Fourteen years ago, the Region was looking for the perfect place that fully encompasses what it means to be a kid while offering a creative space that would allow even the most extravagant of young imaginations to come to life.
Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center, located in Lake Station, was created for this very reason and officially opened on September 15, 2009.
“The Lake County Parks Department decided that it needed a facility for the underserved people in the area, which would be the children,” said Bellaboo's Group Sales Manager Natalie Garza. “They wanted to come up with a for-profit place for the kids to come and explore, and that's how Bellaboo’s came about.”
For over a decade, Bellaboo’s has been the ideal kids hangout across Northwest Indiana.
“I would summarize the experience as an all-day free play of dramatic spaces where you can explore and be whoever you want to be,” Garza said.
Bellaboo’s consists of a variety of fun, interactive indoor and outdoor activities for kids of all ages. Inside, the center is divided into different play stations for the kids, and even their families, to enjoy. The opportunities are endless, as kids have the option to play in rooms with aquatic tables, construction blocks, and trains. Little creatives can paint their very own picture to take home in Bellaboo’s painting room, and afterwards can let out energy in the soft play section, which features an in-house playground complete with slides and climbing obstacles.
Parents can also get in on the fun along with their little ones. Each room has certain parts that pertain to the parents as well to add to the Bellaboo’s experience.
“You wouldn't believe the things that these children create. With the help of their parents, it goes so far,” Garza said. “I love that, on the walls of the block play room, there are the actual blueprints of the facility so adults have things to check out in there as well.”
A completely padded infant and toddler room gives a safe space for anyone under the age of 2 for some fun as well.
During the warmer months, a world of adventure awaits the kids outside, complete with playgrounds, waterslides and aquatic play areas, bike and tricycle rides, an interactive garden, and an archeology center.
The fun doesn’t stop there. Bellaboo’s additionally hosts different activities and events depending on the time of year. Every holiday can be expected to be celebrated to the max with themed events. Each day also comes with different adventures and activities, including cooking classes, dance parties, and face painting.
Having worked at the center for over 10 years, Garza loves that she has the opportunity to see kids have the time of their lives, and it makes her heart smile seeing first-hand just how much a child’s day is made after a fun-filled day at Bellaboo’s.
“You have the opportunity to make a child's day every day they play, but what we don't talk about is the reciprocity that's there,” Garza said. “I'd say easily my favorite aspect of working here is the connections that we're able to make as well as the impressions that we leave on them and that they leave on us. There's instant gratification with these small bursts of enthusiasm, and that's what I love for my adult self. I love all of the unfiltered silliness, the creativeness that comes out of these children–It all makes me smile, it makes my heart so happy. I've worked here for 12 years, and I'd say that's the big balance there, because it's not just the children that you get to interact with and encounter, it's adults as well, and I love all of this about the work that I do here.”
For more information on Bellaboo’s, visit its website here.