It’s funny how no matter where you live, it’s easy to overlook the great things to do within your own local area. Opting instead for the lure of the big city, all-the-while thinking “there is nothing to do around here.”
We moved to Northwest Indiana in 2007 because it offered a quiet oasis away from the Chicago suburbs where we previously lived. A slower pace. A more laid-back lifestyle and an old-fashioned outlook on life. On the surface it appears boring, but the reality is that while Northwest Indiana may appear to sit in Chicago’s very big shadow, you would actually never run out of things to do here.
Picking my top 10 things to do in Northwest Indiana wasn’t easy. There is so much to do, from amusement parks to beaches to museums, it really depends upon your interests and the things your family likes to do. But there are always some standouts, and these 10 places reflect some of my favorite things to do, and even include a couple of my favorite places to eat. Because we all have to eat.
Indiana Beach Amusement Resort
Indiana Beach Amusement Resort is built on a peninsula on beautiful Lake Shafer in Monticello, IN. It is located about halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis and for most of us in Northwest Indiana you can do it as a day trip, or rent a hotel room or cabin or stake a tent in the campground and make a full blown vacation out of it. Both a beach-front water park and land-based amusement park, Indiana Beach is such a great family friendly adventure. The main boardwalk parallels the lake and for those who are more adventurous, there is zip lining, rock climbing and more available at Adventure Point.
Taltree Arboretum & Gardens
Taltree is an arboretum set on restored wetlands, prairie and woods and includes 4 miles of hiking trails. An oasis of sorts that lets you quietly connect with nature, take in an outdoor concert or even bring your dog for a hike. Kids can experience bridges over wetlands, search for native wildlife and will likely spend a lot of time checking out the award-winning Railway Garden – an entire miniature railway city built to delight the kid in all of us. The pace of this place is such a welcome change and picnicking is encouraged so you can make a day out of it. Taltree admission is free on the first Tuesday of every month. Affordable admission fees go to support the restoration, conservation and education initiatives of Taltree, so it’s well worth it.
A Christmas Story Comes Home
“A Christmas Story” is one of the most classic Christmas movies ever. Fans of the movie may know that it was based upon author Jean Shepherd’s experiences growing up in Hammond, Indiana which is in the heart of Northwest Indiana. “A Christmas Story” Comes Home is a seasonal exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond. This holiday season it will run from Nov. 8, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015. The exhibit recreates scenes from the movie, allows for photo ops (including a life-sized Flick and the flagpole statue) and really brings nostalgia for the movie to life and is a great opportunity to experience the movie with your kids in a fun way.
Buckley Homestead is a living history farm located in Lowell, Indiana. The homestead has preserved the historic traditions and farm lifestyle of the 19th & early 20th centuries allowing for you to learn about local history and experience early farm life for yourself. The Homestead is also the home of the Calumet Astronomy Center which has public star gazing programs throughout the year. This historically rich farm also offers hayrides, hiking trails, picnic shelters, and a barn with farm animals. Buckley lets you experience a farm of years past and is a great learning experience for kids. They also do an annual Civil War re-enactment which I have heard is a lot of fun but have not experienced first-hand.
Meyer’s Castle Restaurant
Meyer’s Castle is a restaurant in the former home of Joseph Ernest Meyer who was one of Hammond, Indiana’s first millionaires. It was built as a replica of a Scottish castle that Meyer had once seen and now serves as a wedding reception hall and an Argentine Rodizio’s style steakhouse. The food is good, but pricey, but the ambiance is pretty fantastic. It is family-friendly in many way, but if your kids are picky eaters, this is one you might want to visit on date-night. We took our kids and had a great time.
Washington Park Zoo
Michigan City, IN
Washington Park Zoo is a small zoo located in Michigan City, IN. It was founded in 1928 and sits on 15 acres of sand dunes near Lake Michigan. Zoo admission is very affordable and it features Bengal tigers, alligators, bears, kangaroos and more. There are actually 90 species living in the zoo and they are dedicated to educating people about the value and wonder of life on this planet. The smaller size of this zoo makes it an ideal outing for kids. They won’t get as tired of walking around like they would at a large zoo but they still get to experience a large variety of wildlife from a vantage point that is a lot closer up.
Gary SouthShore RailCats Baseball
The Gary RailCats are a minor league baseball team that call the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary their home. The ballpark is recognized as one of the best minor league stadiums in the country, and is affordable and very family-friendly. Watching a RailCats game makes you feel like you are a part of the action, and much closer to the game than in a professional stadium. Not all knocking our beloved White Sox and Cubbies, the an outing at the U.S. Steel Yard is affordable and right in our own back yard.
Marti’s Place at Ramsey’s Landing
Marti’s Place is a bit out of the way depending upon where you are in Northwest Indiana, but it’s setting on the Kankakee River, makes it worth the extra drive. We first visited during the Christmas season and we delighted at the extensive holiday decorating inside. Marti’s has been in business over 30 years, and has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. The food is good, the prices are affordable and the service was great. The off-the-beaten-path ambiance was unique and made for a memorable dining experience.
Lake County Fair
Crown Point, IN
The Lake County Fair is held at the Lake County Fairground in Crown Point, Indiana. The fair is part agriculture exhibit, part carnival part grandstand, but is all about the fun. Kids can spend the day and night with an all-access wristband riding all of the rides, visiting the livestock barns, watching horse competitions, Monster Truck shows, fireworks and more. Oh and food. Lots and lots of food. For 10 days every August, the entire county can be found visiting the fair at least once.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion
St. John, IN
Anyone with an interest in the life of Christ will not want to miss this incredible place. The Shrine of Christ’s Passion is a half-mile trail that takes you on a journey through the life of Christ. The trail is interactive full of statues and opportunity for quiet reflection, including a 33′ stainless steel statue of Mary, Jesus’ mother. It might be a bit too peaceful of an activity for small children, but older children should be able to appreciate this meditative and educational garden trail. The shrine also has an amazing gift shop and is open 365 days per year. There is no admission charge to visit.
Northwest Indiana really does have a lot to offer its residents and is a great place to raise a family. While you certainly won’t run out of things to do in the area, it’s nice to know that Chicago is a mere 60 minutes away or so, and Indianapolis is around 2 hours away. We are 45 minutes from beautiful beaches at the Indiana Dunes and there are so many different different cultural and entertainment options available for families. If you are moving to Northwest Indiana, Cablemover.com can help you get setup with phone, internet and cable, and help you find the best deals in the area.I originally wrote this article as part of a campaign for CableMover.com on their blog. I had a lot of fun with the article so I wanted to share it here as well. To see it on their blog you can visit: CableMover.com.