13 Fun Things To Do South Bend, Indiana: Chocolate, Cathedrals and Cars!

South Bend, Indiana may be best known as the home of the Fighting Irish Notre Dame University.

But as I discovered during multiple visits, the city has lots of other cool attractions and points of interest, from a classic car museum to a candy factory to a river with walking trails and an artificial whitewater rafting course.

Check out some of the interesting and cool things to do in South Bend!

notre dame stadium
Visiting Notre Dame Stadium is a must in South Bend.

All photos taken by Quirky Travel Guy.

Quick Summary: The Top 5 Things To Do in South Bend, Indiana:
1 Studebaker National Museum
2 The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
3 Notre Dame University
4 St. Joseph River
5 South Bend Chocolate Company

The Top 5 Things To Do in South Bend, Indiana

Studebaker National Museum

The classic American car manufacturer Studebaker has its own museum in South Bend, where the vehicle was headquartered for decades.

fun things to do in south bend - studebaker museum
A visit to the Studebaker Museum is one of the most fun things to do in South Bend.

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.

national studebaker museum

How cool would it be to roll up to some summer South Bend activities in a classic car?

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.

president lincoln carriage

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 Basilica of the Sacred Heart

basilica of 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 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

Notre Dame University

The Basilicia is on Notre Dame’s campus, so while you’re there, take some time to walk around and explore the institution.

Attractions on the venerable university’s campus include the Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes shrine and the Snite Museum of Art.

And you can’t miss Notre Dame Stadium, one of the most famous college football stadiums in the country. You can take a tour of the stadium to see it from the inside.

St. Joseph River

river south bend

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.

fun things to do in south bend indiana - firefighter memorial

There’s a lot to see here, including a dam, neighborhood parks, River Lights Plaza, a riverside trail, a firefighters’ memorial, and the South Bend Art Museum along the river.

south bend fish ladder

The city has a fish ladder allowing trout and salmon to bypass the dam. I’m always impressed by the ingenuity behind fish ladders and the fact that the fish can find their way through.

South Bend Chocolate Company

One of my favorite stops 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 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.

south bend points of interest - 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. Hooray for rejected nut clusters!

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!

what to do in south bend - chocolate museum

The South Bend Chocolate Company sells all sorts of cocoa delicacies, including white chocolate-covered raisins and malted milk balls.

Other Fun South Bend Activities and Points of Interest

Potawotami Conservatories

I made a last-minute decision to visit the Potawatomi Conservatories, and really enjoyed the experience.

south bend attractions - potawatomi conservatory

This place provided a chance to see some pretty flowers and hearty succulents. Admission is only $3!

I especially enjoyed the weird statue person made out of planters.

conservatory statues

Potawatomi Zoo

Indiana’s second oldest zoo – founded more than 100 years ago! – features more than 400 animal species across 23 acres.

The Potawatomi Zoo has a large section of African animals, which I especially appreciate after my own safari experience. Look for giraffess, rhinos, lions, zebras, flamingos, monkeys, ostriches, and more.

The Australian Outback section is also worth your time. Admission is just 14 bucks — much less than most city zoos!

History Museum

things to do in south bend indiana - history museum

Simply called the History Museum, this facility is located in an old Victorian mansion, immediately catching your attention with its architecture. It resides in the same building as the Studebaker Museum, in fact.

The museum offers exhibits about the history of Indiana, Notre Dame University, and the St. Joseph River. It also has rotating non-local exhibits, like a recent display about the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.

South Bend Museum of Art

Located next to the St. Joseph River, the South Bend Museum of Art is entirely free. How wild is that? It’s rare to see a city’s primary art museum that doesn’t charge admission.

attractions in south bend art museum

The museum has a diverse collection of artworks in mediums ranging from paintings to stop motion animation to sculptures to textiles.

Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium

Four Winds Field is the home of the South Bend Cubs, a class A minor league affiliate for the Chicago Cubs. If you’re visiting during the summer, take in a game!

The park has been praised for its aesthetically-pleasing design, and won Baseball Digest’s Best Ballpark honor a few years back.

East Race Waterway

Who knew that you can go whitewater rafting in downtown South Bend?! Soak up the fun at East Race Waterway, the first artificial whitewater course in North America.

This waterway is perfect for folks like me, who are curious about whitewater rafting but don’t want to risk banging into rocks in an actual river.

Here, the controlled course features waves as high as 6 feet. The course is 2000 feet long, and you can purchase multiple rides if you’re so inclined.

Fiddler’s Hearth

You’re going to want some hearty food after all this sightseeing. The perfect spot for dinner in the town of the Fighting Irish is 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

Fiddler’s is great because it’s so Irish. When you’re in South Bend, it makes sense to go in that direction.

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.

Indiana Whiskey Company

We couldn’t end our list of suggested things to do in South Bend, Indiana without providing a booze recommendation!

The Indiana Whiskey Company is a small-batch distillery that opened in 2011 and sources everything from local manufacturers, from its copper pot still and grains to its packages and labels.

The tour + tasting is just $15 per person. Or just take home a bottle of their bourbon, rye, or corn whiskey.

Attractions and Road Trips Near South Bend

Take a drive to nearby Elkhart to see the RV Hall of Fame, a fascinating museum about campervans. Visit Michael Jackson’s childhood home in Gary, Indiana.

South Bend is one of the best road trips from Chicago, so consider adding it to your itinerary. And South Bend lies on U.S. Route 20, a coast-to-coast highway that is the longest road in America!

Further away in Indiana, see our guide to Hamilton County activities, our guide to the Christmas-y city of Santa Claus, and our dispatches about the Indianapolis Cultural Bike Trail and the Indianapolis 500 Museum.

Which of these South Bend activities would you most like to try?

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