After a full year of traveling in the van, Dylan and I are finally in the home stretch. It’s time to go home to prepare for our wedding and our next year of adventures. We spent our last full week in the van of the year celebrating our joint bachelor/bachelorette party 🎉 and going to one last national park. It was a great way to cap off our year and celebrate in both Chicago and Indiana Dunes National Park.
There’s nothing better than a Chicago summer ☀️ . So, we got 24 of our closest friend and family to experience all of the ultimate Chicago summer weekend. I don’t think there is anything more special than getting all of your favorite people in one place celebrating you. We had an incredible time and it felt like a wonderful ending to our entire journey for the year.
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Our Time in Chicago & Indiana Dunes
Many of you may not know this, but I attended Northwestern University. It has been a few years since I’ve been able to return, but luckily our van route took us right there. We drove into Evanston, in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, to go on a little nostalgic tour of the Northwestern area.
I dragged Dylan to all of my favorite Evanston destinations starting in the North, working our way South. I showed him where I lived freshman year, my favorite spots on campus, and ate the best food in Evanston (don’t miss Bat17, Union Pizza, or Delbes when you visit). All while he insisted that I had shown it to him before.
Despite his lack of enthusiasm, we had a great time on this perfect August day. Lake Michigan was a clear blue 💙 and the Northwestern campus was quiet. It felt like we had the whole area to ourselves.
After enjoying a walk down memory lane, Dylan and I drove into the bustling downtown area of Chicago. We spent a night street parking 🏙 by my friend’s apartment right on Lakeshore Drive overlooking the impressive Lake Michigan. Then, we got ready to host our friends for the ultimate bachelor/bachelorette weekend.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect bachelorette weekend. We spent the nights laughing while playing games, and spent the days getting out to explore some of the highlights. We experienced all of the Chicago highlights like going to a Cubs game, taking boats out on Lake Michigan, eating deep dish pizza, and swimming in the playpen. My heart was incredibly full as I watched some of my best friends become friends.
Indiana Dunes National Park
While our bachelorette weekend was incredibly fun, it was also very tiring. We had one last contiguous national park that we had to hit before going home. We mustered our little energy to drive 45 minutes from Chicago to Indiana Dunes National Park NP #49.
Honestly, before we got to the park, I had very low expectations. I had seen pictures of the beaches with factories in the distance and I was not impressed. However, as soon as we drove up to the park and got past the tall dunes onto the beach 🏖, I changed my tune. The blue waters of Lake Michigan sprawled out for miles and the beach was full of families enjoying themselves.
We realized this park was actually the best place to spend time when we were feeling low. The water was invigorating 💦 and we could have stayed in the lake for hours. It felt restorative after a long weekend. I realized that I may enjoy lake beaches more than saltwater beaches. You can swim without the salt getting in your eyes and crunching up your hair. It just feels wonderful.
This park also has plenty of trails that are great for hiking 🥾 or walking along. Dylan and I clearly didn’t have the energy to explore them, but I would go back to see them. I still think that Indiana Dunes may be less exciting than other national parks, but it’s a fantastic place to spend a nice day near Chicago.
Over the past year, we have made it to all 48 contiguous states and the national parks in them. Although the first complete year of van life is ending, we still have a lot of exploring to do. I can’t wait to take you along on all the next destinations.
Let me know if you enjoyed the latest van chronicles in the comments!
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