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Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center, Three Rivers County Park, 2800 Colorado St, Lake Station. 219.963.2070. mybellaboos.com. This colorful and imaginative facility features 23,000 square feet of hands-on activities, including a block play and construction zone, face painting and dress-up, an art studio, water table, climbing structure, slides, ball pit, a room for toddlers and infants, a Wi-Fi café and much more.
Challenger Learning Center, Purdue University Calumet, 2300 173rd St, Hammond. 219.989.3250. clcnwi.com. This center nurtures excitement about space through missions, voyages and other creative programs.
The Courts of Northwest Indiana, 127 E US Hwy 6, Valparaiso. 219.465.1111. thecourtsofnwi.com. This 60,000-square-foot sports complex features four basketball courts and three tennis courts. It is open to the public and offers youth and adult leagues, camps and programs.
Crown Point Family Fun Center, 1301 Merrillville Rd, Crown Point. 219.663.3663. cpfun.com. This Mardi Gras-themed family fun center features go-karts, mini golf, batting and soccer cages outside and an arcade inside, with new games such as Deal or No Deal and classic games like Skee Ball and basketball. Also, available for rent is a 55-foot-tall air dome that may be configured for soccer, baseball, softball or golf team training.
Fair Oaks Farms, 856 N 600 E, Fair Oaks. 877.536.1194. fofarms.com. Families can visit this family owned, heartland dairy to take a tour of the dairy barn, the Birthing Barn, and the cheese factory. Other fun features include a 4-D theater, a Dairy Fun Room with interactive activities, and more.
Jean Shepherd Community Center, 3031 J. F. Mahoney Dr, Hammond. 219.554.0155. gohammond.com. Covering 30,000 square feet, this center features three full basketball courts and an indoor track. Volleyball may be played in the center court. Soccer is also a popular sport at this center, and a variety of other activities are offered.
Portage 16 IMAX, 6550 US Highway 6, Portage. 219.764.7469. gqti.com. With crystal-clear images and digital surround sound, IMAX provides an up-close-and-personal film experience.
Adler Planetarium, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 312.922.STAR. adlerplanetarium.org. Children will love Fly Me to the Moon, a 3-D space show in the planetarium’s recently renovated Universe Theater. After the film, families can visit the Adler’s most popular permanent exhibition, Shoot for the Moon, which features the fully restored Gemini 12 spacecraft.
Albanese Candy Factory and Outlet Store, 5441 E Lincoln Hwy, Merrillville. 219.947.3070. albaneseconfectionery.com. At this factory, families have the opportunity to watch the creation of gummies and chocolates and admire a tall chocolate waterfall. An immense selection of unique and tasty treats is also available for purchase.
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E Grand Ave, #127, Chicago, Ill. 312.527.1000. chicagochildrensmuseum.org. The museum provides an outlet where children can learn and play at the same time. Children gain physical, social and emotional development, further linguistic abilities and exercise creativity.
Curious Kids Museum, 415 Lake Blvd, St. Joseph, Mich. 269.983.CKID. curiouskidsmuseum.org. This museum is an interactive, hands-on discovery center dedicated to stimulating curiosity and awareness in the areas of science and technology, history, culture and human perception. Exhibits include Awesome Apple Orchard, Body Works and Simple Machines. The museum also offers workshops and camps. For children of all ages.
DuPage Children’s Museum, 301 N Washington St, Naperville, Ill. 630.637.8000. dupagechildrensmuseum.org. This interactive three-floor museum offers fun and hands-on activities, and encourages children and adults to play and learn together with exhibits, creative activities and special events.
The Field Museum, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 312.922.9410. fieldmuseum.org. The museum offers a permanent exhibit about nature, cultures, Africa and the ancient Americas. For children, the museum now provides the Crown Family Play Lab. Children may dig up dinosaur bones, wear an animal costume and more.
Kohl Children’s Museum, 2001 Patriot Blvd, Glenview, Ill. 847.832.6600. kohlchildrensmuseum.org. Because they believe that young children learn best through play, Kohl Children’s Museum’s mission is to “create exemplary, developmentally appropriate hands-on educational experiences for young children in a fun, intimate environment.” Designed for children ages birth to 8, exhibits range in themes from art and pets, to groceries and music.
Museum of Science and Industry, 57th St & Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 773.684.1414. msichicago.org. Visitors may enjoy the following exhibits: The Great Train Story, Ships through the Ages, Farm Tech and much more. The museum also features online and new exhibits and Omnimax and 3-D theaters.
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, Ill. 312.939.2438. sheddaquarium.org. With more than 8,000 aquatic animals, the Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world. The public may now see six exhibits featuring sharks, penguins, dolphins, anacondas, turtles, lizards and more.
3 Under Par Golf Center, 1504 N Main St, Crown Point. 219.663.6371. This golf center, which includes a driving range and golf simulator, offers a junior program to provide youngsters with an opportunity to experience the game of golf and learn its rules.
49er Drive-in Theatre, 675 Calumet Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.6122. 49erdrivein.com. Known as one of America’s top 10 drive-in theaters, this nostalgic destination offers great double features, plus a top-notch concession stand.
Blast Camp Paintball, 563 W 600 N, Hobart. 219.947.7733. blastcamp.com. Chicagoland’s longest-running and most unique paintball field is located on a retired Army base from the Cold War, complete with a mess hall, communications room, barracks and various other buildings which are free game to paintballers. With expanded hours, field upgrades and more big games, this is the place to have the ultimate game of paintball in Northwest Indiana.
Cedar Creek Family Golf Center, 10483 W. 109th Avenue, Cedar Lake. 219.365.2902. lakecountyparks.com. This 18 hole miniature golf course is surrounded with a water fall and two creeks. It is used for group activities, birthday parties, and family outings. This golf course has something for every member of the family to enjoy and is lite outside for night games.
Deep River County Park, call for locations. 219.945.0543. lakecountyparks.com. The park features a historic mill, visitor center and water park. The park covers more than 1,200 acres on both the south and north side of U.S. Highway 30. The park offers barbeque facilities, historical buildings, art exhibits and more.
Gary SouthShore RailCats, US Steel Yard, One Stadium Plaza, Gary. 219.882.2255. railcatsbaseball.com. America’s favorite pastime is celebrated throughout the spring and summer in the heart of Gary as the independent RailCats compete for a Northern League Championship. Fireworks Fridays, Souvenir Saturdays and individual tickets no more than $10 each combine to make this an affordable and fun warm weather option.
Gibson Woods Nature Preserve, 6201 Parrish Ave, Hammond. 219.945.0543. lakecountyparks.com. Once a sand dune ecosystem created by Lake Michigan, this nature preserve is now a strip of wooded sand dunes and small wetlands. Visitors may enjoy the hiking trails, environmental awareness center and gift shop.
Hammond Lakefront Park and Bird Sanctuary, between the Hammond Marina and Commonwealth Edison Power Plant, 219.945.0543. hammondindiana.com/lakefront.html. Known as the “migrant trap,” this sanctuary attracts a variety of different birds during migration. Viewers have sighted Le Conte’s sparrows, Connecticut warblers and northern goshawks among other species.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 219.926.7561. nps.gov/indu. The beautiful shores of Lake Michigan offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor family fun, including bird watching, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, boating and more.
Inman’s Fun and Party Center, 3201 E Evans Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.1300. inmansvalpo.com. Visitors can enjoy bowling, billiards, bean bags, an arcade and food from Panhandler’s Pizza. Sandy Harbor, Inman’s outside attraction park, offers a mini-golf course, go-karts, and bumper boats.
Lake Etta County Park, 7am-sunset daily, 4801 W 29th Ave, Gary. 219.945.0543. Lake Etta offers special programs on weekdays. Fishing, swimming, playground and shelter areas make this park a popular area. During the summer, visitors may rent paddleboats. Hiking and jogging trails and recreational equipment rental are also available.
Lemon Lake, 7am-sunset daily, 6322 W 133rd Ave, Crown Point. 219.945.0543. This park offers jogging trails, fishing, recreational equipment rental and more.
Millennium Park, 6am-11pm, 55 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, Ill. 312.742.5222. millenniumpark.org. Millennium Park offers fun for the entire family with an outdoor concert venue, the interactive Crown Fountain, the Cloud Gate sculpture, gardens and more.
Oak Ridge Prairie, 7am-sunset daily, 301 S Colfax St, Griffith. 219.769.7275. lakecountyparks.com. Visitors may enjoy fishing, jogging and other recreational activities on open fields. Barbeque facilities available.
Rogers-Lakewood Park, 5502 Campbell St, Valparaiso. 219.462.5144. valparaisoparks.org. The area’s only disc golf course can be found at Rogers-Lakewood along with traditional activities that include hiking, fishing, swimming and boating. Discovery Day Camps, Discovery Teams course and the Flounder Skate Park provide plenty of options for families to have fun.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, 10600 Wicker Ave, St. John. 219.365.6010. shrineofchristspassion.org. Visitors will experience the Passion of Christ as never before along this interactive half-mile winding pathway that features 40 life-size bronze statues.
Six Flags Great America, 542 N Rte 21, Gurnee. 847.249.4636. sixflags.com. Featuring dozens of roller coaster rides that range from mild to max in thrill ratings, plus a huge water park, this attraction provides fun for all ages. Special events and entertainment also draw crowds.
South Bend SilverHawks, Coveleski Stadium, 501 W South St, South Bend. 574.235.9988. silverhawks.com. This single A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks provides the opportunity to see future MLB stars before they make it big. The “Cove” offers an intimate location to watch a ballgame at a reasonable cost.
Stoney Run County Park, 7am-sunset daily, 142nd & Union St, Leroy. 219.769.PARK. lakecountyparks.com. Located in southeast Lake County, this park features 316 acres of tranquil woodlands, ponds and open meadows. Visitors may enjoy miles of hiking, cross-country skiing and perimeter trails. This park also features playgrounds, picnic shelters, barbeque grills, fishing, open play fields and recreational equipment.
Taltree Arboretum, 450 W 100 N, Valparaiso. 219.462.0025. taltree.org. Trained docents offer nature hikes through the woodlands, wetlands and prairie and can incorporate special activities that include Bird & Worms, the Web of Life and Deadly Links.
Three Rivers County Park, 2600 Nevada St, Lake Station. 219.945.0543. lakecountyparks.com. Located on the Gary/Lake Station border, this park provides a setting for both recreational and educational opportunities. The park includes Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center, barbeque facilities, jogging trails, open play fields, and more.
Tower Park, 1000 Franklin St, Valparaiso. 219.462.5144. valparaisoparks.org. This park provides basketball hoops, tennis courts, a youth baseball field, a playground made entirely from recycled plastic, and a picnic area.
Washington Park Zoo, 10am-5pm daily, 115 Lakeshore Dr, Michigan City. 219.873.1510. washingtonparkzoo.com. See lions, tigers and bears close to home at this Michigan City zoo. Situated on 15 acres on top of a hilly sand dune close to the lake, this zoo is home to more than 200 animals.
Whihala Beach County Park, 10am-6pm daily, 1561 Park Rd, Whiting. 219.945.0543. lakecountyparks.com. Covering 21 acres, Whihala Beach offers a pleasant beachfront for bird watchers, swimmers, boaters and sightseers. This park provides the following amenities: boat launch, fishing, food concessions, jogging trails, picnic tables, toilets and more.
Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek Rd, Portage. 219.762.1675. ci.portage.in.us. This 64-acre regional park provides a community center, a skate park, a softball field, a gymnasium, natural areas, playgrounds and a war memorial.
Zao Island, 1050 Horse Prairie Ave, Valparaiso. 219.462.1194. zaoisland.net. Filled with fun, this location offers a game room, miniature golfing, go karts, batting cages, a wild wave slide and more.