Growing up in Valparaiso I lead a pretty sheltered life. Outside of the occasional family vacation and once a year school field trip to the Science and Industry Museum, I hardly ever ventured outside the city limits. Needless to say, as a child, I quickly grew tiresome of the everyday humdrumness of my hometown. Honestly, how often can a child bowl at Inman’s or miniature golf at Wright’s Barnyard (Zao Island), before its novelty wears off? Despite the occasional brief stints of establishments like Hollywood Connection, as a child growing up in the 90’s, I felt as if the city of Valparaiso was dull and boring.
Over the years, as I have grown, so has the city of Valparaiso.
It has slowly become a consumer haven, with all the luxuries the American buyer could ask for. The addition of stores like Menards, Kohl’s, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney, and my personal favorite, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, has made traveling to Hobart and Merrillville to shop utterly superfluous. However, while the city of Valpo has added store after store, outside of the Cinemark Theater, they have added very little in the realm of family entertainment. With that said, while the pool of entertainment venues has remained constant, my childhood notion of this city has changed radically. This change, brought forth nearly seven years ago now, coincided with my personal discovery of Valparaiso’s best-kept secret in family entertainment…Valparaiso University.
Yes, you heard me right. Valparaiso University is this city’s best-kept secret in family entertainment, and I’m not just referring to the occasional WWE and Harlem Globetrotters events held there. The University has everything that a major city offers their families, without all the hassle of the concomitant hustle and bustle. From sports to the arts, VU has remarkable year round activities to offer the families of our community. VU athletics offers a wide variety of highly competitive collegiate sports that can be viewed for a very reasonable price, many times for free. They have a myriad of concerts for all types of music lovers. Their amazingly talented theater department offers beautifully produced musicals and plays. The Brauer Museum of Art is open to the public almost daily and has a nationally recognized collection of 19th and 20th- century American art that includes works by Frederic Edwin Church, Asher B. Durand, Childe Hassam, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Ed Paschke. In addition to all of these wonderful events, VU offers several year round special exhibitions and symposiums sponsored by the various educational departments. With all of that said, I am positive that I have only skimmed the surface of what VU can offer to the families of this community.
Now, I know what you are probably thinking, and I understand your apprehension. With the sporting events aside, that could be way too much culture for your kids to swallow. However, don’t sell your children short. I’ve worked with youth here at the Boys & Girls Club for nearly seven years now, and every time I have taken a group of our members to experience the culture at VU, they absolutely adored it. The experiences youth can have at VU are much different than what they typically get on an every day basis, and their natural curiosity always gets the better of them. While often times their first response is to reject it because it’s not what they are use to, they eventually become captivated by its uniqueness. So parents, I implore you, as you are considering taking your third or fourth trip to the movies or Inman’s this month, consider checking out what Valparaiso University has to offer. There truly can’t be a finer family entertainment venue in all of Northwest Indiana.