15 Best Things to Do in Valparaiso, IN

Valparaiso, IN
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Among the hundreds of cities in Indiana and located within Porter County is the city of Valparaiso.

Found along the ancient Native American trail from Rock Island to Detroit, Valparaiso started as Portersville in 1836 before gaining its name in 1837 in honor of the area, where David Porter, the county's namesake, took part in the Battle of Valparaiso.

Currently, the city holds a population of 34,431 and spans 42.37 square kilometers in size.

You'll find that there is plenty for you to explore in this city.

From historical spots to fun attractions, there is a diverse set of options available for you in Valparaiso.

Bearing that in mind, here are the 15 best things to do in Valparaiso:

See the Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest

Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest
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The Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest is a site that had its start in the 1990s and grew from 72 acres to 360 acres of land over the years.

Currently, there are various features and programs you can check out at this nature preserve.

For nature enthusiasts, you can find different landscapes, gardens, and wildlife throughout the area, along with trails for you to stroll or hike through.

One of the unique features you can find at this preserve is a railway model set upon one of the gardens.

Unfortunately, you can only see that specific sight from May to the end of October.

Aside from the different sights featured throughout the preserve, there is a selection of programs, tours, and classes you can take as well.

You can book your choice of a program online or find the preserve in the 100 North area.

Enjoy Thrills and Games at Zao Island

If you're looking for some excitement, you need to visit Zao Island.

Zao Island is an entertainment center that offers no shortage of facilities, ranging from arcades to rides for you to enjoy.

Located on Horse Prairie Avenue and open every day of the week, you'll find plenty to do when visiting this entertainment center.

Some of the games and facilities you can enjoy at Zao Island include go-karts and laser tags.

You can also check out the alligator exhibit and have a look at one of the many alligators roaming around.

After having your fill of fun, you can take a break over at the center's restaurant area and grab a bite.

You can even enjoy a drink of unique beer and other beverages if you are interested.

Whatever you choose to do at Zao Island, you're sure to get a great experience.

Have Fun with Recreational Activities at the Sunset Hill Farm County Park

Get even more fun activities by checking out the Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

The Sunset Hill Farm County Park is a park you can find at Meridian Road and features various sights and facilities for you to explore.

It was in 1934 that the park had its start as a farm.

Then, in 1972, due to the owner passing away, it became a public location for people to visit.

When visiting the park today, you can find several trails and locations to hike through or check out the campgrounds for a night under the stars.

If you are interested in the programs held at the park, you'll find a selection of options relating to nature and other outdoor activities.

You can even check out the park's social media page to see how the farm animals are doing.

With this location, you'll find plenty to do with the outdoors.

Listen to a Performance at the Memorial Opera House

Brick arch and main entrance of Memorial Opera House
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the different historical structures in Los Olivos is the Memorial Opera House.

The opera house, also known as the Porter County Memorial Opera Hall, is a structure that has been around since 1892 and opened its doors to many prominent figures.

Unfortunately, due to the rise of films and World War II, the opera hall went through a decline.

Turret windows of Memorial Opera House
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fortunately, it ended up getting picked up again in 1955 and receiving a restoration in 1998.

Currently, you can book a ticket for various shows held at the hall throughout the year.

More than the shows you can watch or volunteer for, you'll find that the Memorial Opera House holds its share of stories, including paranormal ones.

Either way, you're sure to find your fill of the arts and history by visiting this location.

Explore Nature at Shirley Heinze Land Trust

For some more natural sights, consider visiting the Shirley Heinze Land Trust.

At the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, you can discover various wildlife and areas open for exploration.

Spanning nearly three thousand acres in size and featuring different ecosystems, the land trust is an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts to check out.

The land trust has been around for forty-plus years and hosts various preserves.

When it comes to visiting the different areas available in the land, you'll find that the existing ecosystems you can discover include prairies, forests, and more.

You can find this land trust by heading to the 109 West area.

Test Yourself at Espionage Escape Rooms

Anyone who is a fan of puzzles needs to check out the Espionage Escape Rooms.

As the name implies, Espionage Escape Rooms is an escape room center that you can find at Marks Road.

The company first started in 2017 and currently features different rooms and themes to immerse yourself.

A fun feature of the center is that you also get the option to don props and costumes and take photos at the end of your game.

All rooms take around an hour to solve, and you can book your session online or contact the staff for your ticket purchase.

Immerse in History at the Porter County Museum

Side view exterior of the the Porter County Museum
Kmpazour, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located within the former Porter County Jail & Sheriff's Residence is the Porter County Museum.

Featuring a selection of artifacts and memorabilia depicting local history and culture, the museum has been around since 1975 and under the management of the PoCo Muse Foundation (formerly the Porter County Historical Society).

Front door entrance of the Porter County Museum
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The building, which you can find on Indiana Avenue, is a structure that has been around since 1871 and currently retains most of its original design.

If you are interested in touring the location, you need to submit a request online.

Aside from all this, you can check out the other sites managed by the PoCo Muse Foundation or have a listen to their podcast.

Indulge in Wine and Entertainment at the Anderson's Winery and Vineyard

Among the different local delights you can try, Anderson's Winery and Vineyard is an ideal spot to try local drinks.

At Anderson's Winery and Vineyard, you can enjoy a selection of alcoholic blends to try.

When visiting this venue, you can also check out different facilities.

These facilities include a tasting room and picnic area, where you can enjoy a selection of treats.

Aside from all this, you have the option of booking the vineyard for events and parties.

To visit this venue, you need to head over to Highway 6.

Go Boating at Rogers Lakewood Park

While there are plenty of natural sights open for exploration throughout Valparaiso, there are also spots where you can enjoy some relaxation and beautiful views.

One such spot for relaxation is Rogers Lakewood Park.

At Rogers Lakewood Park, you can find plenty of facilities to enjoy outdoor activities, such as biking and picnicking.

Aside from the general outdoor activities, the park also offers you options for boating and sledding.

As a location spanning 122 acres in size, you can plenty to enjoy at this park, which you can find at North Campbell Street.

Experience the 49er Drive-In Theatre

Movie titles at 49er Drive-In Theatre
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy a blast from the past by making a stop at the 49er Drive-In Theatre.

Known as one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the country, the 49er Drive-In Theatre is an ideal spot for a fun and unique experience.

You'll find that the theater has been around for over six decades now and still sits at North Calumet Avenue.

The theater generally opens during the evening and delivers a first-come, first-serve service with parking spaces.

Another fun thing you can enjoy at the theater is two films for the price of one.

By visiting this location, you get the chance to experience something both old and new.

Grab a Beer at the Four Fathers Brewing LLC

The Four Fathers Brewing LLC is an ideal spot for anyone who likes to indulge in beers.

Located on Bowmans Drive, the Four Fathers Brewing LLC has been around for nearly ten years.

When visiting this brewery, you can enjoy a selection of ales and other beer variations that circle throughout the week.

If you want to get a full scope of the blends available at the Four Fathers Brewing LLC, you'll want to check out their taproom.

While it may seem like a simple drinking space to visit, you're sure to get your fill of beer options at this location.

Take a Break at Butterfly Meadows & Caterpillar Crossing

Another place where you can take a break from exploring the city is Butterfly Meadows & Caterpillar Crossing.

Butterfly Meadows & Caterpillar Crossing is a park you can find over at North Campbell Street, and it features a selection of facilities for you and any little ones with you to enjoy.

Aside from the picnic spaces and play areas you can check out, the park also has an interactive learning station for the kids.

Compared to other parks, the Butterfly Meadows & Caterpillar Crossing is the best spot for families to enjoy a break.

Check Out the Central Park Plaza

Name sign and street at Central Park Plaza
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Head over to Central Park Plaza and enjoy yourself in a hub of activities and events.

The Central Park Plaza was once a parking lot before transforming into an open space where various events and shows occur.

Spanning over 2 acres in size, you can visit the plaza by making your way to Lafayette Street.

A few things you can enjoy at this location include a farmer's market and stage performances.

You'll also find that the plaza hosts seasonal facilities.

The plaza is the best place to visit if you want to find various options to try.

Revisit History at the Brauer Museum of Art

For those interested in art, visit the Brauer Museum of Art.

You can find the museum within the Valparaiso University and peruse through various artworks.

These artworks include pieces done in the 19th century and works involving American and Midwestern art, to name a few.

When it comes to visiting this museum, there are specific hours when it is open and tours you can take.

If you miss your chance to book a tour, you can find other tour options available online along with other programs.

You'll find that the Brauer Museum of Art is a prime spot for exploring a combination of art and history.

Enjoy the Nature Features at the Meadowbrook Nature Preserve

While there are plenty of parks available in Valparaiso, each park has its share of charm.

With the Meadowbrook Nature Preserve, you can find miles-long trails and other features like the streams for you to explore.

While it is not as prominent compared to other parks, it does offer something unique.

For one thing, you can enjoy a bundle of wildflower fields during the spring season.

Another thing you can find at this location is the chance to see migrating bats.

If you're looking for a more laidback outdoor exploration, you can visit this park by heading over to the northwest section of the city.

Final Thoughts

The city of Valparaiso offers a variety of options for you to explore.

With options that range from diving into history to having fun at entertainment spaces, there are plenty of things you can choose to do.

Some of the more prominent things you can choose to do in this city include checking out historical structures with fun activities and exploring nature spaces.

By visiting Valparaiso, you can find plenty of spots for interesting experiences.