Top Things to Do in South Bend, Indiana | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in South Bend, Indiana

Football fans flood South Bend to cheer the University of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish. But football isn't the only draw in this picturesque town; attractions such as historic mansions, The National Studebaker Museum, the Morris Performing Arts Center and the South Bend Museum of Art merit a stop, too.

What to do

CircaArts Gallery A favorite among the boutiques and studios in the East Bank Village, Circa sells local art with emphasis on the Arts and Crafts style. Check website for hours.

Circa Arts Gallery

Circa Arts Gallery. Photo by EE Berger.

East Bank Village The shops feature artsy wares by designers of fashion, furniture and more.

East Race Waterway Alongside the river, rafters and kayakers ride the white water of the narrow channels.

Morris Performing Arts Center A local philanthropist saved this former vaudeville theater from the wrecking ball, and it got a complete overhaul between 1998 and 2000 that restored the interior to its original 1921 palette of rose and cream. Highlights include performances by the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.

The National Studebaker Museum Founded in South Bend in 1852, the Studebaker Corporation made buggies and wagons before transitioning into auto manufacturing. The museum, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015, chronicles the company’s history and houses more than 120 vehicles.

Oliver Mansion This Romanesque Queen Anne home, also known as Copshaholm, contains 38 rooms of original furnishings, intricate woodwork and leaded-glass windows. Built by industrialist J.D. Oliver in 1896 on the city’s mansion row, the home offers tours coordinated by The History Museum.

Oliver Mansion

Oliver Mansion. Photo courtesy of Visit South Bend Mishawaka.

South Bend Chocolate Company This fast-growing confectioner boasts Chocolate Cafe locations across the Midwest, but only in its hometown can you tour the factory. Free tours of the chocolate-making equipment last about 20 minutes. Afterward, browse the outlet store for deals on truffles, toffees and caramels—or chocolate Rocknes (truffles with cherry flavoring, coconuts and almonds) named in honor of legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. 

South Bend Museum of Art Works of Hoosier Impressionism star among three stories of galleries.

South Bend Museum of Art

South Bend Museum of Art. Photo by EE Berger.

South Bend River Lights This innovative project uses light sculptures to transform the St. Joseph River into “a canvas of living art.” The sculptures, equipped with motion sensors, change colors and project different shapes based on nearby movement. For the best view, head to Seitz Park, Island Park or the Colfax Bridge.

South Bend River Lights

South Bend River Lights. Photo by EE Berger.

University of Notre Dame Guided tours lead visitors from the Eck Visitors Center past the Golden Dome, Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes.

University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame. Photo by EE Berger.

Where to eat

Cafe Navarre Local ingredients and international flavors fuse in dishes like the Amish chicken served with miso, jasmine rice and sweet curry peanuts. 

Cafe Navarre

Cafe Navarre. Photo by EE Berger.

LaSalle Grill The menu changes daily at this special-occasion spot where hardwood grilling imparts smoky flavor to many dishes. Reservations recommended.

Rocco’s Restaurant A favorite with Notre Dame students, families and alumni, Rocco’s serves Italian comfort food in a warm family setting.

Rocky River Tap and Table This farm-to-fork restaurant in nearby Granger offers a contemporary dining experience with seasonal entrees such as barbecue nachos with smoked Indiana duck. Bonus: Most of the 30 beers on tap are brewed in Indiana and neighboring Michigan.

South Bend Brew Werks Pair the smooth, smoky Mr. Elegante porter with a kicky smoked brisket flatbread.

South Bend Brew Works

South Bend Brew Works

South B

Tippecanoe Place Try herb-crusted prime rib, shrimp cocktail and other classics in an 1880s stone mansion.

Tippecanoe Place Restaurant

Tippecanoe Place Restaurant

Where to stay

Ivy Court Inn and Suites Fighting Irish fans wanting a homey stay can find lodging and breakfast here, plus tailgating in the parking lot.

Morris Inn Stay on campus in AAA Four Diamond luxury. Grab a drink at Rohr’s, where legendary bartender Murf loves to dish on celebs he’s served.

Oliver Inn Just two blocks from Copshaholm, this 1886 mansion built by J.D. Oliver’s sister, Josephine, is home to a romantic bed-and-breakfast. Most of the nine rooms include fireplaces, and some come with claw-foot tubs and private porches.

For information: South Bend/Mishawaka Convention and Visitors Bureau

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