Saturday, August 11, 2012

#271: East Race Rafting

The clouds have cleared, and once again, it feels like summer here in the Bend.  Good thing, because we're on the cusp of the start of a new school year.  Next week, students from IUSB, Notre Dame, Saint Mary's, etc will return.  Enjoy your last weekend of congestion-free Grape Road, and celebrate with a popular summer activity distinctive to South Bend: rafting on the East Race waterway.

Part of the South Bend Parks system, the East Race opened in 1984 after two years of construction, and more than 200,000 have enjoyed its almost 2000 ft stretch of whitewater.  While you can find expert paddlers testing their skills on the East Race any day of the week, on the weekend the Parks Department opens it to the larger public with basic equipment for rent.  For $5 a 'ride', you receive an inflatable kayak or raft, paddle, helmet and life jacket to brave the rapids.  If you have no experience on whitewater, don't worry -- the rapids are only class 2, enough to provide a bit of thrill but not strong to toss anyone out of the raft.

This is the last weekend that the rentals are available -- don't let another year go by without experiencing one of South Bend's greatest attractions!

When: Saturday, 12-5pm; Sunday, 1-5pm
Where: Park and buy your tickets in the parking lot opposite Seitz Park, between The Emporium and AM General Building
Cost: $5/ride.  Rides generally take about 5 minutes.

TIPS:  Cash only.  You must wear close-toed shoes (no flip-flops), and although no one actually goes into the river, you will get soaked.  Dress appropriately.

Kids are welcome -- the first ride might be intimidating, but they'll be hooked after it! -- but must be at least 4'6".

There's an ice cream truck and sometimes a climbing wall on site, but Corby's and the Emporium are probably your best bets to dry off and cool down afterward.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

#270: A South Bend RV Trip

The RV industry is very important to the economy of northern Indiana.  Ever wonder what the region looks like from the perspective of "recreational vehicle"?  Check out today's guest post featuring  someone who knows a thing or two about RVs, Joe Laing, Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals.  He also contributes to Monty's Musings RV Travel Blog.

Take an RV trip to South Bend, Indiana for a vacation filled with outdoor fun. You will discover so many activities for the whole family to make it a getaway worth remembering. This will be an appealing trip, especially in an RV. You will have your "home" right along with you so in between adventures you can relax surrounded by the familiar and comfortable things you love.

If coming from Chicago, enter Indiana on Interstate 80 heading east. Follow I-80 and after passing Gary, Indiana, you can take a short side-trip on the Dunes Highway. This will take you to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. An amazing and enchanting time awaits you here, with a sandy beach, miles and miles of trails to hike and wetlands and forests to explore. The visitor center is open from 8 am to 6 pm in the summer and from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm in winter months.  Be sure to visit the West Beach with only a fee of $6 per car per day.

Further on, you will find a great golf course so you can perfect your game. At Michigan City Golf Course you'll discover a lovely 18-hole course in a beautiful wooded setting. Any level of skill is welcome. Browse the pro shop for a full choice of equipment. If you don't play golf, now is surely the time to take it up as a thrilling hobby.

Cut back over to Interstate 80 and on your route to South Bend, stop at Hudson Lake. Get out on the lake on your personal watercraft, and go fishing. You'll catch some largemouth bass or bluegill or both. You can also make this spot your home base for your trip to South Bend. Find RV camping at Lakeside RV Resort. Here you will find a boat launch, horseshoe pits, a swimming pool and much more. You're right on the lake with great views.

Next stop is South Bend, Indiana, your actual destination on this RV vacation. Tour the downtown area by enjoying a horse drawn carriage ride. Catch a ride any Friday evening from 7 to 10 pm. Another popular stop is the East Race Waterway, an artificial whitewater course. Here on the east side of the St. Joseph River, you can ride the rapids. If you are visiting South Bend anytime between 9 June and 12 August, don't miss this special adventure. It is open on weekends only from 12 to 5 pm on Saturdays and 1 to 5 pm on Sundays.

Throughout South Bend you'll find many parks where you can get out into the sunshine. Go to Wheelock Park or Merrifield Park in town. This latter one has a number of sports fields and an Olympic size swimming pool with water slide. If kids are with you (or even if there aren't children on this trip), you will love this park.

Thirty minutes to the west, you will find Bendix Woods County Park. Here is a popular place to go to see wildflowers in bloom during the springtime. Hike the trails and stretch your legs. Enjoy the historic sites available to visit too, such as the original clubhouse and the famous Studebaker pine tree sign. If there in March, stop by the Sugar Camp Days Festival (see 365-SB post #150). Hours vary for this park so call when planning your trip. The number is 574-654-3155.

Other places of interest are the Chamberlain Lake Nature Preserve in South Bend and Potato Creek State Park about twenty-minute drive to the southwest. But you can't neglect the many festivals that are held in and around South Bend all year round. Events in and around South Bend can fill in the times when you need a little change from all that physical activity. In June there are two favorites, Notre Dame's Cleveland Shakespeare Festival and the South Bend Blues & Ribs Festival (see 365-SB post #202).

If coming to South Bend in August, you simply must include the South Bend Reggae Festival on your itinerary. Held annually at the Saint Joe County Fairgrounds, this fest is the best for live entertainment and great food. Gates usually open around 2 pm, and kids under 12 are free.

A South Bend, Indiana RV trip will prove to be quite an entertaining excursion, with all the outdoor recreation you can imagine as well as some history and festivals thrown in. The time will be memorable and you are sure to have experiences that you will share with future generations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#269: The Oliver Gardens and the Center for History

Many kids read the story of “The Secret Garden”. Mary, an orphan, moves from India to England to live with her distant relatives. She is unhappy, but soon she befriends her crippled cousin and a local farmboy and together they discover the aforementioned secret garden, a wild place full of flowers, broken swings, and imagination. I remember loving the book and subsequently loving the idea of a formal, flowery garden just around the corner.

Part of the formal gardens (plus cameo on the left!)
This might be a heavy-handed segue, forgive me, but I thought of “The Secret Garden” when visiting the Center for History last month. We’ve written about Copshaholm and the West Washington Historic District as a whole previously on this blog, but I have to confess that I, personally, had never spent much time on the Center’s campus. And lo and behold, I found my own secret (or rather unknown) garden. I had been scouting locations for my upcoming South Bend wedding and someone suggested the Oliver Gardens adjacent to the Center for History and attached to Copshaholm. When I visited, it was one of the hottest days in June (we’ve had many more since), and I was immediately charmed by the lush loveliness of the gardens. A green lawn spreads until it reaches a gazebo followed by a stretch of roses in a formal, sunken flowerbed and then the open lawn in front of the mansion. The gardens are in the process of being restored to the original landscaping from 1915 when they were used by the Oliver family for entertaining and relaxing. I can see how enjoyable they must have been as a wealthy family’s backyard. In my opinion, they, themselves, are a reason to make the trip out to West Washington.

The front lawn
And if you do choose to visit, you’ll find yourself with the ability to view much more than the gardens. The Center for History is currently hosting several interesting exhibitions (one called “Gizmos, Corsets, and Concoctions caught my eye) alongside their more permanent ones such as “Girls Who Played Hard Ball” focused on the women’s baseball league that inspired the movie “A League of Their Own”. You’ll also have access to the mansion itself (which we have featured previously). Just make sure to spend some of your summer afternoon in the gardens.

For directions click here.

For more information about the Center for History click here.

For ticket information click here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

#268: Into the Woods

We grow up with the comforting narratives of fairy tales. The frog becomes a prince. The glass slipper fits. Hansel and Gretel find their way out of the forest. It’s easy to be convinced that these are merely children’s stories, full of songs and happy endings without any bearing on an adult reality. Yet, upon closer examination, many of these stories are not very childlike at all. They are full of fear and shame and indecision, of violence, disappointment, and struggle. It was these components of fairy tales that Stephen Sondheim drew upon to construct what many consider his magnum opus, Into the Woods, a musical theater compendium of fractured fairy tales.

In his creation, elements of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood are brought together. Characters from different stories run into each other; their own wishes and dreams quickly getting in each other’s way. The show’s multiple storylines are fascinating and the music, composed by Sondheim, is, by turns, light-hearted, heart-rending, and thrilling. The show plays with our traditional ideas of fairy tales and leaves many wondering if these beloved characters, and by proxy, ourselves, will actually make it out of the woods.

It must be theater week here at 365 South Bend because in addition to LangLab's fantastic theatrical offerings, the South Bend Civic Theater, which we have featured many times before, is currently producing their version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods.  The Civic is a community treasure, and this show is a highlight of their current season. Into the Woods will run through August 12th at the Civic and features local talent in both its actors and its crew. Take a(nother) night to experience the joy of live theater and a dark twist on “happy endings”.

For more information, showtimes, and ticket information visit the South Bend Civic Theater website here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#267: TheatreLanglab's 24 Hour Play

Today features a special guest post by Yael, a west coast-turned-midwesterner who understands all things theater and theatre...

If you think you have to go to Chicago to see eclectic theatre, think again. TheatreLanglab is once again at “play”, in their home near the South Bend Farmer’s Market. Langlab itself inspires invention. What was once an abandoned factory building has become a local hotspot for the arts, education, and community organizations. TheatreLanglab did its first 24-hour production, The Jacket (see video below), at the Lab last summer and will head back into their gigantic playground at the end of July for another round of raucous fun.
 This year’s farcical tragicomedy is called Burned! It’s a loose adaptation of Frisch’s The Firebugs and is about what happens when politeness usurps honesty in a city threatened by arsonists. The catch is that TheatreLanglab will create the entire play in 24 hours: they’ll stay up late to design lights, costumes, sets, and sound. They’ll play, workshop, rehearse and attempt to memorize lines overnight. And then they’ll share their artistic handiwork, in whatever form it takes, with an audience. For one night only. The event, more about process than product, will be suitable for all children (although not crafted for those under 10) with a suggested donation of $10 at the door. 

Burned! will serve as the first fundraiser for ULTREIA, a new independent non-profit established to support the arts and arts education in South Bend. ULTREIA, meaning ‘onward’ or ‘forward’, will sponsor more art with the money it raises at this performance - a win-win for patrons and for the city.

Langlab will also mark the closing of its first gallery exhibition, Cuba Inside/Out, on July 29. This thoughtful show, with stunning photographs of Havana and Santiago de Cuba by local artist Christopher Stackowicz, wrestles with theatre in Cuba and the drama of everyday Cuban street life.  The gallery will be open for its final night of viewing and a small reception will follow the performance of Burned! Where else in town can you enjoy a boisterous performance, intriguing photos, and a social gathering all in one evening out? 


TheatreLanglab concocts play in 24 hours:
Burned! A morality play without a moral.

Sunday night, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.
$10 suggested donation

Langlab South Bend
1302 High Street
South Bend, IN 46601

Sunday, July 15, 2012

#266: Rose Quest Organic Food Store

The South Bend Tribune recently lauded what they termed the “hipster appeal” of South Bend defining the hipster aesthetic as an affinity for “vintage and thrift-store-inspired fashions, fixed-gear bicycles…strong coffee, craft beers and local food.” The piece in the Tribune encouraged young Chicagoans to relocate to South Bend because of the ability to live the “hipster” life at a lower price than neighborhoods with a similar appeal in Chicago. They’re right. South Bend is affordable and offers many, underrated cultural amenities of the style that are currently in vogue. I would like to argue that there’s even more that South Bend has to offer than just an alternate version of trendy urban life.  Unlike in hipster 'hoods like Brooklyn, Wicker Park and the whole of Austin, TX and Portland, OR, you won’t get lost in South Bend's scene.  You have the ability to know the entirety of the local area, and your presence and your contributions to the community hold weight.  There are no masses to follow here (except on ND football game days).  South Bend's approachable size allows for discovery as well as community involvement.  Such a lifestyle goes beyond any trends.

And now on to the local find of the day! Speaking of hipsters, one of their affinities is for “local food”. To that I would add “organic food”. Organic food, for those not intimately familiar, is food that has not been grown or processed in any synthetic way. No pesticides. No fertilizers. No chemical additives. Many stores carry organic (next to their non-organic selections) and many local farmers do as well (just ask when you’re at the Farmer’s Market). But in the event that you would like an all-organic selection of produce and miscellaneous dry goods, there’s a store in Mishawaka just for you! Rose Quest Organic Food Store is one part of the Rose Quest Nutrition Centre. The owner of the Nutrition Centre curates a small and delightful selection of all-organic food housed in a Victorian style home on Lincolnway East as you’re headed to Osceola. We popped in one day early in June and walked out with some organic avocados and strawberries. If you sign up for their email newsletter, you can receive emails indicating when certain items go on sale and what type of produce is in season. While the store might not be able to supply all of your grocery needs, it happily fills a small niche within the local food scene of the area.

410 Lincolnway East
(574) 259-5653

Mon/Tues/Fri         8:00am-5:00pm
Sat                          9:00am-noon

For more information visit the website here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

#265: Dari Fair

Even after a big meal, I say, there's always room for ice cream. And in the hot summer months, it's always time for ice cream. With all this room and time for ice cream, it's good to know all the options available. It took me much too long to add this to my list of regular stops, but Dari Fair is an ideal spot for getting for your ice cream fix.

Dari Fair offers an incredible variety of food, not just ice cream. It opens for breakfast in the morning with typical drive-in fare. As for dairy side of the menu, there are over 100 flavors available, many novelty treats (eg. homemade brownie and cookie ice cream sandwiches), and my personal favorite, "Razzles" (see the photo below). In a long life of ice cream consumption, I have never ever found a place that offers puppy chow (or muddy-buddies, for the southerners) as a mix-in. This alone made me a devoted fan of Dari Fair.

They also offer something not found at every ice cream stand: a strong local flavor. Dari Fair regularly hosts blood drive vehicles in the parking lot, and signs for local camps and events are plastered alongside the menu. Don't expect anything fancy here -- there's a handful of picnic tables and a shaded side patio, handwritten notes on the menus, and a crowded jumble of food and machines inside -- but during this sticky and sweaty summer, it will hit the sweet spot.

When: Seven days a week, 4:30 am-10:00 pm, except for Mondays, when it opens at 11:00 am
Where: 4012 Lincolnway East (Mishawaka/Elkhart side of town)
Website: - frequently feature specials/coupons on Facebook
I hope the pina colada doesn't actually come out that color green.

"Razzles" = soft serve with mix-in (cf: Dairy Queen Blizzard)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Wine Walk Teaser

Tonight is a summer DTSB Wine Walk. We have already highlighted the holiday walk, but I thought I would share a few snapshots from the June walk to show you what you might be in for.

This month, the wines featured are primarily from France, in celebration of Bastille Day. Bon fete!

For more information about cost and participating restaurants, click here.
Tippecanoe's bar takes you back to the Golden Age.  Between its high classiness factor and its heavy appetizers (steak??), this is a good place to begin drinking. 
Sunny Italy, although crowded, is informal and a great place to linger and catch up with friends.
To everyone's delight, yes, the SB Chocolate Company DID pair their chocolates with the featured wines.
Ending the night on the river at the Emporium.

Friday, July 6, 2012

#264: Movies on the Gridiron - The Dark Side of Oz

Today is a First Friday, which means Downtown South Bend (and Goshen, but more on that next month) is all that DTSB normally is but more.  Its stores and art galleries are open later (until 9 PM), and free food and wine is available at many of them.  There are street performers and music playing, odd sights of carriages and clowns and zombies and BMX bikers.  There is always something unusual to see or do.
I'd say the highlight of this month's FF is an outdoor movie screening on the College Football Hall of Fame.  Tonight, there will be a free screening of The Wizard of Oz around 9:30 PM in this 'living on the edge...of E.S.T.' town.  This movie is obviously family-friendly, but if you want to add a twist to a film that you might have watched innumerable times, try it Pink Floyd style.  

Grab a lawn chair and your ipod/walkman and start playing The Dark Side of the Moon album as soon on the third roar of the MGM lion, and you will be amazed at how the visuals of the movie seem to match the music.  If you don't believe me (which I wouldn't blame you for), check out this article about  The Dark Side of Oz/Dark Side of the Rainbow or start watching:

Restaurant Week is still continuing, so I recommend fueling up on a good meal or one of the cocktail specials beforehand.  ArtPost is having an event that celebrates street art of all forms that looks AWESOME, so check that out too.  Finally, Marigold's is celebrating its two-year anniversary, so Happy Anniversary to them!  For details on all events happening, check out

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

#263: How to Celebrate Independence in the Bend

With the fourth of July right around the corner, you might be in the mood to celebrate.  The beauty of this holiday is that it celebrates independence, so you should do whatever you want, within the confines of the law, of course.  (Although, Thomas Jefferson did say, "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.")  Whether you choose to grill out with family, sleep in until noon and avoid the sun at all costs, consider it within your civil rights.

If you want to do something a bit more traditional/out-of-the-ordinary, here are few suggestions -- feel free to leave your own!
  • Baseball game at Coveleski stadium: Celebrate America with its Favorite Pastime.   Happening tonight. Perk: You can buy hot dogs and beer and burgers and all the cookout favorites with none of the prep time involved.  Double perk: FIREWORKS that have not been canceled!
  • Listen to patriotic music:  There were several opportunities this past weekend, but there are several performances in the coming days that give you a chance to break out the lawn chairs or blankets.
    • Volunteers of the U.S. Army Field Band on the Irish Green at Notre Dame  - 7 p.m. tonight.  Perk: It's servicemen play patriotic tunes.
    • Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra - 9 p.m. tonight at Lions Pavilion Park (New Buffalo, MI) and 9 p.m. Wednesday at Shadowland Pavilion (St. Joseph, MI).  Perk: There are fireworks afterward.  Double perk: the beach is close by!
  • Eat a lot (of pancakes): The South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society Sanctuary is hosting a pancake breakfast from 7:30-10 a.m. Wednesday at the wildlife sanctuary (59395 Clover Road, Mishawaka).  Please bring your own serving utensils and a 'free-will' donation.  Perk: Unlike fireworks, this event will not hurt those with sensitive ears.  Double perk: Patriotically, they will be serving BLUEberry pancakes. 
  • Bring out your inner farmer: The St. Joseph County 4-H has been going on for the past week and continues through this one.  You can see the multitude of exhibits, including the popular duck races, and fair rides are only $1.00 on Wednesday.  Midway opens at 2:00pm.  At 7pm, Doug Church/"The Voice of Elvis" performs.