“What are we going to do today?” Who else hears that questions from their littles every day?!? My kiddos always want to go on an adventure, so we’ve done a lot over the years…and have even more things on our list to try in the future. Here are some of our favorite activities that can easily be done from the South Bend and Michiana area. We sure are excited to be are able to be “out and about” again and I know we’ll be heading to visit many of these all while staying as safe as possible!
Music For Me Class: Wendy offers her “Music for Me” classes all over the Michiana area throughout the week. We are lucky enough to host one in Culver at the studio, but she has them everywhere! Her music classes involve singing, musical instruments, dancing and movement. My kiddos absolutely love her classes and I highly recommend you check her out if you’re looking for a great introduction to music for your little ones! She also has a bunch of videos on YouTube and on her Facebook page for you to entertain your kids at home. Currently, she is doing a Virtual Class and you can sign-up your whole family! Something to help with your sanity and give the littles something to do. Go check out her Youtube
Potawatami Zoo – The zoo always wears my little people out, but because Potawatami is such a great size, we can spend as little or as long as we want visiting. A zoo membership is something we get every year too so that we can visit in the summer and we are really looking forward to trying a zoo camp this year too! Did you know the zoo has special days they open up during the winter? How cool is that? It’s always a fun place to go run around and see what the animals are up to when it’s cold outside. We’ve found the tigers to be very happy to have visitors in the past. We also love that we can go visit other zoos for a discount (usually 50% off) as a member! Whenever we travel, we make sure to check out the local zoo! The Fort Wayne Zoo is one of our favorites and we recently visited again. Masks are required and you can purchase a timed ticket online, but we didn’t have a problem just buying ours at the gate to use our zoo member discount.
Library Story Time – Find your library my friends! Those children’s room librarians are a godsend. We try to get to story time at a library at least once a week. There are also crafts and other activities in the children’s room at the library. Since we live in Culver, we go to the Culver Union Township Libraryor Plymouth Public Library and both have awesome kids programs. If nothing is going on when you plan to visit, it’s always a great spot to play. Also, have you heard of Hoopla? If not, it’s amazing…ebooks, movies and music all to your phone for free with your library card (Plymouth and St. Joseph County Public Libraryoffer it). Also, Culver friends, you can get a free library card to Plymouth…such a great reciprocal benefit! And once you have a Plymouth library card, it’s reciprocal to St. Joseph County Public Library too. See where I’m going with that?
SkyZone– We LOVE going to SkyZone for Toddler Time which is pretty much every Friday morning and Saturday morning in the hours before they open up to all ages. It’s the perfect place to burn off some of the early morning energy my kids seem to wake up with and it’s so much fun. The jumping rate is discounted and includes a parent pass as well for each child. Kids have to be able to walk in order to participate, but my littles absolutely loved watching her siblings when she couldn’t quite do it herself. They have added a Ninja course now too and it definitely adds to the options for the older kiddos. They play kid friendly music, have a craft and story time too if your littles get tired of just bouncing. You have to buy their socks, but keep them and wash for the next trip to save some cash. We’ve had ours for years and they are still going strong. I also recommend buying a Toddler Time pass (each child has to have their own) and this significantly discounts the cost of going to Toddler Time. The pass doesn’t expire and is good for ten sessions of jumping. Make sure to check their calendar to see if they have Toddler Time when you want to go, as during breaks and summer, they don’t always offer it. They have been having specials since re-opening after their closure during Covid-19.
UP Mall Play Space: Another good spot to wear out the kiddos. I may be guilty of taking mine to Skyzone, then Barnes and Noble story time and then letting them play here after to really, really, really wear them out. My kids have way more stamina then I do these days! Sometimes we’ll just go there to play too and I’ll get a Starbucks and sit by myself for a few minutes. My kiddos always beg to play there whenever we visit the mall!
Barnes & Noble Story Times: Just like the library, Barnes & Noble at the UP Mall offers story times! And they also have a craft or activity to go with it. Sometimes a character visit too. They are very good at posting Facebook events, which is how I often figure out ideas for what we will do. Story time is usually on Saturdays at 11am, which is perfect to hop over to after going to Skyzone for Toddler Time. They also have a Thursday morning story time at 10am, so you can go twice a week!
Marshall County Historical Society Museum – This is a very favorite for us on a Saturday. And it’s free…with a suggested donation, or you can become a museum member. The train room is always decorated with a theme and there are lots of train related toys and other great classic toys to play with there. It seems our kiddos can never leave without something they are gifted by the generous sponsors of the train room. There’s also a little Farmer’s Market, fishing stream and more for little ones to play at while they are there on the first floor. During school breaks, I’ve noticed they offer a Kids Day Out where they have arts and crafts, games and activities for kids, along with the train room being open. Go check it out…it’s worth it!
National New York Central Railroad Museum – On the subject of trains, I’ve heard this is a great place to visit. Hands on activities and real trains to look at and climb aboard. Also a train table that is a hit!
Fair Oaks Farms: We’ve visited here a few times and have found it very educational, learning about dairy and hog farming, as well as general agriculture. There is something for everyone. Over the years, they have added restaurants and an on site hotel, so you can also spend the weekend there-think swimming in the indoor heated pool…wear those little ones out!!! My kids have loved it in the past and we’ve always found interesting as adults too.
Museums – There are so many great options in Chicago, Kalamazoo, Ft. Wayne & Indianapolis…I’m going to have to write more on these, because they really do deserve it. Needless to say, get a museum membership to either the AirZoo, Science Central or my favorite, Great Explorations(it’s in St. Petersburg, Florida…these offer amazing reciprocity of memberships all over the country…including going to all of the ones listed as suggestions for free or a reduced cost. As a home schooling family, we try to incorporate as much museum learning as possible into our education!
Parks – When it’s nice out, we check out the parks (nice out in my book is not freezing and also not raining, your idea my be different). There are so many in the area. We love our local park at the Culver Beach during the summer to play on the playground, in the sand and swim in the lake!!! It’s a great shallow beach area and it has lifeguards as well. Weekends are busy, but the week days are pretty low key. We also enjoy another local park to us, Freedom Park, which is an an all inclusive accessibility playground. It’s never too busy and has a great playground. The new playground at Howard Parkin South Bend is amazing and we can’t wait to spend more time there! We’ve been once, but it’s definitely on our list to explore more. We also love to visit Mary Gibbard Park, which was redone last year and has a splash pad, really cool bike trail that even little ones can do and a super fun playground! We also hardly ever make it to the Potawatami Zoo without a visit to the playground there. And don’t forget all the splash pads around…our closest one to Culver is at the Argos Park.
Potato Creek State Park: A great place to enjoy nature! There is good hiking, horseback and bicycle trails around the ponds and through the woods. It can be a little crowded, but it’s so beautiful.
Pokagon State Park: This park is near Fort Wayne and is usually considered more of a winter destination. It has a very popular, very large, toboggan run. However, it offers great birding, with a highlight being a boardwalk through a wetland. Spring wildflowers can be great there, when Spring finally comes. .
Ice Skating – The new Howard Park rink looks awesome. We haven’t been able to try it out yet, but plan to when we have a chance in the future. There is also free skates at Compton Family Ice Arenaat Notre Dame and the Ice Box. They offer lessons as well for learn-to-skate, so your little ones will be pros at gliding around the ice in circles around you. Start them early! Ours loved skating and they always sleep great afterwards. Definitely a must-do winter activity if you need one.
Culver Academies: You’ll love this beautiful boarding school campus no matter what time of year you visit! Bring the bikes and scooters for the kids and go explore. Lots of paths and sidewalks, so it’s safe. You can easily take the path into town through the woods, stop at The Original Root Beer Stand if it’s open for lunch in the Spring and Summer or the Lakehouse Grill, grab ice cream for the kids and coffee for you at the Culver Coffee Company and then keep going into town to check out the little shops. MJ’s Sweet Tooth is an old fashion candy store and she just opened up a dessert shop as well with some amazing looking cupcakes! The kids will be tired…I promise! Currently the campus is closed due to Covid-19 precautions to keep all of the students safe, but it’s such a beautiful spot, so I wanted to make sure to keep it on my list.
Notre Dame– There is a lot to do at Notre Dame, we like to just walk around the campus…the lake area is beautiful, around the stadium, play on the playground, check out the bookstore (they also offer a story time) and grab lunch or dinner around the Eddy Street Commons area. Check with their restrictions currently with Covid.
Ancilla College: Also a beautiful college to walk around and take in the scenery. Explore the trails. It’s very peaceful!
Strikes & Spares: Not only do they have bowling, they also have bounce houses, bumper cars and go karts. Even little go karts! There is also a toddler area and mini bowling, which is fun for the littles. Lots of arcade games, as well. A bit over-stimulating, but the bounce house area is quieter when we go. They offer a Thursday special where you can get everything (bowling and bounce houses) for $5 per child.
Colby Bounce: This is located at the UP Mall and offers multiple bounce houses. Pay by the hour or go for unlimited. We’ve done it when at the mall to change things up a little bit. Sometimes Mama just needs a break!!!
The Park at Grace: An indoor play space at a Grace Church in Goshen, has a FREE spot for your littles to run around and play. It looks amazing!!! And you can even walk or run on treadmills while your kiddos play in the huge play structure. I know I’m always trying to squeeze in a workout, so this could be a great answer if you’re close by. They do have limited hours, so make sure you check the webpage or call in advance.
South Bend Chocolate Factory: Another fun play structure that’s free. It’s a little out dated, but in a pinch if we need something to do when we are in the area, we stop there and grab a drink or some food while the little ones burn off their energy.
The Kroc Center: We love the Kroc Center for their pool and indoor water play area. There is a lot more to do there, but the toddler play time (call to ask when they have it, as it depends on the school schedule) is one of our favorites. A zero entry pool, big and little kid water slides, lazy river…it’s always fun to wear the kids out here. They also have a rock wall for the older kids and adults to play on too! You can always get a day pass to visit, so you don’t have to be a member.
MJ’s Sweet Tooth Rock Hunt: MJ’s Sweet Tooth does an annual rock hunt every July in Culver! There are adorable rocks that look like M&M’s hidden all around in public places (parks, trees, trails, etc). Once you find them, you turn them in at her old fashion candy store and for tickets to win prizes. And…she just opened up a dessert shop as well with some amazing looking cupcakes! It’s such a fun activity to do as a family! Check out her MJ’s Sweet Tooth Facebook pagefor more info as well. She loves having little kids visit and it’s the perfect spot for a Parent-Child date for something special.
It’s the perfect time of year to head to a local orchard as well for apple, grape and pumpkin picking! We like visiting Stover’s Farm Market, Doud Orchard and McClure’s Orchardto pick apples and play. For outside Fall fun…head to Thistleberry Farm or Yellow River Farms.
Becky Furry, owner of Always Images is based in Culver, Indiana (about an hour from South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger areas). She specializes in capturing fine art family portraiture. Becky is a member of the Professional Photographers of America and also is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She is a preferred photographer for the Culver Academies and has been since 2011 and gives back from every Culver Academies session to the Culver Educational Fund. She also supports the Maxinkuckee Adventure Sailing program and HIS Small Wonders Betty A. Nolin Scholarship fund with her photography. The Always Images studio has a background of beautiful old barns, refined rustic modern spaces, sprawling green fields and is close to Lake Maxinkuckee and the gorgeous Culver Academies. To contact Becky, reach out at 574-598-0022 or Becky@AlwaysHappyLife.com for a personal consultation for your portrait needs. Do you like Facebook? Follow Always Images on Facebook or is Instagram your thing? Find me at www.instagram.com/BeckyFurry