Even in late fall, with just wisps of leaves remaining on bare branches and winds sometimes chill and sharp, there’s still plenty to do in Northwest Indiana for families on the go. Depending on the activities, it’s all in the way you dress.
Layer up and head to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The only summer camp built by U.S. Steel Company for its employees' children and once known as the U.S. Steel's Gary Works Good Fellow Club, the area encompasses nine historic buildings on 63 acres of woods the banks of the Little Calumet River. Operated by the National Park since 1976, it is the site of the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center. Parents and children can join a ranger in the Visitor Center's activity room for Kids Rule! stories and activities every Sunday from 1-3 p.m. FYI: (219) 926-7561; nps.gov/indu
Warm clothes are necessary if you’re going to hit the trail at Stateline Stables, four miles southeast of New Buffalo in LaPorte, Ind. These guided trail rides are offered year round, seven days a week by appointment. Package rates are available and for children ages 2-10 under 75 pounds, there’s a miniature trail pony rides. No experience is necessary and the horses are well trained. The 45-minute ride traverses meandering paths through the woods, down into a ravine and includes crossing several bridges. Lessons are available for those who want to practice their horsemanship skills before venturing out. FYI: (219) 778-9020; statelinestables.com
Put on an apron and bake some cookies at Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center where the Bellaboo Bakers aka kids, provided with cookie cut-outs and rolling pins, can learn to bake My Size Pumpkin Pies with Ms. Pumpkin. The class is offered November 4 -29 on weekdays at 3:45pm. Limited availability so show up early. FYI: 219-963-2070; MyBellaboos.com.
Lace up your ice skates and expend some calories when the season starts the day after Thanksgiving at Deep River Waterpark’s 14,500 square foot Deep River Ice Plaza with its food stands, heated bathrooms and U.S. 30 Surf Shop where ice skate rentals are available. Girls should bring their dolls for Snowflake Skate. Learn a routine from the Snowflake Skater, make a craft, munch on pizza, pop and cookies, pose for a group photos (dolls included) and be the star at the party’s finale performance. Saturday, Dec. 14 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. FYI: deepriverwaterpark.com
Decorating their holiday tree naturally is a long time tradition at Gibson Woods Nature Preserve so stop by their Environmental Awareness Center on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 1-3 p.m. Learn how to make ornaments using acorns, pinecones, seedpods, dried materials and other finds of nature while holiday music plays. Create one for the Gibson Woods holiday tree and one to take home too. Register for this free program at (219) 844-3188.
See Santa arrive at noon in a vintage Ford Model T Car and then get ready to board the Candy Cane Express at Hesston Steam Museum on the first two weekends in December. The winter train ride in a first-class enclosed coach includes hot cocoa and a visit with Santa in his red caboose. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for the U.S. Marine Corps. Toys for Tots toy drive and receive one free train ride. Train rides from noon-5, no reservations needed. The museum opens at 11:30 a.m. FYI: (219) 872-5055; hesston.org/