Family Fun Guide for South Bend, Indiana

If you’re a fifth wheel or travel trailer RV owner, there’s a good chance you will trek your way up to the RV Capitol of the World; Elkhart, Indiana for a rally or two. While you’re up there, we highly recommend a couple-day visit to explore nearby South Bend, Indiana!

If you were ever to ask me before buying an RV if I’d ever been to South South Bend, Indiana, I’d just tell you that it’s just some fly-over college town with little to do. However, it’s quite the contrary!! There’s a lot of cool places to visit and things to do in South Bend, India that we’re going to share a few of our favorites!

South Bend Indiana

While we were attending the Heartland Owners’ Rally, we signed on for a few pre-rally tours of the local attractions. One of those tours was the South Bend Tour; organized by Heartland RV’s Director of Owner Interests and Rally Director. And we’re glad we did! We also toured other venues while we were camped at Elkhart Campground.

About South Bend, Indiana

South Bend, Indiana was settled by fur traders and established as a city in 1865. Abutting the southern most bed on the St. Joseph River, South Bend is one of the best little cities. As the crow flies, South Bend is only 73 miles from Chicago but driving miles scale at about 94.

It’s known for it’s manufacturing, education and health care. The University of Notre Dame, Indiana University South Bend, South Bend Community Schools, St. Joseph Health System, and South Bend Community Schools rank as the city’s top employers.

As I was reading up on some interesting facts about South Bend, I found the city to be more than just a city of manufacturing and commerce bustle. There’s an amazing ray of history and tourism!

But here’s a sampling of how we experienced South Bend, Indiana!

Notre Dame University

Notre Dame du Lac aka Notre Dame University founded in 1942, is notoriously known for being a prestigious and large four-year highly residential research university. It is a private institution that currently boasts undergraduate enrollment of about 8500 students on the 1265 acre campus.

One of the highlights of the Notre Dame University is touring the inside of the  Basilica of Sacred Heart. This Church’s hand-painted ceilings, gold-leafed motifs, ornate columns and architecture were exquisite. If you love Renaissance or Elizabethan art, this is your happy place!

You’ll also want to see unforgettable Fighting Irish football stadium. Hopefully its open for viewing. When we were there, even on a guided tour, it was closed off.

Photo courtesy of Cong Wang

One thing I will always remember about Notre Dame is the tall mosaic memorial at the Theodore Hesburg Library that faces the stadium’s  Knute Rockne Gate. The mosaic depicts Jesus stretching his arms over his head as if he was blessing people. Well, the students think otherwise. They humorously refer it as, “Touchdown Jesus”. 

Snite Museum of Art

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

Also located on the campus of the University of Notre Dame is the Snite Museum of Art. This museum contains over 23,000 works of art. Opening in 1980, the collections of art focuses more on Western Art. However, there are worldly collections from different eras. There are examples of Italian Renaissance Paintings as well as Mesoamerican art pieces. You’ll want to check out notable artists’ works by Boucher, Corot, Courbet, and O’Keeffe. Oh, and the museum is free admission!

Road Schoolers take note! The Snite Museum of Art also focuses its outreach programs to children’s summer camps, at-risk children camps and after-school programs.

Tippecanoe Place Restaurant

If you’re going to be in South Bend, you really need to enjoy a class-act lunch at the Tippecanoe Place Restaurant. We got to enjoy a nice white table cloth lunch with about 60 of our fellow Heartland friends.

Built in 1889, this 26,000 square foot mansion was designed by Henry Cobb. It was built by local craftsmen for Clement Studebaker, co-founder of Studebaker vehicle manufacturing, and his family. Though he passed in 1901, his son George remained there until 1933 when he lost the structure due to bankruptcy.

The building stood vacant for several years. It was purchased by E. M. Morris in 1941. He then donated it to the city as a school for handicapped children. Today, it’s a beautiful event venue and restaurant. Tippecanoe Place Restaurant is located on West Washington in South Bend.

Studebaker National Museum

The Studebaker National Museum was one of Dan’s favorites because of all the nostalgic cars that took him back in automotive history.

Located on Chapin Street, the Studebaker National Museum  showcases an amazing collection of automobile, tractor and trailer relics throughout all of Studebaker’s history. The climate-controlled three-story 55,000 square foot state-of-the-art building also stores pristine collection of military vehicles, carriages, wagons and other historic objects relating to transportation.

The main floor displays Studebaker cars from the 1800s up until 1934, and it showcases the history of the Studebaker and the Oliver families. Cars are exhibited on the upper floor, while the lower level is devoted to military equipment and vehicles. Group tours are available. Put this one high on your list of must-do tours when you are up in northern Indiana.

Copshaholm: Oliver Mansion

Though some may find touring old mansions as boring, we were fascinated by the architecture and the original furnishings inside.

Listed in the National Register of Historical Places, the Copshaholm also known as the Oliver Mansion is located on the same campus as the Studebaker Museum.

This incredible 1890’s 38-room historic mansion was owned by J.D. Oliver and his family.  This mansion houses an amazing collection of meticulously-kept artifacts from Northern Indiana of that era.  It is now part of The History Museum.

Named Copshaholm by the family, this multiple level home is perfectly staged from its era.  The oak, cherry and mahogany woodwork and architecture are truly stunning and stately. Fourteen unique fireplaces add to the beauty of the house along with leaded-glass windows. The furniture is all original. The antique furnishings include silver, glass, porcelains, prints, and bronzes.

Two and a half acres of landscaped gardens surround the Copshaholm, including a garden tea house, gardens, tennis lawn, and fountain. This truly is a site that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Simply put, we loved the tour!

South Bend Chocolate Factory and Museum

We did not get to visit the South Bend Chocolate Factory and Museum because we ran out of time. However, it is at the top of the list of things to do in South Bend when we return because we love chocolate!

Founded in 1991, the South Bend Chocolate Company‘s 60,000 square feet facility produces a large variety of chocolates. The company also sells other culinary products such as nuts, fruits, and coffee.

Located on West Sample Street, you can tour the factory and museum every day except Sunday. You can take the 20-minute Basic Tour or the 45-minute Inside Scoop Tour. They offer private guided tours for groups of ten or more.

South Bend Farmer’s Market

Who doesn’t like going to a good Farmer’s Market to get fresh produce and interesting handmade art and wearables? We like to seek out the locals because not only do we procure our weekly provisions but it also gives us an opportunity to chat with the locals to find out where the hidden treasures such as places to dine or visit.

First established in 1924, the South Bend Farmer’s Market boasts a long linear of history. The vendors at the market offer fresh local and homegrown dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables and in-season flowers. You can also find handcrafts, jewelry, art and more. It’s open on Fridays from May through September and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday otherwise. You can shop at the market on Northside Boulevard.

I’m going to be honest here, we did not visit or tour the next three venues because they were not on our South Bend Tour itinerary. We simply ran out of time but do hope to tour them when we land in the Elkhart area again. That said, I think they are worth noting for our readers with families who may be visiting the region.

Potawatomi Zoo

Courtesy of Potawatomi Zoo

This is for kids; big, small, one to one hundred! The city-owned Potawatomi Zoo is a 23-acre zoo is home to over 400 animals featuring big cats, primates and even animals from Australia.

Located on South Greenlawn Avenue, it’s the oldest zoo in Indiana. It originally opened as a duck pond called the South Bend Zoo in 1902. In 1949, a barn was added as part of the petting zoo. Its a great place to bring your family!

HealthWorks Kids’ Museum

Courtesy of Healthworks Kids Museum

Families take note! HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum is a highly interactive children’s museum that features exhibits, a mini climbing wall, an indoor playground, and much more. The museum offers a large variety of educational programs including camps and school field trips to the museum.

Kids will also learn about germs through their Super Scrubbers Program, and Food Group Frenzy will teach youngsters about food and nutrition. Located on West Jefferson Boulevard, this is a great road-schooling stop for nomadic and full-time families.

East Race Waterway

Built in the early 80’s, the seasonal East Race Waterway white water rafting park facility is located on North Niles Avenue right in heart of the city. Its a perfect place to unwind, from beginners to advanced level, solos, couples and even families will enjoy rafting or kayaking on this manmade waterway. Rafting equipment is provided however, you’ll need to bring your own kayak. The white water course takes about five minutes.

There are also an amphitheater, picnic areas, restrooms and walking paths. You may even get to watch some competitions on the waterway. As stated earlier, it is a seasonal park open only from June to August on Saturdays and Sundays only.

So, that’s only a small handful of family fun things to do in South Bend, Indiana. There’s tons more to see and experience!

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