South Bend’s oldest park is no relic of the past.
Howard Park is instead a re-imagined destination for locals and visitors alike. It’s a gathering place and an area for outdoor exploration. It’s fun, family friendly and accessible. There’s something for every season, but there’s no doubt it shines brightest during winter.
The park’s centerpiece is a 16,000-square foot ice trail and pond, scheduled to open Nov. 27, that features rolling hills and soft curves as skaters glide around the loop. There’s even a bridge that overlooks entryway to the nearby playground (more on that later).
Attached to the trail, the ice pond offers a more traditional skating experience. It can be used for those learning to skate or for other activities, like broomball.
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Ice skating is available six days a week during winter with specials throughout the week. Here are the hours:
Monday: no public skate
Tuesday-Thursday: 5-8 p.m.
Friday/Saturday noon-10 p.m.
Sunday: 1-8 p.m.
Know Before You Go: Coronavirus Protocols
Howard Park staff are taking several coronavirus-related precautions during the skating season. Here are some things to know before you go:
- The ice trail and pond will be operating at approximately 40 percent capacity and limited to defined time blocks.
- Visitors must reserve skate times online in advance to reduce lines and touch points.
- Masks will be required for all visitors at all times throughout the park.
- The indoor spaces will not be available to the public except for restrooms.
- Visitors are encouraged to dress warm and leave valuables at home.
- Skate changes must be outdoors.
- Consider visiting during non-peak hours.
- If you have skates, bring them to shorten your wait time.
- According to state ordinance, visitors must be seated when consuming food and beverage.
Other Coronavirus Reminders
- Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the park.
- Enhanced cleaning processes will be in place around the park.
- Shields installed for added protection.
- All staff are required to wear masks.
- If you’re feeling sick, stay home.
- Please remain distant from others in line.
- Practice safe hygiene and wash hands.
Playground + Other Amenities
Right in the middle of the ice trail sits an ADA accessible, state-of-the-art playground with innovative and traditional playground equipment. There are various levels and each level of it is designed specifically for different age groups from 2-12.
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Kids can climb to different heights, swing and otherwise burn off a little energy while parents keep an eye on what’s happening.
Elsewhere in the park you’ll find several opportunities for fun:
The Rask Family Fountains: Coming to life during summer, the park features an interactive set of water fountains and jets. Think the famous fountains outside the famous Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on a smaller scale. It functions as a play area for kids to escape summer heat then at night, in “show mode,” transforms into a colorful light show.
Inovateus Solar Event Lawn + Festival Lawn: As you walk toward the St. Joseph River, you’ll notice the park slopes to create a natural amphitheater. It’s designed to host concerts and performances that exceed 3,000 attendees.
Riverwalk Trail: The park’s west edge butts up against the St. Joseph River. There’s a rail for walkers, runners and cyclists. The trail connects to a larger network of trails encompassing other downtown parks.
Food + Drink
If you’re looking for a quick bite, you’ll like this – the Chocolate Café Express is a concession stand that serves the park year round. It’s specialty is hot chocolate during winter. The Howard Park Public House, a full-service restaurant and bar, should be opening soon.
But since you’re in the heart of the East Bank Village, there are other options at hand.
Northern Indiana’s best burger is just down the street at The View Tavern (for the 21-and-over crowd). One of The Bend’s best pizza places, Barnaby’s, is right across the street. You can also find fine dining at Render, sandwiches at The General and more in the immediate area.
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Know Before You Go
Free street parking is available all around the park, in particular along St. Louis Boulevard. This stretch is back-in angle parking for added safety. Visitors can also park for free in the adjacent Zion United Church of Christ lot Monday through Saturday and after 1 p.m. Sunday.
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