From Texas to Beyond

Local, Near and Far: Our journey of exploring the world.

Category: Indiana (page 1 of 2)

In Case You Missed It…South Bend

Every couple weeks we’ll be collecting links from past posts grouped together by location; we thought it handy to have everything in on
e convenient location as you plan your upcoming travels. We just finished a short series on South Bend, so here’s your recap:


Studebaker National Museum: The Studebaker National Museum boasts an impressive collection of cars, traveling exhibits (that includes other automakers), and the largest Presidential Carriage Collection anywhere.

NotreDame3Notre Dame & The Snite Museum of Art: Notre Dame boasts a beautiful campus with majestic architecture in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and Golden Dome on top of the Main Building and the Snite Museum of Art for the art lover.

Fiddler’s Hearth Public House: Based on a recommendation in South Bend, IN we happily enjoyed the fish & chips, Beef Wellington, and cozy atmosphere at The Fiddler’s Hearth.

The College Football Hall of Fame: The College Football Hall of Fame is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon and is family friendly, educational, and entertaining. It is also great for the football lover and the historian.College Football HOF

J.W. Chen’s Chinese Cuisine: If you’re in South Bend and looking for a delightful Asian restaurant with excellent customer service, we highly recommend J.W. Chen’s Chinese Cuisine.

J.W. Chen’s Chinese Cuisine

As Rachel has mentioned in previous posts about trip planning, we (mainly she does) typically search sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and TripAdvisor for different restaurants that are popular “must go to” places. As we drove to South Bend in the snow storm, for some reason, we had not picked a place to eat upon our arrival mainly because we were not sure what time we would get there and what we would want to eat. So as Rachel drove trying to keep us alive on the snow covered roads, I was focusing on food. I know, different priorities! As I looked at Yelp for restaurants, I was expecting to see an Irish food restaurant or a bar/pub that caters to the university students near the top of the list. I was surprised to see that one of the most popular and highest rated restaurants was a place called J.W. Chen’s.

Not wanting to spend too much money and needing a fairly quick lunch so that we could get on with our activities, we decided to give this Asian bistro a try. I will spare you the suspense, it is without a doubt one of the best hidden gems we’ve ever found.. Upon arriving, the owner greets you and talks with you about what type of food you like and typically order. She gives you several recommendations or tells you that she will make you something special. I was not expecting this at all because VERY FEW restaurants have such generous hospitality. We looked over the menu and found a couple of options that sounded good, and the next thing we know, a plate is put before us. I am wondering what is this, this must be someone else’s food. Next thing I know, here comes the owner telling us to try it and if we don’t like it, we can order something else. In the conversation we had, I told her that I like sweet and spicy. Either Rachel or myself mentioned something about chicken. So the dish that was set before us was this wonderfully sweet and spicy crispy chicken that was phenomenal! So I loved it but still wanted to try something else to see what they had to offer.

Rachel ordered the chicken & broccoli and I went for a traditional sesame chicken. The portions were fantastic and honestly the prices were pretty good as well for Asian restaurants. We went for lunch and ordered the lunch specials which includes soup, egg roll, and fried or steamed rice.The egg rolls were nice and crispy with a good amount of filling and a nice dipping sauce that heightened the flavors of the vegetables. Rachel’s meal was flavorful and she was happy to find that the broccoli wasn’t overcooked (this is a big point for her when we go to restaurants where the vegetables are overcooked)! My sesame chicken was very good. It had a nice crispiness and the amount of batter wasn’t overwhelming. The sauce had a nice sweet flavor to it, but also a slight hint of spice that amplified the dish overall. The rice was wonderful. A funny thing though, even though I really enjoyed the sesame chicken, the crispy chicken that was specially made for us was by far our favorite part of the meal.

Everything tasted so good and while there are several Americanized dishes, there are a number of legit authentic Asian dishes that are worth trying. They do offer options that fill different dietary restrictions as well which is always a plus; just inform the owner or check their menu. .

Overall, the food was well done and very good and worth visiting. But, the service is what makes J.W. Chen’s a one-of-a-kind restaurant. The person taking your order is willing to talk and help . Your drink glass never gets empty. The prices are really reasonable and the portions are a good size as well. If you are in the area, this is a must try!

The College Football Hall of Fame

One of the things a person thinks of when they hear South Bend, is the University of Notre Dame. As a sports fan, I think of Notre Dame football: the history, the legends that played  and coached there. I think of the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, Paul Hornung, Joe Theisman, Joe Montana, and so on.

As Rachel was planning our trip to South Bend, the College Football Hall of Fame was still there and immediately I knew we had to go. As a football fan, this was something that I needed to cross off the list. Please note: the museum has since moved and as of August 23, 2014 is based in Atlanta, GA, with a wonderful new building and even more space for attractions.

As you enter the Atlanta complex, you are greeted with what is termed “The Quad” which is a wall of helmets from all 765 college football teams. This is also where you register and can customize the experience to highlight your particular college football team.

College Football HOF3

As you walk through the halls of the museum, there are displays along the wall that highlights every year of football that has been played. It tells the visitor a brief summary of what went on that year, the different storylines, the records, champions, and so on. In addition to the etched-glass summary year displays, the visitor also has the ability to watch several videos from classic games and relive those tense moments. This was something I really enjoyed as I was able to watch some of these old classic game highlights that I had not seen before.

The museum continues the interactive theme throughout by offering visitors several exhibits. In addition to the greatest moments that were previously mentioned, visitors have the ability to play trivia games of “famous” rivalries, and learn how a play is broken down into its individual components. A fun activity for kids of all ages, is the exhibit that allows the visitor to be an announcer and call a memorable play. Another cool feature is the stadium virtual reality exhibit. This allows you to “travel” to some of the most legendary stadiums, “visit” them, and experience what it is like to be on the field.

There is a giant room with several permanent electronic displays that highlight and celebrate different athletes who have won awards and have made a difference outside of football. This is a great way to see the other side of the players that fans may not always be aware of.

There are several exhibits that were ok for me but were still interesting like “building a champion” gallery which gives the visitor an idea of the amount of sacrifice the players and coaches make. The evolution of equipment was also interesting as it showed how football has changed over the years.

There are so many exhibits that the museum offers that there really is something for everyone. It gives the football fan a look at history and a chance to relive some of the most memorable moments. It gives kids and families the opportunity to have fun with the enormous amount of interactive exhibits including a passing game, trying to kick a field goal, and trying to move a blocking dummy. It really offers a lot for a museum and I was truly impressed by the amount of exhibits there is to do and see.

College Football HOF2Museum Details; As always check the museum website for all the particulars.

Tickets: $20 for adults, $17 for kids ages 3-12 (children under 3 are free), and $18 for seniors, military, and students. Tickets can be purchased online, but we found it to be simple and easy enough to just buy them from the ticket counter. If you are visiting Atlanta, check out the Atlanta CityPass as the College Football Hall of Fame is included in that. The museum does offer group tickets but you will need to contact the museum for more info.

Hours: The museum is open Monday through Friday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Saturday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and Sunday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tickets stop selling an hour prior to closing.

Visit: The museum is wonderful with accessibility and many ramps for those with any disabilities or handicaps. The museum does become busier the later the day gets and can become crowded quickly. It is better to go earlier to avoid most of the crowds. Also, depending on when you go, if there are any field trips, and based on your group’s makeup (singles, families, seniors, etc.) an average trip including participating in some of the interactive exhibits can take around 1.5 hours.

The College Football Hall of Fame is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon and is family friendly, educational, and entertaining. It is also great for the football lover and the historian.

Fiddler’s Hearth Public House

As I was planning our excursion to South Bend, IN, I shared the itinerary with my mother and how we were excited to get away. She was glad we were able to go and was also able to give us a restaurant recommendation! Knowing both Matt and I’s love for unique locations and places that have a lot of craft beers on tap, she shared that we must visit Fiddler’s Hearth.

In an effort to not have to drive in less than pleasant conditions or find parking, we decided to take the 5 block walk from our hotel to the restaurant. I believe we mentioned in a previous post how it happened to be February, cold, and very snowy.  The Fiddler’s Hearth was a welcome sight for us; even in the short walk, and already hungry before we left, we had ravenous appetites and welcomed the warmth of the restaurant.

Fiddler's Hearth

Beef Wellington and Fish & Chips

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Notre Dame & The Snite Museum of Art

No visit to South Bend is complete without at least checking out Notre Dame, after all, the top three things to do on TripAdvisor are on campus.  It is full of beautiful architecture, majestic buildings, and the famed Basilica of the Sacred Heart and Golden Dome on top of the Main Building. Listed at #11 and also on the Notre Dame campus is the Snite Museum of Art which next to the Studebaker National Museum, was one of my favorite things on this trip.

NotreDame1 copy

The University of Notre Dame campus was founded in 1842 by a young French priest from the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Edward Sorin, and chartered by the Indiana legislature  in 1844.  A University only in name during the first decades of its existence, it included “religious novitiates, preparatory and grade schools and a manual labor school, but its classical collegiate curriculum never attracted more than a dozen students a year in the early decades.” The University now spans 1250 acres with 143 buildings and is organized into four undergraduate colleges — “Arts and Letters, Science, Engineering, and the Mendoza College of Business — the School of Architecture, the Law School, the Graduate School, and 14 major research institutes. Enrollment for the 2012-13 academic year was 12,126 students overall and 8,475 undergraduates.”

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