College town showdown: Can the midwest charm of South Bend best sunny Los Angeles?
While both Los Angeles and South Bend share a similar fervent obsession for USC and Notre Dame football, respectively, this tale of two cities couldn't be more different. LA, the sunny Southern California capital of the Good Life (pop. 19 million), is the Goliath to the South Bend's David, a small, Midwestern town (pop. 102,000) in Northern Indiana irrevocably tethered to its rich and storied Catholic university.
So in the spirit of the classic Trojans vs. Fighting Irish rivalry, we're pitting the city of South Bend against LA.
Architecture, attractions and history
This Northern Indiana workhorse lives and breathes for the University of Notre Dame, which counts as its principal attraction, as well as, its most notable architectural and historical achievement. Founded in 1842, it's Indiana's second-biggest tourist attraction after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and considered one of the prettiest college campuses in America.
The billion-dollar Getty Center is one of an endless list of LA-area attractions, but its fantastic art collection (concentrating mostly on pre-20th century European art), Richard Meier’s cutting-edge architecture, which sits on two naturally-occurring ridges above the city, extensive gardens and swopping city views means it ticks a lot of wonderful boxes at one address.
Score: LA 1, South Bend 0
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Food, drink and nightlife
Indiana is no gastronomic paradise – the Hoosier state's principle culinary achievement is the (breaded and fried) pork tenderloin – but the Bend has a few worthy pit stops. The football crowd heads to Rocco's pizzeria, but our pick for all your eating and drinking needs is Crooked Ewe Brewery – a great microbrewery serving eclectic elevated pub grub right on the St. Joseph's River.
The City of Angels is a showcase for the glamorous life and its restaurant, bar and nightlife offerings run long, deep and decadent. Being impossible to pick just one, the fabulous and all-encompassing, Mercado La Paloma, is near USC's campus and dishes up a little bit of everything in LA's culinary arsenal. No place says classic LA cool like the mid-century Dresden lounge in Los Feliz (you saw it in Swingers).
Score: LA 2, South Bend 0
While certainly a concrete jungle, LA is a lot richer in mountains, canyons, parks and natural attractions than most non-Los Angelenos realize (to say nothing of the brilliant surrounding Southern California landscape). In the jungle itself, the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens protects a world-class 120 acres of beautiful themed gardens in Pasadena.
If you ask a local, the cowhide used to make footballs are South Bend's best natural attraction. Otherwise, there ain't a lot, well unless you count the Studebaker Living Tree Sign in Bendix Woods County Park. The 840-acre greenspace is where the Studebaker car manufacturer built the first-ever controlled automotive-testing grounds in 1926. The ‘sign’ is made up of 8,000 red and white pines running half a mile, making it the lengthiest living advertising sign according to Guinness World Records.
Score: LA 3, South Bend 0
Lodging, cost and walkability
As one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, Los Angeles lodging runs the gamut, but few are as steeped in Hollywood as the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Blvd. John Belushi died there and a bottomless who's who of fame and fortune have slept, drank and/or socialized there. Predictably, LA is an expensive destination and no, you cannot walk. Nobody walks in LA.
South Bend accommodations are nothing to Instagram about (mostly uneventful chains hotels) save the absolutely wonderful Oliver Inn, an 1886 Queen Anne-style B&B run by consummate hosts Alice and Tom Erlandson. It's 2.7 miles from the football stadium. Downtown South Bend and the university campus are wildly more walkable (and far cheaper) than LA.