Dunes, conventions attract visitors to region lodging

2014-03-16T00:00:00Z 2014-03-16T00:31:09Z Dunes, conventions attract visitors to region lodgingSusan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com
March 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Boasting 340-plus guest rooms, an indoor waterfall pool and its own in-house comedy club among other amenities, the landmark Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza attracts guests from all over.

On a smaller scale but no less popular with guests from far flung-places, the Gray Goose Inn in Chesterton boasts eight cozy rooms, each with its own fireplace and some with jacuzzis.

Rooms at the two inns are among a total nearly 6,300 lodging rooms in Lake and Porter counties, according to figures provided by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and Indiana Dunes Tourism.

Spending by lodging guests contributed to the $1.37 billion spent by tourists in Lake County in 2010, and to the nearly $348.3 million impact of tourism on Porter County in 2011, officials with the tourism agencies reported.

"We're pretty much busy all year," said Tim Wilk, who founded the Gray Goose Inn 30 years ago not far from Lake Michigan shores in Chesterton.

Guests come from Chicago and Indianapolis but also from farther away, especially in summer, attracted by amenities in the Indiana Dunes State Park and Dunes National Lakeshore.

"During spring and summer we get a lot of European travelers. They look more for country inns," Wilk said.

They come for the dunes, Wilk said. "That's our big attraction."

Wilk converted the circa 1939 former summer home of an auto industry magnate to open the Gray Goose Inn and has since expanded the dining room to accommodate the inn's gourmet breakfasts.

Cheese blintzes were on the menu on a recent day, along with a large plate of fruit and homemade pastry.

The inn's amenities have kept one group of about 20 birdwatchers coming back for 20 years, Wilk said.

"One thing I learned from them is that there is more variety of birds that come through this area than anywhere else in the world," Wilk said.

The Radisson Star Plaza opened in 1969 at its current location at Interstate 65 and U.S. 30, sparking a development boom at the intersection.

The hotel stays its busiest from March through Dec. 31, capping each year with a New Year's Eve celebration that in 2013 attracted 2,000 guests, said Erin Bertollini, general manager.

The hotel's summer packages are popular for staycationers looking to catch a day at nearby Deep River Water Park, the dunes, the Gary South Shore RailCats and area golf courses.

T. J. Maloney's Authentic Irish Pub, the hotel's signature restaurant, offers live entertainment on weekends. Two ballrooms can accommodate up to 1,000 guests.

"Many guests come from all over the country, converging on Northwest Indiana to attend conventions at the centrally located Radisson," Bertollini said.

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