If you’re a football fan, then you may know about South Bend Indiana: home of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish. But football isn’t the only cool thing about this town. There are several things to do in South Bend to entice the art, historical, epicurean and adventure enthusiasts.
Here is a guide to a few things to check out on your visit to South Bend Indiana. My time in South Bend was short but managed to explore while visiting my brother and sister currently living in the US.
- 1 What To Do In South Bend Indiana
- 1.1 University of Notre Dame
- 1.2 White Water Rafting at East Race Waterway
- 1.3 The South Bend Chocolate Café
- 1.4 Tour the Oliver Mansion
- 1.5 Go to the Studebaker Museum
- 1.6 Catch a performance at the Morris Performing Arts Center
- 1.7 Explore Circa Arts Gallery
- 1.8 South Bend Museum of Art
- 1.9 Shop in downtown South Bend
- 2 Where To Stay In South Bend
- 3 Getting Around South Bend & Getting To South Bend
- 4 Best Time To Visit South Bend
What To Do In South Bend Indiana
My exploration of South Bend was very much a family trip while exploring with my sisters, my niece and my brother playing tour guide. Below are top things to do in South Bend, many of which are not to be missed when visiting this part of the USA.
University of Notre Dame
Well when in Rome…. But seriously, even if you’re not a Notre Dame enthusiast, this is an incredible destination and you really have to appreciate it when you’re in South Bend. This is the icon of the Midwest. Notre Dame is a private Catholic research university home to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team and was founded in 1842. Steeped in history, the architecture reflects the beauty and grace of the era.
You can walk around the campus and admire the architecture but you must stop at the Ecks Visitors Center to arrange a tour of the Golden Dome, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. You will learn about the history of the area, the church, and the university itself. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to these incredible grounds every year, so you definitely don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.
White Water Rafting at East Race Waterway
Did you know for less than $10 you can have a white water wild adventure right in South Bend Indiana? Yup! The White Water Rafting center at East Race Waterway provides you with an urban thrill unlike any other in the heart of downtown South Bend. Cascade down Class 2 rapids and descend 1,900 feet in a fun afternoon ride.
A one ride pass is $6 and multiple ride tickets range from $10-$15. Tickets should be purchased online to reserve your time slot. Seasonally the tours run from June through August and they’re open primarily on the weekends. The required height for rafting is 54” and rubber soled shoes with a strap are required. Learn more about the requirements on their website and enjoy the ride!
The South Bend Chocolate Café
This sweet confectioner has many locations around the Midwest, but their hometown factory is located right in South Bend! You can take a free 20-minute tour of the factory and see the chocolate-making equipment and get all the free smells. This is a hit with those travelling with kids.
Next walk through the Chocolate Museum which hosts one of the largest collection of chocolate memorabilia. Then afterwards, head into the shop into the sea of chocolates, caramels, truffles and toffees.
One of the iconic chocolates to try is the Rocknes, named after the famous Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, this delicious treat is a truffle with cherry flavoring, coconuts and almonds. Yum! Factory tours begin every hour, Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday’s 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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Tour the Oliver Mansion
The Oliver Mansion is an exquisite 38-room family home once owned by the J.D. Oliver family. An industrialist, J.D. Oliver, his wife, and their four children moved into the mansion which was built in 1895 and designed by New York architect Charles Alonzo Rich. The Oliver family made their fortune in the chilled plow works business, in fact J.D.’s father is the one who invented the chilled plow.
Now today it is a wonderful museum that you can explore and learn about the history of the Oliver family, the town and the impact the Oliver’s had on the economy. Tickets can be purchased at the estate or you can purchase them online.
Go to the Studebaker Museum
Studebaker Corporate was created in South Bend in 1852. They originally made buggies and wagons and then turned to automobile manufacturing at the turn of the century when transportation and technology were in a boom. The museum opened up in 2005 details the history of the company and showcases over 120 vehicles on display. It’s definitely impressive and takes you back in time.
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This 1940 Studebaker Champion is a part of the current special exhibition, Reaching the Masses. A 1940 Studebaker Champion (although not this particular example) would serve as the Pace Car for that’s year Indianapolis 500.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #automuseum #americanmade #carmuseum #carsofinstagram #classiccar #classiccars #historymuseum #igcars #instacar #instacars #champion #studebakerchampion #retrocars #studebakermuseum #studebaker #studebakercar #studebakercool #vehiclegram #vintagecar #indy500 #reachingthemasses
Catch a performance at the Morris Performing Arts Center
South Bend is home to the stunning Morris performing Arts Center which puts on many live events such as concerts, comedians, orchestra, singing performances, and national Broadway tours.
Originally built in 1922, it was once called the Palace Theatre. The interior itself is breathtaking and it truly feels like you’ve stepped into a European novel. Check out their website for upcoming events and performances while you’re in town.
Explore Circa Arts Gallery
The Circa Arts Gallery is a great art gallery to stop in to pick up a piece of original artwork by a local artisan. They have a variety of mediums such as paintings, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork and metal pieces to discover. It’s very unique to the area and it’s always great to support the local people when you’re visiting a destination.
South Bend Museum of Art
Get in touch with your artistic side at the South Bend Museum of Art. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and admission is free to members and a suggested donation of $5 for non-members. They provide group tours or you can take a self-guided tour of the gallery at your own pace.
Shop in downtown South Bend
South Bend has lots of great shopping areas for you to explore. Whether you’re looking for a chain shop or want to explore local boutiques, there are plenty of places to shop.
Also along the way you’ll experience local restaurants, coffee shops and cafes to enjoy on your afternoon out and about. Visit South Bend has a great list of all the local retailers and even have a few deals now and then too.
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Do you love downtown South Bend? DTSB is seeking guest bloggers to write about their experiences living, working or visiting downtown. If you or someone you know are interested, please message us for the application link. Approved bloggers will be featured on our website, social media and compensated a $10 Downtown Dollar Certificate per blog.
Where To Stay In South Bend
As far as where to stay in South Bend during your visit, there are rental homes, budget, mid-range and a couple of 4-star hotels. The list is not long as there are a little over 100 places to choose from, which I guess makes the decision easier. Most people take to prefer to book hotels near Notre Dame or near the university so I have highlighted some options for that too. Below are a few options for places to stay but you can see the full list of best places to stay in South Bend here.
Motel 6 – Set about a 5km of Notre Dame Stadium and 3.5km from the University of Notre Dame.
Quality Inn & Suites – Located 4 miles from the Univerity and less than a mile from South Bend Regional Airport.
Morris Inn At Notre Dame – Located on the University of Notre Dame Campus and only a 5-minute walk from the football at Notre Dame Stadium.
Best Western Plus – Located 4 miles from the University of Notre Dame and comes with an indoor pool.
Embassy Suites By Hilton – Located only 1.2km from Notre Dame Stadium. There is private parking, onsite restaurant, bar and lounge.
Hyatt Place – Located about a 10-minute drive from the University of Notre Dame. Complete with an indoor pool and 24 hour fitness centre.
Getting Around South Bend & Getting To South Bend
We mostly drove when exploring South Bend and parked when we need to head into attractions. There is some public transport, which I never got to experience. Fares are available in day passes fro $3 a day, 14 day pass at $18 and monthly pass at $35 dollars. If you are a student the pass is $30. The basic fare for a single ticket/ journey is $1. For more information on public transport check out Transpo.
How To Get To South Bend
As far as how to get to South Bend, my young sister and I drove from Colombus Ohio to Michigan when my brother lives. I had flow from London to Columbus and then most of the journeys were by car before flying from Chicago to Seattle for my last leg of exploring in the US. The nearest airport is South Bend International Airport (was South Bend Regional) with major airlines flying in and out. From Delta, American and KLM and United Airlines.
Best Time To Visit South Bend
South Bend weather can be a bit harsh in the winter so don’t really recommend fun visits between November, December, January and February as during these months you are likely to see snow of at least on average, 40 centimeters of snow.
December alone can see at least 169 cm of snowfall. For the best times to visit South Bend, I would recommend visiting between April and October when the weather is much more pleasant for exploring and enjoying the city and nearby attractions in Indiana.
There is definitely more to do in South Bend besides football, so don’t be afraid that you won’t have anything to do. Pack up your bags, hit the road (or skies) and check out what South Bend has to offer you and your family. Whether looking to spend a weekend in South Bend or longer.
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