Where to Stay While Visiting South Bend
South Bend and Mishawaka are a quick two-hour drive from downtown Indianapolis, making a visit the perfect weekend getaway. We’ve teamed up with our hosts at Visit South Bend Mishawaka to share an incredible list for your must-do list while visiting The Bend. There’s no shortage of things to do in South Bend, Indiana, but we’re honored to share some of our family favorites.
Aloft South Bend
The first thing you’ll notice about the Aloft South Bend property will really depend on what you love. If you enjoy design and decor, you’ll love the hotel’s open lobby and common areas. The bar and patio might grab your eye if your interests lie in food and beverages. If you love to play and have fun, like my kids, the numerous game areas and equipment will be front of eye and mind. The Aloft is also one of the South Bend, Indiana hotels with a pool! Bonus points there with the kids!
While many hotels are the kind that are used for sleeping and storing items between outings, you’ll want to be sure to schedule some time to “hang out” at Aloft. During our visit, there was a group hosting a ticketed event for a murder mystery, live music, and lots of game playing. Who knew that “hanging out at a cool hotel” would be on a list of things to do in South Bend? Also, this hotel is centrally located to so many things to do in South Bend.
Where to Play and Things to Do in South Bend
East Race Waterway
If thrill-seeking is on your itinerary, the East Race Waterway in South Bend needs to be on your must-do list of things to do in South Bend. This unique attraction is the first man-made whitewater rapids course in the country. Whitewater enthusiasts of all skill levels will love whitewater rafting on this artificial whitewater course.
- Photo courtesy Visit South Bend Mishawaka
You’ll take a 2,000-foot-long ride that’s full of excitement with several turns and drops! The water and obstacles are controlled to create an experience that matches your skill level. Each ride will take about five minutes. You can purchase a single-ride pass, two-ride pass, three-ride pass, or a day pass. All equipment, including flotation devices, is provided. East Race is where you can go white water rafting in Indiana.
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If you’re looking for fun, especially for the younger set, Howard Park is a must-do for your trip to South Bend. This vibrant outdoor community space offers amenities like a splash pad, a large modern playground, a snack bar, free wifi, music, and during the winter months, a unique ice-skating experience on a looped trail that winds throughout the park. There’s even a restaurant on-site that offers fun, whimsical outdoor seating, a full bar, indoor dining, and a deck with live music during peak times.
A morning at the Potawatomi Zoo is a must during a visit to South Bend, or make an afternoon or full day of your trip by adding in a train ride, animal feedings, and other experiences. Seeing the majestically tall giraffes was such a treat, but being able to feed them by hand was one of the most memorable animal interactions my children have ever had — and there’s no age group that isn’t astounded when these tall, beautiful creatures approach and their gorgeous eyelashes catch your eye or their ridiculously long necks.
When a giraffe approaches and accepts that leaf of lettuce from your hands, you can’t help but squeal with delight … and your kids will too! A zoo visit with an animal interaction should be on your list of things to do in South Bend, Indiana.
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Kennedy Park Water Playground
Cooling off in South Bend during the warmer months is pretty easy when you consider all of the public splash pads and community spaces. One of our favorite stops is the Water Playground at Kennedy Park. A shallow, zero-depth entry pool has a playground centered within. The playground is full of wheels and levers that control the spray of water jets and sprinklers. Pop jets frame the area and a small slippery water slide makes this a great place for school-aged kids. However, all ages will appreciate the refreshing water features and plentiful deck chairs for getting some sun.
Unlike the splash pad at Howard Park, there is a modest admission fee to enter the water playground. Snacks are available for purchase but you can also bring your own food and drink to eat in the grassy or shelter areas.
South Bend Cubs Baseball
Did you know that South Bend has a minor-league baseball team that acts as an affiliate for the Chicago Cubs? In addition to being an entertaining team to watch in its own right, some of your favorite South Bend baseball team players may even go on to be some of your favorite major league players for the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
While most fans attend the baseball game to watch baseball, there are so many other reasons to check out Four Winds Field during a home game; the team hosts various promotions and events during games, such as fireworks after some games, theme nights, giveaways, and tons of family-friendly activities. There’s a large baseball-themed playground near the grassy seating mound, plus a splash pad to cool off and get absolutely drenched, a kid zone with inflatables and games, fee-based batting cages, and kid-friendly food choices at the concession stands.
University of Notre Dame Campus
A walk around or through the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend will get you thousands of steps on your tracker apps, but the app you should be using is the free Notre Dame mobile app. The Alumni and Friends persona in the app will take you on a guided audio tour of many of the most popular features on the campus of the Fighting Irish.
Check out the Main Building or the Golden Dome and learn about the history and the fire and the gold! Hesburgh Library with the mural known as Touchdown Jesus on the side, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart are also great stops on the audio tour app. Guided tours are available at various times throughout the year and private and group tours can also be scheduled.
Notre Dame is a great place to take in a sports game, along with the well-known football program, Notre Dame has many renowned sports teams. The Snite Museum of Art is now closed to the public as a new museum, the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art is being constructed as a new space to view impressive collections of fine art. The new museum is expected to open in late 2023. In the meantime, art enthusiasts can explore the nine-acre Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park.
Potato Creek State Park
Potato Creek State Park is a part of the Indiana State Park collection of properties and can be accessed using your Indiana State Park Pass or by paying a gate fee. Potato Creek offers camping, hiking trails, bike trails, and even mountain bike trails. There’s even a rental shop for kayakers, canoes, and mountain bikes.
Families love the natural views in the park, spotting wildlife, fishing, visiting the Nature Center, and the swimming beach at Worster Lake. Pack a lunch, bring some towels, and enjoy a full day in the park or just a few hours.
The Morris Performing Arts Center
If you’re looking for entertainment, the Morris is a great place to start. The calendar features a full lineup of live music, movie screenings, and national touring family stage shows. A variety of genres and interests are represented in the entertainment lineup at the Morris Performing Arts Center.
Where to Eat and Best Restaurants in South Bend
When planning the perfect day, full of things to do in South Bend, you cannot forget about the local restaurants and foodie hot spots. Here are some that our whole family tried and loved during our South Bend/Mishawaka trip.
“PEGG: It’s a South Bend Thing.” So, when in South Bend, you’ve got to do their thing! You won’t regret a visit to PEGGS, except that it may cause you to re-think your plans for your next brunch because you’ll want an opportunity to try everything on the menu. Foodie families will find fantastic options from chicken & waffles to breakfast tacos and everything in between. Delicious beverages are made to order and there are gluten-free menu options.
Owner Peg Dalton is often in the restaurant seating and greeting, so be sure to say hi! Patio seating and indoor seating are available, and PEGGS is worth the wait.
South Bend Chocolate Cafe
Stop in for a coffee, a gourmet hot chocolate, or a full meal. The South Bend Chocolate Cafe has great seating choices indoors and outdoors. You’ll love the irresistible collection of chocolates available for purchase. There are several locations, including the South Bend Chocolate Company Factory, where you can sign up for a tour. And just like that, a cafe became somewhere to eat and one of your favorite things to do in South Bend.
Bru Burger Bar
Gourmet burgers, craft beers, specialty cocktails. If this is your jam, Bru Burger Bar is a great South Bend restaurant for you. While Bru is part of a chain, the location, and atmosphere are very South Bend. Enjoy relaxed dining in a contemporary casual space across the street from the famed University of Notre Dame. Bru is a great place for large families, groups, and couples. There’s indoor and outdoor seating and a gluten-free menu is available upon request.
Whistle Stop Ice Cream
This cute ice cream shop is in a house across from Howard Park. The welcoming porch or spacious patio are great spaces to enjoy your ice cream if you’re not taking it to go. Otherwise, stroll to Howard Park or along the St. Joseph River Walk with a cone or a scoop in a cup. Great flavors include Blue Moon, Moose Tracks, Cake Batter, and others. Whistle Stop Ice Cream shop has gluten-free ice cream and dairy-free ice cream for those who need it. All of their cookies used in the ice cream and as toppings are gluten-free and they have a gluten-free ice cream cone as well!
Corndance Tavern in nearby Mishawaka is an upscale dining experience in a casual setting that is enjoyable for everyone. A delicious menu that evolves with the seasons and the farm fresh ingredients readily available, you’ll love the blend of traditional dishes with surprising ingredients. Corndance has one of the area’s largest bourbon selections and serves dry-aged meats. The Wild Fries just might be one of the best things I’ve ever had.
While there’s no official children’s menu, there are menu items that are available that may be appealing to children who aren’t foodies. Gluten-free menu items are also available, including pasta dishes with gluten-free pasta.
Fat Boys Creamery
This hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop is always bustling with customers. With new flavors added to the menu regularly, plus a huge selection of specialty desserts and combinations, you’ll be wowed! Try their popular cereal add-ins, banana splits, and endless varieties of toppings and trending food items. The parking lot is small, the line may be a bit long, and it’s all totally worth it!
South Bend Weekend Road Trip from Indianapolis
I’d love to hear what you think are the best things to do in South Bend, Indiana. This was our first trip, but it certainly won’t be our last! I’m working on my next itinerary for another road trip to The Bend!
- photo by Visit South Bend Mishawaka