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Category - Things to Do

Looking to spend the remainder of your good summer days outside?  I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of the best hidden-gems in Northwest Indiana, the Gabis Arboretum. Tucked away in southern Valparaiso, driving around the area you wouldn’t expect to find six miles of gorgeous hiking trails anywhere near you. Spending most of my hiking time at the Indiana Dunes National Park, it didn’t occur to me that there was a secret oasis right in my backyard. 


Driving down the winding rural roads of northern Valparaiso, the pastoral landscape fell away as tall shady trees took its place guiding me to the charming venue that is the Art Barn School of Art.

As my car pulled up the gravel driveway, the trees parted to reveal a beautifully picturesque old English barn, decorated with glowing string lights and blooming flowers that engulfed the surrounding landscape. It was like walking into a dream. 


Photo: Butterfly Day at Kankakee Sands by Leigh Littiken

We all know that getting out in nature is great for our health, but sometimes our busy schedules make it difficult to find the time to get our “green time”. Fear not, it’s really much easier that you might think – because green time is all around you!

Getting you green time is truly as simple as standing outside and noticing the nature around you. No batteries, tools or fancy footwear required.


Nothing feels more like fall than walking outside on a cool, crisp morning to find hints of orange and yellow leaves scattered throughout the green trees. No matter how cold it will be soon, I still love every bit of fall and everything that comes with it. Bring on all the apple-cinnamon donuts, pumpkin beer, apple picking, and haunted houses, because it is spooky season!


Photo: Shooters at Oakwood Gun Club break clay targets for fun and to hone hunting skills.

It’s surprising how many hunters put down their guns at the end of the season and don’t load them again until they are uncased and ready to be carried on opening day the following year. Perhaps in the good ol’ days when rabbits, quail and pheasants were far more abundant a hunter only needed to walk far enough and shoot often enough to eventually bring home some game. Those good ol’ days must have occurred before I started hunting.


There are few sights I enjoy more than the perfect pink and purple sunset. Now picture that sunset over the dunes. Now picture that sunset over the dunes with the Northwest Indiana Symphony playing live in the background. Now put a Mother Wilma’s s’more in your hand and you have one happy concertgoer. There was about 2,000 happy concertgoers all enjoying a similar experience at the Symphony at the Dunes Concert at West Beach this summer. 


I never knew that Gabis Arboretum existed and oh man have I been missing out! This 300-acre preserve is packed with a variety of trails, gardens, woodlands, prairies, and wetlands. When I told my sister I was interested in exploring this place, she got excited because she had been there a few times with her students. She could not believe I did not know about it! We decided to make the drive out to Valparaiso on a Thursday afternoon with the dog. I was immediately impressed with the preserve right off the bat. Driving through the entrance feels like you are passing into a fairy world. The Active Times said this place is the most romantic place in Indiana and I would have to whole-heartily agree.


Walking into The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, home to Theatre at the Center, the atmosphere immediately makes you feel the old thrill of getting dolled up and going to see a show. The pride and love of theater and the arts is obvious in the décor of the main lobby. Photos of past shows cover the outer auditorium walls, displaying the memories of shows past.


It's been 20 years since I stepped foot in the Crown Point square. I was three years old, bouncing down the sidewalk toward my first ballet class, tutu and mother in tow. Surely the only thing more exciting than my class was the treat my mom would buy from our friend, affectionately known as the “Hot Dog Lady”. She was a Crown Point legend back in the day.

Looking at the square now having been gone for twenty years, it seems that nothing and everything has changed. The old hometown feeling and soul of the town still exists but the building facades have changed a bit. Being born in Crown Point allowed me to enjoy the downtown area when I was very young, but after moving to Connecticut with my family at age four, walks down memory lane were few and far between when we would take trips back to the region.


I’d venture to guess most people have not explored the small town of Rensselaer, Indiana just off of I-65. I was one of those people, until the Ren Art Walk. I’m a fan of exploring and of art in general, and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about and I am so happy I did. 

The new art installations in Rensselaer, also known as the #RenArtWlk, is more than worth the trip to the small town about 45 minutes south of Merrillville, Indiana and under two hours north of Indianapolis.