If your family is like mine, you are always on the look-out for activities that will entertain even the most discerning members (OK, kid-friendly activities that a no-more-crafts Dad can handle).
Enter one perfect solution—the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Ind.
Here in an old Studebaker dealership are rotating exhibits of the entire Studebaker collection, including the Studebaker family’s conestoga wagon, horse-drawn carriages and the gorgeous Avanti sports car. Each vehicle includes information on the time period in which it was used, making this not only an entertaining visit for car enthusiasts but an opportunity to share a bit of U.S. history with the children.
The Studebaker brothers also archived photos, production records and engineering drawings, among many other paper documents. While it is virtually impossible to read every detail of each vehicle on display (there are about 70 on the museum’s single floor), the curious will be able to learn more by spending a few extra minutes at any display.
Two new exhibits are on display. The first "Studebaker Goes To Hollywood," which closes at the end of January, showcases Studebaker vehicles as a part of the history of Hollywood. There’s a replica of the stable from the "Mr. Ed" television show with a 1962 Studebaker Lark parked outside the door. The 1935 Studebaker Commander from the movie "The Color Purple" is also on display. In addition, there are many photographs to see, as well as clips from movies and commercials.
The second, "Wait for the Wagon: The Horse-Drawn Years," which closes in March, recounts the early history of Studebaker and features the Studebaker wagons and carriages with the facts on how each would have been used.
For the business-minded visitor (lemonade-stand entrepreneurs included), the "Wait for the Wagon" exhibit shows the influence of the Studebaker Co. on the South Bend Area.
Although our family has visited this museum with toddlers, it is not a super-friendly location for very active youngsters. The cars cannot be touched and are roped off which can be easily circumvented by an eager 2- or 3-year-old. For kids over 5, however, this is a fascinating way to spend time in a nearby city that has many other attractions, including Healthworks (a children’s museum), a very nice riverfront and good food.
A new building is scheduled to open in late 2005. Until then, the Studebaker National Museum is located at 525 S. Main St. in South Bend, about 100 miles east of Chicago. It is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6.50, adults; $5.50, seniors and children over 8, and free for 7 and under. For more information, call (888) 391-5600, or visit www.studebakermuseum.org