‘Tis the Season…

‘Tis the season for holiday fun. There are a variety of events coming up in and around downtown South Bend within the coming weeks where you’ll be able to celebrate the season (and buy some Christmas presents). Here are a few ideas to get you in the holiday spirit:

  • The theme of this month’s First Friday in South Bend, which will take place on

    Christmas decor at Tippecanoe Place

    December 2, is Downtown for the Holidays and the city and area shops will have a plethora of Christmas-themed activities lined up for the whole family, including the arrival of Santa, a tree lighting and sleigh rides. A full lineup of activities can be found on their website.

  • St. Joseph will Light Up the Bluff with Christmas lights this Friday, December 2, at 6:30 p.m.
  • The Howard Park Ice Rink will be the home of a Holiday Bazaar for the next three Saturdays (Dec 3, 10, and 17). Vendors will sell crafts and gifts.
  • Make South Bend is hosting an Urban Artisan Market this Friday and Saturday (December 2 & 3) at the J.C. Lauber Building at 504 E LaSalle in South Bend. Friday is a preview; Saturday is the full event featuring music, coffee and a variety of local artisans. If you’re in need of holiday gifts, you could also sign up for one of Make South Bend’s many craft classes and make homemade Christmas presents.
  • St. Joseph’s annual Reindog Holiday Parade is this Saturday from 4-5 p.m., beginning at Elm and State Streets in downtown St. Joe. Where else can you watch Santa being ushered in on his sleigh by dogs dressed up as reindeer? Seriously, it’s the greatest. If you want your dog to participate, judging for the costume contest will take place from 2:30-3:45 pm.
  • On Sunday, December 4, Downtown South Bend will be hosting its annual Historic Holiday Walking Tour from 1-5 p.m., where you’ll be able to explore the West Washington National Historic District. The best part about this tour is that you can see the interiors of many historic homes and businesses that typically aren’t open to the public. I went on this tour last year and highly recommend it. Read about last year’s tour here.
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    A random pic of my dog (although the sweater was purchased at the Reindog Parade)

    The Morris Performing Arts Center will be hosting the Nutcracker Ballet on December 10 and 11.

  • Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at Tippecanoe Place and see the beautiful Christmas decorations throughout the former Studebaker Mansion.
  • The Toboggan Runs at Pokagon State Park are officially open and they’re AWESOME (and refrigerated so you don’t have to worry about there not being any snow). The hour and 15 minute drive to Angola is definitely worth it.
  • There’s an ice skating rink at University Park Mall this year. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own skates if possible. If not, there will be a limited number of skates available to borrow for free.
  • You can also take the South Shore Line to Chicago to see the lights on Michigan Avenue, visit Christkindlmarket, and see the giant Christmas tree at Macy’s on State Street.





The most-attended public art event on the planet, ArtPrize, takes place only two hours north of South Bend. More than 170 venues – including museums, parks, restaurants, hotels, parking lots and bars – located within three square miles in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, open up their doors to the public to display nearly 1,500 pieces of artwork. Artwork can take the form of a simple photograph to a huge art installation spanning a bridge across the river. This is the last week of ArtPrize Eight. It began on September 14 and will end this weekend, October 9.

Why do so many artists want to participate in ArtPrize? Two winners,  which are chosen by public vote and a jury of experts, win grand prizes of $200,000 each. Eight other winners will receive smaller awards. Prizes total $500,000.

ArtPrize is a great way to explore the city of Grand Rapids on foot, while viewing some amazing pieces of artwork. So how do you tackle an event like this? Before you go, I’d suggest doing your research. What are some of the most popular exhibitions? What do you want to see? What venues are hosting the most artwork? You can do the majority of this planning on the ArtPrize website. Since it’s the last week of the event, the first round of voting has already occurred and the top twenty pieces have already been announced, which makes it a bit easier to plan what to see. Once you arrive in Grand Rapids, grab a map at one of ArtPrize’s eight neighborhood HUBs or the main headquarters/HUB, located at 41 Sheldon Boulevard.

As you may know, Grand Rapids has been voted best craft beer city in the United States multiple times, so while you’re there, stop by one of the many delicious breweries or restaurants featuring great beers, such as Founders Brewery, Brewery VivantThe Green Well or Hop Cat.

Here’s a video of last year’s event so you can get a sense of the fun:

ArtPrize Seven from ArtPrize on Vimeo.

Here are a few of my photos from a few years back:

In my opinion, ArtPrize is one of the greatest public art events in the country, which is probably why The New York Times included it in its list of 52 Places to Go in 2016. Take advantage of living so close and head up there this weekend!


Zoo Brew

What’s better than beer and Takins?

One of the best events of the year is taking place in South Bend tonight – Zoo Brew! Zoo Brew is an annual fundraiser for the Potawatomi Zoo. This year’s event will feature thirty-four craft breweries, primarily from the Midwest Region. The event is all you can drink and vendors are located through the zoo. As you wander from exhibit to exhibit looking at the animals, you can fill up your four-ounce commemorative glass with samples of delicious craft beers. It’s a great event to enjoy with your friends.

In addition to beer, there will also be food samples and live music. The event will take place tonight, October 1, from 7-10 pm. I would recommend getting there when it opens to beat some of the lines. It typically sells out, so be sure to buy tickets in advance. Tickets are $40 for non-members. 


Notre Dame Game Day

Football season has begun! Whether we like it or not, Notre Dame football is a huge part of the local community. Today marks the first home game of the season, with Notre Dame taking on Nevada at 3:30 pm at Notre Dame Stadium. Streets are blocked off, crowds have ascended on the town, tailgating is underway, people are already starting to stumble down Angela Blvd., and the air has a certain electricity that’s only present on a football weekend. Game day is officially here.

For many of us, tailgating is an annual tradition. It’s a great way to meet up with friends for great food and drinks. Jane wrote about tailgating last fall, which you can read about here.

As locals, we sometimes forget about all of the fun and free activities that happen outside of the parking lots. The University of Notre Dame schedules a full weekend of activities on campus that are great to take family and visitors to, even if you don’t plan on going to a game.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Trumpets Under the Dome – Football weekends kick-off on campus with the Marching Band trumpets playing under the Golden Dome in the Main Building each Friday at 4 pm. Due to the acoustics in the building, the sound has an incredibly full quality and always attracts a large crowd. If you miss the Friday performance, there’s also a performance at 2:30 pm on Saturday.

Midnight Drummers Circle – At 11:59 p.m. on Friday night, the Drumline holds a drummer’s circle in front of the Main Building. While I’ve never been to this event, I’ve heard it’s a very cool experience.

Bagpipe Band Performance – I love bagpipes and the bagpipe band is great. Today’s performances will take place at 11:30 am and 1:15 pm on the front steps of the Main Building.

Cook Outs – Campus clubs host cook outs across campus as fundraisers. Between events grab a burger and chips from one of the cook-outs or visit the the Knights of Columbus’ booth for pork tenderloins.

Concert on the Steps – One of the biggest Game Day traditions is watching the Marching Band perform on the steps of Bond Hall at 2:00 pm on Saturday. If you’re not going to the game, this is a great way to see the Marching Band perform.

Inspection of the Guard – Immediately following the concert on the steps, the members of the Irish Guard prepare for the march out to the stadium by performing a very regimented uniform inspection. The concert, inspection of the guard, and march out are my favorite Saturday events to attend.

Marching Band March Out – The Marching Band, cheerleaders, and leprechaun lead a procession from  the steps of the Main Building to the stadium at 2:40 p.m.

For a full schedule of weekend events, visit gameday.nd.edu.

Go Irish!


Holland Tulip Festival


Windmill Island Park

There’s no better place to experience the beauty of spring and the blooming of tulips than the Holland Tulip Time Festival. No, I’m not telling you to get on a plane and fly to the Netherlands. Rather, you should get in your car and drive an hour and a half north to Holland, Michigan, sometime between May 7 and 14.

With five million tulips in bloom throughout the city of Holland and surrounding area, the  Tulip Festival is an absolutely stunning sight. There’s also a variety of other touristy attractions, such as an art and craft fair, Dutch dancing (complete with wooden shoes), a carnival, and trolly rides. The tulips are in bloom throughout downtown, and also at locations throughout the city, such as Windmill Island Park and several tulip farms.

The festival can get crowded, especially in the afternoon on weekends, so I would suggest going early. Here’s an itinerary to maximize your tulip viewing time:

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    Tulips at Veldheer Garden

    8:30 am – Depart South Bend, Indiana, with the goal of arriving at Centennial Park in Holland by 10 am. (If you decide to leave even earlier, try having breakfast at Deboer’s Cafe and Bakery for some Dutch treats.)

  • 10:00 am – Park at one of the many lots near Centennial Park in downtown Holland. Last year, parking was $5-$10 depending on the lot. Check out the art and craft fair as soon as it opens and see the many tulips blooming in Centennial Park.
  • Walk or drive over to Window on the Waterfront Park to see the tulips there.
  • Get the heck out of downtown – things start getting crazy around noon.
  • Drive over to Windmill Island Park – this is my favorite stop along the route and shouldn’t be missed. Windmill Island Park has a variety of attractions and is family friendly. In addition to the tulip fields, there’s a huge windmill you can climb up, a Dutch village, and a reenactment village complete with people dressed in period costumes. It’s the best place for some “Dutch” photo ops.
  • Head over to Salt & Petter Savory Grill and Pub for a late lunch. It’s outside of downtown so the crowds shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, it’s on the way to the next destination. The menu is creative and the food is super tasty.
  • After lunch, go to Veldheer Tulip Garden. Veldheer has millions of tulips to view on site. They also have bison. The best part is that you can purchase all of the tulip bulbs on display. Make sure to grab a booklet of bulbs so you can mark off which tulips you like best. I’ve heard Nelis’ Dutch Village also offers the opportunity to buy bulbs, but has more attractions for kids.
  • If you’re not super tired, stop in one of the many cute beach towns on your way home for dinner, like Saugatuck, South Haven, or St. Joseph.

FYI – you do have to pay a fee to enter certain places, such the Windmill Island Park, Veldheer and Nelis’ Dutch Village.

Have fun!


Dyngus Day

Each year, the South Bend community hosts one of the largest Dyngus Day, or Easter Monday, celebrations in the United States. In South Bend, Dyngus Day is not only a Polish celebration featuring copious quantities of beer and sausage, it also marks the official start of campaign season. It takes place tomorrow, March 28.


Polish Plate at ZB Falcons

The day consists of a bar crawl to various political clubs and pubs. Politicians from South Bend and across the state use the day to campaign and meet their constituents. Guest appearances over the years have included Robert Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as many congressmen.

Official stops on the Democratic Dyngus Day crawl include breakfast at UAW Local 5, Hoosier Tap, the West Side Democratic Club, the Elks Lodge and the Clay Township Club.

For a complete schedule of the Democratic events as well as a list of those campaigning, visit – http://www.stjoedemocrats.org. For a list of Republican events, visit – http://gopsjcin.com/#category/20/article/899.

I’m particularly looking forward to the many Polish food buffets and dancing the Polka. 


March Madness in The Bend

March Madness has officially begun! Each year, our friends debate the best places in town to watch the games. Here’s our list (in no particular order):

  • Taphouse on the Edge (in the old Between the Buns) – This is new to the scene this year and is owned by the same folks who own Chicory Cafe. They have mugs of bacon and TONS of TVs. Plus, it’s lively.
  • O’Rourke’s – Standard Irish-themed bar, but it has a festive atmosphere. If St. Paddy’s Day falls during March Madness, avoid this place at all costs
  • Wings, Etc. – Lots of TVs, wings and waffle fries. 
  • Rocky River Tap and Table – Excellent food and lots of TVs. This isn’t a sports bar so it’ll be much quieter. Jane says they have the best desserts if you need sugar while watching basketball.
  • Mitch’s Sports Bar – Excellent dive bar with a rowdy sports-loving crowd, but it’s very smoky.
  • Villa Macri – It has a sports amphitheater and Italian food.
  • CJ’s Pub – Excellent burgers and cheap beer.
  • Smokestack Brew – Great afternoon viewing, with good food, lots of TVs, and excellent service. They have live music beginning at 9pm on weekends making it difficult to hear.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings and Brother’s – If you’re okay with chain establishments, both of these places have a ton of TVs and a rowdy crowd.

What bars are we missing?

Taphouse on the Edge

Taphouse on The Edge Mug of Bacon and Loaded Tots


The Last Pączki Day at Dainty Maid Bake Shop

Each Fat Tuesday, Benders line up in front of Dainty Maid Bake Shop eagerly anticipating the pastry cases filled with pączki, a traditional Polish doughnut-like dessert. Sadly, this will be the last year for this South Bend tradition. After 88 years, Dainty Maid is closing it’s doors on Valentine’s Day. The owner passed away last Friday.

Dainty Maid’s pączki are something special. Rather than the limp glazed jelly doughnuts that you find in the grocery stores, Dainty Maid’s pączki are almost like a cream-puff. Stuffed with layers of whipped cream and delicious fillings, such as custard, cherries, strawberries, chocolate, Bavarian cream, or blueberries, they’re the best I’ve ever had. They’re the best most people have ever had.

Dainty Maid is open until 5:00 p.m. today. Grab your friends and get in line to have a delicious pączki and to honor this South Bend institution.




West Washington (or Near West Side) Historic Neighborhood

Every time I drive down West Washington Street, just west of downtown South Bend, I’m amazed at the stunning architecture. When I saw that Downtown South Bend (DTSB) was hosting a Holiday Historic Walking Tour featuring the Near West Side Historic Neigborhood, also know as the West Washington Neighborhood, on Sunday, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about some of the incredible buildings and homes that call downtown South Bend their home.

Rose Morey Lampert House

The staircase at the Rose Morey Lampert House

The Near West Side Neighborhood has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. According to the Near West Side Historic Neighborhood website, the neighborhood is bordered by West LaSalle, Main, Western, and McPhearson Streets. The unique architecture is what sets the neighborhood apart from other neighborhoods in South Bend. As the website explains, “The rich architectural heritage of the neighborhood includes examples of all the major styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century — Greek RevivalItalianateQueen AnneStickShinglePrairie (including Frank Lloyd Wright), TudorRenaissance Revival  — and the housing stock ranges from historic mansions to workers’ cottages.”

People often don’t realize that in addition to grand homes, the Near West Side Neighborhood also houses a variety of museums, businesses, a yoga studio, bed and breakfasts, and Tippecanoe Place Restaurant. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring everything the neighborhood has to offer.


Lampert House Bedroom

On the Sunday DTSB Historic Holiday Walking Tour, my friends and I had the opportunity to visit several homes and churches. The tour was self-guided, and you could pick up a map at any of the ten locations. Many of the homes on the Holiday Walking Tour are not open to the public on a regular basis since they serve as businesses or private residences.

We started at the Rose Morey Lampert house at 322 West Washington Street. Today, the house has been restored and is used as a vacation rental (this would be an incredible place to stay with a large group of friends – there were at least six bedrooms). The home was built in  1893, is an example of the Queen Anne style, and has a stained glass window that won an award at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.


Christmas in the Remedy Building

The second stop was the Remedy Building at 402 West Washington Street. Built in 1895, it’s also an example of Queen Anne architecture, and originally housed the South Bend Remedy Company, a mail order pharmaceutical company. The building is now home to the Northern Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks as well as the Dhanwantari Yoga Center.

Our third stop was at the Good House at 420 West Washington St., which houses an organization that provides services for individuals with Autism. This building is stunning inside and includes original hand painted wallpaper in the dining room, beautiful tiled fireplaces, and impressive leaded glass built-in bookcases.

After the Good House, we walked another block to Tippecanoe Place. If you haven’t been there for dinner or brunch, it’s definitely worth a visit, especially at this time of year when they have elaborate holiday decorations. Tippecanoe Place was originally the home of Clement Studebaker and has 40 rooms and 20 fireplaces. The mahogany grand staircase and entryway as well as the third floor ballroom are quite the sights.


Oliver Inn Sitting Room

Once we finished touring the four stories of Tippecanoe Place, we walked next door to the Oliver Inn, a bed and breakfast. The Queen Anne home was originally built as a gift for James Oliver’s daughter in 1896. The bathrooms alone, most with claw foot bath tubs or jacuzzis (obviously a modern upgrade),  made me want to stay here. The Inn has nine rooms for guests, all of which were very spacious and beautiful. Guests are served breakfast by candlelight each morning in front of a roaring fireplace in the dining room. I was seriously impressed by this B & B; It would definitely be a treat to spend the weekend at the Oliver Inn.


Baker House Dining Room

The last home that we visited was the Baker House at 726 West Washington Street, which is currently for sale if you’re interested in living in the neighborhood. This is the only stop on the tour that is still used as a family home. It does have some unique decor, including crab wallpaper, a hand painted mural in the dining room, and a rather trippy reading room that is painted with what appeared to be an African fabric pattern.

We stopped at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on the way back to the car, but, due to time, we decided to skip the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center and the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture (NDCAC). I’ve had the opportunity to visit both of these buildings in the past, and they’re definitely worth a visit. The Civil Rights Heritage Center is in South Bend’s old Natatorium, which was segregated for many years. A visit to the Civil Rights Heritage Center is a great way to learn about the history of civil rights in South Bend and the surrounding communities. In addition to providing community and Notre Dame programming, the NDCAC also has an art gallery and print making studio.


Christmas at Tippecanoe

To make an afternoon out of visiting the Near West Side Neighborhood, have lunch at Tippecanoe Place and then walk to the South Bend History Museum to learn about South Bend’s past. The Oliver Mansion is part of the museum and the two hour guided house tour is worth the time. Connected to the Center for History is the Studebaker National Museum, where you can learn about the company that led to the growth, and subsequent decline, of South Bend. Spend the rest of your afternoon walking around the neighborhood to take in the architecture. If time permits, stop at the NDCAC and Civil Rights Heritage Center. If you need a good stretch after your walk, throw in a yoga class and the Dhanwantari Center.


Rocky Horror and The South Bend Civic Theatre

Community theatre often gets a bad rap. (I mean, have you ever seen the film Waiting for Guffman???) But, the South Bend Civic Theatre, which is located in downtown South Bend, puts on a large number of really great productions thanks to the many talented community members who perform in the shows.



Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing perhaps the South Bend Civic Theatre’s (SBCT) most risqué production ever – The Rocky Horror Show. I have awesome memories of seeing live shadow casts performing in front of movie screens playing The Rocky Horror Picture Show throughout high school and college with my best friends – so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the live musical version here in The Bend. I wasn’t sure if the SBCT had it in it to pull off this production, but the cast definitely did not disappoint.

Bob, my friend Heather, and her sixteen-year-old son Justin, started off the night by meeting for dinner at Chicory Cafe. If you haven’t been to Chicory, it’s a New Orleans-themed coffee shop and cafe at the corner of Michigan and Jefferson in downtown South Bend. They have excellent food and coffee (more on that in another post).

During dinner, Bob, Heather, and I relived some of our original Rocky Horror memories as we “shuddered with…anticipation” for the show. I think we freaked Justin out a bit with our stories since he refused to sit in the front row, which was the audience participation section, once we got to the theatre.

Posing with Brad after the show

Posing with Brad after the show

The SBCT has two locations – the main theatre, located on Main Street, and the much smaller Firehouse Theatre, located on Portage. Rocky Horror took place at the Firehouse Theatre, which was set up as a theatre-in-the-round for the show. There were only about 40 seats, and the front rows were told from the beginning that they would have to participate. If you don’t want to be pulled up to dance the Time Warp or have a scantily clad character sitting in your lap, I would highly recommend sitting in the back rows. I would also not recommend bringing children under the age of sixteen to the show – since it was definitely the raunchiest version of Rocky Horror we’ve ever seen, and we’ve seen a lot of productions.

The small theatre and audience participation made the show fun and the director and cast added enough surprises to set this version apart from others. By the second act, Justin was having so much fun he joined Bob and me in the front row.

This is the last weekend for The Rocky Horror Show at the South Bend Civic Theatre. If you go, be sure to wear your dancing shoes to Time Warp with the audience and cast after the curtain closes.

The main SBCT on Main St.

The main SBCT on Main St.

If you’re not into Rocky Horror, the SBCT’s other productions are usually much more tame; Productions this year included Fiddler on the Roof, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Lost in Yonker’s, just to name a few.

PS – If you’re into Rocky Horror, South Bend has its very own Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast – The Hot Patooties – which performs in different locations in the region. You can find them on Facebook.