Visiting The Bend means many options are suddenly at your disposal.
Do you want to dine around? Catch a show? Get outside? With so many possibilities, it can be difficult to figure out how to organize your time in town. So, we took some of the guesswork out. Even if you only have a couple days, you can create an in-depth experience. Let’s get going.
First things first when you arrive in The Bend. If you’re looking to stay in downtown South Bend near restaurants and attractions, there are three hotels — Aloft South Bend, Courtyard by Marriott and DoubleTree by Hilton — in walking distance of each other. You’ll find the Inn at Saint Mary’s and Hilton Garden Inn right off the Indiana Toll Road exit near Notre Dame. Speaking of campus, that’s where the Morris Inn is located. There’s an Embassy Suites and Fairfield Inn across the street. Near Mishawaka’s restaurant and retail district you’ll find a Home2 Suites, Varsity Club and more. If none of these fit, maybe the Oliver Inn Bed & Breakfast does with its combination of personal service and cozy accommodations. Whatever your staying style, there’s a place for you around The Bend.
Dinner and drinks
We think the best way begin a visit is to experience the food scene’s very best. Grab a table at LaSalle Grill or Café Navarre for some of the finest menus The Bend has to offer. You can’t go wrong with a similar fine dining option at Corndance in Mishawaka, either.
Catch a show
Some of our favorite entertainment options are at the local theaters. Headlining concerts and live off-Broadway productions make their way through the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend throughout the fall and winter. Nearby, the South Bend Civic Theatre is a vibrant space that showcases the community with its own plays and musicals.
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Do you usually skip this meal? Here’s our advice: don’t. Locals take the first meal of the day pretty serious around The Bend and there is an assortment of diners and breakfast spots to prove it. It doesn’t get much more local than the South Bend Farmers Market Café (open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during winter), which sources many of its ingredients directly from the market.
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Shop ‘Til You Drop
One of our favorite ways to spend winter days awaits next — shopping at our local shops. You’ll find many of them situated in South Bend’s East Bank Village, just across the river from downtown. Inspire Me and Ali on the Boulevard are popular women’s boutiques worth a visit. For a wide collection of known brands, head to Mishawaka’s bustling retail district. University Park Mall is the centerpiece of an area that includes just about everything, including one of two Apple stores in Indiana.
This is a perfect time to start exploring. You could head to the west side for tacos at one of several authentic Mexican restaurants. Or visit The View (near those shops in the East Bank) for what’s considered Northern Indiana’s best burger. If you’re in Mishawaka, you’ll find a lot of national brands. Or you could head to downtown and visit Jesús Latin Grill for bold flavors.
Time to explore
Now it’s time to really explore. Just because the air is brisk doesn’t mean you can’t get outside. In fact, winter is an underrated time to do so. There’s no question that Howard Park in South Bend has become a centerpiece of outside activity during the colder months with its state-of-the-art ice skating trail. It’s a truly unique experience, complete with a massive playground, hot chocolate and fire pits. If you’re up for a winter hike, there are several options. Mishawaka’s Riverwalk guides you along the long stretches of the St. Joseph River. You can also head out to any number of city and county parks. St. Patrick’s County Park is probably one of the most popular, while Rum Village and several more offer distinct hiking experiences. Perhaps The Bend’s most well-known park, Potato Creek State Park is about 20 minutes from South Bend. Miles of trails wind around the park’s centerpiece — Worster Lake.
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Now it’s time to indulge in another meal. Head over to LaSalle Kitchen & Tavern in downtown South Bend for some elevated food options to pair with one of the best craft beer selections in the area. Near Notre Dame, Rocco’s Restaurant is a must for pizza. Barnaby’s Pizza is another local institution. Evil Czech Brewery in Mishawaka is widely known for its food to go along with craft beer brewed on site. If you’re feeling somewhat adventurous, Jesús Latin Grill in downtown Mishawaka is your spot for unique flavor.
Out on the town
If you chose LaSalle Kitchen & Tavern, you might want to hang around for live music. You can also take in some tunes at Vegetable Buddies, which always features live entertainment. If you’re looking for craft beer, it can easily be found with South Bend Brew Werks, Studebaker Brewing Co. and Crooked Ewe Brewery & Ale House all close to each other. Bare Hands Brewery is in Granger and the aforementioned Evil Czech is in Mishawaka. Looking for a craft cocktail? The Exchange Whiskey Bar and Spirited are among the top options.
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Sundays call for brunch. PEGGS is a downtown South Bend staple. Evil Czech’s Hangover Brunch is a popular choice. Same goes for Uptown Kitchen and Rocky River Tap & Table in Granger. Order some comfort food and a Bloody Mary (or mimosa!) to get your Sunday started right.
There are few better ways to really understand the place you’re visiting than by peering into its history. Studebaker National Museum and The History Museum, situated on the same campus in South Bend, offer unforgettable looks at the area’s past. Studebaker focuses on automotive and industrial history, focusing specifically on Studebaker Co., a longtime automobile manufacturer. The History Museum takes a wider lens view of the area’s history dating back to early settlement and beyond and features the 38-room Oliver Mansion, a beautiful home that serves as its own kind of time capsule.
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We’re guessing lunch was pretty filling, but it’s not a bad idea to grab a snack before the last stop on your visit. Head to Brothers Bar and Grill near Notre Dame for something to munch on before the last stop of your visit.
Tour Notre Dame
Heading out from Brothers puts you in right in the middle of Notre Dame’s campus. One of the world’s iconic college campuses is ripe to be explored. Trust us when we say it’s worth visiting even if you aren’t a fan of the football team. Stunning landmarks include the Main Building with the Golden Dome atop, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Grotto and the Word of Life Mural (known commonly as Touchdown Jesus). They look even more incredible with a fresh layer of snow. Snap a photo here and it’s likely your friends will know where you are without reading the caption. It’ll be a fitting end to a trip you’ll reminisce about for years.
It might even inspire you to stay another day. After all, #MondaysCanWait.
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