story by KATIE ABEL
Nestled in the heart of Northwest Indiana, Valparaiso is just 15 miles south of the Indiana Dunes National Park and is brimming with community parks that provide endless recreation and entertainment for Valpo residents and visitors alike.
1918 marks the official establishment of Valpo’s first community park – Kirchhoff Park – and over a century later, Valpo boasts 952 acres of parkland with 22 park facilities, including a dog park, two golf courses, mountain bike trail, splash pad, botanical garden, and much more.
With 24 playgrounds, 28 athletic fields, 23 miles of paved pathways, and 14 miles of off-road trails, there is something for everyone to enjoy at all Valparaiso parks. Central Park Plaza is the highlight of historic downtown Valpo, comprising of the Northwest Health Amphitheater and a splash pad (and ice- skating rink during winter), and is home to some of Valpo’s best events – the Valparaiso Market, Summer Concert Series, Valparaiso Wine Festival, Valpo Night Ride, Popcorn Festival, Valpo Brewfest, Fall Harvest Festival, and more.
Another signature park is the horticultural marvel Ogden Botanical Gardens. Home to a Japanese garden and over four acres of flowers and greenery, this colorful park has trails, streams, bridges, koi ponds, and a tea house.
Fairgrounds Park, site of the Porter County Fair for many years until its move to the Porter County Expo Center, includes a walking track, softball fields, playground, functional fitness equipment, and is the future home to a state-of-the-art skatepark. Just down the street is the fully accessible Samardzija Field at Tower Park, an all- weather turf youth baseball field renovated and dedicated by MLB pitcher and former Valpo resident Jeff Samardzija.
Founded in 1961, Rogers Lakewood Park features 122 acres and includes a championship caliber disc golf course, fishing on Loomis and Spectacle Lakes, and boat rentals and a kayak launch on Loomis Lake. The Fall Classic Fishing Derby in September and Halloween Howl Fest in October wrap up a season packed with fun at this iconic Valpo park.
And last but certainly not least, ValPlayso is Valpo’s epic playground park for all ages. Originally designed and built in 1994 by community members, the playground was then enhanced and rebuilt for its 20-year anniversary in 2014. Over the course of one week, 500 community volunteers gathered to rebuild the fully accessible next generation version of the playground, and today ValPlayso remains an essential part of the Valparaiso experience for both residents
SUMMER AND FALL EVENTS:
June 3 – October 14
Summer Concert Series
Thursday evenings in July & August
Valparaiso Wine Festival
Saturday, July 22
Valpo Night Ride
Saturday, August 19
Popcorn Festival & Popcorn Panic Races
Saturday, September 9
Brewfest & Biergarten
September: Friday, 22 & Saturday, 23
September: Friday, 22-Sunday, 24
Fall Classic Fishing Derby
Saturday, September 23
Saturday, October 7
Friday, October 13
Fall Harvest Festival
Saturday, October 14
Halloween Howl Fest
Saturday, October 21