Since I’m originally from Southwest Michigan, I’ve been to South Bend Indiana (and Mishawaka) hundreds of times to eat and shop, but I never took the opportunity to see what makes South Bend so uniquely special, and I had the chance to see just that when I visited on a FAM trip a while back.
The city has been reinventing itself over the last few years, and it’s so exciting to see it coming alive in new ways! It’s well worth a visit — so many fun things to do in South Bend Indiana! So let’s see, do, sip and eat!
Visit Notre Dame
Because most people think of South Bend as the home of Notre Dame, we’ll start there. Whether you’re a Fighting Irish fan or not, this is one heck of a beautiful campus and well worth visiting and touring.
The Oliver Mansion (also known as Copshaholm, named after the Oliver’s Scottish hometown) was built for the Oliver family, founders of the best-selling plow in the world. It’s located on Washington Street, the most fashionable city to live on at the time it was built. The mansion was built in Queen Ann Romanesque style and is still filled with the family’s furnishings and available for tours.
Studebaker National Museum
Studebaker was an American wagon, buggy and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, and the museum displays a fabulous historical collection of vehicles. I could catch a special exhibit about Abraham Lincoln while I was there, and even though the exhibit has ended, the museum still houses the barouche that Lincoln rode in on his way to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated.
Fun Fact: Studebakers didn’t all have a singular and distinctive hood ornament or grill design. They were all different! That’s rare for an automaker, right?
Taste & Tour the Indiana Whiskey Company
The Indiana Whiskey Company opened as the first whiskey distillery in the state about two years ago. They pride themselves on the fact that everything used to make their products comes from within Indiana. They make small-batch silver sweet corn whiskey (clear) and bourbon whiskey (brown) in a one-of-a-kind copper handmade still. We had the chance to see how it’s made, and to label and bottle some white whiskey. Oh, and taste some too!
Did you know? The only difference between whiskey and bourbon is that bourbon includes an extra step of being barrel-aged for 6 months.
Indiana Whiskey Company whiskey is only available within the state of Indiana, so be sure you get a souvenir bottle when you’re there!
Tour the South Bend Chocolate Factory & Museum
Who doesn’t love chocolate and candy? Stopping here for a tour and to browse the chocolate museum is a great family activity. Our tour guide was really great with kids!
We learned about where chocolate comes from, and then we went into the factory to see where it’s made, dipped and packaged. Everyone had the chance to taste a sample, and then those on the paid tour ($4) had the chance to make chocolate dipped spoons and get a goody bag.
Shiojiri Niwa Japanese Gardens
Shiojiri Niwa is one of the few Japanese Style Gardens in Indiana, and although it’s small, it’s still well worth a visit. It celebrates a special sister relationship between Mishawaka and Shiojiri Niwa Nagano Prefecture, Japan.
White Water Rafting
It might blow your mind, but you can actually go white water rafting in downtown South Bend on the East Race Waterway. It takes about 5 minutes from start to finish, and unless you have guides (like we did), you’re gonna get wet, so be prepared, but it’s super fun! We loved it!
Heads up: Be sure you have closed-toed shoes on, and bring a change of clothes. You also need to be 54″ tall to ride, and anyone under the age of 16 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
There’s something magical and mesmerizing about the way light, color, movement and water play with each other, so a trip to River Lights in South Bend is an absolute must for visitors.
Softly colored and changing lights illuminate the river and its rushing rapids, and on either side of the river banks there are interactive light sculptures that accentuate the display. The light show was created to help celebrate South Bend’s 150th anniversary, and it has quickly become a well-loved downtown attraction.
Although I didn’t visit the zoo on this particular trip, a wonderful reader reminded me that it’s a must-see in South Bend and well worth a visit. I agree, so I’m adding it to my list. It’s the oldest zoo in Indiana and features more than 400 animals! I took my kids there many, many times during the years we lived in the area.
Restaurants in South Bend
Tippecanoe Place Restaurant
This extraordinarily beautiful mansion was originally the home of Clement Studebaker, and now houses one of South Bend’s most iconic restaurants. I’ve been dying to eat there ever since high school. It was the place to go for prom.
As it turns out, it was totally worth the wait as the food was superb, and the historic home’s interior was just as beautiful inside as outside.
Located inside a converted historic bank building, the restaurant is an architectural masterpiece and a culinary delight. The modern American cuisine reflects French, Italian and Spanish influences. It’s no wonder it has quickly become a South Bend hot spot.
This South Bend modern America bistro has earned the 4-Diamond Award 19 years in a row, and after dining there it’s obvious why. The food was utterly amazing, the atmosphere was upscale but relaxed and the service was phenomenal.
South Bend Brew Werks
We enjoyed Sunday brunch at South Bend Brew Werks and since I had been told the waffles were a specialty, I couldn’t resist trying the cranberry stout waffle with pear and apple compote and maple cream. I loved it!
But what struck me more than anything was the passion owner Drew Elegante has for South Bend. Everything he does with his brew pub is designed to improve the community and help it thrive. For instance, the Beer 4 Good program (which has already raised over $16,000) is a program that allows patrons who order craft brews to choose a donation recipient from one of three carefully chosen community partners.
Where To Stay
The Inn at Saint Mary’s is a boutique hotel located on the campus of Saint Mary’s, adjacent to Notre Dame. Although the exterior may seem average, you’ll begin seeing what makes it so special when you walk through the lobby doors. The lobby is beautiful! I had a room on the second floor, and I always took the spiral staircase rather than the elevator because looking out over the light and airy lobby made me smile every single time I saw it.
Every morning included a hot breakfast buffet, and the food was really, really good. It’s not a typical hotel breakfast…trust me. I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but I went every single morning to fill a plate. I would definitely stay here again on a future visit, but not just because of the breakfast. The room was cozy, comfortable and very pleasant! I totally enjoyed my stay.
South Bend is a convenient pit stop between Chicago and Detroit, so if you ever make that drive, consider adding on a day or two to spend there. Or you can make it your destination like I did. No matter how or why you get there, be sure to visit South Bend!
Which places on my list of things to do in South Bend Indiana would be on your must-do list?
Comments & Reviews
Honestly I never realized South Bend had so much to see and do. I think I drove through it once or maybe twice in my younger days but never stopped there. Reading this post makes me wish I had. The food alone would make me a very happy camper–and the place you stayed-lovely. Of course all the beautiful architecture I would love to see–not so much the white water rafting but I would enjoy watching the light show and others attempting it!
Robin (Masshole Mommy) says
I am with you on the food~ Doesn’t it all look and sound ah-mazing?
Annemarie LeBlanc says
I never knew there were so many cool places to see in South Bend! Those mansions are so grandiose! I’d love to visit the Basilica too. Oh, and the food! The Japanese garden would be the perfect place to unwind.
Robin (Masshole Mommy) says
What a charming and quaint place to visit. I would love to head there one of these days and check it out 🙂
Oh I loved the photos! Yet another place to add to my America Bucket List – even better it’s so near to Chicago!
Rachel Mouton says
This looks like a beautiful place to visit. I love all of the antique cars 🙂
My husband loves antique cars, too. He will enjoy seeing those beauties.
What a beautiful place Notre Dame is. Thanks for the tour!
MJ L. says
The food looks absolutely delicious! I love historical buildings, I will have to put this on my list of places to visit 🙂
Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says
Oh wow, that’s amazing! I have to be honest, I don’t think of this type of thing when I think of Indiana. Thanks for sharing this!
I spent 4 yrs as a student there in South Bend. An Irish Fan to the core as ND is a family school. It is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country (perhaps a bit biased). It is a place that all should explore.
The Tippecanoe is a place I ate at a few times and enjoyed it.
Rebecca Bryant says
Beside eating all that yummy food i would love to visit Notre Dame. The architect is breathtaking.
Julie Syl Kalungi says
Rebecca…You n Me Both, but is that all you would see?
Well Well Liz, Where do I start…
Wohooo, You just given me an idea to add to my bucket list. South bend Indiana seems like our kind of Holiday destination…and that its stateside adds to its attraction. So much ti see and its just our kind of sight seeing.
My daughter loves high powered sport so whitewater rafting is her thing…I prefer the beaches….So I wonder whether there is a beach smh :)…Lol cant please a woman can ya!
Yet I would get lost in the museum and old worldy yet obviously contemporary architecture over there!
Hmmm Love it when I find awesome new places to see! Thanks for sharing.
Heather Johnson says
What an amazing place to visit! I will have to take my kiddos there sometime in the near future.
Kristi @Homestead Wishing says
Wow, it all looks so amazing. It is funny I never knew Studebaker made buggies. I know about their cars. My grandaddy had one. The Oliver Mansion is pretty fabulous. I love the style. It would be pretty cool to see it in person!
Ana De- Jesus says
Firstly the food looks delicious and second the culture is vast what a perfect place.
CAROL CASSARA says
I can’t say I’ll ever get to South Bend, but you make it look just beautiful! And interesting!
Looks like an awesome place to visit with plenty to see, do, and EAT! I would love to visit the chocolate factory. Yum.
tara pittman says
Lots of fun things to do there. A chocolate factory gets my vote.
Amanda Ripsam says
I would love to spend a day in a chocolate factory I have been though Indiana as I live in Michigan go though on my way to Fl sometimes so maybe a day trip in the summer
Wow, what an amazing place to visit!! I would love to go here. Your photos are so stunning. I think I’ll have to add this on my list of places to go. All those buildings are so beautiful. My husband would have a great time looking at all those old cars.
Travel Blogger says
I am not too far from South Bend, and I think I will have to make it a point to go and visit. You really did a thorough job of showcasing all there is to do! I would love to go to the Indiana Whiskey Co.
Mardene Carr says
This has got to be the post of the day. Well documented and the pictures are fabulous
Catherine S says
This looks like a great place to visit. I would love to check out the Studebaker National Museum and the The Indiana Whiskey Company.
Life as a Convert says
I am reading through here trying to figure out which one would be my favorite to visit.. I think ALL of them lol
the oliver mansion looks and incredible and Notre Dame does look like a very beautiful campus. looks like a fun city to visit
Oh my goodness, Notre Dom looks amazing. And I just know hubby would love the Studebaker Museum. He is obsessed with older cars. This is all so cool. Thanks for sharing.
Toni | BoulderLocavore says
What an eclectic place with so many things to do and places to eat. I’m starstruck by the architecture. It has such a distinct feel that is very different from where I live. Thanks for the introduction to South Bend!
I’ve been to a lot of states, but Indiana hasn’t been one of them (yet!) These pictures are beautiful! I can’t wait to plan a trip there in the future!
What a fabulous post! Makes me want to visit Indiana! Love company/product tours where samples are involved 🙂
You had me at Chocolate Museum!
Being a life long Chicagoan and Notre Dame fan, we have been to South Bend loads of times. Shockingly, I never knew about some of these gems. Will have to visit them on our next trip North.
Notre Dame football, baby – and a whole LOT of food. That’s what I would do if I ever went to South Bend…. 🙂
Kim Davis says
Wonderful article! I’ve lived in South Bend my entire life, so it is great to see my hometown showcased in such a great manner. I have to admit the Indiana Whiskey Company is a well-kept secret: never knew it existed but will definitely stop in now. I just wish that the Potowatomi Zoo had made your list – after all, it is the oldest zoo in Indiana and features more than 400 animals in a beautiful setting. A must-see for anyone making the trip.
We didn’t visit it as part of the FAM trip but I used to take my kids there all the time when we lived in Michigan. You know what? I’m going to add it per your suggestion! 🙂
Kim Davis says
Awesome! Thank you very much. Visitors won’t be disappointed – there are several new attractions planned in the next few years as well. 🙂
There’s definitely a lot to do in Indiana. I like the archeticture and the Japanese gardens look beautiful.
Seattle Travel Blogger says
What a beautiful-looking trip. I am amazed at the mansion.
I love your pictures!
I haven’t been WW rafting in a long time! That looks like a fun place to do it!
Clo Nevaeh says
This looks amazing! I’ve never traveled much, really hope I get the chance, but Indiana sounds amazing!
Jeni Hawkins says
I’ve never been to South Bend. It looks like a great place to visit oneday. Lots of things to do and see.
Lois Alter Mark says
Oh, now I’m bummed that I didn’t get to visit South Bend while we were in Indiana. It looks like there are some amazing things to do. Hello, chocolate!
Patrice M Foster says
Looks like you had a great time , the food , South Bend Indiana never been there…The graphic …White water rafting what adventure you had lovely!
I have been the South Bend a couple times didn’t realize they had all this there. You had me at drinking, white water rafting and the desserts I’m going to have to go back.
Cindy (Prime Beauty) says
So many interesting things, your pics are fabulous!
I love old historic homes and buildings! They are so romantic and stirring. What a fun trip.
Marcie W. says
I have to be honest, I would never imagine that Indiana would be so awesome, however your post has totally opened my eyes. The architecture is gorgeous and it looks like there are so many interesting things to do!
Miles L. says
Same here! All I think about Indiana would be big buildings and busy streets. Thanks for sharing this.
Amber NElson says
Wow I love the architecture. I’ve never been to Indiana. This looks like a great place!
Elizabeth O. says
I would probably enjoy the Chocolate Factory tour and the Japanese Gardens the most. The food looks awesome on those restaurants too, which I don’t want to miss out on. The South Bend Brew Works is really awesome.
Miles L. says
I’ve been thinking of going to Indiana and it’s good that you shared great places to visit. Thanks for sharing.
I never knew there were so many great places to check out in South Bend! I have driven past and through but now I will have to stop when I’m in the area!
Life as a Convert says
I’ve never driven past there, but I think I have heard of it before.. I was thinking it was a smaller place though!
Life as a Convert says
These are all things I would love to do with my family.
Amber NElson says
I was thinking the same thing. I think my kids would enjoy this trip too.
Chasing Joy says
These are great ideas for a trip itenerary. I’d want to go to Notre Dame, the Studebaker Museum, and to see the river lights. They look beautiful in your picture.
This is a great trip. I have been to South Bend a long time ago. I would love to go back and visit, lots of fun and so much to do
Those river lights are beautiful. I can honestly tell you I knew nothing about South Bend before this, even that it was the home of Notre Dame. I’m not so much into that type of thing. Glad you had a great time!
Those Japanese gardens look so beautiful! I will have to check those out the next time I am in South Bend.
[email protected] says
I haven’t visited Indiana before but I am always down for a roadtrip.
These pictures are all so gorgeous!! I would love to visit South Bend!
Ashley Whipple says
I’ve never been to Indiana before. I would love to see Notre Dame and the chocolate factory looks awesome.
Claudia Krusch says
So beautiful! Love your pictures! I’ve never been to Indiana!
Ooooo so many fun things to do! I had a chance to visit a bestie at Norte Dame when I was younger. I had so much fun!
This looks like a beautiful and interesting place to visit. Not sure I will make it in this lifetime but who knows.
Brandy M. says
What a wonderful place. I have always wanted to see the Norte Dame campus because I’m sure it’s absolutely beautiful and your pictures have confirmed it.
your dinners look scrumptious. I am drooling over here
wow.. sounds like an amazing place to visit! I want to go check out the Japanese gardens.. Beautiful
Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly says
Whisky Tasting and a Chocolate Factory, I want to get in on that trip! Sign me up! 🙂
I think Notre Dame’s campus is absolutely stunning! I toured their campus many years ago. Your pictures of the area are gorgeous!
Sabrina @ Dinner, then Dessert says
I’ve never been to Indiana before! That sounds like there’s lots of fun stuff to do there!
Wonderful post as usual! South Bend is definitely on my list of places to visit right now.
Me too never been to Indiana but it looks and sounds so gorgeous there!
I never been in Indiana also but looks like a lovely place to visit. I wish i can go there if i have a chance
Annemarie LeBlanc says
The hotel is so cozy looking. I love the large room! I need to visit this place. There are so many sights worth exploring and experiencing!
You’ve really showcased it as a great place to visit! I’d be all-in. And chocolate factory, you say?? Oh yes, please. 🙂
Rebecca Swenor says
I have never been to South Bend before but would love to visit there some day. The Studebaker National Museum and the South bend Chocolate Factory and Museum would be amazing places to visit indeed. Thanks for sharing these amazing things to see.
Beautiful place, I’ve never been there but I will make sure that I will be there this year.
Chubskulit Rose says
I have nver been to Indiana yet but it looks beautiful! The view is just breathtaking.
Tatanisha Pitts-Worthey says
Your photos are amazing! It looks different from the warm India that I imagine. The Golden Dome is such a beauty!
Lexie Lane says
South Bend Indiana is really beautiful place, thanks for sharing us about these things.
Ron Leyba says
Awesome list. Will come in handy for people who are planning to visit Indiana.
Jasmine Watts says
Awesome list… And all those photos are incredible! Thanks for sharing!
Victoria Sconion says
Looks like you had a blast. I love traveling and learning the history of each town and sight seeing. This will be on my bucket list of places to visit.
Terri Beavers says
What a beautiful state with so many things to do. I’d love to visit each and every one of them, especially the Oliver Mansion.
Looks like such a lovely, quaint town with lots to do for all members of the family. Thanks for sharing!
South Bend, Indiana looks like it would be a great place to travel to!! That Golden Dome is just gorgeous and I love the architecture of the church!
Jennifer H says
Wow – that’s a TON of things to do there! I like the chocolate factory! 🙂 Pretty pics.
I love chocolate and I will make sure I visit the chocolate factory when I get the chance to go there.
I had no idea that Indiana had so much rich history and things to see. That mansion is absolutely amazing. The outside is gorgeous but the inside – wow!!! I would love to take a food tour around there too since there seems to be a lot of great places to eat. Or maybe I’ll just hang out at the chocolate factory the entire time!
Chrystal | Nevermore Lane says
The chocolate factory is a must! I have family here in Michigan that takes trips to South Bend just to go there. I hear its just the best.
I’ve never been to Indiana but these look like great attractions to be sure to go to. I will definitely keep these in mind if we ever go.
Loving the food you got to try! I’d love to check out some of these places, I really like the Japanese Garden.
Debbie L. says
I travel by South Bend at least 6 times a year. My family lives in Toledo and I live north of Chicago. I drive the turnpike to their house. On my spring trip I will definitely plan to stop and check out a few of these sites.
Teresa Bowen says
South Bend might not have been high on my list of places to visit previously but your post has changed that. I’m adding it to the list of places I want to visit the next time I travel to the USA
Jenn Peters says
Um just wow. I love the architecture in this city. I’d never thought of taking a road trip to South Bend, but now I’m thinking it might be right up our alley 🙂
Visiting Notre Dame would surely be on the top of my list if I’ll visit Indiana. And I’ll remember that Inn. That’s where we”ll stay since it;s adjacent to Notre Dame. 🙂
I’ve never toured a mansion. This would be so much fun for our family. My hubby loves museums so I’m sure I can talk him into it.
Touring mansions is fun–there are several near where I grew up (Sleepy Hollow Restorations)–I still like going there on occasion.
[email protected] says
Wow I never thought Indiana was so much fun and adventure, I want to visit now!
Chrystal | Nevermore Lane says
I have driven through South Bend half a dozen times and as much as I love Notre Dame, I never stopped to tour the area or the campus. Looks amazingly fun!
Lisa B says
Oh wow, I want to go, now! My husband has been there and didn’t get to see much of it and I would definitely take the chance to go with him if he ever has to go back!!
I would love to visit too. There seems to be a lot of beautiful places to see and to experience.
Looking at all these pictures definitely make me want to go! Looks like there is a lot to do, see and even places to eat. It looks beautiful!
Cat Davis | Mom by the Beach Blog says
I lived right next door to Indiana for most of my life and never went there. Now I’m kicking myself because that Japanese Garden looks so peaceful and gorgeous. I would have loved to visit that.
Paula Bendfeldt Diaz says
I’ve never been but it looks like there are so many wonderful things to see and do!
I’ve only passed through Indiana previously. I would love to take the time out to spend some time there and see the sights.
Nicole Escat says
Such a lovely pics, I’m sure you had fun adventure. I’m going there one day.
This looks like the next place I would like to visit. I love the architecture of those beautiful buildings
We have never been but always talk about getting away and going. It looks like you had so many wonderful adventures! Of course, fun follows you I think 😉
April Mims says
I didn’t realize there were so many fun things to do in Indiana. I’m not sure I’ve ever visited there before.
It looks like there’s so much fun stuff to do in South Bend. I would love to visit the chocolate factory and to go rafting.
Jessica Simms says
I’ve never been to indiana before but would very much like to travel there one summer. Theres so much stuff to do there and it looks so beautiful.
Nikki @ Tikkido says
Notre Dame is such a beautiful campus! But if I’m ever in town, it’s great to know more things to do, too.
Shannon Calder (@Shannons_Eye) says
Great pictures. What a lot of information about a lovely town. I hope I can make it there one day!
You know what? I never thought about travelling to Indiana before, but your pictures have shown me that I am missing out on a beautiful & interesting location. This is now in my bucket list!
Claudia Krusch says
Such a beautiful campus! Love your pictures and Indiana is now on my list to visit!
Lisa Rios says
My goodness, these are some beautiful pictures which just pushes you to add South Bend in your bucket list. The River Lights is absolutely beautiful & the Oliver Mansion looks amazing as well.
Bonnie @wemake7 says
Looks like South Bend has some really great places to visit. If I ever make it that way I know where I’m going. =)
Wow that is a lot to do. I’m a big foodie and drinker so I know exactly where I’m headed lol Then I will end my day at the gardens. Great post and pics! Thanks for sharing =)
Shanéy Maharaj says
Never visited Indiana before but hopefully I will make a trip soon. Bookmarking this for the future. 😉
The gardens are so beautiful. I would love to visit those and photograph them.
There seems to be plenty of things to do. I think my favorite would be the Chocolate Factory.
Got my US map filled in with all the states I’ve been lucky enough to visit. I am so bummed I haven’t been able to get to Indiana, but there’s so much to do! Looks like a blast.
I have never heard of South Bend Indiana before but now I totally want to go there. I think the rafting would be fun, and I would definitely love the chocolate museum! All of the restaurants look amazing also 🙂
This makes me want to travel SO. BAD!! If I wasn’t convinced before, I definitely am now 🙂
omg! i wanna see everything! that mansion looks amazing!
Look at all those infrastructures! I can even clearly see through the pictures the history behind them. Amazing at how a lot of activities can be done in a single place. This is a great post for people about to visit Indiana so they can maximize their stay there.
This sounds like a fun place to visit. Someday we will be able to make it over that way – I will keep all of these places in mind.
Alissa Apel says
This does look like a great place to visit. Wherever we go I try and stop by the state capitol. I don’t care for the government, but I love their buildings. The Golden Dome reminded me of a capitol.