I grew up in a sprawling, modern split-level two blocks from the beach. When the winds get vigorous and churn up the water, you can stand outside my childhood home and hear the waves crashing and smell that sandy, watery, fishy aroma that Kramer once tried to bottle on an episode of "Seinfeld." Our beach community was a hybrid of working, middle and upper-middle class. The block where I grew up contained mostly the young families of professionals--the veterinarian on the corner, my best friend's mom the CPA with Arthur Andersen, educators like my parents--and older folks like our grandmotherly next door neighbor, Mrs. Kaminsky, who always spoke tearfully and passionately about "the old country." In the racially turbulent 70s, we were proudly a multi-cultural group; and the block and neighborhood remain so. Mine was a close-knit neighborhood, where most everybody knows everybody. Stop in the Beach Cafe on a Friday night (decor hasn't changed since 1979, but they serve the best boned-and-buttered perch you have ever had) and you're sure to run into a few old teachers, your insurance guy, a former classmate's mum. The area has a vocal and active citizens group that fights tirelessly to protect the town and its residents, and boost the local economy. I spent my childhood, riding my bike around our hilly, woodsy neighborhood, trying not to get the wheels of my Schwinn stuck in the sand. My friends and I built forts in the woods, played "road trip" and Dodge-Baseball (a sport of our own design) and lived for the newest issue of Tiger Beat magazine. Nearly 20 years since I left my hometown, most of my contemporaries are living successful and fulfilling lives, as am I.
Part of that county (Lake) is very nice. Gary is horrendous, similar to the high crime parts of Indianapolis. Look up statistics on homicides, for example.
I live in Indiana and I would never go there.
A few years ago I used to survey for one of the largest firms in Indy. As such, we traveled a good bit. One thing that I would always do would be to buy a newspaper in the city that we were working in just to see what was going on and also to get a feel for the city.
I kid you not on this one....
In the newspaper from Gary, there was an article saying how one gang felt like it was being discriminated against. The quote that I remember the most went along these lines "When we kill a member from another gang, we get first degree murder, but when they kill one of us, they only get manslaughter"
In the same newspaper there was also an article about some 6th grade students at a private Catholic school beating one of the Nuns.
Up until recent years it held rank for awhile as "Murder Capital of the U.S.". It's pretty bad. There are pockets and areas that are not so bad, of course, but there are many areas you do not want to drive through, even in daytime. When DH and I were dating we had gone to the beach and heading back home to western Lake County, IN (Gary is in eastern Lake Co.) we had to detour off the interstate for an accident. Detour took us through "downtown" Gary, main streets. Smack in broad daylight on a sunny summer afternoon stood a guy on a street corner who pulled a handgun out of his pocket and motioned with it (as one would do when talking with their hands). The few people on the corner near him didn't even blink. Scared the bejeebers out of me. Very high crime, known for political corruption, sadly gang infested. Most of the north end of Gary is industrial (heavy industry, the giants of steel mills sprawl on the L Michigan shoreline that in decades past employed generations of local families). Thanks to Mital Steel purchases lately, many are coming to life again and are not the abandoned-looking metal cities they were in the 80's>90's. Pockets of very far west end of Gary has an almost rural feel to it, as does the very far south end (known as Calumet Twp.). Many residents have southern roots, having come here to work for the steel mills one to three generations back. Up through the 60's I've heard downtown Gary was the place to shop the large department stores. Not true today, they are long gone. DH has told me there are some stately old mansions in some parts of Gary (I have an interest in architecture and love to see old homes) but he will not take me to see them, the area is too dangerous. West central Gary is home to a large I.U. campus which recently announced plans to expand. Also along the L Michigan shoreline (to the east of the mills) are some beautiful old homes situated on L Michigan.
But Gary is only a portion of Lake County, which is quite varied, from blue collar to white collar to upper level executive to farmers with expansive land. To the NW along the lake is Whiting, a quiet, qaint little blue collar town on the lake. Hammond is south of that, some parts bad, some parts not. A city. Central part of the county is standard suburban life. Munster (central west, on the IL border) has one of the best school systems in the state. Go further south to Crown Point (county seat, John Dillinger made it famous for breaking out of the jail), nice little town (although new residential construction is booming). And further south yet you will find vast farms. Not as many as there used to be due to development, but they are still there.
If you're coming to the area, there are better/safer/just as affordable places to stay than Gary.