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Things to do in South Bend

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A few fall traditions are sacred, like apple-picking, pumpkin carving and jumping in leaf piles. Now that you’re living in the Midwest — at least for college anyways — you need to adjust that list to include what should become a staple in your fall frolicking: a corn maze.

It’s easy to take advantage of the vast farmland surrounding South Bend and all the fun it can provide. Only about seven miles from the Notre Dame campus, you will find the Leininger Farms Corn Maze, a family tradition that has been around for years. Each year, the maze takes a different shape, inspired by borders in Europe and the United States.

This year, the corn maze has taken the shape of Indiana.

All the paths you follow as you wind your way through the maze are the major roads of Indiana. In keeping with the theme of the maze, “Roads to Education,” at different stops in the maze, your knowledge of Indiana and farming trivia will be tested. The questions aren’t too difficult, but they can stump you at some turns and teach you things you never knew about Indiana and its long history.

And traveling through the maze is quite an enjoyable experience. It takes about an hour and a half to make your way through the whole labyrinth, depending on how many wrong turns you take or how quickly you can answer the trivia questions. It’s a casual walk, though, and invites conversation between friends and lots of laughs as you lose yourself amongst all the corn.

Laughs and confusion will abound as you take wrong turns and inevitably find yourself lost in an Indiana of corn. Luckily, the map you receive on entering the maze helps guide you immensely through the winding paths. Getting lost, however, is almost half the fun, so don’t walk through the maze with your eyes glued to the map.

There are a number of kids that race their way around the maze with their parents, delighting in the many forks and colorful corn stalks, but they don’t take away from the experience. In fact, they really add to the fun, relaxed atmosphere that gives you a break from the busyness and stress of campus and schoolwork.

In addition to the corn maze, Leininger Farms have many other fun farm staples sure to make your trip even more memorable. It features a fantastic pumpkin patch and a cute country store, as well as farm animals and lawn decorations.

The patch features all different types of pumpkins, squash, Indian corn and mums. Showcasing a wide range of colors and shapes, it’s easy to lose yourself looking for the perfect fall decoration for your dorm room or apartment. And at their very affordable prices, you can easily adorn your room on a budget. The animals, which include mules and a goat, are fun to observe, though the farm does not include a petting zoo.

Only about 15 minutes from Notre Dame, the corn maze and pumpkin patch are a great escape from campus. Walking through the maze reminds you of simpler times, when fall didn’t mean midterms, but pumpkin carving and homemade apple pie. A day spent raking leaves wasn’t a chore, but a means to enjoy a blissful two hours. It reminds you of all the fun that fall should include.

Gather your friends for a fun afternoon activity or head to one of their Saturday night flashlight tours for a night of innocent fun. The maze is also a great place to bring a date as you get lost among the corn and show off your trivia knowledge. Either way, don’t miss this Midwest tradition during your four years at Notre Dame.

Contact Mary Claire O’Donnell at modonne5@nd.edu