Urban centers often define The Bend, especially when it comes to top attractions.
South Bend is home to Notre Dame, the East Race Waterway, multiple museums and dozens of other things for visitors to do. Same goes for Mishawaka, with its retail corridor and parks along the river. But our area is more than a couple cities.
Smaller towns are integral to The Bend’s identity. You’ll drive through them no matter from what direction you approach. And you shouldn’t just drive by. There’s plenty of reasons to stop.
New Carlisle is one of our finest examples. Situated 15 miles west of South Bend, it’s the definition of small town America — quiet, quaint, unassuming.
Yet it’s far from ordinary. New Carlisle offers more shopping and dining options than you’d expect. None of it is run-of-the-mill. Area parks offer visitors a chance to slip away from the bustle of everyday life into natural surroundings, where you’re more likely to stumble across wildlife than hear a cell phone ring.
Exploring a small town like New Carlisle isn’t necessarily difficult. But it still helps to be equipped with a little knowledge. Consider this your guide.
Browse Unique Shops
New Carlisle has been associated with commerce since its founding in 1835. It was established along the Michigan Road, an early road that opened up settlement and trade. By the mid-1850s railroad lines were in place, leading to an explosion in the local economy.
Although things have changed, retail isn’t just part of New Carlisle’s heritage. It’s still active. Many historic buildings in downtown now hold small shops.
The Village Shoppes is notable among them with over 27,000 square feet of display area. Shoppers can find furniture, collectibles and many other unique gifts. The Village Shoppes are known throughout the area as a must-visit, particularly around the holidays.
Authentic Dining Destination
Perusing through items at various stores is sure to stir up your appetite. This is one area where New Carlisle shines — through its dining destinations.
Moser’s Austrian Café screams authenticity. Have you ever been served by waitresses wearing dirndls before or had to “try” to pronounce menu items like jaegerschnitzel or zigeunerschnitzel? We’re guessing not. Since opening in 1999, Moser’s Austrian Café has been serving up Austrian/German cuisine.
You’ll want to wash down your meal with a Stiegl, an Austrian pilsner or imported wine from Austria and Germany. Menu items constantly roatate, so you can always expect to try something new at Moser’s.
It so impressed the editors of Midwest Living Magazine that it landed on the South Bend Foodie Trail.
Another authentic experience awaits at Kate O’Connor’s Irish Pub. Originally from Cork, Ireland, its owners wanted to bring a real Irish pub to the States. They’ve done it.
Patrons gather around the bar and watch the big games. They pack themselves into the pub on St. Patrick’s Day. During winter, they sit near the fireplace, enjoy a pint of Guinness and swap stories with friends.
Oh, and the food. Order pup cheese and pretzels for starters. You can’t go wrong with the shepherd’s pie or fish and chips are your main course.
Explore Nature at Nearby Parks
Working off all that grub is easy as heading to one of the nearby parks.
Two St. Joseph County Parks – Bendix Woods and Spicer Lake Nature Preserve — aren’t far from New Carlisle’s downtown. Both offer ample opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, especially if hiking is one of your pastimes.
Check out our guide to the best hiking spots in The Bend.
Located about three miles south of New Carlisle, Bendix Woods covers about 195 acres. It’s home to a group of pine trees planted in the 1930s to spell “Studebaker,” an homage to when the iconic automobile maker owned the property.
Hiking and mountain biking are among the staple activities here. Visit during February and March and you’ll be around when maple syrup making takes place from trees in the park.
Spicer Lake Nature Preserve (320 acres), located just north of New Carlisle near the Michigan border, is a testament to the area’s geologic history. Receding glaciers left behind a pair of “kettle holes,” shallow, swampy bodies of water. One is named Lancaster Lake and the other Spicer Lake.
There’s a boardwalk that allows for exploration of some wetland areas. Both “lakes” include observation decks. Stride onto the deck at Lancaster Lake and you’re likely to partake in birdwatching, even if you’re not trying.