Parks and Recreation
Several nearby state parks in the greater Michiana area are favorites of South Bend residents. In Michigan, Warren Dunes State Park, on Lake Michigan about a 40-minute drive from Notre Dame, offers beautiful dunes and a popular beach, while at the nearby Warren Woods State Park, a quiet hiking trail leads through a beech and maple forest over a bridge that overlooks the rustic Galien River. Farther afield, the spectacular Saugatuck Dunes State Park (about a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Notre Dame) offers 2.5 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, including rolling hills and fresh-water coastal dunes that are over 200 feet tall. The quaint harbor town of Saugatuck itself is also a popular tourist destination, full of inviting restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
In Indiana, Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty is an easy drive (about 30 minutes) southwest of South Bend. The popular park offers a wide array of activities and facilities for year-round enjoyment: mountain bike, hiking, bicycle, bridle, and cross-country skiing trails; picnic shelters; boating; fishing; and an inner-tubing hill; as well as campgrounds and cabins. The park encompasses a variety of natural habitats, including the 327-acre Worster Lake, old fields, mature woodlands, restored prairies and diverse wetlands. More distant must-see Indiana parks are Chain O’ Lakes State Park, a boater’s paradise in Albion (about 2 hours’ drive southeast of South Bend); the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton on Lake Michigan, one hour due west of South Bend; and, for those wanting to venture even farther from home, Indiana’s largest park, the scenic Brown County State Park, located in hill country south of Indianapolis ( a 4-hour drive from South Bend, but worth it). Brown County State Park offers large campgrounds, hiking and mountain bike trails, extensive horse riding facilities, nearly 20 miles of roads, and numerous scenic vistas. Nearby Nashville, Indiana, features quaint specialty shops, art galleries, entertainment, and historic homes.
The St. Joseph County Parks currently operate eight parks, including Bendix Woods, a 195-acre park in New Carlisle with wooded trails, ponds, and fields; Spicer Lake, 245 acres in New Carlisle with trails along wetlands, woods, and old-growth fields, home to several endangered plants and animals; the 214-acre open field Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park located along Baugo Creek in Osceola, and St. Patrick’s County Park, 398 acres with wooded trails and St. Joseph River frontage just north of the University of Notre Dame. The Robert J. Fischgrund Center for the Performing Arts, with an open-air seating capacity of 5,000, is also located on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Park and is the site of the annual July 4 South Bend Symphony Orchestra pops concert and community fireworks display.
Other seasonal events take place at the county parks as well, such as Sugar Camp Days and fall hayrides at Bendix Woods. Occasional classes are offered on topics ranging from basket weaving, nature photography, yoga, and stargazing to kite-making, boomerang-flying, and cooking with edible flowers. St. Patrick’s Park offers monthly “Nature Munchkins” sessions designed for parents or grandparents to discover nature with their 3- to 4-year-old child, as well as a summer day camp for older children.
Seasonal leisure activities available at the county parks include canoe and kayak rentals at St. Patrick’s Park and Ferrettie/Baugo Creek, disc golf at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek, hiking, fishing, bird watching, and picnicking at many locations in the summer; and inner tubing hills at St. Patrick’s Park and Ferrettie/Baugo Creek, snow-shoeing at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek, and cross-country ski rentals at St. Patrick’s Park in the winter.
The Elkhart County Parks also offer much in the way of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Ox Bow County Park, halfway between Elkhart and Goshen, gets its name from a natural feature found within the park, an oxbow (U-shaped lake) of the Elkhart River. This ancient river channel is now a wetlands which support fish and a wide variety of plant and wildlife species; the park offers hundreds of acres set aside to provide space for outdoor activities and the preservation of plant and wildlife habitat. Picturesque Bonneyville Mill County Park, located outside Bristol, Indiana a 30-minute drive east of South Bend, offers a unique blend of regional history and natural beauty: 223 acres of gently rolling hills, woodlands, marshes and open meadows form a perfect background for the historic Bonneyville Mill, Indiana’s oldest continuously operating grist mill, and reconstructed one-room schoolhouse.
In nearby Berrien County, Michigan, the Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph, on the St. Joseph River, has extensive playground areas, a guarded swimming area on Lake Michigan, volleyball areas, pier fishing, a half-mile, barrier free walkway and a reservable picnic shelter. The park also hosts outdoor concerts during the summer.
The South Bend Parks and Recreation Department oversees a large number of parks, jogging and bike trails, recreational centers, cemeteries, and golf courses throughout the city. Particularly notable are Howard Park, which operates an outdoor ice rink in the winter months; Leeper Park, near downtown South Bend along the St. Joseph River, which features tennis courts, an outdoor stage, a duck pond, and a rose garden and is the location for the annual Leeper Park Art Fair in June; and Rum Village Park and Nature Center on the south side of town, 160 acres of rolling woodlands that are home to deer, foxes, reptiles, amphibians and numerous species of birds. In addition, the Parks Department also operates several unique facilities: the East Race Whitewater Course on the St. Joseph River in downtown South Bend, the first artificial whitewater course in North America, offering recreational kayaking and rafting to the public; the South Bend RiverWalk, a riverbank greenbelt pathway that allows people to walk, jog, cycle, or rollerblade for nearly nine miles along the St. Joseph River; the Potawatomi Zoo, the oldest zoo in Indiana; and several facilities alongside the zoo, including the fabulous Kids’ Kingdom fantasy playground, the Potawatomi Park swimming pool, and the Ella Morris and Muessel-Ellison Botanical Conservatories and Potawatomi Greenhouse.
The City of Mishawaka Parks and Recreation Department also offers numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation in its many parks, including an Olympic-size pool and ice rink at Merrifield Park; the Eberhart-Petro Municipal Golf Course; the system of beautifully landscaped pedestrian/bicycle trails on both banks of the St. Joseph River known as the Riverwalk; Battell Park with its tennis and basketball courts, splashpad, playground, terraced rock garden, and historic bandshell; and the Shiojiri Niwa Japanese Strolling Garden, symbolizing the sister-city relationship between Mishawaka and Shiojiri City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan, which contains more than twenty different varieties of large plant material, over two hundred large boulders, donated statues, and a teahouse pavilion.
Farms and Gardens
The Blueberry Ranch in Mishawaka grows strawberries, raspberries, and seven varieties of blueberries that ripen between June and August. Visitors can buy ready-picked berries or pick their own.
Lehman’s Orchard in Niles, Michigan is a small family farm that sells apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, cherries, berries, dried fruits, nuts, honey, preserves, juices, trail mixes, and other farm products at the farm’s Orchard Farm Market on Saturdays. It also offers U-pick tart cherries during the growing season, which can be pitted in a mechanical pitting machine.
Stover’s Farm in nearby Berrien Springs, Michigan just north of South Bend has been owned and run by seven generations of the Stover family. The farm offers U-pick fruit (strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, and pumpkins) as well as a farm market that sells ready-picked produce and dainties such as jams, salsas, pickles, dried fruits, sauces, dressings, honey, and maple syrup. Picnic tables are located throughout the orchards and the 160-year-old ark barn, and visitors are also invited to take a walk to the woods and ravine at the end of the apple orchard, where they can hunt for arrow heads or perhaps spot a variety of birds, deer, wild turkey, raccoons, opossums, and fox. The farm holds sing-alongs on Fridays and Saturdays.
Bertrand Farm in Niles, Michigan is a small working organic farm dedicated to project-based education for all ages. The farm spans nearly eleven acres. The grounds include an active barnyard, a small fruit orchard, two acres of organic vegetable production and, in the fall, thousands of pumpkins. The farm’s mission is to educate youth and adults about where their food comes from and to instill an appreciation for nature in conjunction with nutrition, ecology and the environment. Year-round activities at the farm include summer camps, farm-to-school programs, a pumpkin patch and associated fall activities, and a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm coop program spanning the months of February through October.
Tree-mendous Fruit, a U-pick farm located in Eau Claire, Michigan about 30 miles northeast of South Bend, offers U-pick apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums, as well as fresh apple cider. The farm also has a rent-a-tree program with eight varieties of apple trees to choose from, and it sponsors an International Cherry Pit Spitting Competition in July.
Community Gardens of Michiana was established in 2008 with a first garden on the grounds of the Potawatomi Greenhouses; the program has grown rapidly and now includes gardens across South Bend and beyond. There are four types of gardens: Unity Gardens, designed to bring together diverse people and provide food to those who need it; Community Gardens, tended by a designated group of gardeners who may or may not pay a small fee for a share in the garden; a Center for the Homeless garden in downtown South Bend, which is tended by the Center’s residents; and a Food Bank garden, whose produce is donated to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.
Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in nearby Niles, Michigan encompasses eight acres of beautiful gardens, a five-acre tallgrass prairie, and a forty-acre arboretum and bluebird nesting ground, all tucked into a scenic valley along the St. Joseph River, completely surrounded by forest. There are miles of trails to explore. Indoors, visitors enjoy the nature center, fern conservatory, cafГ©, gift shop, and art gallery. Fernwood offers many possibilities for learning and enrichment, including concerts, classes, trips, exhibits, and special events. The gardens are spectacular year-round, from the fields of daffodils in early springtime to the artfully designed Lights Before Christmas display in the holiday season.
The area in and around South Bend offers a variety of beaches for summer bathing and other aquatic recreation, including the St. Joseph’s Lake beach on the Notre Dame campus, offering swimming and boat rentals (canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats) May through August; the Ferrettie/Baugo Creek beach in Osceola, with swimming and canoe rentals; and, on Lake Michigan, a number of popular beaches, including Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan at the outlet of the St. Joseph River, with a beautiful lighthouse and extensive playground equipment; Weko Beach in downtown Bridgman, Michigan, with a beach house, boat launch ramp, playground, dune boardwalks, and summer concert series; Warren Dunes beach in Sawyer, Michigan, with a guarded swimming beach, three miles of shoreline, and six miles of rugged dune trails offering spectacular views; New Buffalo beach and Lakefront Park, with a playground, boat launch and marina, guarded swimming area, and dune stairway and boardwalk, and lighthouse at the outlet of the Galien River; and Oval Beach in Saugatuck, nestled among towering sand dunes and bordered by the winding Kalamazoo River on its way to Lake Michigan. The towns of Michigan Harbor country are also charming tourist destinations in their own right.
A number of water parks are located in and near South Bend: the Kennedy Water Playground in South Bend, a low-depth interactive water playground for young children; the swimming pool at Merrifield Park in Mishawaka, which has a 160-foot water slide; Ideal Beach Family Water Park in Elkhart, Indiana, with twin corkscrew waterslides, kiddie pool, miniature golf course, and guarded beach; Splash Universe in Shipshewana, Indiana, a year-round, indoor water park and resort; and Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park in Muskegon, Michigan.
The South Bend Silverhawks minor league baseball team (Midwest League) play their home games at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium, familiarly known as “the Cove,” which was constructed in 1986-87 and seats 5,000 fans. In 2007 the South Bend Silverhawks celebrated their twentieth anniversary season and welcomed their four millionth fan to the Cove. The Silverhawks are affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Potawatomi Zoo is the oldest zoo in Indiana; its denizens include red pandas, lions, tigers, Old World monkeys, kangaroos and wallabies, prairie dogs, African wild dogs, zebras, tigers, chimpanzees, and many more. Attractions include a butterfly garden, daily pony rides, and a zoo train. The zoo also hosts seasonal events such as the Zoo Boo in October as well as classes and summer camps for children.
The Hesston Steam Museum, operated by the LaPorte County Historical Steam Society makes history come alive, as real working steam locomotives take visitors on a journey over a spectacular two-and-a-half mile railroad, through deep woods, past lakes and farm fields. The museum opens for the season on Memorial Day Weekend, and highlights include the Hesston Ghost Train during the last two weekends in October, and the Candy Cane Express the first two weekends in December.
Amish Acres Historic Farm and Heritage Resort
The centerpoint of the Amish Acres restoration is the Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farmstead, the only Amish farm listed in The National Register of Historic Places. A visit to the farm begins with two documentary films on the history of the Amish, followed by an excursion through the grounds, including the orchard, the kitchen garden, and the outbuildings where food is dried, bread is baked, meat is smoked, and lye soap is made. The original two-room pioneer house has primitive but practical furnishings; the washhouse is filled with iron and copper kettles, a cistern pump, an egg incubator, and a pie safe. Also included in the tour are the larger, fancier main house and its attached milk house; the Schweitzer barn; a wagon shed featuring an Amish church bench wagon, two and four seat buggies, bob sled, and Birdsell wagon; an ice house; the Nappanee Walnut Street house; a German one-room schoolhouse; and a tractor-pulled wagon ride. Visitors can enjoy a hearty Threshers’ Dinner under the hand-hewn timbers of the Restaurant Barn or attend a musical theater production in the Round Barn Theater, or purchase fresh Amish baked goods, meats, cheese, and other dainties and souvenirs in the resort’s several gift shops.
Fairs and Festivals
The greater Michiana area is host to a multitude of themed fairs and festivals that celebrate the season, the bounty of nature, and/or the arts. What follows is a only a small selection of popular nearby events, arranged in chronological order throughout the year.
Hunter Ice Festival
The weekend Hunter Ice Festival is held each year in downtown Niles, Michigan during the month of January. The festival pays tribute to the history of the area’s Hunter Brothers Ice and Ice Cream Company, which not only created the best ice cream at the turn of the century, but also cut ice blocks out of Barron Lake and shipped it throughout the land. The festival showcases more than 50 ice sculptures situated all over the downtown area and created on site by well known ice carvers from near and far. The events also include a fun-filled Kids’ Art Activities Warming Station with awards, face painting, crafts, and balloon animals.
Sugar Camp Days
Sugar Camp Days at Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle, Indiana, takes place on a weekend in mid-March when the maple sap begins to run. Watch sap cook into syrup, enjoy a pancake and sausage breakfast, tour the sugar bush, purchase home-made baked goods made with pure maple syrup, and enjoy family music and other entertainment.
Blossomtime Festival of Southwestern Michigan
The Blossomtime Festival in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, Michigan takes place at the end of April and beginning of May and includes a fashion show, beauty pageants, and the Blessing of the Blossoms as well as the annual Grand Floral Parade on the first Saturday in May, which lasts some two hours and boasts over 125 units including floats, bands, clowns, costumed characters, antique cars and tractors, and many other special units including the famed Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Motorcycle Drill Team leading the parade. Participants and spectators come from all over the Midwest; the parade hosts 250,000 spectators annually.
Tulip Time Festival
The week-long Tulip Time Festival, held in Holland, Michigan in early May, displays millions of tulips in “tulip lanes” throughout the city and celebrates Dutch heritage and culture through dance, art, and theater. The festival includes several parades; klompen dancing; big-name entertainment; free concerts; a Dutch heritage show and other variety shows; a Dutch market featuring Dutch arts and crafts, souvenirs, wooden shoes, and lace; trolley tours; childrenпїЅs events; fireworks; and more. Festival attendees can also visit Holland’s Dutch Village Family Theme Park and Wooden Shoe Factory, the Holland Museum, Veldheer’s Tulip Farm, and Windmill Island.
Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival
The week-long Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, held in Dowagiac, Michigan in mid-May, features visiting authors, storytellers, and musical artists; a video festival of dance; a visual arts day; and musical and theatrical performances, as well as a celebration of youth arts talent including concerts by choirs and jazz and marching bands. An antiques appraisal clinic is also offered.
Village at Winona Art Fair
The Village at Winona is a thriving arts community nestled on the shores of beautiful Winona Lake. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Village is home to numerous galleries, studios, shops, eateries, and museums which offer a delightful array of original artwork and handmade gifts along with a variety of dining options. The Village also hosts numerous cultural and entertainment events throughout the year, including an art fair usually held on a weekend in early June.
Mishawaka Summerfest is a two-and-a-half day festival in Mishawaka’s Merrifield Park in June. The festival offers a variety of concerts on different stages throughout the days and then big concerts and fireworks at night. The festival also includes such events as boat races on the river, potbelly pig races on the baseball diamond, the Mishawaka Grand Prix go-kart race benefiting the programs of Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County, a car show, arts and crafts, food, fireworks, and rides for the kids.
St. Joseph County 4-H Fair
The St. Joseph County 4-H Fair takes place on the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds on South Bend’s south side at the very end of July and beginning of August, lasting for six days. The fair is a family-oriented event showcasing animal and other 4-H exhibits and competitions. The Fair offers livestock judging, free entertainment, a large variety of foods, and a great midway. More than 100,000 people attend each year.
Leeper Park Art Fair
The Leeper Park Art Fair, sponsored by the St. Joseph Valley Watercolor Society, is held in South Bend’s Leeper Park on a weekend in the second part of June. This is a juried art fair that features 120 fine artists from across the United States.
Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival
The Arts and Crafts Festival at Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana is a four-day festival in late July and early August at which 350 artists and crafters from around the country surround the Amish Acres pond to apply their trade and sell their wares. Live entertainment on three stages includes country bands, magicians, and square dancing. Festival foods are a very important part of the festival, featuring everything from apple pie to zucchini bread, homemade ice cream to sassafras iced tea. The festival also offers $10,000 in cash prizes, a children’s entertainment tent, roving clowns, a medicine show, swan paddle boats, and cloggers.
Niles Riverfest is held during four days in early August in downtown Niles, Michigan at Riverfront Park along the St. Joseph River. This fun-filled event is free to all who attend and offers a variety of recreational activities and events, entertainment, great food, craft booths, kids’ games, and more. Because Riverfest celebrates the St. Joseph River, many of the festival activities and events are held alongside or in the water. Some of the popular activities include the “Anything Floats” raft race, Dragon Boat races, and a car and truck show, as well as a pageant at which Mr. & Ms. Riverfest are crowned.
Marshall County Blueberry Festival
The Marshall County Blueberry Festival takes place in Centennial Park in Plymouth, Indiana for four days over Labor Day Weekend each year. Craft, commercial, and food vendors are an integral part of the Blueberry Festival, and blueberries are in abundance in the form of blueberry delights like blueberry pie, blueberry ice cream, blueberry shakes, sundaes, and doughnuts, blueberry cheesecake, and just plain blueberries! Free musical entertainment is available on three stages, and sports activities aboundвЂ”including softball, tennis, volleyball, arm wrestling, garden tractor pulls, a horse pull, kiddie tractor pedal pull, cheerleading, and basketball. The festival also features such popular annual events as the Hoosier Old Wheels Antique Car Show, the Blueberry Stomp 5K/15K run, the Blueberry Festival Bicycle Cruise, hot air balloon launches, a fabulous Labor Day parade, historic Americana, and a spectacular fireworks display.
The Bonneyville Celebration, celebrating Elkhart County’s rich agricultural heritage, is a a fun-filled, family-friendly country fair held annually at Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol, Indiana on a weekend in mid-September. The fair allows visitors to experience what it was like when life revolved around the family farm and the local community. Attractions include a visit to Bonneyville Mill, Indiana’s oldest continuously operating grist mill, craft vendors and period craft demonstrations (e.g., basket weaving, spinning, blacksmithing), musical entertainment, food vendors, historical and agricultural displays, and children’s activities (Pioneer toys, candle dipping, rope making, face painting, an old-fashioned rope bridge, a petting zoo, pony rides, and more).
Nappanee Apple Festival
The Nappanee, Indiana Apple Festival, during four days in the second part of September, includes entertainment on two stages, craft vendors, carnival rides, a parade, teen dance, queen contest, apple baking contest, garden tractor pull, pedal pull contest, “Wings and Wheels” show, apple peeling contest, bike ride, road run, pie eating contest, frog jumping contest, tractor pull, cheerleading contest, laser light shows, and more. In the spirit of the celebration, crates of fresh apples dot the downtown sidewalks, and food vendors offer apple products such as apple pie, apple dumplings, apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple bread, apple cider, and apple butter.
Studebaker National Museum
The Studebaker Museum honors the legacy of the rich industrial heritage of the South Bend area, through the display, interpretation, conservation, and preservation of Studebaker vehicles, archives, and other objects. The museum also mounts exhibitions dedicated to such themes as the bicentennial of President Lincoln’s birth and British sports cars.
College Football Hall of Fame
The College Football Hall of Fame shows visitors the sport of football from every possible angle and includes exhibits on such themes as the science of training and sports medicine; the evolution of football uniforms over time; the recipients of ten prestigious awards, including the Heisman trophy; and the colorful traditions and pageantry accompanying the game of college football. Visitors can also test their own athletic skill on the Gridiron Plaza and the Fitness Room. The College Football Hall of Fame will be relocating to Atlanta, Georgia Fall 2012.
National New York Central Railroad Museum
The National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, Indiana recaptures the days when locomotives were symbols of progress and ambassadors of goodwill across the country. The museum’s mission is to preserve both local and national railroad heritage. Visitors enter the Museum through a 1915 passenger coach, where a timeline to local railroad history spans the years 1833 through 1914. At the end of the coach, the path leads through the gift shop and into the museum’s main gallery: a 100-year-old freight house complex featuring the history of the New York Central through numerous hands-on exhibits.
Center for History
The Center for History encompasses Copshaholm, an elegant Victorian mansion that belonged to the Oliver family; the Historic Oliver Gardens, including a tea house, formal Italianate garden, rose garden, pergola, tennis lawn, and fountain; the Worker’s Home, reflecting life in the 1930s; a gallery that chronicles local history; a gallery of Notre Dame history; a children’s museum; and changing exhibitions. All of Copshaholm’s furnishings are original, showing the 38-room mansion as it appeared when the family lived there. Voyages Gallery comprises seven areas of life-like dioramas and interactive displays which tell the story of the St. Joseph River Valley, from Prehistoric times, the French explorations of the 1600s, the settlements of the early 1800s (including the forced removal of the Potawatomi Indians from their land), early pioneer life, African-American settlers and the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and the area’s growth as an industrial power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Kidsfirst Children’s Museum
The Kidsfirst Children’s Museum at the Northern Indiana Center for History engages childrenпїЅs imaginations through their hands-on exploration of recreated, life-size environments such as a log cabin, a one-room schoolhouse, a trading post, a Conestoga covered wagon, and a Native American village complete with an authentic wigwam and a life-sized canoe. Kids can also dress in pioneer clothing and discover animal tracks in an archaeology пїЅdig."
Healthworks! Kids’ Museum
Healthworks! contains over twenty larger-than-life hands-on activity stations that are designed to teach children something new about the human body, with accompanying text panels written at a third grade reading-level. Exhibits include the Main Brain Theater, Skin Crawl Wall, Virus Invaders, the Dentist’s Office, and Vincent’s Tree House play area for younger visitors.
Hannah Lindahl Children's Museum
The Hannah Lindahl Children's Museum in Mishawaka includes exhibits on nature and fossils, local history, the Native American way of life, fire safety, old musical instruments, historic Mishawaka, and Mishawaka's Sister City, Shiojiri, Japan.
Curious Kids’ Museum
The Curious Kids’ Museum in St. Joseph, Michigan is a hands-on children’s museum dedicated to stimulating the curiosity of children with educational exhibits and programs which challenge the senses and offer unique learning opportunities. Exhibits have a focus on science and technology, history, culture, and/or human perception and include a Discovery Room Rainforest, Body Words, Electricity and Magnetism, and Kid Space.