Denise Mathews, Realtor, is a Northwest Indiana born, raised, and lifelong resident and multiple business owner. Join her in exploring The Region thru the Northwest Indiana Living website & social media sites.

When you are Googling things to do in NW Indiana near me that don’t break the bank, The Region offers many family friendly things to do in Northwest Indiana. The diversity of NWI communities brings a wide variety of fun opportunities also. So next time the kids say they’re bored, know that there is always something to do in The Region!

Browse through this summer list of NWI family outings ready for you today.  Many are free.  Most are educational.  All are a great way to spend quality family time together and provide some fun things to do in Northwest Indiana.


Indiana Dunes National Park

1050 N Mineral Springs Rd, Chesterton, IN 46304

The Indiana Dunes National Park is the newest addition to the United States national parks system and NWI is lucky enough to have it right out our backdoor. You will never run out of family friendly things to do in NW Indiana as long as we have The Dunes, in Chesterton Indiana.  Fifteen miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 15,000 acres provide adventure for all fans of outdoors and nature.

Hikers, bird watchers, and even pet owners will enjoy 50 miles of trails. The trails lead through natural sand dunes, wetlands, prairies, rivers and forests.  Additionally, the sandy beachfront known as Indiana Dunes State Park attracts sun lovers as well as kite flyers.  The Dunes is even pet friendly!  It’s so easy to bring the entire family here, even Fido, and enjoy a long, free day exploring our beautiful lakefront. There is an entry fee effective March 1, 2022. Read in-depth info and check out their seasonal event schedules on this Indiana Dunes National Park website.

Community Veterans Memorial

9710 Calumet Ave, Munster, IN 46321

If your idea of fun and interesting things to do in NW Indiana includes thought-provoking outings for your clan, plan a few hours at Community Veterans Memorial in Munster.  The 5.5 acre park guides and educates us through the major wars of the 1900’s.

Its mission is to remember our veterans and their history.  In addition, they also hope to educate people today about the true realties of war.  The Memorial challenges our leaders to work towards peace.  Enjoy this walk through history and the artist’s interpretation through the monuments and statues.  It’s a great lesson for our children, for everyone.  Admission is free. 

The County Line Orchard

200 S. County Line Rd, Hobart, IN 46342

The County Line Orchard in Hobart, IN is one of the most memorable ways to spend time with the family around NW Indiana. Every age will have fun attempting the Corn Maze, picking out their Halloween pumpkin, picking apples right off the tree, and more!

Make your own fall family tradition by booking a private Campfire and Hayride for up to 30 friends and family.


Photo Credit: Denise Mathews with

Mascot Hall Of Fame

1851 Front St., Whiting, IN 46394

The Peirogi Fest isn’t the only big deal in Whiting Indiana! The Mascot Hall of Fame located here combines sporty family fun with creativity and play, making it one of the more unique fun things to do in Northwest Indiana. Through the Mascots and fun, interactive events and games, all ages will be entertained.  The kids can even build their own mascot at The Build-A-Bear-Workshop!

After that, browse the Gift Shop and take home something unique.  Then enjoy the food-truck-themed snack shop.  Admission is $10 for ages 2 and over.  Teachers and 65+ is $8.  However, entry is free for military and veterans.

Benny the Bull Mascot for the Chicago Bulls

Wicker Memorial Park (Wicker Park)

8554 Indianapolis Blvd, Highland, IN 46322

Wicker Memorial Park in Highland has something for every member of the family to have a fun-filled day.  Bring a picnic to the park and enjoy the playground with the little ones while the older kids rent a bike and ride the trails. Split off into the driving range as the kids cool off at The Splash Pad. Meet back up at your reserved picnic area…a great way for the whole family to spend the day enjoying the 226-acre park.

Among the free things to do, there are walking trails that also allows bicycles and leashed dogs. The playground is one of the best in The Region with various play areas. There are also many shady areas for the parents. (North Township residents also get one free Splash Pad session per day-ID required).

Other park amenities (for a fee) include:

  • 18 hole Golf Course and Driving Range
  • Splash Pad Water Park
  • Bicycle Rentals
  • Rental Pavilion, shelters and picnic areas

Albanese Candy Factory

1910 81st Ave #5344, Merrillville, IN 46410

As children, weren’t we all mesmerized by  Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? Look no further because we have the closest thing right here in The NWI Region! The whole family will love watching candy being made live at The Albanese Candy Factory in Merrillville.  Large glass windows allow for a visual tour of the manufacturing process while videos explain everything.

Browse the lobby and find all the treats to taste test and purchase.  Albanese Candy Factory is known for their world famous Gummie Bears.  However, the NWI  confectionery also makes chocolates and nuts.

Albanese Candy Factory Gummie Bears are made right in Northwest Indiana

Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest

450 West 100 North, Valparaiso, IN 46385

The Gabis Arboretum at Purdue Northwest offers 300 acres of family friendly things to do in NW Indiana.  This living laboratory in Valpo is full of gardens, wildlife, and even a few statues.    Climbable beehives and giant spiderwebs let the young burn off their energy.  The Treesong Music Garden showcases unique outdoor instruments that mimic nature’s sounds.  Heron Pond Trail surrounds the pond and showcases small pond life.  The Arboretum also hosts many interesting classes and event like stargazing, so check in often!  Admission is $10 per carload.  See map of Gabis Arboretum here.

Family friendly hiking at Gabis Arboretum

Griffith Historical Park and Train Museum

201 S Broad Street, Griffith, IN 46319

The train system is a very important part of our historical growth in The Region starting in the 1800s.  Griffith Indiana was a central hub. In the past, over 180 trains passed through Griffith’s multi rail junction.  However, almost all of the old railroad lines have been rerouted. Since then,  Griffith’s Grand Trunk Depot has been preserved.  It now houses the Train Museum. Three old train cars are on-site and ready for exploring.

old train at the Griffith Historical Park and Train Museum

Fair Oaks Farms

856 N 600 E, Fair Oaks, IN 47943

Escape to a country setting at Fair Oak Farms and enjoy the nations leading agricultural attraction. Through interactive adventures, the whole family will learn about animals, farming, and nutrition.

Make a staycation out of it and stay at the barn styled Fair Oaks Marriott Hotel

Fair Oaks Farms also has this barn styled hotel


7700 Cabela Dr., Hammond, IN 46324

That’s right! I said it. Cabela’s. Cabela’s is a huge retail store for outdoorsmen, sure.  But did you know one of the best-kept secret free things to do in Northwest Indiana is inside?  An enormous wildlife display is showcased within the store!  All ages will be fascinated by the lifelike taxidermy and huge fish swimming in the aquariums. It’s free to come and visit.  Afterwards, you might even grab a bite to eat in the sandwich shop or take home some tasty fudge or nut treats. It’s a great way to spend some inexpensive time with the kids.

cabelas family friendly display in northwest indiana

Things To Do In Northwest Indiana After You Get A Babysitter

Spending the day with the kids is over.  They are fast asleep in bed.  Now, it’s time for adult fun.  So let’s find some decidedly non family friendly things to do in Northwest Indiana!  The casinos are one-of-a-kind adult entertainment and open 24/7.  Their restaurants have great food as well. Once in awhile, you may even leave with a cash windfall!  For more ideas, check out this short list of fun things to do in NWI – just for adults.