South Bend is the known for being the fourth largest city in the state of Indiana, as well as for being a fun filled and diverse region of the Midwest.
With that in mind South Bend is great for families, singles, or groups visiting the area, and whether visitors like to be active or take it easy, there are choices that range from white water rafting to leisurely strolls in quirky art galleries, so whatever your mood or budget you will doubtless find something to pique your interest.
A firm participant in the arts, South Bend has museums, performance halls, and musical shows, as well as the powerhouse South Bend Philharmonic Orchestra that music lovers will enjoy.
If you prefer the great outdoors, then you will find sports venues, unexpected museums, and unusual outdoor attractions like motion sensor art installations.
Here are the best things to do in South Bend:
1. Four Winds Field
If you are in the South Bend area and love sport then head to Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium, which is also known colloquially as ‘The Cove’.
Here you can catch an all-American game of baseball and as the stadium can seat 5,000 spectators it is sure to be quite an experience.
The Cove was recently renovated in 2015 to include new dining venues, more comfortable seating, and a larger parking area so now is the perfect time to visit and enjoy watching the resident team, the South Bend Cubs, in action.
2. The Indiana Whiskey Company
To learn all about local brewing techniques in the Indiana area look no further than the Indiana Whiskey Company which is located on the aptly named West Sample Street.
An advocate of the local area and produce, the Indiana Whiskey Company uses ingredients from the region that include corn, wheat, and barley and purchases all its machines from Indiana.
Guests can tour the factory to learn how the whiskey is made and can also purchase some of the company’s signature brews with names like Silver Sweet Corn Whiskey.
3. Circa Arts Gallery
With a mission statement of supporting local art work, the Circa Arts Gallery is definitely a premier spot to visit in South Bend, and you will find a vibrant and well curated showcase of talent from the area.
The Circa Art Gallery features exhibitions as well as pieces that are for sale meaning that visitors here can actually take home their very own piece of the South Bend art scene as a memento of their trip.
The building itself is also a work of art having been built in 1904 and you will also find a range of antique pieces from the region as well as art work, making this more like an historic emporium rather than just another art gallery.
4. East Race Waterway
You might not immediately think of white water rafting when you think of South Bend, but at the East Race Waterway this is exactly one way you can spend an afternoon.
The rafting course has been a fixture on the adventure games trail since the 1980s when it opened and one of the defining features here is that beginners and experienced white water rafters alike are welcome, so whatever your experience you can still join in the fun.
Should you wish t kayak on the rapids, this is also possible as long as you bring your own kayak, and the waterway lasts for over five minutes of white water fun.
Rafting equipment will be provided for participants and after you have ridden the rapids you can go for a stroll around the walkways that surround the waterway or take advantage of the picnic areas.
5. Healthworks! Kids’ Museum
For a day out with the family in South Bend look no further than the HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum, a fun museum with a twist that aims to teach youngsters all about hath and fitness.
The emphasis at Healthworks! is on free play and active learning and there are a range of exhibits designed to get young visitors moving, like an indoor playground and a climbing wall.
The museum also teaches little ones about how to take care of their health and there are programs like the aptly named Super Scrubbers that emphasize the importance of hygiene.
You can even learn all about the importance of a healthy diet here with a program called Food Group Frenzy that both little and big kids will enjoy.
6. Navarre Cabin
Famous for being the oldest European building in the north of Indiana, the Navarre Cabin sits in Leeper Park in South Bend and takes its name from its architect Pierre Navarre who worked in the fur business.
The cabin is made of logs and was restored in recent years to preserve its beauty and architectural style for generations to enjoy in the future and is opened up to the public every October.
Should you be in the area at this time then this is the perfect opportunity to see an authentic slice of life of the early settlers of South Bend.
7. Studebaker National Museum
Head to the Studebaker National Museum if want to learn about a slice of history through the medium of the automobile industry.
The museum has an impressive collection of Studebaker cars and vehicles that paint a picture of America history and there are also other historically significant objects that are displayed alongside the cars, wagons, and carriages that will delight history buffs.
Many of the pieces in the museum date from the beginning of the 1800s and as well as showcasing the mechanics and craftsmanship of these vehicles visitors can also learn about the fascinating history of the Studebaker family.
There are even military vehicles on show that will walk you through all aspects of America’s history of the automobile.
8. The History Museum
For those who want to learn all about the history of the South Bend area the History Museum is a must-visit, and has collections that are full of historically significant objects that span almost all medium making the exhibitions engaging and interesting for visitors of all ages.
Just some of the pieces on display include historic documents relating to South Bend as well as period drawings and vintage photographs that will allow visitors here to see how things would have been in the days of yore.
If you have any questions then you can always join a guided tour led by knowledgeable and friendly staff, and there is also a children’s museum as part of the History Museum that is specially designed to engage young minds.
9. Snite Museum of Art
Part of the campus of the University of Notre Dame, the Snite Museum of Art houses a staggering 23,000 works of art, with the number climbing all the time.
The Snite Museum of Art is proud to feature art work from different regions, periods, and style, including those outside of the United States, although it has a strong emphasis on art work from the Western world and visitors here can see diverse exhibits that stretch from Italian Renaissance paintings to Mesoamerican pieces.
The museum has been standing since the 1980s and also houses notable pieces by artists from the Indiana region and runs a number of programs to interest all art lovers from adults to children.
10. Potawatomi Zoo
Sprawling across 23 acres of land, The Potawatomi Zoo is famous for being the oldest zoo in all of Indiana, starting off life as a duck pond before transforming into the complex that it is today.
One of the buildings on the complex was built in 1949 and is still in operation today, as a barn that houses some of the farm animals, and is also used as a petting zoo where young children can interact with the animals.
As well as the petting zoo, there are a range of programs to teach children about the animals at Potawatomi Zoo which itself features over 400 animals that are both native to the United States and abroad.
11. South Bend Museum of Art
The South Bend Museum of Art first opened its doors in 1947 and has a mission statement to feature fine arts from the region.
Visitors to the museum will find both contemporary and historical collections on display and there are five separate galleries to choose from that take guests through the different periods of art work in Indiana.
There is a permanent collection that is showcased in the Carmichael Gallery as well as rotating exhibits that feature regional works.
12. South Bend Chocolate Factory
For anyone with a sweet tooth the South Bend Chocolate Factory and Museum is a must-visit and this home to all things chocolate related has a range of tours that are open to the public.
Founded in 1991, the chocolate factory sprawls over 60,000 square feet and produces a wide range of chocolate products as well as other items like coffee, dried fruit, and nuts.
There are basic tours for guests in a hurry that will give a sugar coated overview, or a more in depth tour that will plunge guests into the chocolaty delights of the factory, and there are of course a range of goodies that guests can purchase to take home.
13. River Lights
For a spectacular light show in South Bend come to the River Lights display over the St. Joseph River that can be seen from Seitz Park in the downtown area.
Colourful light sculptures and installations are displayed on the banks of the river, and are usually based around local themes such as holidays or events in the area and serve to invoke a fun atmosphere to reflect the current mood in South Bend.
The installations are even more unusual in that they work using motions sensors so that when visitors approach the sculptures light up and change colour.
14. The Oliver Mansion
For a taste of live 100 years ago head to the Oliver mansion, the former home of J.D Oliver, and industrialist who built the properly in the 19th century.
The mansion spans three levels and all the period furnishings on display in the building are original items owned by the Oliver family, giving visitors a unique insight into how others would have lived and worked in the days of old.
There are also a variety of delightful touches to show guests the best of the local craftsmanship such as ornate fireplaces and intricate wood paneling fashioned from cherry and mahogany from the Indiana region.
15. The Morris Performing Arts Center
Perfect if you want to catch a concert in South Bend, the Morris Performing Arts Center is housed in a traditional vaudeville house that dates from 1921, meaning that it’s simply oozing with history.
Having been lovingly preserved and restored over the years the center is modeled in a European style has is painted in rose, cream, and blue in keeping with the traditional colors of the period and is now listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
Nowadays the center is the place to come for musical concerts of both classical and modern pieces, as well performances by the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, so lovers of the arts should definitely not miss the chance to catch a show here.