From Lake Michigan to the Ohio River and everywhere in between, Indiana offers a diverse landscape of areas to call home. Whether you like living in the city or prefer the suburbs, or you are looking for lakefront property to rest and relax or country living to farm or raise livestock, Indiana offers it all in an affordable package that you can call Home!
Valparaiso, Indiana, whose name means “Paradise Valley” in Spanish, is about an hour’s drive from Chicago. The county seat of Porter County, also know as “Valpo” to the residents, is home to young children, students, retirees, and everyone in between. The picturesque city with plenty of charm and many events makes it is an ideal place to live, work, and play.
A city of about 30,000 residents, Valparaiso is located on the outskirts of Chicago’s metro area – far enough away that it is safe and enjoys a small town atmosphere, but close enough that many people commute to the city for work every day, and go there for fun too. It’s an hour and ten-minute drive to Chicago’s central business district. Residents can enjoy the best of two worlds as they make their home here.
Although it is not a large city, Valparaiso boasts Valparaiso University as well as satellite campuses for Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College. Valparaiso University, with an undergraduate class of 3,100 students, also has a law school of 430 students, and in 2015 was named by Forbes as one of the top 50 universities in the Midwest. Its many K-12 public and private schools, including a Montessori School, are also considered excellent.
One feature at Valparaiso University is the Brauer Museum of Art, which is located on the campus. Their 3,700 piece collection includes photographs from Andy Warhol, landscapes from artists in the Hudson River School movement including Frederic E. Church and Asher B. Durand, Impressionist paintings by Karl Anderson and Robert Reid, modernist paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, and contemporary works by Ansel Adams. Best of all, it’s free!
However, the atmosphere is not all about museums and studying – residents also enjoy plenty of lighthearted activities as well. One of them is an annual popcorn festival, held each September to celebrate many people’s favorite movie snack and honor Indiana native Orville Redenbacher, who developed his strain of popcorn in Valparaiso. In 2012, the city unveiled a statue of Redenbacher sitting on a bench in his trademark bow tie and horn-rimmed glasses. The city also has annual festivals dedicated to food & wine and craft beer.
Along with festivals, Valparaiso is also host to the Porter County Fair, held at their 85-acre Expo Center, which holds conventions and events throughout the year. The fair is held every summer and is chock-full of 4-H exhibits, livestock judging, carnival rides, performances at the grandstand, pig racing, and even a Cutest Baby Contest.
Another fun place to visit is the Hoosier Bat Company. Visitors can request free tours and watch wooden baseball bats carved right in front of them at this family-owned baseball bat factory, which produces 30,000 bats a year. Major League Baseball players like Sammy Sosa and Josh Hamilton loved the brand, and they’re still sold all around the world to baseball enthusiasts.
15 miles north of Valparaiso, the Indiana Dunes offers 15 miles of beach shoreline stretched along Lake Michigan. West Beach, from which you can view the Chicago skyline while catching some rays, is rated by Parents magazine as one of the top 5 family-friendly beaches in the US. The beaches are inside a large state park where you can hike and picnic in the summer and cross-country ski in the winter. Inside Valparaiso, fourteen parks adorn the city, and Taltree Arboretum is home to 330 acres of oak trees and formal gardens, including one featuring a huge model train railway.
Valparaiso is also growing and planning for the future. In 2016, city officials announced they were developing a plan for a canal to run through one of the neighborhoods in the city, which is hoped to also inspire businesses to crop up along the water walk. They are also working on a plan to strengthen the city’s downtown public transit system by building a bus and train station.
For places to eat, Valparaiso is home to a variety of upscale restaurants and bistros. Kelsey’s Steakhouse, which you can’t miss because there’s a huge cow statue out front, is a longtime local favorite, while Don Quijote frequently garners high ratings with its Mediterranean and Spanish fare. For dessert, Valpo Velvet Ice Cream makes all of its famous ice cream from scratch using the same recipe as when they began in 1920.
And lastly, a terrific thing about Valparaiso is its 49’er Drive-In Theater. USA Today called it one of the Top 10 US Drive-Ins, and for good reason. The theater opened in 1956 and still screens double features and dishes up crowd-pleasing cuisine at its diner while providing patrons with memories of the good old days. During the summer, families, couples, and anyone who enjoys a fun relic of Americana can watch current movies under the stars.
Learn more about the schools in Valparaiso, Indiana.