Chocolate, cathedrals and cars in South Bend, Indiana

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South Bend, Indiana may be best known as the home of Notre Dame University, but as I discovered during a recent visit, there’s lots of other things to see and do. Here’s some of what I checked out during my 24 hours 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!

south bend chocolate company

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.

chocolate machine

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.

chocolate 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!

chocolate museum

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.

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.

studebaker museum

Many of these old cars are still in driving condition – sometimes they even get taken out for car shows and other events around town.

national studebaker museum

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!

fozzie bear muppet studebaker

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 he was assassinated.

president lincoln carriage

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.

Fiddler’s Hearth

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.

fiddlers hearth

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.

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.

river south bend

firefighter memorial

south bend fish ladder

south bend art museum

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.

basilica of sacred heart

basilica sacred heart interior

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.

statue basil moreau

Potowami Conservatories

My final stop was a last-minute visit to the Potowami Conservatories, which provided a chance to see some pretty flowers and hearty succulents. I especially enjoyed the weird statue person made out of planters.

potowami conservatory

conservatory statues

Which of these South Bend spots would you like to visit?

Note: My trip to South Bend was made possible by Visit South Bend.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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