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Take Me There Tuesday: Niles, MI

This week we are visiting my home town of Niles, Mi. Niles is located in Berrien County and just 6 miles north of South Bend, In and Notre Dame. 

Niles history and historical sites:

Niles is known as the “ The City of Four Flags”  (France, Great Britain, Spain and the United States) because four nations have controlled the area at different points in its 300 year history. It was always a multicultural site, a meeting and trading place for Europeans, Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Ojibwe nations.

Fort St. Joseph 1691-1781 was located on the southside of present day Niles. It was built in 1691 as a trading post on the St Joseph River. The fort site fell into ruins after the British abandoned it after the Northwest Indian War. It was rediscovered in 1998 during an archeological survey. Western Michigan University has conducted a public archeology program that has included workshops for graduate students and volunteers, training for middle and high school teachers and community outreach. Currently a 7 ton boulder serves as a monument to the Fort.

Fort St. Joseph Museum is located in the former carriage house of the Chapin Mansion. 

Chapin Mansion: 

Constructed in 1882 by Henry and Ruby Chapin, they donated the home to the city in 1933.  It has served as City hall, and now the Niles History Center. Tours are held May to December each year. 

(photo by High Inspirations Photography)

Four Flags Hotel:

Located right downtown is the Four Flags Hotel, built in 1925. Considered to be the most modern hotel in Southwest Michigan, it cost $350,000 to build.  It is said to have hosted Al Capone, Eleanor Rosevelt, Knute Rockne and Truman Capote. It was the first business to adopt the name “ Four Flags”. (photo by

Niles Train Depot:

Located just north of town is the Amtrak train station. Built in 1881, it was intended to impress visitors from the East with this last passenger stop before the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Formal gardens were established in 1893 with a floating garden, a fish pond, a gazebo and a greenhouse that supplied flowers for dining cars as well as for thousands of passengers who traveled through Niles, thus the affectionate title of "The Garden City." The depot has appeared in movies such as "The Continental Divide" with John Belushi, "Midnight Run" with Robert DeNiro and "Only the Lonely" with Maureen O'Hara and John Candy.* I personally remember the listings in the newspaper asking for “extras” to be in the movie Only the Lonely.* This is also when the Christmas lights were put on the outline of the depot. It has beautiful landscaped gardens by the Four Flags Garden Club.


Downtown Niles:

If you’re looking for unique shops or good food, downtown is the place to be. From Pizza to BBQ, Coffee and Tea to Small town beers you can find it all and more in the Downtown area. Below are a few I have tried, the entire list can be found at

Pizza Transit has the best pizza with Milano’s being a close second. (But that's my opinion.) They have special Pizza of the month( May is Asparagus Pizza) along with pastas, salads, subs and calzones. Make sure to get some breadsticks, you’ll thank me later 😀

My coworker frequents Apothica Teas and loves the Victorian/Steampunk atmosphere. From small luncheon plates and take and bake scones, to High Tea with the works. It can be found here.

Iron Shoe Distillery is where the founders, Ryan, Christina  and I had lunch on Sunday.  If you can do the stairs, I recommend the rooftop seating. On a beautiful sunny day with the breeze, it made for an enjoyable lunch experience…the food and drinks were great too.*From a photographer's point of view, it’s a can’t miss. From the design of the building to the views, you will definitely want your camera.

Veni’s Sweet Shop is a staple to the downtown area and I remember going here as a kid to get candy fruit slices. I remember thinking that this was the best place in the world with all the glass cases filled with rows and rows of deliciousness. Today I admire it for the nostalgic design and treasured memories from childhood. If you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, this is the place to go.

Just steps from downtown is the Riverfront Park.

With a large children's playground, 200’ long boat dock/fishing pier, a 5 mile walking trail and an outdoor amphitheater. There is something for everyone, multiple benches and swings line the St. Joseph river to enjoy nature. The city holds summer concerts in the park, Riverfest, and movies in the park just to name a few.

Throughout the year Niles has several local events:

*Hunter Ice Festival is held in January. Local artists carve ice sculpture throughout the city with lots of “Ice” themed events.

*Bluegrass Festival held at Riverfront Park.

*Niles Hometown market

*Fireworks at the airport in July

*Four Flags Apple Festival-4 days of craft shows, king and queen contest, lip sync contest, rides and parade. It’s “the” fall festival to attend. Oh…and APPLES!

I have been attending since I was a kid, and still enjoy it every year. From concerts to contests, it’s always a fun time. Weather is unpredictable towards the end of September, bring an umbrella just in

*Niles best known in October for the NILES SCREAM PARK. Ranked in Top 30 Must See haunted attractions nationwide. Niles Scream Park is 44 acres of fear, each year building new and unique shows. 

Now this final one is from the little kid in me and is only an event to me. The marking of the Christmas season is when you could drive over the bridge and see Santa floating on the river. I still enjoy seeing him, even as an adult.

(photo credit- santa on the river facebook page)

Last but not least, if you want to photograph or just enjoy being in nature. Stop in at Fernwood Botanical Garden. This place offers 105 acres of beautiful landscapes, and trails along the St. Joseph river. For more information

Here are some other photos from around the city. Until next time ~ Amanda

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great article!!! Very informative and well written 👏

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