On a last minute whim--or more accurately, a lucky break--I headed to South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday to watch my Marquette Golden Eagles take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (the outcome of which will not be discussed here). I love college basketball, and no other event other than this would have brought me to this small town. And yet, as we drove through the fields and hills of Indiana, I grew curious as to what made South Bend unique, what truly drew people to the confines of this modest Midwestern city? Apart from the acclaimed college that calls South Bend its home, what else could possibly make people want to visit?
Since the game was the reason my friends and I were in South Bend, I didn't have any time to explore the city. However, I did get a nice glimpse at the St. Joseph River, the main body of water that runs through the city. With the whole area blanketed in snow, it was actually really pretty, and I found myself wondering what it would be like to live in the neighborhood that sat quaintly by the river. But I digress.
I did a little research on South Bend to learn more about what makes this a desirable tourist destination. The main draw is, of course, the University of Notre Dame. Guests can stop by the Eck's Visitor's Center to view a 20-minute video on the history and tradition of the university. Afterwards, you can either go on a guided student tour or wander the campus on your own. But be sure to take a picture in front of the Golden Dome, one of the main symbols that defines the campus's skyline. The Basilica that sits right next to the Dome is a great place to attend a mass--even if you're not Catholic. For more religious significance, head over to Hesburgh Library to see Touchdown Jesus. The mural on the side of the library can be seen from the football stadium, and Jesus appears to be making the referee symbol for a touchdown right by the endzone--hence the name, Touchdown Jesus.
If you're a fan of cars, head over to the Studebaker National Museum, which features exhibits on the Studebaker family, the local industry and the role of the car during the war. To satisfy that sweet tooth, visit the South Bend Chocolate Company. The collection at the museum is among the largest in the country, featuring classic chocolate boxes, tins, posters, signs, and other memorabilia. You also have the option of going on two tours at the company. One is a behind-the-scenes tour that shows visitors how the chocolate is produced and packaged. The "Inside Scoop" tour gives the basic information on production, but also lets guests try their hand making chocolate covered spoons, and they get a treat and a 10% off coupon.
If you're traveling with kids, head over to Potawatomi Zoo, the oldest zoo in the state. This 23-acre zoo has large cats, primates, and tropical reptiles, as well as a zoo train that the whole family can ride. Another great place for kids is the Healthworks! Kids' Museum, an interactive education center that teaches children how to be healthy, stay active and how the human body functions.
The College Football Hall of Fame has interactive displays and exhibits that display historic photographs and artifacts. There is also a practice field and a 360-degree stadium theater where visitors can experience what it's like to be in the game. Among other attractions are the Morris Performing Arts Center, Military Honor Park, Potato Creek State Park, South Bend Museum of Art and the Spicer Lake Nature Preserve.
Even though I had never been to South Bend before--and had no chance to see any of these attractions mentioned above--it does seem that this city has plenty to offer. I'm sure one day I'll be able to spend more time in South Bend, but for now, at least I can say I have visited this lovely piece of Northern Indiana.