(UPDATED APRIL 2022) South Bend is a city in the northern part of Indiana, best known as home to the University of Notre Dame. South Bend is no ordinary college town. From a beautiful Italian-inspired grotto to top-notch Broadway shows, classic car collections, to amazing cuisine, here are fun things to do in South Bend, Indiana, that you are going to love!
Tour a Turn-Key Mansion
The Oliver family of South Bend, Indiana, made their money from a chilled (cooling) plow, which was unique for its time and necessary for people everywhere. Their wealth is displayed at the 38-room Copshaholm at the Oliver Mansion that the family lived up in and passed down through generations.
Copshaholm is one of the finest historic homes in the Midwest–maybe even in the United States. The tour includes visiting all three floors of the beautiful Romanesque Queen Anne home. Not only are the furnishings original to the Oliver family, but the mansion’s woodwork is impressive and one-of-a-kind.
Don’t miss the Louis Comfort Tiffany leaded glass in the domed second-story windows or the framed portraits of visitors in the man-cave den featuring Henry Ford and other men of this stature.
See a Broadway Performance
South Bend is home to the nearly 100-year-old Morris Performing Arts Center. Showing a handful of touring Broadway shows annually, as well as monthly concerts, performances, and symphony orchestras, this gorgeous theatre is a gem in the heart of town. It was initially built as a vaudeville venue. Having seen Les Miserables at the theatre, I can comment on how incredible the musicians were and the talent of the performance groups coming to the theatre.
Come early and enjoy cocktails, buying souvenirs, and the beauty of this town gem. The Morris is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and continually on Pollstar magazine’s top 100 theaters worldwide.
Pro Tip: After the show, go down to see the South Bend River Lights, a public art installment on the St. Joseph River. Every night, interactive colored lights display a fun show on the water that is great fun…and free.
Enjoy a Memorable Meal
I was only in South Bend for a short time but had three memorable meals. My friend Sara and I went to Macadoo’s Family Restaurant for their “almost world-famous” biscuits and gravy for breakfast. The Irish-based restaurant is a few minutes outside of town in Mishawaka. I love that they serve a pancake-of-the-month breakfast dish.
For dinner, two exceptional eateries should be on your radar. First is LaSalle Grille, an upscale fine-dining restaurant with a relaxed vibe and wonderful food. The service is on point, and the menu, beer and wine selection, and craft cocktails are a force to be reckoned with.
For starters, I had the Caesar salad, and for my main course, I chose a filet mignon, which was divine in every way. Later, I kicked it old school with a perfectly prepared White Russian cocktail.
The second is Tippecanoe Place, in the former 1880 Studebaker family home. Tippecanoe’s outside appearance is regal and stunning, but the inside is equally as impressive. There are various dining rooms to enjoy your meal in, and the menu is packed full of classic dishes and fine-dining favorites.
My top picks for traditional dishes are the shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, and a combination pasta platter that the chef was nice enough to put together for me; all were delicious. Save room for the creme brûlée.
Explore the Studebaker Car Museum
Studebaker is a name associated with South Bend as it was here that the classic buggies (and later popular cars) were invented. If you are a history, car, or Indiana buff, you’ll have to check out the impressive Studebaker National Museum. This three-story attraction is a treasure trove of historic cars, all shiny and in mint condition.
Studebaker cars and buggies are part of fun exhibits that make you feel like you are “back in the day.” The Studebaker Museum’s biggest draw is the Barouche, the last vehicle to carry Abraham Lincoln alive. Impressive, huh?
The presidential carriage collection is my favorite part of the Studebaker Museum, where I let out a little squeal from excitement. There are a handful of Studebaker buggies that carried or belonged to US Presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant (a Brewster Landau), Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley (Brougham), and William Henry Harrison (Phaeton). Presidents.
A cute car-hop scene is built around the Studebaker 1950’s rides, complete with a soda fountain and jukebox. I marveled at the colorful cars, reminding me of a large Easter basket. Other museum areas showcased include touring, a military collection, the original 33 Studebakers on display, and interactive exhibits, including a Super Service Center area for kids to enjoy.
Visit a World-Class University
You can’t come to South Bend, Indiana, without seeing the Golden Dome of the Fighting Irish. This is the most recognized landmark of the private Catholic research university. Home to the University of Notre Dame, South Bend’s crowning jewel is one of the highest-ranked higher education spots in the nation. Notre Dame was founded in 1842.
Take time to admire and reflect at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. The grotto is a beautiful Italian replica that is a sacred spot for Catholics. Light a candle for someone you love or honor the memory of someone you’ve lost. It is truly an Irish day every day in South Bend.
Eat Top Quality Chocolates
The South Bend Chocolate Company is a popular candy store that sells anything sweet you can dream up. They have awesome packaged snacks, nut mixes, cookies, pretzels, fudge, malt balls, and chocolates. Or, you can choose a single piece or combination of individual candies from the tantalizing counters.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are candy factory tours and a coffee bar at South Bend Chocolate Company.
Stroll Eddy Street Commons
A fun neighborhood shopping enclave to check out is Eddy Street Commons. Here, you’ll find boutique shops, a handful of restaurants, urban parks, and residential dwellings. A few of the store names you will see there are Hammes Bookstore & Cafe, McAlister’s Deli, Urban Outfitters, Purely Pressed, and Blaze Pizza.
Where to Stay in South Bend
South Bend’s premier boutique hotel, the Aloft South Bend, is in the heart of town and within walking distance to many things. The see-through fireplace in the exterior wall of the hotel is the first dose of hospitality you’ll receive at this stylish offering. Rooms are spacious and contemporary-feeling, with comfortable beds and functional furnishings.
With free Wifi, a lively bar scene, and billiards/games in the aesthetically-pleasing lobby, the Aloft South Bend is an exceptional place to stay.
Add Some Indiana to Your Travels
Keep South Bend, Indiana, in mind when looking for a great road trip destination or a weekend getaway. This charming town has many hidden gems you don’t hear about daily. The food scene alone is enough reason to visit.
Thanks to Visit South Bend for hosting my stay and activities. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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