12 Fun Things To Do in South Bend, IN
Complete this list and get a true feel for the region’s superb quality of life.
Refreshingly unique is the best way to describe South Bend, IN. The region overflows with amenities — think outdoor recreation, concerts, breweries, amazing restaurants, cute shops, sporting events, parks, trails and more — yet it’s all found in a relaxed Midwestern community where the locals are friendly and welcoming. It’s a place where residents choose to stay and visitors choose to relocate. Ready to find out a little more about what this rare region has to offer? Here are 12 must-do activities in South Bend.
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Visit Potawatomi Zoo.
Indiana’s first zoo is the perfect place to fix your gaze on over 135 species of animals, not to mention brush up on facts about their lifespan, diet and habitat. And if you’re feeling adventurous, sign up to take part in one of the zoo’s animal encounters, where you can feed and touch bison, otters and more.
“It is the perfect size to be able to walk around and see everything with smaller children,” says Nicole Lawler, Visit South Bend Mishawaka’s director of marketing and travel media. “You can spend as much or as little time as you want. They are always adding to exhibits and changing things around to make it enjoyable.” Consider the brand-new giraffe habitat, home to four male Masai giraffes: Seymour, Maximus, Wyatt and Kellan.
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Peruse Studebaker National Museum.
Explore 150 years of South Bend’s automotive history at Studebaker National Museum, where roughly 120 vehicles are housed. Plus, the museum boasts the largest collection of presidential carriages in the country — even the carriage President Lincoln rode in the night of his assassination.
Also pretty cool: The museum has an interactive exhibit called Road Surfaces: Past and Present, where you can stand on different patches of road and learn how it has changed over time.
Enjoy a brewski.
Craving a cold one? South Bend’s brew scene is on the grow, meaning residents have plenty of options when it comes to grabbing a drink.
Try Crooked Ewe, a brewery/ale house where you can pair your drink with some delicious kimchi fries, among other menu items. Or check out Bare Hands Brewery in nearby Granger and savor its phenomenal raspberry wheat ale. No matter which brewery you choose, you’ll love experiencing a variety of flavor profiles.
The region’s local business scene has swelled over the years, and residents can’t get enough of the fantastic goods and services available. The South Bend Farmer’s Market features local vendors selling fresh produce, handcrafted apparel, baked goods, lotions and more. Also a must? Purchase some small-batch whiskey from Indiana Whiskey Co. (and schedule a tour while you’re at it) or buy some delicious chocolate from South Bend Chocolate Company — it has been a local favorite since 1991.
Cheer on the Cubs.
Round up your friends or family and root for the South Bend Cubs. This High A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs plays from April through September, so you’ll have plenty of chances to squeeze in a ballgame or two.
“The South Bend Cubs games are just fun,” Lawler says. “There is a promotion for almost every night, like fireworks, giveaways and nights you can bring your dog. Go for the food and grab a helmet full of nachos or a Kayem hotdog. There are so many things for all ages — a splash pad, bounce houses and a tiki hut for those 21+.”
Hit the links.
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or first starting out, you’ll love playing a few holes at one or more of the region’s beautiful courses, like Elbel, Erskine, Blackthorn, Warren, and Eberhart-Petro.
No matter which course you choose, you’ll be met with gorgeous views, great amenities and a variety of challenges.
A number of establishments sprinkled throughout South Bend allow you to dine in the sunshine.
Take in the gorgeous views of downtown while eating at Café Navarre, a restaurant that serves modern American cuisine with European influences. Or grab a juicy burger and sit out on the patio at The Lauber in the East Bank neighborhood — your dog will love hanging out there, too.
Plus, The Bucket on South Ironwood Drive has multiple decks that offer gorgeous views of the St. Joseph River.
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Explore Four Winds Casino.
Spend an unforgettable evening at Four Winds Casino, where gaming, food and fun collide. Here, visitors can play on over 1,900 of the latest games as well as savor delicious food and drinks from the facility’s bars and restaurants.
Four Winds recently added more entertainment, gathering and gaming spaces, including expansion of the casino floor by 45,000 square feet and adding 850 slot machines and 11 table games. And the best is yet to come with a 317-room hotel and world-class spa opening in 2023.
Raft East Race Waterway.
Brave the rapids at North America’s first artificial whitewater course. Opened downtown in 1984, this 2,000-foot-long course can produce waves 6 feet or higher. Plus, obstacles can be placed throughout the course to create novice- to professional-level challenges.
“It is just something very unique that most places don’t have, and people really enjoy the thrill of doing it,” Lawler says.
A variety of passes are available for purchase during their summer season. Grab a raft, it’s time to paddle!
Tour the University of Notre Dame.
You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the University of Notre Dame. Established in 1842 — over a decade before South Bend was incorporated as a city — the university boasts several iconic landmarks. Two stunning structures include the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Take a self-guided tour of the university or stop by the Eck Visitors Center for a free, student-guided tour of the campus.
Tour the region’s vibrabt art scene by downloading the #OnlyinTheBend Public Art Pass, a mobile passport that introduces users to approximately 40 pieces of public art and galleries. Feast your eyes on a collection of thought-provoking murals, gorgeous sculptures and creative works built right into the area’s landscape. Ready to get started? Snag your passport at visitsouthbend.com.
Breathe in the fresh air as you explore the many parks, trails and outdoor opportunities available in South Bend and the surrounding area.
Camp at the nearby state park, Potato Creek, where you can bike, hike, swim, cross-country ski and more. Seasonal options also await you at Howard Park where you can skate the ice trail in the winter or cool off at the splash pad in the summer. St. Patrick’s County Park offers trails, bird watching, cross-country skiing and inner tubing down a massive hill!
South Bend’s Rum Village offers a high-flying aerial adventure park while neighboring Mishawaka’s parks showcase trails and playgrounds along the beautiful St. Joseph River and an ice trail coming this November.
This article was sponsored by the South Bend Regional Chamber and Visit South Bend Mishawaka.