One of the many things I love about South Bend is the seemingly endless list of things to do with the kids. When I saw that The Happy Housewife was looking for people to write about a few staycation ideas in their hometowns, I couldn't resist. What would a Dave Ramsey summer be without a few kid-friendly staycation ideas? With long summer days fast approaching, I'm so glad I took on this challenge because I've discovered more than I ever knew and know my kids are going to appreciate all the fun and exciting things ahead. So what will we be doing this summer? Here are our top 5 favorites (with more to come soon)...
Potowatomi Zoo: This isn't new to us, but we will certainly be getting our use of this great asset this summer. I some times forget what a valuable resource this is until we go on the weekend and see the parking lot filled with out of area license plates. The zoo is doing a lot to expand and improve their facility this year. With the addition of some lively river otters and a new ant-eater exhibit, I'm looking forward to our weekly trips to Potowatomi Zoo. Adults: $8, Children: $6. We actually became members several years ago and utilize all the reciprocal zoos when ever we can. We've gotten every penny's worth and more out of this local treasure.
Center for History: This is a little gem we discovered during those long winter month. Thanks to a coupon in the Entertainment book, we joined the Center for History this past winter. Children under 5 are always free and adults are only $7, but I know we've already recovered our membership dues this year. If you really want to make it affordable, you can check out a museum pass from the St. Joseph County Library's main branch and get several people (6, I think) in for free. What will you find when you get there? A pioneer village with a one room school room, log cabin, covered wagon, tee pee and more. The best part is every thing is really easy to see and monitor from one central location allowing your kids the opportunity to explore to their heart's content.
Healthworks Museum: When you visit the main branch of the library, you can also check out a pass to the Healthworks Museum. We visited this hands-on museum for the first time this year. It can be a bit overwhelming during field trip season, but this summer it should be a little less chaotic. I love the giant "Operation" game. The kids like the lights and sound board. It's the perfect place for the slightly older kid who likes to learn about scabs and snot. They even have some summer camps (ages 5 and up) that will surely entertain and provide a nice break for us parents too!
Public Parks: I was surprised at what a variety of public parks there are in South Bend. We have a play group that rotates through various parks in the City. It's been a great way to discover these little islands of fun in the middle of various neighborhoods throughout Michiana. A couple of our favorites are the Potowatomi Playground, a huge newly constructed playland adjacent to the zoo, and Clay Park, a great play area on the north size of town adjacent to endless ball fields. Clay Park has been coined the "bumpy slide park" by my kids because of the unique play equipment they have. They even have a toddler town so the younger kids can fully enjoy the play time too. With plenty of shade trees, it's always a great place for a picnic. As the summer goes on, I will continue to review and post the many parks we explore. I'm especially looking forward to St. Patrick's County Park.
Lake Michigan: Okay, so this isn't technically part of South Bend, but it's certainly close enough to count as a staycation favorite in our books. I'm personally drawn to Michigan City because I grew up there. Just a short 45-minute to hour drive away, it's the perfect little day trip. The beautiful white sands can provide endless hours of fun for the kids and the water actually gets warm enough in the late summer to entertain the whole family (even the "wimpy" adults). Washington Park does charge for parking, but you can get your money's worth if your plans include a trip to the Washington Park Zoo (50% reciprocal with Potowatomi Zoo membership) and take advantage of the newly installed splash pad. This has to be the staycation destination that I'm most looking forward to this summer. Now that the kids are old enough to walk through the sands on their own, it should make it a lot easier on mommy. My favorite tip -- be sure to pack the baby powder. A quick shake after the fun is done and all the sand will fall right off.
On Sundays throughout the summer I'll be sharing reviews and updates from other staycation locations we'll be exploring. I'm looking forward to checking out some new and exciting places and may even add some short day trips to the mix. If you have any suggestions of places we should visit and review, please feel free to let me know!