With its vibrant downtown area ripe with boutiques, wine bars and a giant plaza where you can roller skate during the summer and ice skate during the winter, the City of Valparaiso has all the quintessential amenities that make it hip for the college kids or Chicago folk looking for a slower pace, yet not so bleeding-edge that families can’t come down and enjoy themselves as well. You don’t even have to spend all your time downtown, because there’s fun stuff tucked all over the place.
Some suggestions you might try out if you’re in the area include the following:
After breakfast, you may feel the need to do some grocery shopping in a cleansing, healthy environment. The Wholesome Cupboard (201-9 E. Morthland Drive, 219-476-0471; thewholesomecupboard.com) is just the place for it. Former nurse Debbie Standerski made it her mission to help people eat right, so if you need gluten-free, allergy free foods, low- and no-sodium foods, raw foods, vegan foods, natural products, no carb, organic and non-GMO foods, Wholesome Cupboard is your place. She also stocks ethnic foods and spices for the creative culinary cook.
There are go-karts on the east side of town at Inman’s Bowling and Recreation Center (3201 Evans Ave., 219-462-1300, inmansvalpo.com), too, but the 77-year-old play center also has 32 lanes of bowling, an arcade, paddle boar soakers, a roller rink and billiard tables.
There’s always something going on at Central Park Plaza (68 Lafayette St., 219-548-4888, centralparkplazavalpo.com), be it a concert in the Porter Health Ampitheater or skating — roller or ice — in in the Urschel Pavilion, depending on the weather. There’s a splash pad for those hot summer days, and the Valparaiso Market Tuesdays and Saturdays offers with fresh local produce, foliage and other artist wares.
Escape rooms are still one of the new big things, and Espionage Escape Rooms (103 E. Morthland Dr., Unit 1, 219-476-7699, espionageescapevalpo.com) takes the idea one step further by putting themes on their rooms. So far, you have an hour to stop Butch Cassidy and his gang from robbing another train or plunder King Tut’s tomb of his spoils, andsoon, you’ll have the option of reckoning with Medusa in her lair.
Like many cities, Valpo has a theater community and some neat places to view it. Memorial Opera House (104 E. Indiana Ave.; 219-548-9137; memorialoperahouse.com) was originally a war memorial to Civil War veterans but eventually widened its scope to include political rallies, movies and John Phillip Sousa concerts, according to its website. Added bonus: The building is thought to be haunted, so maybe you don’t want to get trapped there alone. Or maybe you do. Your choice.
The Chicago Street Theatre (154 W. Chicago St.; 219-464-1636; chicagostreet.org), meanwhile, used to be housed in the opera house but had to move when the opera house underwent extensive restoration. As such, it went out and purchased the old Assemblies of God Church and turned it into the theater it is today. It’s entering its 64th season and offers adult and kid workshops, and will also perform “Evil Dead: The Musical” in October in a room with only 130 seats, there’s a pretty good likelihood of everyone getting blood on them.
On the dinner tip, there’s plenty of wonderful Mexican restaurants in Valpo — La Cabana and Ricochet Tacos (55 Franklin St.; 219-531-8888; ricochettacos.com) come to mind. But if you want to get exotic with your Latin food, head on over to Don Quijote Restaurante and Imports (119 E. Lincolnway; 219-462-7976; donquijotevalpo.com), Northwest Indiana’s first-ever place dedicated to Spanish cuisine. The restaurant serves tapas as well as full entrees, and anyone interested in getting the paella marinera, a big vat of just about every favorite type of seafood and saffron rice, should plan first to share it and second to order it ahead of time since they make it to order.
Literary- and non-literary minded folks, meanwhile, should run to Stacks Bar and Grill (175 Lincolnway; 219-462-0553; facebook.com/StacksValpo), a charming little library-themed restaurant tucked in the back of a credit union building. Make sure to make a reservation since the place is packed just about every night and definitely on the weekends; drinks like their pineapple mojito, which comes garnished with a cheery yellow blob of cotton candy that may be the best thing ever in life, and their duck meat pot stickers make it very easy to see why it’s hard to get a table.