20 Things To Do In New Buffalo, MI

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New Buffalo is a charming coastal community along the shores of Lake Michigan right on the doorstep of some of the Midwest’s most exciting attractions, landmarks and cities. The city sits just above the Indiana state border and is within 70 miles of destinations such as Chicago, South Bend and Kalamazoo, not to mention stunning outdoor areas such as the Indiana Dunes National Park and the Fernwood Botanical Garden. From its resort-dominated marina to art centres and historical sites within a few short miles of its downtown district, New Buffalo is a hidden gem to discover. Here are the top things to do in New Buffalo.

New Buffalo, Michigan

20 Things To Do In New Buffalo

new buffalo beach
Walking along the beach is one of the things to do in New Buffalo.

1- Stroll Along The Oselka Marina

Established as a top-tier New Buffalo tourist attraction 1957, the Oselka Marina is a scenic, 1,000-slip harbour where you can find the many tour operators who run sightseeing trips along Lake Michigan.

The marina is the backbone of New Buffalo’s downtown entertainment, shopping and tourism scenes, with many of the town’s best hotels, resorts, beaches and casinos just a short distance away.

Free to enjoy, the marina is excellent for travellers looking to hop aboard a Great Lakes cruise or take in the breathtaking coastal scenery that southwest Michigan is so famous for.

2- Enjoy The Grand Amenities Of Four Winds Casino New Buffalo

The Four Winds Casino New Buffalo is the crown jewel in the Four Winds casino chain, which is owned and operated by the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians.

The casino is a fully-fledged resort with more than 400 rooms where you can spend the night in comfort and style while being just a short walk away from New Buffalo’s best nightlife and entertainment options.


Designed to mimic a traditional Potawatomi lodge, the casino was is one of the best casinos outside of Las Vegas and features several dining options and a world-class event centre which has hosted concerts and appearances from the likes of ZZ Top, Diana Ross and Jay Leno.

The Four Winds Casino New Buffalo is at 11111 Wilson Rd, New Buffalo, MI 49117.

3- Explore The Marshlands Of Galien River County Park

Open daily from dawn to dusk, between spring and fall, the Galien River County Park is a free-to-visit recreational space to enjoy the beautiful outdoors of New Buffalo.

The park is renowned for its extensive trail network, which along with elevated platforms, make it a beautiful venue to visit for nature lovers seeking a front-row seat to New Buffalo’s pristine marshlands.

The Galien River County Park is at 17424 Red Arrow Hwy, New Buffalo, MI 49117.

4- Stop By The New Buffalo Railroad Museum

The New Buffalo Railroad Museum is jam-packed with tons of interesting artefacts related to the region’s storied railway past.

The museum was officially established in 1989 and aims to promote and preserve New Buffalo and southwest Michigan’s railroad history through a series of exhibits, displays and even an ever-expanding collection of railroad cars, which visitors can step inside and explore.

The New Buffalo Railroad Museum is at 530 S Whittaker St, New Buffalo, MI 49117.

5- Experience Summer At New Buffalo Beach

Flying Kites On The Beach
Hanging out on New Buffalo Beach is one of the things to do in New Buffalo MI.

Stretching for more than 800 feet (244 m) along the shores of Lake Michigan, New Buffalo Beach is a top reason why this small Michigan town is a popular summertime destination.

Ideal for swimming, sunbathing, paddleboarding or sunset watching, the beach is less than 70 miles (113 km) from the streets of downtown Chicago and steps away from the top attractions in New Buffalo.

The beach has play areas, benches, an eye-catching lighthouse and on-duty lifeguards, making sure beachgoers are safe when spending the warm summer months on New Buffalo Beach.

New Buffalo Beach is at 200 Marquette Dr, New Buffalo, MI 49117.

6- Stop By The Turtle Creek Preserve

A vital ecological area for migrating songbirds, the Turtle Creek Preserve just outside downtown New Buffalo is a serene outdoor destination where visitors can lose themselves between tall tree groves and the sounds of dozens of bird species that stop by the preserve during their seasonal migration.

The preserve was used for farming for more than 100 years between 1860 and 1970 before it was established as a preserve and popular outdoor tourist attraction following the return of the area’s dense forests.

Among the preserve’s star attractions is its 0.7-mile-long (1.1 km) looped hiking trail, which opens up the Turtle Creek Preserve’s thick forests and natural splendour for all to enjoy.

The Turtle Creek Preserve is at 12255 Lubke Rd, New Buffalo, MI 49117.

7- Tour The University Of Notre Dame Campus

The home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the University of Notre Dame in nearby South Bend, across the border in Indiana, is a respected higher learning institution in the United States.

It was founded in 1842 by French priest Edward Sorin.

Officially titled the “University of Notre Dame du Lac”, the university is a private Catholic research institution that’s become synonymous with both academics and collegiate athletics, with dozens of national championship titles to the university’s sports teams.

Not only does the university have an impressive list of successful alumni, it is home to the most picturesque campus in a Indiana, all within just a 33-mile (53 km) drive from New Buffalo.

8- Take The Family To The Curious Kid’s Museum

In nearby St. Joseph, the Curious Kid’s Museum & Discovery Zone is a kid-friendly museum where children of all ages are encouraged to learn about a wide range of subjects through interacting with unique exhibits.

The venue opened in 1989 and fulfils its “Learning is Fun” vision through a series of interactive, hands-on displays spread out across the museum’s two floors.

Just a short drive away from New Buffalo’s downtown district, the museum is a popular destination to visit among families and great for inspiring young minds about topics such as science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

9- Stroll Through The Fernwood Botanical Garden

Totalling well over 105 acres (42 ha) in size, the world-class Fernwood Botanical Garden is the ultimate attraction in southwest Michigan for green-thumbed travellers.

Officially known as the “Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve”, the venue is a garden, nature preserve and arboretum all rolled into one that perfectly blends southwest Michigan’s picturesque countryside with a stunning array of flowers and shrubbery.

Just 25 miles (40 km) from downtown New Buffalo, the Fernwood Botanical Garden is simply just too good of an attraction to miss out on when in the region with tons of amazing sights to take in.

The Fernwood Botanical Garden is at 13988 Range Line Rd, Niles, MI 49120.

10- Get Creative At The Krasl Art Center

Opened in 1979, the Krasl Art Center is a state-of-the-art non-profit cultural hub where art lovers of all ages can browse a fine selection of high-quality artwork.

The centre sits just 28 miles (45 km) outside New Buffalo and specialises in showcasing a broad collection of sculptures and paintings across a range of both permanent and rotating exhibits.

In addition to its world-class line-up of visual art, the centre also serves as an important educational hub, hosting regular training camps and classes for artsy visitors looking to learn more about the ins and outs of creating high-end artwork.

The Krasl Art Center is at 707 Lake Blvd, St Joseph, MI 49085.

11- Hop Aboard Old Steam Locomotives At The Hesston Steam Museum

In the town of Hesston just across the Indiana state border, the Hesston Steam Museum is a fascinating Midwest attraction where you can learn all about the important role that steam-powered locomotives and machines played in building the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The venue is managed by the La Porte County Historical Society and can be found just 5 miles (8 km) outside downtown New Buffalo and exhibits a range of steam-powered trains, cranes, sawmills and traction engines to learn more about.

The Hesston Steam Museum is at 1201 E 1000 N, La Porte, IN 46350.

12- Explore The Shifting Sands Of The Indiana Dunes National Park

Sand Dunes On The Shore Of A Large Lake
Exploring Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the best things to do from New Buffalo MI.

Nestled along the southern shores of Lake Michigan about halfway between New Buffalo and Gary lies Indiana Dunes National Park, a stunning ecological area dotted with shifting dunes, open prairies, lush marshlands and dense woodlands.

The park is unlike anything else along the Great Lakes and covers an area of about 15,350 acres (6,212 ha), giving visitors plenty of room to spread out and explore this pristine Midwest outdoor attraction.

Making up roughly 20 miles (32 km) of Lake Michigan’s coastline, the national park has unblemished beaches and great birdwatching opportunities, making it more than worth the short 11-mile (18 km) drive from New Buffalo to visit.

13- Stop By the Washington Park Zoo

Peacock Perching On Wood
Visiting the Washington Park Zoo is one of the things to do near New Buffalo.

The 15-acre (6 ha) Washington Park Zoo in nearby Michigan City is a scenic animal sanctuary along the southern shores of Lake Michigan, where visitors can spot a wide array of animal species such as grizzly bears, Bengal tigers, fennec foxes and alligators.

Opened in 1928, the zoo was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 in recognition of its storied legacy and is just a stone’s throw from the Indiana Dunes National Park, making it easy to explore both destinations in one day.

The zoo is home to over 90 animal species from North America, Asia, Africa and Australia, as well as a petting zoo, where visitors can interact with and feed typical farm animals such as miniature horses, goats, donkeys and pigs.

Washington Park Zoo is at 115 Lake Shore Dr, Michigan City, IN 46360.

14- Enjoy The Blue Chip Casino

The Blue Chip Casino near downtown New Buffalo is another busy southwest Michigan casino resort where you can relax and enjoy a range of exciting dining and entertainment options.

With a casino floor space of more than 65,000 square feet (6,039 m2), the Blue Chip Casino has come a long way since first opening its doors in 1997 as a riverboat casino.

Now it has five high-end restaurants and a 22-story spa resort.

The Blue-Chip Casino is at 777 Blue Chip Dr, Michigan City, IN 46360.

15- Spend An Afternoon At The Silver Beach County Park

Famous for its wide beach, pavilion, volleyball nets and pier access, the Silver Beach County Park is a popular summertime travel destination along the shores of Lake Michigan with some of the best amenities of any Great Lakes beach in Michigan.

The park is in nearby St. Joseph and a short walk away from attractions such as the Curious Kid’s Museum and the Krasl Art Center, with lifeguards on duty during peak season to keep beach goers safe.

Silver Beach County Park is at 101 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085.

16- Join An Art Class At The Box Factory for the Arts

The Box Factory for the Arts is a unique cultural institution in southwest Michigan that’s touted as a free-to-visit art gallery, performance stage, educational centre and art shop all rolled into one convenient destination that’s just 28 miles (45 km) from New Buffalo.

Spread out across a state-of-the-art 55,000-square-foot (5,110 m2), three-story venue, the Box Factory for the Arts is near several other worthwhile St. Joseph attractions and can be easily combined with a visit to the Krasl Art Center for an art-filled day of Midwest fun.

The Box Factory for the Arts is at 1101 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085.

17- Take A Guided Tour Of The Barker Mansion

Completed in 1857 before being extensively remodelled during the early 20th century, the Barker Mansion is the epitome of Gilded Age extravagance and was built for prominent 19th-century industrialist John H. Barker and his family.

The eye-catching English Manor-style estate has been featured on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975 and has an impressive limestone façade as well as a 38-room, 10-bathroom layout.

Open to the public for tours, the Frederick Perkins-designed Barker Mansion is just across the state border in Michigan City, Indiana, and is well worth the quick 10-mile (16 km) journey from New Buffalo to experience in person.

The Barker Mansion is at 631 Washington St, Michigan City, IN 46360.

18- Go Sandboarding At Warren Dunes State Park

Warren Dunes State Park offers nature lovers the same picturesque landscapes and biodiversity as the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park without the crowds.

The park was established in 1930 and features several large shifting dunes spread out across the 1,952-acre (790 ha) state park, with the tallest rising to well over 240 feet (73 m) in height.

A popular destination for sandboarding, the Warren Dunes State Park is also a great spot for hiking and even cross-country skiing during the cold Midwestern winters, making it a proper year-round outdoor attraction.

The Warren Dunes State Park is at 12032 Red Arrow Hwy, Sawyer, MI 49125.

19- Head To Indiana For The Old Lighthouse Museum

new buffalo lighthouse
New Buffalo lighthouse.

Housed inside the former Old Michigan City Light, which was decommissioned in 1904, the Old Lighthouse Museum in Michigan City is among the most historic landmarks along Lake Michigan’s southern shores and a great place to swing by to learn more about the region’s maritime traditions.

The museum itself was established in 1973 and showcases the history of this National Register of Historic Places-listed landmark, which has been painstakingly restored to look just like it did when it first entered service in 1858.

The Old Michigan City Light is at 100 Heisman Harbor, Michigan City, IN 46360.

20- Plan A Day Trip To Chicago

Downtown Chicago Skyline Cityscape In USA
Taking a day trip to Chicago is one of the top things to do from New Buffalo MI.

Chicago is an iconic American city that needs no introduction, boasting some of the most storied districts, trendiest restaurants, quirkiest attractions and tallest high-rise buildings in the nation.

The largest city in the Midwest by quite some margin, Chicago, or the “Windy City” as it’s nicknamed, is a true bucket-list-worthy travel destination which visitors to New Buffalo can experience just 70 miles (113 km) to the west.

When planning a trip to the Windy City, be sure to check out famous Chicago staples such as traditional Deep-Dish pizza, Wrigley Field, the Chicago Theatre, the Chicago Riverwalk and the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture in the Loop’s Millennium Park.

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Mark Westwood
Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.