Fourth of July on a Tank of Gas: Need plans for the 4th? Not to worry with these last minute, local ideas

2013-07-04T00:15:00Z Fourth of July on a Tank of Gas: Need plans for the 4th? Not to worry with these last minute, local ideasJane Ammeson
July 04, 2013 12:15 am  • 

Zigzagging gas prices doesn’t mean sitting at home on the Fourth of July. One tank of gas can get you to a lot of great places. So grab a cooler, load up the kids and hit the road.

Points Northeast

First stop: Michigan City for a tour of the state’s only Lake Michigan lighthouse. Now the Old Lighthouse Museum, the 155-year-old building is said to be haunted by the ghost of Harriet Colfax, who for 43 years, starting in 1861, was the lighthouse’s keeper. Lake lovers will want to sun and swim at nearby Washington Park, the city’s fun time beach with its bird sanctuary and zoo. Shopaholics in your group? Drop a little cash at one or more of the 120 stores at Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet.

All aboard at the Hesston Steam Museum in tiny Hesston, Ind. Open during the summer with rides on these historic trains every weekend as well as July 4-7.

Follow the curve around the lake, heading to New Buffalo, Mich. just across the state line. A must for burger lovers is Redamak’s, a favorite with both locals and the Chicagoans who flock to the area in the summer.

Visit St. Joseph for a free horse pulled trolley ride down the city’s brick streets and along the bluff overlooking both Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River.

Last stop is Jollay Orchards in Coloma. A family farm since 1857, there’s fruit to be picked, fish to be caught in the fishing pond, animals to pet, freshly made donuts and fruit pies to be eaten at the bakery, and enjoyment of fun on the farm.

Go East

Travel the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway in the U.S., during its centennial year. Sights along the way include the green quadrangles and Gothic architecture of the University of Notre Dame and the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend.

Take a stroll along the riverwalk in scenic Elkhart and then turn south towards historic downtown Goshen where, back in the 1930s, the local police built a strange looking anti-John Dillinger building with window grills on the southeast side of the courthouse. It’s still standing. John is gone.

Treat your family to a soda or shake and stock up on some hand dipped chocolates at Olympia Candy Kitchen, a downtown icon since opening in 1912.

Head South

Ride the Shafer Queen, a historic paddle wheel boat, get wet at the Ideal Beach Waterpark, shriek with fun on such rides as Corn Dog – a g-force rollercoaster and Double Shot, an 80-foot vertical plunge and then be prepared to be scared in Dr. Frankenstein’s Haunted Castle. All at Indiana Beach Amusement Park in Monticello.

White River State Park in Indianapolis is the only urban state park in Indiana and has plenty to do. Rent a Segway, bike or pedal carriage and ride along the old Whitewater Canal. Jump into a gondola and glide along the canal. Visit the NCAA® Hall of Champions Museum. Catch an IMAX movie at the Indiana State Museum, visit the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art and watch the Indianapolis Indians play AAA ball. The 250-acre park is right on the edge of Indy’s bustling downtown.

The Not So Wild West

The best things in life aren’t usually free, but when it comes to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, among the oldest zoological gardens, that’s the truth as it’s one of the few free zoos in the country. Covering 49 acres, Lincoln Park Zoo houses 200 species of animals including new arrivals like the big-eyed Moholi Bushbaby and pre-historic looking Sichuan Takin, the interactive kid friendly Farm in the Zoo and a milking barn filled with cows and goats. For a different take on zoo life, summer activities include Twilight Safari, an after hour’s animal walk, Sleep under the Skyscrapers campouts and Second Saturdays Garden Tours led by the Zoo’s Horticulture Department.

Go beyond auto travel by gliding past Oak Street and North Avenue Beaches, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Betty Noetbaert Nature Museum and along the perimeter of the zoo on Chicago Segway’s Northern Adventure Tour. Cruise the Chicago River aboard one of several Chicago Architectural boat tours. Travel the old fashioned way by taking a horse drawn carriage rides, available both night and day, along the lakefront and the avenue.

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