Winter is here, and lucky for us we have so many fun things to do all around Northwest Indiana. If you are looking to get out and play in the snow, enjoy the sights, or simply spend time with your friends and family, check out these wonderful winter activities!
Whether you're a pro or giving it a try for the first time, ice skating is a great activity to enjoy with family and friends. It's also always a fun winter date idea! There are three larger rinks opening up for the season - Central Park Plaza in Valparaiso, Bulldog Park in Crown Point and Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks. Fair Oaks Farms also has an ice slide plus a Forest of Lights through the holidays! All three locations have skate rentals. Afterward, warm up at one of the downtown restaurants or at Fair Oaks' Farmhouse Restaurant.
When the snow piles up in the winter, the first thing kids ask in Northwest Indiana is if they can go sledding! There are plenty of sledding hills to choose from across the region, so grab your sled, put on your boots and dress warmly. Just be careful and keep space between you and other sledders to avoid collisions! All locations are sled at your own risk.
At the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, sled down Devil's Slide for loads of fun. There's also a spot for sledding at West Beach at the National Park - just southwest of the picnic shelters on the west-facing slope of the West Beach Trails.
Sunset Hill Farm in Valparaiso is a great spot for hiking and for sledding. Centennial Park in Munster has lots of space for sledding on its large hillside. There are also walking paths surrounding the lake that make for a beautiful winter stroll around the park. Other locations with golf courses where you can sled include Lost Marsh in Hammond and Forest Park in Valparaiso.
More places to sled are Oak Ridge Prairie in Griffith or Lemon Lake and Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point.
If sledding isn't your cup of tea, you also enjoy the season with cross-country skiing throughout the area if there's enough snow.
The bison at Kankakee Sands is a great site to see in the winter. These magnificent mammals are covered in thick fur that keeps them warm in the cold months. You can find them snuggled up to each other, covered in snow as they walk the prairies at the Kankakee Sands Nature Preserve.
A viewing area has been established just off U.S. Highway 41, which runs through Kankakee Sands. The preserve suggests starting at the viewing area. If you don't get a good sighting, drive around the pasture. If you still aren’t able to see the bison, maybe go for a walk along a trail for an hour or two, and then return to the Viewing Area to try again.
The shelf ice that comes and goes at the Lake Michigan shoreline is a must-see. The amount of ice varies on the weather and the tides each year. Make sure to view the shelf ice from a safe distance and do not walk on or near it - we list some safe viewing locations here. There is no telling how thick certain areas are or where it begins since some areas may just look like snow-covered sand.
“A Christmas Story” Comes Home at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond is open from mid-November through December. You can sign up for photos with Santa online or just stop in to see the six animated window displays from Macy’s in New York! You can find out more about this annual tradition at achristmasstorycomeshome.com.
Holiday lights are a great way to get into the holiday spirit! Head to Harvest Tyme Family Farm and drive through their Christmas Tyme Lights display. Millions of lights are set up around the farm for you to enjoy while you sip hot cocoa and don't forget to keep your eyes open so you can spot Santa.
The Forest of Lights at Fair Oaks Farms is also a magical spectacle to see this holiday season. Take a walk through the illuminated trees and statues then warm up around a bonfire to make s'mores. You can also rent a private igloo to enjoy dinner at the Farmhouse Restaurant.
Find more holiday light displays here.
No matter what winter activities you partake in this season, be safe and have fun exploring all there is along the South Shore of Lake Michigan. Share your photos with us by using the hashtag #AlongtheSouthShore when you post so we can see and share your experiences.