If you’re heading to gamble at either Majestic Star or its twin—Majestic Star II—and you’re also a lover of old buildings and history, then Gary is sure to be a gold mine for you.
Oh, and some band called the Jackson 5 also originated in Gary, Indiana. So, if you’re a fan of them or the King of Pop—Michael Jackson—then you too will love all the area attractions that surround Gary, Indiana.
Now, most of what you’ll see in Gary that qualify as local attractions are historic buildings and districts. We aren’t talking about museums here, but rather, places of historic significance that made an episode or two of the hit History Channel series, Life After People.
But there are places you’ll get to experience firsthand in Gary if you need a day or two off from the casinos in Indiana. This page covers nine of the best attractions.
Indiana Dunes National Park
It’s no secret that Gary, Indiana, isn’t the most exciting place in the world. Many of the attractions you’ll find in this article more so part of history and should be viewed from a distance. However, the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park isn’t one of them.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Founded in 1966 and established as a national park in 2019, there is a good reason this location attracts over two million visitors per year.
The park contains 15 miles of beaches, 10 hiking and biking trails, sands, forests, woodland savannahs, and other forms of nature. Activities to immerse yourself in include bird watching, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, hiking, biking, running, and so much more. You name the outdoor-related activity, you’ll find it here at Indiana Dunes National Park.
So, whether sunbathing on the beach is your thing, watching the Greatest Show on Earth that includes wildlife in action along with the surrounding geology, flora, and fauna, or outdoor-related exercise, just do yourself a favor and take a trip to Indiana Dunes National Park.
Oh, and don’t forget to look across Lake Michigan, where you will find the Chicago skyline in the far distance. It is one heck of a sight to see, even if you’re not interested in venturing to the Windy City itself.
If you’re looking to take a break from the Majestic Star Casino and wish to immerse yourself in many nature and nature-related activities, Indiana Dunes National Park is where it’s happening.
US Steel Yard
The US Steel Yard is where history and sports entwine. Home of the Northern League’s Gary SouthShore RailCats, you can take a break from the slots, tables, and sportsbook to catch an exciting game of minor league baseball.
And if you’re a fan of the King of Pop, the US Steel Yard also hosted the memorial service for Michael Jackson on July 10th, 2009. 6,000 fans of the king gathered at the venue to attend the service.
Michael Jackson’s Childhood Home
And if you’re a fan of Jackson, the Jackson 5, Janet Jackson, and other singers from the legendary Jackson family, you must make a trip to Jackson’s childhood home at 2300 Jackson Street.
The Jackson family moved to the two-bedroom home back in 1950 from their roots in East Chicago, Indiana. And if 2300 Jackson Street rings a bell in your mind, the address served as the title of a song that the family recorded back in 1989.
So, get off the riverboat casinos for an hour and venture to the street that Michael Jackson called home throughout his childhood in and into his adult years. You’re looking at a significant building which you can place a winning wager that will grace the list as a National Historic Landmark in the near future.
One of the latest additions to the US National Register of Historic Places, you might recognize Union Station on a former hit TV series Life After People.
Keep reading, because in the next two sections, you’ll find a complete list of buildings on the national register, plus a list of historic districts that have also earned a spot on the register as well.
Again, do not enter these buildings, as most aren’t fit for visitation. But as mentioned, if you tend to obsess over old structures, then Gary, Indiana, is a goldmine for exploration.
The Historic Districts
Okay, so your historic districts include the Van Buren Terrace Historic District, West Fifth-Avenue Apartments Historic District, the Gary City Center Historic District, Jackson-Monroe Terrace Historic District, Jefferson Street Historic District, and Horace Mann Historic District.
You’ll find distinct architecture in each of these districts that include Edison Concept Designs, Colonial Revival, Gothic Revival, Commercial Style, and Renaissance Revival. Most of these buildings are also approaching or have approached the century mark in age.
So, like Union Station, if you enjoy classic architectural designs plus buildings that have left imprints of Gary’s heyday, then these are worth venturing off to explore. And also like Union Station, many of these buildings are not inhabitable, so keep your distance here and by no means should you try to find a way inside.
Historic Places on the National Register
If you visit and conduct substantial research, you could probably write a book on all of Gary’s historic buildings and districts, because it probably has a higher percentage of them than any other city in the United States.
Other than Union Station that had a section to itself because of its appearance on Life After People, what else will you find here?
As mentioned, a few times in this article, Gary is the place for you if you’re in love with older buildings. Their interiors and exteriors tell a story you won’t find anywhere else.
US Steel’s Gary Works
Yet another building that tells a story of how successful Gary, Indiana once was is US Steel’s Gary Works. Operated by the US Steel Corporation, this was once the largest steel mill in the world, and it’s still the largest integrated steel mill in North America.
While Gary Works is long past its prime, much like the city of Gary itself, it remains the town’s largest employer and an integral part of the city’s geography.
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, this mill is a fantastic place to glimpse what made Gary one of the most prosperous cities in the Rust Belt for so many years.
Genesis Convention Center
Okay, enough with the old and abandoned buildings. What else will you find of worth in Gary if you’re taking a day off the gaming floor at Majestic Star and Majestic Star II?
Well, the Genesis Convention Center is still alive and well. It’s the home of banquets, trade shows, sporting events, weddings, and more. Heck, it’s probably the heartbeat of Gary here in the modern era.
But if the live entertainment over at Majestic Star isn’t cutting it when you’re not on the floor, head over to the Gary Convention Center and you may find a trade show or event to your liking.
Lake Michigan Activities
Another reason to get excited over Gary is the presence of Lake Michigan. Of course, the Majestic Star and Majestic Star II provide reason enough to get excited. But if you’re here in the late spring, summer, or early fall, then you can get engaged in several activities on the lake.
Sure, you can attend one of its many beaches and sunbathe as if you’re on the Atlantic or Pacific Coast. Or, you can go for a run along the beach, dine at some of the best seafood options in town, water-ski, fish, and more.
While it’s not quite the Atlantic or Pacific Coast, just staring out into the blue waters will make you think and feel otherwise.
So, take the day off from the nonstop real money slots and table action at the Majestic Stars and discover Lake Michigan for yourself.
As you can see, Gary has something for everyone, even if it’s not a hot spot for the arts and culture scene. But again, if you love historic sites and buildings (even if you can’t go into them), then Gary should be a town that’s hot on your list.
However, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do outside the Majestic Star and Majestic Star II if you’re into nature. Indiana Dunes National Park and Lake Michigan itself has you covered.
Have you taken time to visit the Majestic Star and Majestic Star II? If so, did you visit any of the attractions listed above? Share your experiences in the comments section.