South Bend, Indiana may be best known as the home of the Fighting Irish Notre Dame University. But as I discovered during a recent visit, there are plenty of other cool attractions and points of interest in the city. Check out some of the interesting and cool things to do in South Bend.
South Bend Chocolate Company
My first stop in town was the South Bend Chocolate Company, which gives tours where you can sample some of the product. Score!
After donning incredibly fashionable hair nets, our group followed the guide back into the area where the magic happens. This was an up-close look at how the company creates its products.
The first machine was dripping fresh chocolate – it took all of my willpower to not run over and lick up this gooey cocoa mess.
Then we had a chance to sample some of the rejected nut clusters that didn’t meet quality standards. They were rejected mainly due to their appearance, not their taste. Because the taste was amazing. Hooray for rejected nut clusters!
Finally, it was off to the Chocolate Museum, a room in the back of the store featuring chocolate memorabilia, which is an actual thing. Look at the old-timey logos and packaging!
The South Bend Chocolate Company sells all sorts of cocoa delicacies, including white chocolate-covered raisins and malted milk balls. They even have chocolate-covered popcorn with bacon bits. That one isn’t my favorite, but I love their willingness to get creative.
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Studebaker National Museum
The classic American car manufacturer Studebaker has its own museum in South Bend, where the vehicle was headquartered for decades. The range of cars here is amazing, from some of the earliest models to some of the final versions released in the ’60s.
Many of these old cars are still in driving condition – sometimes they even get taken out for car shows and other events around town. How cool would it be to roll up to some summer South Bend activities in a classic car?
There’s a special section of art cars, plus the actual 1951 Studebaker seen in the 1979 Muppets movie. Here it is – Fozzie’s at the wheel with Kermit riding shotgun!
Before automobiles, Studebaker made carriages, some of which were used by American presidents. The museum is in possession of the horse carriages of four chief executives – Grant, Harrison, Lincoln, and McKinley.
Here’s a true piece of history: The carriage taken by President Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre on the night his life was taken.
The Studebaker Museum is a very cool way to spend an hour. One might even call it one of the coolest places in the state of Indiana.
The perfect spot for dinner in the town of the Fighting Irish was Fiddler’s Hearth pub. One thing I love about this place is that it hosts live music everyday, including Irish, Celtic, and bluegrass styles.
Dinner was traditional fish and chips served in newspaper, along with a cheese plate and a seafood stew. The best part of the meal was the dessert – a sweet, sticky white chocolate bread pudding that still makes my mouth water when I think about it.
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Fiddler’s is great because it’s so Irish, and when you’re in South Bend, it makes sense to go in that direction. Of course there are numerous restaurants in South Bend, so check out Yelp or Google to find the type of cuisine that most appeals to you.
St. Joseph River
One of the best places to walk around town and get some fresh air is along the St. Joseph River, which passes through downtown South Bend.
There was a lot to see here, including a dam, neighborhood parks, a riverside trail, a fish ladder allowing fish to bypass the dam, a firefighters’ memorial, and the South Bend Art Museum along the river.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The most stunning place to see at Notre Dame is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which has stood for more than 125 years. Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours.
Everything here is impressive, including the marble statues, murals, windows, and ceiling.
Whether you’re a spiritual person or not, it’s definitely worth stopping inside the Basilica to check out the sights, like this statue of Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
My final stop was a last-minute visit to the Potawatomi Conservatories, which provided a chance to see some pretty flowers and hearty succulents. I especially enjoyed the weird statue person made out of planters.
Other Points of Interest and Fun Things To Do in South Bend, Indiana
Additional attractions and activities you may want to consider include: taking in a minor league baseball game at Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium; stopping by the History Museum or the South Bend Museum of Art; walk around and explore the Notre Dame campus; see the wildlife at Potawatomi Zoo; or soaking up the fun at East Race Waterway, the first artificial whitewater course in North America with waves as high as 6 feet.
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South Bend is one of the best road trips from Chicago, so consider adding it to your itinerary!
Which of these South Bend spots would you like to visit?
Note: My trip to South Bend was made possible by the Visit South Bend tourism board. Visit their site to find lots more ideas for things to do in South Bend!