Written by Aishah Eljirby
Heading out for a day or weekend trip? Searching for someplace new to take your kids without leaving the state of Indiana? Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center in Lake Station is an exciting destination for kids to explore. This 23,000-square-foot play center is situated in Northwest Indiana, about a 2.5-hour drive from Indianapolis. There’s so much to see and do at Bellaboo’s. You will not want to miss out on any of this play.
Buccanoo Bay Adventures and Outdoor Play
Playing outside is one of life’s greatest adventures for kids who are ready to explore the world around them. Bellaboo’s outdoor play space features a variety of adventures that any kid – or adult – is sure to enjoy. It’s filled with water, sand, and play structures your energetic explorers will be thrilled to try out.
Sail the Pirate Ship Playground’s Rubber Turf Sea
The main feature of this outdoor play area is the large 60 ft. pirate ship. Your kids will be ready to take on any pirates that may come their way with this exciting structure. The large ship features small twisty slides as well as larger ones. Lookout windows can be found throughout the ship. There are lots of steering wheels scattered throughout, too. A pirate bridge and steps are a great way for little ones to get on the ship.
The entire ship is surrounded by soft blue rubber turf that resembles ocean waves and is adorned with a shark, fish, and other ocean friends. Nearby is a large blue whale that’s great for kids to climb on. On the shore of this playground are smaller boats and two additional fast slides.
Mine the Rock Garden
Next to the pirate ship is the rock garden mining area. This zone is equipped with various rocks and a mining station with water. It is recommended to wear swimwear and water shoes or to bring a change of clothes. The entire area has a natural vibe with water flowing on the ground for kids to stomp in, as well as a fun splash pad area for kids to run in water on a warm day.
Excavate the Dino Dig
A large sand pit area is another feature outside at Bellaboo’s. It’s a great place for sensory play, as kids can dig for dino bones. The sand pit features large dino bones that are great for climbing and exploring.
Race Around the Bicycle Track
Competitive kids can race each other around the large bicycle track. The area has large and small bicycles for kids of all ages. The track has lots of twists and turns for a fun, safe challenge.
Other Outdoor Play
The outdoor area also features a large wooden teepee for kids to play inside. You’ll also find various natural climbing and play structures made from large rocks and tree stumps, a children’s garden adorned with beautiful flowers, and an outdoor painting area with easels, paints, and paintbrushes.
Indoor Imaginative Play
The indoor attractions at this children’s museum offer a wonderful place for kids to move about and explore what each room. In the main lobby, there’s lots of seating for caregivers to relax as kids investigate at their own pace. Bellaboo’s has a nice café for a quick snack or lunch. If you visit during the winter and don’t want to carry coats around, there are lockers and coat hooks for visitors to use.
Splash in the Water Area
Most kids love the splashy sensory experience of water play! The water room at Bellaboo’s houses water tables with balls, scooping cups, funnels, and more. A turning wheel controls the flow of water down into the tables. There are waterproof vests so little ones don’t get wet.
Create Something New in the Construction Zone
The construction zone is equipped with hard hats and construction vests. In this area, there are cones, tubes, wood pieces in a range of sizes to build a house or fort, and construction tools. This is a perfect place for kids to practice those early engineering skills.
All Aboard for Trains
All Aboard! The train room is such a fun space for those who love locomotives. The extra-large train tables are covered with tracks and have lots of vehicles to play with. Kids can also dress up as train conductors. If you look to the ceiling, there’s a train model that circles the room, along with information about trains in Indiana.
Imagine You’re a Pirate
The indoor pirate room is a creative area for kids to use their imagination to set sail. There are lots of seashells on display for visitors to peruse. A large ship wheel is a great spot to play pirate. Other props include foam swords, treasure chests, and a small boat equipped with a fishing pole and fish.
Play It Safe in the Infant and Toddler Area
If you have a little one who is not walking just yet, the baby room is equipped with soft play mats. It has soft play structures for climbing, a large mirror for babies to gaze at themselves during tummy time, and lots of baby toys and soft books.
Visit the Pretend Village
One of my kid’s favorite areas at Bellaboo’s is the small town. Everything about the design encourages imaginative play. Within the town, there’s a pizza shop where kids can serve up orders to others. The grocery store has pint-sized shopping carts, stocked market shelves, and a checkout area with a cash register. A cute vet’s office is adorned with lots of furry friends, medical toys, an X-ray machine, and doctor dress-up clothes. The house is another inspiring play space. Kids can test out grown-up housekeeping jobs in a large kitchen full of toy food and a baby area with lots of dolls, baby beds, a changing table, and a rocking chair.
Unwind in the Reading Room
If you’ve got a little who loves books, then the reading room is a great place to spend some time reading and relaxing together. This room has a large bathtub (you read that right) to sit in and read a book, surrounded by large pillows. Alternatively, grab a seat in a rocking chair. The room houses lots of books that vary each week, often rotating to fit the season and any upcoming holidays.
Paint a Masterpiece in the Art Studio
The art studio is a special place for kids and their caregivers to use their imaginations, drawing or painting whatever comes to mind. The art studio is set up with mirrors that have large clipboards attached to place your paper on. Various paint colors, paintbrushes, and cups of water are provided for guests to use. In this area, there are also sinks and paper towels for easy hand washing after painting.
Climb the 3-Level Play Structure
What kid doesn’t love a good play structure to climb on and get those energy bugs out? Bellaboo’s has a 3-level indoor climbing gym with various paths to get to the top. There’s an airplane lookout, a large twisty tube slide, and a smaller slide for little ones. Kids will also be thrilled to find a small ball pit and ball chute on the ground level. This indoor area does require you to take off your shoes and store them in cubbies.
Join a Live Cooking Class
This is by far my kids’ favorite area. Each hour, staff host a live cooking class, where kids get to be the chefs while creating their own masterpieces. During the program, kids are given a brief overview of what they’ll be “cooking” and then given the tools to make their food. On our last visit, the kitchen was celebrating Earth Day and my kids had so much fun making Earth Day bagels and cookies.
Activities Throughout the Center
Throughout Bellaboo’s are tables with different activities to try. Options tend to change each month and season for holidays and special events. Some of the activities that my kids enjoyed on recent visits are the bubble station, magnetic tiles table, and a make-your-own paper jet station.
Are you in a pinch trying to figure out what to do with kids during a school vacation? Visit Northwestern Indiana and check out Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center or other family-friendly attractions in the region. This vibrant children’s museum makes for a great day trip or a weekend getaway, and you don’t even have to leave Indiana. Families with kids of all ages will enjoy this fun-packed facility.
2800 Colorado Street