South Bend

South Bend, Indiana, is inextricably linked with the University of Notre Dame, which sits just to the north of the city. But the town itself offers a charming slice of Americana, with the picturesque St. Joseph River running through the heart of it. Just two hours east of Chicago and just south of the Indiana-Michigan border, South Bend maintains a small town charm – with beautiful neighborhoods along the riverfront featuring restored houses from the turn of the last century – while offering modern touches to better cater to the thousands of visitors who come every year to visit the storied campus. The presence of the Fighting Irish is never far from thought as the downtown area features numerous restaurants that proudly display memorabilia from Notre Dame's rich sports history.

But in addition to Joe Montana and Tim Brown’s football memories, the city was once a thriving industrial town — manufacturing the Studebaker automobile for decades — and that heritage remains on display, both in the architecture and through exhibitions. When the weather is nice, residents also take to the riverfront to walk, bike or jog along the various trails, as others kayak down the river. You will want to keep an eye out for the Peregrine falcons that call South Bend home, too. The majestic, once-endangered birds were reintroduced into the area in 1993 and continue to dot the city's skies. But birdwatcher or not, South Bend visitors will always start with Notre Dame; it’s just high time that outsiders realize that the city soars in so many other ways.