South Bend, Indiana, is in the far northern section of the state on the border of Michigan. The area is famously known for the University of Norte Dame and the Fighting Irish football team. It is a less-than-2-hour drive from downtown Chicago, Illinois.
The town of over 110,000 people will make a perfect weekend getaway for those looking to get away from the Windy City. I’ve visited South Bend, Indiana, a few times, and I live close enough to take a quick day trip and take a short hike at one of the Indiana state parks.
South Bend is also included on Sara Boers’s list of 8 Fantastic Day trips from Indianapolis, Indiana.
Pro Tip: South Bend, Indiana, is in the Eastern time zone. Make sure you take this into account when checking hours of operation. Although I live in Indiana, I share the same time zone as Chicago (Central), so this is something I must remember when traveling to South Bend.
Things To Do In South Bend
South Bend offers a variety of activities for solo travelers, families, and couples. Options include enjoying the outdoors, museums, food, and nightlife. Here are my recommendations to enjoy a perfect weekend in South Bend.
The History Museum
I recommend starting your weekend in South Bend by visiting The History Museum to learn about the first settlers and the region’s heritage through collections, exhibits, and programs. The museum was initially known as the Northern Indiana Historical Society, and it opened in 1867, making it the second oldest of its kind in Indiana.
Pro Tip: Purchase a combo ticket that includes admission to the History Museum, Oliver Mansion, and Studebaker National Museum.
J.D. Oliver hand-selected the granite fieldstones used to build this mansion on 2.5 acres from 1895-1896. This was one of the first homes in South Bend to have electricity. J.D. and his wife Anna had four children when they moved into the home.
In 1988, the surviving family members donated the Oliver Mansion to South Bend, and all three floors still have the original furnishings. The museum offers a short film before exiting the museum to tour the house.
Accessibility Note: The home tour includes several stairs leading to the second and third floors.
Studebaker National Museum Of Automotive History
The Studebaker National Museum of Automotive History houses cars manufactured by Studebaker Corporation. The company’s collection of vehicles was given to the city of South Bend in 1966. The Studebaker National Museum’s mission is to share the story of the automotive and industrial history of South Bend and the greater region.
The collection also includes seven objects designated as “National Treasures,” including the carriage Abraham Lincoln rode to Ford’s Theatre the night of his assassination.
South Bend Cubs
If you are a Chicago Cubs fan or love baseball, you can enjoy a game thanks to the South Bend Cubs Minor League team. The South Bend Cubs stadium is located downtown, and tickets can be purchased onsite or via Ticketmaster.
I believe you are never too old to go to the zoo — it’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in a new city. The Potawatomi Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Indiana, opened in 1921. One of my favorite animals at Potawatomi was the alpaca; for a small price, you can feed the alpaca and get a photo.
The zoo is separated by region; you can learn about animals from Africa, Asia, Australia, and North and South America. Chats with keepers and educators are offered daily.
Accessibility Note: Strollers and electric wheelchairs can be rented for use to assist around the zoo. Sensory inclusion bags are available for guests with sensory processing needs.
The Potawatomi Conservatories are a haven of tranquility within South Bend’s Potawatomi Park. Here, you can wander through lush tropical foliage, explore the fantastic shapes and textures of succulent plants in the arid Desert Dome, or sit quietly in the peaceful surroundings. The conservatory is located across from the Potawatomi Zoo.
Pro Tip: The conservatory holds private events and may not be open to the public on the day you plan to go. Call ahead to check the hours of operation.
Potato Creek State Park
Potato Creek State Park is in north-central Indiana, about 12 miles southwest of South Bend. The park offers plant and wildlife observation opportunities on its 327-acre Worster Lake, old fields, woodlands, restored prairies, and diverse wetlands.
Pro Tip: If you are going for a hike, start early and wear bug repellant.
Civil Rights Heritage Center
The Civil Rights Heritage Center transformed a once-segregated city swimming pool into an active learning center. When you visit the center, you will learn about Farrow Powell and his family, some of the first African Americans to make South Bend their home in 1858. The Civil Rights Heritage Center is open 20 hours weekly, and you can either make an appointment or visit on a Friday afternoon. Make sure to check the website before going.
Pro Tip: An interactive museum tour is available online if you can’t visit in person.
The South Bend Chocolate Company Tours
The South Bend Chocolate Company offers tours Monday through Friday at the top of every hour. You will get a history of how the chocolate is made, see the production line, and receive a spoon full of chocolate to taste at the end. You will get a coupon for 10 percent off and a chance to take home your favorite candies.
Pro Tip: Extra time or a special interest in religious sites? Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is located on the University of Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana. It made Tim Trudell’s 9 Must-Visit Religious Sites In The Midwest.
Best Restaurants In South Bend
South Bend offers a variety of affordable food options for every palate and even picky eaters. Here are some of my favorites and recommendations.
Macadoo’s Family Restaurant
Start the day with breakfast or brunch on the outskirts of town (technically in Mishawaka) at Macadoo’s Family Restaurant. Macadoo’s is an Irish-based restaurant run by the McDonald family and several other employees. Make sure you bring your appetite; you’ll want to try everything, from the pancake of the month to the biscuits and gravy. I had a vegetable omelet, hashbrowns, and toast.
Pinellia Vegan Asian Restaurant
I always look for restaurants that offer unique vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. Pinellia Vegan Asian Restaurant immediately piqued my interest. The restaurant is run by husband and wife Hang Jin Lin and Ping Li. The menu offers a large variety of Asian dishes, and they’re all vegan. I ordered the summer rolls and Malaysian Curry Stew with an option of soup, salad, and brown rice.
Bantam Chicken And Seafood
Chef Donte Shaws at Bantam Chicken & Seafood describes his food as upscale comfort. The menu is changed weekly, but you can always find popular dishes and staples such as fried chicken on the menu. I tried the fried cauliflower and French fries and completed my meal with beignets.
Pro Tip: Bantam is only open for dinner starting at 5 p.m. most of the year. Seats fill up fast, so call ahead and make a reservation. Walk-ins are welcome if you get there early. I was able to find a seat at the bar.
Tippecanoe Place Restaurant
Tippecanoe Place Restaurant is your place for American cuisine and a brewery. The restaurant is located in what was once the home of Clem Studebaker. The family moved into the mansion in 1889 but filed bankruptcy in 1933 to pay debts. The 40-room house went on to serve as a school for the disabled and was used by the Red Cross Society during World War II. It was restored and converted into a restaurant in 1980.
Best Hotels In South Bend
South Bend offers a variety of accommodations, from bed and breakfasts and camping to traditional hotels. If you are planning an Indiana road trip and are interested in camping, there are RV parks and campgrounds.
Innisfree Bed And Breakfast
If you are looking for a unique place to stay, Innisfree Bed and Breakfast is a historic Queen-style landmark house built in 1890 for the Fredrickson family. The home was remolded in 2004 (with six guest rooms that sleep 16 comfortably) and has furnishings with European influences.
Each room is decorated with unique features, such as a Turkish table with Moroccan seats, handmade fretwork around the doors, and a balcony overlooking the tree-lined streets.
St Joseph County 4H Fairgrounds Camping
St Joseph County 4H Fairgrounds Camping is available in the spring and fall. If you are car camping or RVing, there are plenty of RV Parks and campgrounds in the South Bend area to enjoy hiking and the city. The sites offer water and electricity.
La Quinta Inn And Suites
One of my favorite chain hotels to stay at when traveling by car is the La Quinta Inn and Suites. The hotel is located near the South Bend International Airport and is less than 10 minutes from downtown South Bend.
South Bend, makes a great option to enjoy if you have one day or a long weekend. Visit South Bend has a great interactive website if you are looking for more ideas for your next trip to South Bend.