Though Jenny grew up in South Bend for 18 years and spent the majority of her life in the Midwest, both of us have spent years outside of the Midwest. Jason was born in California and spent his first 25 years there, so we definitely have some outsider and insider perspective on what makes the area we’re in now so unique.
We live in the Michiana area of the Midwest: The Northwest border of Indiana and Southwest border of Michigan about an hour & a half from Chicago, Illinois. We spend most of our time in the South Bend area of Indiana and the Cassopolis area of Michigan. While no one city is ever perfect, the area itself has a lot to offer. Since we’ve been officially moved for 7 months, here are our favorite things we’d like to share about the area:
1) Nature i.e. LAKES and Dunes Galore!
Though there are no mountains in our area (and Jenny had most previously been living in a mountainous National Park), the wildlife and nature around Southern Michigan is amazing. We like to kayak in the local lake & marsh to explore and photograph. On top of that, Warren Park State Dunes in Sawyer, Michigan is amazing and majestic. There are rolling sand dune hills that are exhausting to climb, but well worth the view and they sit right on the ocean-coast-looking Lake Michigan beaches! It’s amazing and we even love climbing through the clay-filled river that winds its way from the beach, to dunes, to campgrounds!
Also wonderful are the many other beaches along the Michigan & Chicago coasts that are only about an hour’s drive from us! We have great cities north of us such as St. Joseph & all of the “Havens” and then New Buffalo and Michigan City to the West of us! All of the cities have their own unique personalities, art scenes, and food all located on the beautiful beaches! The beaches we’ve found are even intriguing when covered in ice & snow with the waves ever pounding.
2) The Seasons
Though Jason grew up in Southern California desert most of his life, we both appreciate the seasons and the changes they bring. We had actually really hoped for a more snowy winter, but got one of the least snowy winters this area has seen in a decade! We really enjoyed grilling out and camping in the fall with all of the beautiful leaves and wonderful weather, we enjoyed what little snow winter had to offer, we’re enjoying the transition into spring, and we’re excited to swim in the lakes this summer! Also fun in fall is tailgating for Notre Dame & other college football. Jason had never gotten to do so ever in his life, so he got to enjoy the crisp fall weather with the wonderful port-a-pit chicken (Nelson’s- what, what?!) and a few craft beers while socializing before heading into a winning game.
3) Amazing Wedding Venues
This one is a bit of a niche just for us, but the wedding venues here are outstanding and diverse! Though California and Ohio had some great venues, we’re so excited about shooting our upcoming weddings! We have some basilica weddings lined up at the ever popular Basilica of the Sacred Heart, others at outdoor park venues, and amazingly professionally decorated barn venues in both mid-Indiana and Southern Michigan! We’re beyond excited for these grandiose locations and are so lucky to be able to do what we do.
4) Proximity to Chicago!
This is a given. We just lived in Santa Barbara, CA earlier last year and were about an hour and a half to 2 hours to L.A., so we don’t mind a 1 to 2 hour drive to get to the biggest city nearby. Though Chicago isn’t L.A., it’s still an amazing big city with a) WAY less traffic b) Way cheaper parking c) Way cheaper rent within an hour of it d) Prettier/ older buildings and history e) An actual functioning metro that connects everything! f) You can take the train from us to Chicago!
Chicago boasts a flourishing art scene, music scene, and is a culinary epicenter. We prefer not to live within a big city just for the sake of cost, space, and sanity, but we love living close enough to be able to partake in any of the amazing things Chicago has to offer. Whenever people visit from out of state, we always ask if they want to start in Chicago since we’re so close and Millenium Park, the museums, and the food are a must.
5) Wine Country
This one is a hidden gem for anyone who does not live here. We prefer craft beer, but even we can appreciate it. Southwest Michigan is has one of the coolest wine trails we’ve ever been to which is saying a lot since we lived in Santa Barbara and have been to Napa. The trail close to us is 40 minutes away and contains 9 wineries! Due to the insane proximity of the wineries (some even being literally across the street from each other), they even encourage you to bicycle from winery to winery. The wineries have a plethora of offering and are starting to compete with wineries nationally! One winery sells hard-to-find cheeses, another offers full meals and gourmet chocolates, and yet another not only serves their wine, but also has an alcohol distillery and brewery on the premises! And for $5 for 3 to 5 tastings and $9 per bottle of wine, it won’t break the bank. One thing Michigan is known for nationally is its cherries, so we definitely recommend trying any cherry wine you can get your hands on!
6) Growing Art & Food Scene
Though not always known for its art and food scenes, the area is definitely growing! The South Bend area welcomed its art makerspace & gallery MAKE last year, celebrates Art First Friday in galleries and museums alike, and has many art fairs throughout the summer. In terms of food, the scene is also growing. Within the past few years we’ve welcomed the likes of The Crooked Ewe, South Bend Brew Werks, Evil Czech, Mango Café, Chicory Café, and other awesomely diverse restaurants. What was once the land of Appleby’s and other Midwest chain restaurants has become an awesome location for new locally owned restaurants, breweries, & distilleries!
7) Proximity to Other States
Jason’s home state of California is ridiculous. It takes over 15 hours to merely traverse the length of the state! It even takes 6 to 7 hours from Santa Barbara to head East and go right over the border and into Nevada/ Las Vegas. When we drive 2 hours West we are in Chicago and if we drive 2 hours East we are in Ohio. Everything here is manageable. Driving to visit friends in the fall in Ohio was a piece of cake. In 5 hours we made it to the middle of Ohio- Columbus (land of best live/ real music), 1.5 hours from there was Cincinnati (and the best International food market in the nation: Jungle Jim’s), and 2 hours north of Columbus is Cleveland (amazing culinary city!). From there we were able to drive an hour to get to the best rollercoaster park in the country: Cedar Point. It’s amazing what we were able to visit with just an hour or two of driving in Ohio.
8) Bonfires are Always Legal & Fireworks are a Lot More Legal
All-in-all there’s a lot to like. We’re always opened for visitors, so remember to hit us up if you’re in the area!