Free Things To Do in The Bend

Free is everybody’s favorite price. It’s also easier to find activities at that rate than you might think. Parks, tours, museums and live music — many attractions and events in The Bend come with no cost. All you have to do is make a visit.

Here are some of the best things you can do without having to bust out cash.

Tour the University of Notre Dame

On-campus tours through the Eck Visitors are currently suspended as a coronavirus precaution. They typically cover many campus landmarks — the Grotto, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus. Rather than take a guided tour, visitors can take a self-guided walk through campus instead. 

RELATED CONTENT: 10 Iconic Landmarks at Notre Dame

Art Beat

One of The Bend’s signature summer events, Art Beat on Aug. 21 is a great way to check out work from the local arts community. The event typically draws visitors from across the region to browse handcrafted pieces, listen to music and taste food. You can window shop for free. But be warned: You might be inspired to buy.

Arts on the Race

An extension of Art Beat, local artists display (and sell) their work along the East Race in downtown South Bend as rafting happens nearby. Here are the dates for Arts on the Race for 2021:

  • June 12, noon-5 p.m. 
  • July 10, noon-5 p.m. 
  • Aug. 14, noon-5 p.m. 

South Bend  River Lights 

Located in the heart of downtown South Bend, the River Lights (pictured at the top of this piece) are an interactive showcase along the St. Joseph River. The tree forest is currently down with Seitz Park under construction. But you can still get a panoramic view of the lights from the Jefferson or Colfax bridges. 

Browse Local Farmers Markets

Visit the South Bend Farmers Market for a window into the city’s history. The market itself is historic. It dates to 1911 and has been in the same location since 1928. You’ll find a variety of sights and smells, from beautiful plants and vegetables to the scent of fresh roasted coffee. It’s also open year round. Mishawaka’s outdoor market takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays from May 17 to Sept. 27 at Ironworks Plaza. 

RELATED CONTENT: Explore The Bend’s Farmers Markets

Concerts at Potawatomi Park 

If you’re hanging around The Bend on a Sunday evening, you can catch live music at Chris Wilson Pavilion in Potawatomi Park. These shows run from late June through the end of August. Don’t forget to bring along a blanket or chair for seating.

MORE INFO: Potawatomi Park Concert Schedule

Boomin’ Parks Movie Tour

Bring the family or some friends, a chair or blanket and enjoy a free movie on Thursdays in June and July at different parks around South Bend. 

MORE INFO: Movie Tour Schedule

First Fridays

Downtown South Bend bursts with activity the first Friday of every month. Themed nights include “Classic Downtown,” “Dog Days of Summer” and “Downtown for the Holidays.” It’s a great opportunity to explore downtown’s restaurants, shops and more with special activities and live music.

RELATED CONTENT: First Fridays in Downtown South Bend

Fridays by the Fountain

People descend on Jon R. Hunt Plaza, located in front of the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend, every Friday from June through August for live music and a variety of food vendors. Grab a chair or blanket and relax on the lawn, grab lunch and listen to the live tunes.

Parks Around The Bend

The Bend is flush with parks that serve as serene escapes in an urban environment. Pack a lunch and head to Howard Park, a downtown South Bend park that runs alongside the St. Joseph River. Leeper Park also utilizes the river. Several Mishawaka parks — notably Battell, Kamm Island, Beutter and Central — run along the river as well. Shiojiri Niwa Japanese Garden is a gem with some of the best scenery in The Bend. Many parks, especially those along the river, offer trails for walking, running or biking. Happen to travel with your dog? Perfect! The Niles Avenue Bark Park in South Bend and Prickett Park in Mishawaka both cater specifically to dogs.

RELATED CONTENT: Your Guide to Visiting Howard Park

Red Table Plaza Concerts

Downtown South Bend’s streets have a lunchtime soundtrack Monday through Thursday during the summer. Local musicians play live during that time, so it’s a perfect opportunity to grab lunch from one of the nearby restaurants then relax at Studebaker Plaza.

South Bend Museum of Art 

Although not required, the South Bend Museum of Art does suggest a $5 donation for non-members to view its various galleries. It’s well worth the support. There’s a full spectrum of historical and contemporary art featured in five galleries. The museum’s shop, the Dot Shop, features work by local and regional artists.