What comes to mind when you think of your university experience? Probably your education, how far away it is from home, what extracurriculars you’ll join, and the friends waiting to be made. With all of those important factors to consider, it’s easy to overlook the location in which your potential college is situated. But don’t forget that you’ll want to spend time off campus every now and then, and that’s what makes the #ValpoExperience special. As a Region resident, Valpo alumna, and current employee of the University, I’m going to tell you a few of my favorite things to do around Valpo!

  1. Downtown Dining: Valparaiso University is located in the heart of Valpo, less than a mile from its award-winning downtown area. Some of the best nights on the town are when my friends and I hop from restaurant to restaurant, enjoying appetizers or small plates before moving on to the next location. With over 70 non-chain restaurants from Asian infusion to pub-style menus, there’s something for everyone and every price point. (Check out: Top 5 Places to Dine Around Valpo)
  1. The Great Outdoors: Being surrounded by nature is like free therapy for me. I love to get away from screens and the bustle of cars whenever I can, and Valpo has over 600 acres of beautiful parks and trails to do so. With gardens, wetlands, trails, and woodlands to explore, one of the best spots I’ve found is Gabis Arboretum – but you’ll need a car to get there! A beautiful park closer to campus is Ogden Gardens, a botanical garden with a gazebo, a Japanese garden, picnic areas, and trails. And if you’re still not convinced the park system is next-level, check out Rogers-Lakewood Park where you can find a bike trail, disc golf course, and boat rentals.
  1. Zao Island: Who doesn’t love mini golf? And go-karts? And laser tag and batting cages and game rooms? What if I told you that Zao Island has all that AND a giant dragon? This entertainment center is totally unique and a blast for couples or larger groups. With attractions that won’t break the bank, it was a great getaway for my friends and I when we were college kids!
  1. Activities and Events: Nothing is better than a city that loves an event – and Valpo loves events so much, there is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to hosting events and experiences for Region residents! Valparaiso Events hosts more than 15 unique downtown events, and that’s not including the events put on by local businesses or outside of downtown proper. You can find something fun to do nearly every weekend, whether it’s the world-famous Popcorn Festival, the Valparaiso Art Festival, or Holly Days at the end of the year. And most of these events are low-to-no cost, so it’s a great option for you and friends.

In my opinion, the City of Valparaiso has struck the perfect balance between the small-town feel and big-city vibes. You can attend a festival dedicated to popcorn one weekend, then get dressed up and eat at some of the best restaurants the next. When selecting a college, don’t forget to think about those times you won’t be sitting in your dorm studying and want to enjoy a little time off campus!