15 Best Things to Do in Lake County, IN

Lake County, IN

Lake County, Indiana, is home to over 500,000 inhabitants, making it the second most populous county in the state.

This county spans over 1,623 square kilometers, with Crown Point as its county seat.

Its other major cities include Merrillville, Hammond, Whiting, Cedar Lake, and Gary.

I recently explored Lake County and can attest that this Indiana region is full of surprises.

I saw its vibrant mixture of diverse urban, rural, and suburban cities and towns.

Also, I discovered plenty of exciting things to do in Lake County, Indiana, for a lone traveler, a group, or a family.

I enjoyed hiking, sightseeing, and swimming along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Of course, those are just a few things I enjoyed there.

So, here's a carefully-curated list of the things to do in Lake County, Indiana, for everyone's reference.

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the county for yourself.

Join Locals Celebrate the Annual Pierogi Fest

Traditional dancers at the Pierogi Fest
Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

The annual Pierogi Fest in Whiting is one of Lake County, if not Indiana's biggest festivals.

This annual festival has happened since the early 1990s and is held every July.

It was founded by co-founders Tom Dabertin, Marty Dybel, and Darlene Beerling.

They conceptualized celebrating Whiting's unique cultural heritage.

Whiting, in particular, has its own long and storied history.

Dancers at the Pierogi Fest
Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

So, I didn't miss the chance to celebrate this unique festival with the locals.

It was a unique experience after witnessing a one-of-a-kind festival that combines a diverse cultural background originating in Eastern Europe.

I joined over a hundred thousand visitors and enjoyed various food from vendors.

Pierogi Festival also has a carnival, colorful parades, contests, pageants, and other exciting activities I witnessed.

I also enjoyed watching the Pierogi Parade, the song festival, and the Pierogi Eating Contest.

A musician at the Pierogi Fest
Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

Be Amused at the Mascot Hall of Fame

Mascot Hall of Fame is a popular tourist attraction in Whiting that I visited upon arriving at Lake County.

This place is home to over a dozen iconic mascots everyone sees on television, a sports arena, or a theme park.

My experience visiting this place was a wholesome experience, perfect also for the entire family.

It had a fun and sporty appeal wherein we could engage in interactive games and activities entertaining everyone.

During my visit there, I always thought of kids because I can guarantee they'll have a blast there.

One of its most exciting activities is the Build-a-Bear workshop.

Meanwhile, fans like me were left in awe seeing their favorite sports team mascots up close.

These mascots range from various leagues, both pro and amateur.

So, remember to put the Mascot Hall of Fame at the top of the list of itineraries!

Play Games at the Harvest Tyme Family Farm

Harvest Tyme Family Farm in Lowell is another attraction I find perfect for the family.

This place is open year-round, but most people visit it during the Fall and Christmas seasons for its in-season activities and events.

Like the Mascot Hall of Fame, I can attest that this place has many interactive and fun-filled activities, especially for kids.

During my visit there, I watched kids engage in fun-filled games while learning about prehistoric creatures, such as its larger-than-life dinosaur sculptures were fun.

Also, I checked out its carnival area, petting zoo, playground, and 1930s carousel, giving me nostalgic vibes.

Of course, I didn't miss Harvest Tyme Family Farm's signature farm games.

These farm games I enjoyed include pumpkin picking, corn mazes, and other barn games, making it a must-visit attraction.

Whether it's Thanksgiving, Halloween, or Christmas, this attraction has something exciting for everyone.

Experience Farm Life at the County Line Orchard

Apple cider signage at the County Line Orchard
Matthew Dicker / Shutterstock.com

The County Line Orchard in Hobart immerses me in the relaxing and fun-filled farm life.

This orchard lets me enjoy farm-related activities like pumpkin harvesting, apple picking, and hayrides.

Also, I didn't miss running through its corn maze.

Apple tree at the County Line Orchard
Kim Lewis Photography / Shutterstock.com

In addition, I'm planning to join seasonal activities, especially during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Those planning to stay at the orchard longer; can hose a private campfire of up to 30 people.

The County Line Orchard is open year-round, making it an ideal attraction to list in everyone's itinerary.

Candy apples at the County Line Orchard
Kim Lewis Photography / Shutterstock.com

Satisfy your Sweet Tooth at the Albanese Confectionery-Factory Store

The Albanese Confectionery - Factory Store in Merrillville has been running for over three decades.

I channeled my inner child visiting this place.

It's where my favorite gummies, candies, roasted nutmeats, and chocolates are manufactured.

Fortunately, one of its factory stores is in Hobart, part of Lake County.

I had a blast visiting this candy store factory, especially since I'm a sucker for sweets.

Also, I had the chance to tour the factory through its guided tour activities.

I witnessed firsthand how they made my favorite gummies and chocolates from scratch to packing.

Moreover, I sampled some of the factory's products for a delicious experience.

Of course, I dropped by the store.

I bought as many packs of my favorite gummies and chocolates as possible at the Albanese Confectionery - Factory Store.

Bask in the Outdoors at the Wicker Memorial Park

Wicker Memorial Park in Highland is the town's most extensive outdoor recreation area.

The park spans over 226 acres of lush greenery, vast fields, and amenities for everyone.

I enjoyed picnicking and hiking at this park during my visit there.

I was captivated by its peaceful ambiance and the variety of outdoor activities I enjoyed.

One thing also it's a great place for family bonding because of several amenities, such as splash pads for kids, a playground, and picnic pavilions.

Also, I'd recommend this place for sports enthusiasts since it has a sand volleyball court, or traverse its trail on a mountain bike.

Fur parents need not worry about bringing their pup to Wicker Memorial Park since it has a leashed dog park where they can have fun.

Witness the Gary SouthShore RailCats Score a Home Run

A Gary SouthShore RailCats player
MJHankel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of sports enthusiasts, Lake County is also home to the Gary SouthShore RailCats.

This professional baseball team is based in the city of Gary.

They play home games at the U.S. Steel Yard stadium in downtown Gary for the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

Of course, I didn't miss seeing the RailCats in action.

I bought tickets to one of their home games and witnessed the lively atmosphere of the locals cheering for their beloved home baseball team.

It was a worthwhile experience immersing with locals and witnessing their passion for sports.

So, remember to check out the U.S. Steel Yard stadium to see the RailCats gets into baseball action.

Book a Reservation at the Lighthouse Restaurant

One of the best spots for a romantic and mouthwatering date in Lake County is Lighthouse Restaurant in Cedar Lake.

I appreciate this restaurant's nautical theme and intimate ambiance because of its gorgeous lakefront views.

Besides its scenery, I was also captivated by its mouthwatering menu.

As a foodie, I was overwhelmed by the wide selection of food on its menu.

Ultimately, I decided to order its surf and turf, which I didn't regret because of the meat's tenderness and the ingredients they used that gave a delicious food experience.

I recommend early booking since this restaurant is usually packed with guests who want to enjoy food and listen to cozy music from guest performers every night.

Also, this restaurant is popular for its Sunday brunch.

Whether it's a dinner date or a family brunch, something delicious awaits everyone at the Lighthouse Restaurant.

Taste Various Ales Through the South Shore Brewery Trail

The South Shore Brewery Trail is a dream destination for beer connoisseurs.

This trail spans Northwest Indiana from Valparaiso to Crown Point, wherein beer connoisseurs and average visitors can visit over 17 breweries and microbreweries.

So, I drove my car and followed the brewery trail, which gave me a fantastic experience.

It was indeed a fantastic experience after visiting several breweries and sampling their famous stouts and ales.

They take pride in brewing their beer and ales using Lake Michigan's water and Indiana's white wheat grain.

One of the best breweries I visited was in Crown Point, the Crown Brewery, the city's most prominent brewer.

Visiting these breweries allowed me to witness different brewing styles, flavors, branding, atmosphere, and other unique and fascinating elements.

Of course, while enjoying the experience through the South Shore Brewery Trail, remember to drink moderately.

Check Out the Famous Jackson Home

Exterior of the Jackson Home
littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

One of the reasons I find Gary amusing is the fact that it's where the Jackson 5 were born and grew up.

All of the members of this famous band back in the day were born and raised at their house along Jackson Street, now popularly known as the "Jackson Home."

It's where our favorite "King of Pop," Michael Jackson, grew up with his siblings during their humble days as musical performers.

Since Gary hadn't established its "Jackson Museum" yet, I had to settle for looking at the house from a distance in my car.

Grounds of the Jackson Home
littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

It's because it's already owned by someone else and serves as a private residence.

Still, my experience visiting this place lets me see closer where Michael Jackson grew up before becoming the legendary musical icon.

Also, it's fascinating to witness the steady stream of fans and visitors who arrive along the street to pay tribute to the King of Pop.

So, remember to pass by the Jackson Home.

Pay Tribute at the Community Veterans Memorial

While exploring Lake County, I made a short historical detour in Munster by visiting the Community Veterans Memorial.

It was a solemn experience seeing the memorial that honors those who fought and sacrificed their lives in various wars throughout history.

Besides its solemnity, I also learned important historical information about the memorial.

Locals say the Community Veterans Memorial becomes lively every Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, which I couldn't witness.

So, it would also be ideal to include this memorial because I can guarantee everyone, it's a special and fascinating place to visit.

Have a Shopping Spree at Cabela's

Cabela's is a popular and massive retail store for outdoor enthusiasts.

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was excited to visit one of its most extensive stores, which happens to be in the city of Hammond.

I was amazed to see up close a larger-than-life wildlife display featuring perfectly taxidermized animals.

At the same time, it's home to huge aquariums packed with large fish for everyone to see in awe.

After seeing its amazing displays, I went to its cafeteria for food and drinks.

Of course, I went shopping at Cabela's for top-notch outdoor gear.

I also enjoyed browsing its popular outdoor brands and spent hours, which was worth it.

Explore the Vast Indiana Dunes National Park

Sunny day at Indiana Dunes National Park
Brian F. O'Neill / Shutterstock.com

Most of the massive Indiana Dunes National Park is in Lake County, particularly Gary.

So, I went on an outdoor adventure to explore this massive 15,000-acre national park at one of its access points in Gary.

I can't help but appreciate the vibrant coastal flora, fauna, and vast dunes stretching over a dozen miles throughout the Indiana coast, which I explored.

Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

I had a wonderful experience exploring its scenic locations and seeing its abundant wildlife.

Besides exploring, I camped at one of Indiana Dunes National Park's campsites to enjoy more activities such as birdwatching, swimming, and fishing.

Immerse with Locals During the Lake County Fair

The annual Lake County Fair is one of the biggest happenings in the area.

I joined over a hundred thousand people from around Indiana and neighboring states for this amazing event.

I enjoyed some of the 30 carnival rides and attractions at the fair.

Also, I was in front of the crowd in one of its concerts, horse shows, pageants, contests, and motorsports.

Of course, I dropped by to see over a hundred exhibits and stalls from various traders and farmers who display their best products.

Attending the Lake County Fair, which happens every last week of July, was a fitting finale to my Lake County travel adventure.

Hop on the Dewey Line

The Dewey Line is one of Cedar Lake's main tourist attractions.

This water vessel is a floating museum artifact since it's been operating since the 1920s.

So, I grabbed the chance to travel aboard this 1915 steamboat which cruises through Michigan Lake.

Thanks to the Cedar Lake Historical Association Museum, they're able to preserve and maintain this historical steamboat up to this day for us to see and experience.

Besides the experience of riding aboard, I was fascinated by the historian and tour guide who provided everyone aboard a rundown of this water vessel's history.

At the same time, I was taken to some historical and scenic spots on Lake Michigan.

So, remember not to miss riding one of the boat tours, the Dewey Line, for some historical adventure.

Final Thoughts

Lake County is one of the best destinations I have explored in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

Its accessibility and choices of places to visit are compared to nothing.

Nothing can go wrong with spending weekends or even longer exploring Lake County.

It's full of surprises from national parks, sports arenas, historical places, and hidden gems.

With all that in mind, it's guaranteed everyone won't run out of things to do in Lake County, Indiana.

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.