15 Best Things to Do in Portage, IN

Portage, IN
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Portage City is the largest community in the Portage Township of Porter County in the US state of Indiana.

The city shares much of the history of Portage Township, which was established in 1835 and also included the South Haven and Ogden Dunes, a bedroom community.

Portage is right on the tip of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and boasts an extensive park system covering 15 parks.

The city provides plenty of amenities and is easily accessible via the South Shore Commuter Rail Line, as well as from Interstate 80.94 and the Indiana Tollway.

In addition, Portage enjoys proximity to other major cities like Michigan City, just some 28 miles to its east, and Chicago, about 40 miles toward the northwest.

Its strategic location and varied points of interest make it easy for Portage to offer these 15 best things to do in the city and its mother township.

Camp at Indiana Dunes National Park

Boardwalk at Indiana Dunes National Park
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Go camping at the Indiana Dunes National Park and State Park, providing a range of outdoor activities in its over 15,000 acres of forests, oak savannas, prairies, bogs, swamps, marshes, and rivers.

Throughout these parks, you can choose from its 11 trails of varying lengths and difficulties to negotiate.

You can also explore the parks’ beautiful beaches stretching for 25 miles along Lake Michigan.

View of Indiana Dunes National Park
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Additionally, you can extend your coastal trek to the large sand dunes beyond the shoreline.

Be amazed at the hundreds of species of fauna and thousands of plant varieties that thrive in the ecological diversity of Indiana Dunes.

All told, you will appreciate and be impressed at how the Portage residents played an important role in the conservation of the Indiana Dunes.

View of Indiana Dunes National Park
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Visit the Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk

This Portage facility is located at 1000 Riverwalk Drive and sprawls over 57 acres enabling access to Lake Michigan and the Burns Waterway.

Opened in 2008, the Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk provides trails where you can explore a succession of dunes in the area.

This park also enables access to a fishing pier at Burns Waterway, which is part of a watershed system.

Fishing at Burns Waterway can yield catch of freshwater drum, channel catfish, and largemouth bass.

Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk also features a restored 900-foot breakwater and an ADA-friendly, 3,500-square-foot public pavilion with restrooms, a seasonal snack bar, and a glass-walled meeting area.

Relax at Deer Trail Park

This park, which spreads ove16 acres off Ameriplex Drive, was opened in 2007 as part of the efforts of the Portage community to preserve its natural environment.

To develop this park, 2,000 native plant seedlings and 150 larger trees were planted to replace invasive species.

Deer Trail Park was also developed with trails meandering through 5 acres of woodlands on the southern banks of the 22-mile long Little Calumet River’s east branch.

This river branch is a habitat for charming wildlife, like herons and beavers, so there’s a chance to see some in your visit.

In addition, the park has an open field where kite-flying is a possibility during windy days.

Browse the Artifacts at Alton Goin Museum

Dig deep into the history of Portage with a visit to the Alton Goin Museum at 5250 US Highway 6.

The Portage Community Historical Society opened this countryside Museum in 2003 on the grounds of the city’s 33-acre Countryside Park.

The society’s historical collections are housed in a vintage barn, and these consist of many antiques relating to the history of the Portage area.

The museum items on display include American Indian artifacts, reproductions of historic clothing, a miniature model of Portage’s various districts, and a vintage fire engine of the Township.

After the museum visit, you can enjoy the recreational facilities of Countryside Park, which include a softball field, sledding hill, playground, picnic shelter, and a pond for fishing.

Additionally, there is a disc golf facility near the park.

Hit the Tracks of the Iron Horse Trail

If you are a seasoned runner or biker, Portage offers within its city limits several jump-offs to an extensive trail system.

Your starting point can be from the Iron Horse Trail near Imagination Glen Park East on the corner of Portage Avenue and McCool Road.

This paved trail runs for about five miles across the city of Portage, and at its western terminus on Hamstrom Road, you can shift to the longer Prairie Duneland Trail.

Runners and bikers are welcome in these two trails, with the 10-mile Prairie Duneland Trail also open to inline skaters.

Check Out Events at Founders Square

Visit the public park of Founders Square for a chance to catch exciting community events in Portage.

Located at 6300 South Founders Square, this park hosts film showings, car shows, farmers’ market events, car shows, performances, festivals, and parades.

Portage visitors take their kids to this park in the heart of downtown to enjoy its splash pad and playground.

The park’s Hannah’s Hope Playground is notably an all-inclusive facility for children of all ages and abilities.

At Founders Square, visitors can also enjoy the various gatherings at its amphitheater, spacious parkland, and passive recreation areas.

Enjoy Portage Imagination Glen Park

View of Portage Imagination Glen Park
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Visit the Portage Imagination Glen, Portage City’s largest Park, at McCool Road  along the city's eastern boundary near State Road149.

Established in 1978, this park covering 276 acres provides recreational facilities for the whole family's enjoyment.

Imagination Glen Park provides sports lovers with the city’s softball and soccer complexes plus two sand volleyball courts.

In addition, the park offers biking enthusiasts a BMX race track and the Outback Mountain Bike Trail stretching over 10 miles.

At Imagination Glen Park, you will also have access to a large nature preserve, picnic shelters, two playgrounds, and open play space, as well as fishing on Salt Creek.

Ponder on Dining Options at Olmstead Drive

The corridor of Olmstead Drive and its peripheral streets near Interstate 94 is your likely option for dining out in a visit to Portage.

One standout in this area is LongHorn Steakhouse at 1650 Olmstead Drive, offering fresh, never-frozen steaks grilled to perfection.

Besides the LongHorn Porterhouse banner to its menu, this restaurant also serves lobster tails, seasonal side dishes, and signature desserts.

This part of Portage is where you’ll also find the local franchise of Hooters, the restaurant chain famous for its chicken wings and attractive, young waitresses.

At nearby Ameriplex Road, the food choices shift to authentic Mexican cuisine and margaritas at El Salto.

Visit the Olson Memorial Park

This park is named in honor of Portage’s first mayor, Arthur H. Olson, and it enjoys a quiet location at 6176 Sunrise Avenue.

Covering 15 acres, the Olson Memorial Park provides a picnic shelter, playground, a sled hill, and large open space.

Your visit to this park can promptly segue to the Prairie Duneland Trail just across the south of Olson Memorial.

Just some 800 meters walk westward along the trail, you can enjoy dining at Tate’s Place at 3051 Willowcreek Road.

Located near the Portage Township YMCA, this restaurant is styled as an American café offering sandwiches, breakfast favorites, and lunch entrees.

Watch the Action at Indiana Elite Soccer Complex

Scout budding soccer talents of the Indiana Elite Futbol Club at its sprawling complex at 2945 Samuelson Rd.

Indiana Elite FC, which is based in Crown Point, bills itself as the premier soccer club in Northwest Indiana.

It has opened a sports complex in Portage, with 12 regulation-sized soccer fields that can easily be reconfigured into 24 youth playing fields.

Primed to accommodate throngs of spectators, this soccer complex provides parking space for 340 cars, two concession facilities, and a family picnic area.

Indiana Elite FC counts on membership of more than 350 male and female players, including some of the top talents of Northwest Indiana from age 8 to 20.

Besides hosting major soccer tournaments in the region, the Indiana Elite FC complex also provides training camps and sports clinics.

Book a Campsite at Lakeshore Camp Resort

If you’re traveling to Portage with a camper or an RV, the Lakeshore Camp Resort is an ideal campsite for booking.

This camp resort is located at 5300 Old Porter Road and provides to the general public 115 full hookup campsites.

A 22-acre lagoon, Lake Minnehaha, serves as the centerpiece of this resort and its various amenities.

The facilities and activities you can enjoy in this resort include four swimming pools, beach areas, fishing, boat rental, and mini-golf.

You can also use this Portage campsite as a jump-off point to the Indiana Dunes National Park, which is 10 miles south of the resort.

Prairie Duneland Trail notably runs from the Indiana cities of Chesterton to Hobart, and hence, you could explore a lot of the points of interest in and around Portage.

Gear Up at the Bass Pro Shops

You can easily get well-equipped in visiting Portage and exploring its various nature preserves and beaches.

Various types of outdoor gear are available at the Bass Pro Shops at 6425 Daniel Burnham Drive within the Ameriplex at the Port, a commercial/industrial complex off Interstate 94 and Indiana State Road 249.

Occupying 130,000 square feet of commercial space, Bass Pro Shops sells gear for camping, fishing, hunting, and other merchandise needed for outdoor activities.

This retail hub is also home to the Cabela’s Boating Center selling brand new and second-hand boats, Mercury motors, and ATVs.

Bass Pro Shops likewise flaunts a large fish tank, an arcade shooting range, and several natural wildlife displays.

Get to Know Porter County’s Sunset Hill Farm

Set a side trip to the Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso, only about 8 miles west of Portage.

This park at 775 Meridian Road was developed out of a fully functional 238-acre farm dating back to 1934.

This park opened in the early 1970s, and its prairie views, rolling hills, ponds, and woods have become one of the major hubs of community activities in Porter County.

Besides the events and festivals that it hosts, Sunset Hill Farm also offers playgrounds and exhibits of antique farming tools and farm animals.

Quiet and peaceful, Sunset Hill Farm likewise provides wide grassy trails that open the way for easy to moderate hiking.

Hunt for Bargains at Thrift Shops

There are several thrift stores where you can hunt for some great bargains, but one that stands out is the Kindly Used Resale Shop at 5939 Central Avenue.

Visitors and locals alike patronize this friendly store not only because of its convenient location.

This retail store also offers an astounding variety of selections, including home décor, jewelry items, and furniture.

Another winning choice for bargain-hunters is Portage Resale Shop at 6459 Evergreen Avenue, a short distance east of Founders Square.

This shop is a volunteer-based, nonprofit entity, so you can expect that the various goods it offers are at a fair price.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Have a Beer at Chesterton Brewery

Head off to Chesterton Brewery at 1050 Broadway in the town of Chesterton for some of the newest craft beers on tap in Northwest Indiana.

Located just 7 miles west of Portage, this brewery is family-owned and operated by a Gulf War Marine veteran.

Chesterton Brewery, which opened in 2020, boasts a selection of 21different craft beers available at its 4,500-square-foot brewpub and restaurant.

You can pair your beer at this brewpub with appetizers like chips, chicken wings, and fries, as well as burgers and sandwiches.

The Chesterton Brewery runs under the slogan "veterans brewing for veterans," as part of its sales goes to veteran causes.

Final Thoughts

Visiting Portage has all the vital elements for a memorable and vibrant vacation.

This city is home to some of the most pristine natural environments in Northwest Indiana that the local community strives to protect.

The points of interest in the city, the parks especially, offer a slew of exciting activities suited for all family members.

Moreover, Portage and its neighboring towns have well-developed amenities for locals and tourists alike to share.

All told, listing Portage in your next trip’s itinerary should be the right decision to take.