrounded by Lake Michigan! And much quieter and less touristy then our Neighbor in Lake Huron (Mackinac Island) Anywhere in Northern Michigan is beautiful in the summer!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

We were in northern Michigan in April which we discovered is still winter there. Would love to visit in the summer!

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21.June.2016

I can’t believe you guys went to my neck of the woods! I’m in northwest Indiana and my brood frequents the pier in Michigan city and the dunes frequently! I’ve never heard of the farms you guys stayed at but now I’m thinking it might be an excellent “staycation” option. Glad you guys came out and had fun!

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21.June.2016

Love the beach towel!! Where is it from?

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

It’s turkish towel from Amazon. After switching out all the bathroom towels with turkish towels a few years ago (and LOVING them), I made the switch from beach towel to turkish towel last summer. They’re so much lighter (especially when you have 5 in one pool bag), more absorbent, dry more quickly and don’t hold sand.

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21.June.2016

That first picture is a stunner!

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21.June.2016

Brown County, IN in the southern part of the state is really something special. The town of Nashville is full of quaint shops and restaurants downtown. The state park is lovely. There are lots of tours you can take, zip lines, horse back riding, et. Edinburgh Outlets are a 30 min drive – if you like to do some shopping. And, Bloomington is also about 30 min away with lots to do there as well. We always rented a cabin and it is SO peaceful there.

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21.June.2016

We have a trip planned here in a couple of weeks – thanks for the food recommendations!

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21.June.2016

It sounds magical. Glad you had a great trip, and I am so going to check out that pizza place when I’m up there in a couple of weeks.

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

You won’t regret it!

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21.June.2016

It is closer to 7 hours, but Madison, WI is amazing.

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21.June.2016

My in laws and family live in central ohio area and we in Virginia. We met up half way last week for a vacation in West Virginia. It was about a 4 hour drive for them I believe. We stayed at Twin Falls State park in a cabin. It was great! Peaceful, relaxing, they have an indoor and outdoor pool, hiking, playground, grills etc. We enjoyed cooking and relaxing with the family. Not too expensive either!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Sounds fun!!

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Loved reading your post; glad your littlest one survived the 3 Dune Challenge! ;)

~Brooke from Indiana Dunes Tourism team

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21.June.2016

LOVE your take on life…a vacation with no internet or TV ! Your kids are so lucky to have you to guide them and ‘curate’ their experiences. at their impressionable ages..also love your ‘eye’ with your camera…thanks for sharing

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21.June.2016

Come to Grand Rapids! Very fun during ArtPrize (Sept./Oct.) especially, plus you can pop over to Holland or Grand Haven for some quality beach time or small-town fun. But I’m a little biased.

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

I’ve never considered Grand Rapids! Thanks for the suggestion.

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replied on June 27th, 2016

You may also want to consider staying in the Holland or Grand Haven area with a day trip to Grand Rapids…

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21.June.2016

I love the rental but I cannot seem to find the same rental on the link you provided. Could you send me the link? We live in Chicago and this would be a great weekend trip! Thanks again!!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Try clicking the “one-bedroom, one-bathroom modern cabin” link!

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21.June.2016

Very Well Written !

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21.June.2016

When did they get so grown?! You have such a beautiful family & this trip looks so fun!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

They are growing up which is bittersweet. BUT! Vacations are way more fun at this stage ;)

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21.June.2016

That looks like it was a great trip!

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We still need to make our way to Michigan City – it’s been on our list for the last 10 years that we’ve been in Chicago! Speaking of which, Chicago is only 5 hours from you… Can’t beat this city in the summertime.

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

It’s on the list!

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21.June.2016

Can I ask where you got your swimmie? Super cute!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

My swimsuit? It’s the Ella Moss ‘birds of paradise’ one-piece. It’s super comfy and keeps me covered enough to keep up with the kids without having to worry about a wardrobe malfunction, but it’s way cuter than a mom tankini.

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21.June.2016

Love to rent the place you did. How can I go about find out and get it rent?

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Click the “one-bedroom, one-bathroom modern cabin” link within the post!

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21.June.2016

Hocking Hills in Ohio is gorgeous! Its hard to believe something like it exists right in Ohio ;)

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

We visited Hocking Hills several years ago shortly after Everett was born. It was beautiful! I just wish they had other lodging options besides musty, outdated log cabins.

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21.June.2016

That trip looks AMAZING!!! how do you find these wonderful places? Will you share the link to renting the cabin? I didn’t see it on the Tryon Farm website.

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replied on June 21st, 2016

and…i clicked on the link…

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Haha!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

I actually linked to it within the post as “one-bedroom, one-bathroom modern cabin.”

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21.June.2016

The airbnb place looks awesome! the link says it doesn’t exist anymore:( bummer! i wanted to stay there:)

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Try again, it’s working on my end!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

looks like listing is removed:( bummer.

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

It’s here…

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3157361

21.June.2016

My very own backyard! Can’t believe I see you posting about all our favorite spots. We are so lucky to live in this area – the national lakeshore is a show stopper, for sure! 49er this thursday for Dory :) :)

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Jealous!

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21.June.2016

Is it possible to give me more detail on the house you rented? This is exactly the vacation I want to take with my two kiddos and they would LOVE the triple bunk!

Please email me (to keep the info private) I tried looking on Air BnB but am not finding it?!?!
Thanks in advance

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

I linked directly to the Airbnb listing within the post! Just click the “one-bedroom, one-bathroom modern cabin” text.

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21.June.2016

Unrelated question – I love your kids’ clothes! They’re such relaxed, not-neon colors. Can you share – where do most of them come from?

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Oddly enough, they are mostly hand-me-downs from friends and family. But I think most of them were originally from Target. Thanks to generous friends, I rarely buy kid clothes. None of them (the kids) are very passionate about fashion (at least not right now) so I can’t see spending tons of money on stuff they couldn’t care less about. I do have to buy Layne (my oldest) new clothes and when I do I typically buy quality > quantity because I know they will get passed down to Everett. I’ve had good luck at H&M.

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21.June.2016

You are seriously a rockstar mom for taking your kids on this trip by yourself! It looks and sounds like everyone had an amazing time!

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21.June.2016

Sounds like a good time was had by all. The bunk bed design was great.

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21.June.2016

What a fantastic place! I love the bunk beds and am sure my kids would too. And the chickens! But for me, the most amazing part of your post was the very first sentence “A few WEEKS after school let out” because here, just outside of Boston, my kids are still IN school! Last day is this upcoming Friday, June 24th. Of course, we don’t go back until after labor day (July and August are “summer” for us) so it all evens out in the end, but I am continually amazed at the amazing regional differences in this big county of ours!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

If it’s any consolation, one of mine starts back in early August :(

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21.June.2016

I have been a life long resident of Michigan City. I tend to forget all the natural beauty and many places to visit we are surrounded by. THANKS for the reminder just how wonderful my home town is.

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21.June.2016

My husband & I grew up in Michigan City and raised our kids in Chesterton, IN. A job change took us to South Bend, IN and the thing we missed the most was Lake Michigan. Its truly a treasure that leaves most in awe after visiting. Our next home will be in South Haven, Michigan. You can take a girl away from Lake Michigan…..but not for long! Thanks for your post! You have a lovely family!

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21.June.2016

Looks like a fun getaway!

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21.June.2016

We live in Chicago and have been going there for a week every summer for years. That blue house you photographed happens to be my favorite.

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21.June.2016

I live in Hammond, Indiana, about 35 minutes from Michigan City and I am so delighted that you enjoyed Northwest Indiana so much!! We are huge fans of the 49er drive in, we visit a couple times every summer and turn the back of our SUV into a giant fort to watch the movies in :) we love the Dunes in Chesterton too. Camping there is always really fun! I had no idea about the farm, it’d be a great getaway. We’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the NWI love!!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

We did the same thing in our minivan at the drive-in. We opened the back hatch and made a big cozy bed with pillows and blankets galore. The kids loved it!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

Hi Megan, I work in EC and live in Valpo – so fun to “meet” someone else that love HouseTweaking from my neck of the woods :)

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22.June.2016

Thanks for reminding me of what a great place I live!!

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22.June.2016

What a fun read this morning Dana. Looks like a great trip and a beautiful farm! Thanks for sharing.

A couple of years ago we visited Alliance because our friends live there and they took us to Lake Geneva. It was gorgeous! It was a cute little town with lake side restaurants. We didn’t stay the night, but it was awesome to see one of the great lakes for the first time in my life! Ohio was so much more prettier and lusher (is that a word?) than I had ever imagined. I loved it there!

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22.June.2016

Glad you enjoyed yourself, we live in Notre Dame Indiana & love being so close to Lake Michigan, we’ll definitely check out the tiny house. I would love to know where you got those fabulous green pants! Love, love your blog. Thanks for being you!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

They were a recent clearance purchase from a J. Crew Factory outlet!

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22.June.2016

Ha! I had to do a double take when I saw the picture of the ocean-like water and the word Indiana. Would never have thought! Looks beautiful!

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

I know! I thought the same thing throughout our stay.

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22.June.2016

Wow, thanks for sharing! We’ve been looking for places just like this within a 4-5 hour drive from Columbus. We spent some time up on the shores of Michigan a few summers ago and loved it – who knew you could find such nice beaches so close to Ohio! I’ll have to check out this community, we’d like to purchase a second home (someday… in the way way future) so I’ve been filing away possible locations to visit in the meantime. This looks like such a nice little community, and it seems like there would be plenty to do in the off-season as well.

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22.June.2016

We really enjoyed Carter Caves in KY. It’s about four hours away from where we live in West Chester (I’m assuming your drive would be similar). You can go walk through different types of caves that are still in their natural state; it’s not commercialized like Seven Caves. In addition, there’s hiking trails, canoe rentals, playgrounds, a swimming pool, miniature golf, and horseback riding so it’s great for a day or a long weekend for a family. http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/carter-caves/

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

That sounds amazing!

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22.June.2016

Thank you for doing my hometown such justice <3 your shots are so cute too!

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22.June.2016

I guess we were your temporary next-door neighbors! We’re at 63 Tryon Farm Lane. I’m glad you enjoyed your stay on the farm and in Michigan City.

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replied on June 22nd, 2016

No way! Small world. You have one lovely ‘hood!

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22.June.2016

You all need to visit Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park in Slade Ky. It’s about 2 1/2 hours from Southwest Ohio I’d assume. My husband and I live only 2 hours away and have our whole lives and we visited for the first time a couple weekends ago for our anniversary. We both agreed it’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen! Lots of hiking and exploring. We rented a log chalet on a mountain and it was wonderful!

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23.June.2016

This looks like such a reset for a family! The no internet and no tv is just what you need sometimes. Makes me want to get away now. :)

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23.June.2016

I live in Chattanooga, TN which is just over 5hrs from Cincinnati and it is an AMAZING place to vacay with kiddos. There is the Creative Discovery museum which is a science/learning museum just for kids, two amazing aquariums, an IMAX theater that just shows nature/space documentaries and it is an outdoor city so there is no shortage of hiking/biking/kayaking/exploring to be had. Downtown is right on the TN river and Lookout Mtn, Rock City and Ruby Falls are just 15min from Downtown. Seriously, I know I sound like a paid spokesperson but if I didn’t live here, I would want to visit ;)

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25.June.2016

Nashville, Indiana is a great spot. Cute town with pottery shop, glass blowers, art gallery, antique stores, and ice cream shops. Indiana’s largest state park is on the edge of town. Horseback riding, zip lining, great hiking, small lakes, and cabins to rent. Half hour away you have Monroe Reservoir with boat rental, fishing, swimming, etc.

Love your article on Tryon Farms, by the way!

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26.June.2016

Wow! It looks like you guys had an amazing time! I can’t wait to start vacationing with my little ones!

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27.June.2016

I live in Upper Michigan, which is absolutely beautiful and would be worth the drive, but it’d be a farther drive for you. If you do make it up ever, Munising is so great…Pictured Rocks is beautiful and there are lots of falls to hike to. Marquette is worth the drive too. Michigan is a beautiful and lovely state to live in/visit {I am biased. :) }. Lake Michigan is also great! Manistee is gorgeous. You really can’t go wrong with anywhere on the west coast. Holland, Saugatuck, etc. We stayed here
{ http://www.thehomesteadresort.com } for one of our anniversaries. It was a nice place.

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27.June.2016

So great to be reminded of all the lovely things there are to see and do right in my own backyard.I’m from Valparaiso and my husband is from Michigan City. Glad you enjoyed your visit!

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28.June.2016

We live in LaPorte, just southeast of Michigan City! So neat to see all the other people commenting that this is close to home for them as well.

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06.July.2016

I’ve always wanted to check out Tryon Farm! Looks super cool. We stay in New Buffalo, MI. Try aqua vacation rental to find a place. Tonya is super awesome. Public Beach, great library, great deli, Sawyer, Three Oaks are nearby. Great for kids!

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