It’s hard not to fall in love with the delightful city of South Bend, Indiana. During a recent road trip through northern Indiana, we had to swing through South Bend to see what hidden gems this city holds. We were not disappointed. From toddlers to teenagers South Bend is full of activities that will keep everyone entertained. Here are six reasons why families should make a visit to South Bend. We were hosted by Visit South Bend to highlight these family-friendly attractions. As always opinions are my own.
Indiana’s oldest zoo, The Potawatomi Zoo started as a little duck pond in a park and continues to grow today. With over 500 animals calling this charming zoo home this was on the top of our list. One of the reasons we fell in love with this zoo is because it is small enough to see in a morning or afternoon, yet big enough to see a wide variety of animals and exhibits. The zoo has a great petting zoo and a fun playground aimed at all ages. Take a ride on the Potawatomi Zoo Express or on the carousel. Buy your tickets for the rides at the admission booth or at the gift shop. For those with toddlers, you will only need one ticket if you are standing next to them on the carousel. You will need a ticket, too, if you are riding as well.
A few of our favorite animals were the porcupine, the anteater and of course the monkeys! Be sure to stay for one of their zoo experiences and venture into their learning center (that’s where the sloth is!!!) Don’t forget to do the walkabout with the kangaroos either.
Explore All The Great Parks In South Bend
Families are constantly on the hunt for a good park. Whether at home or on the road a park is great way to get outdoors and burn off energy. During the summer months, a splash pad is another hot commodity we seek out. We found both in Potawatomi Park. Located right next to the zoo this park is home to a massive play structure deemed Kid’s Kingdom. It is indeed a Kid’s Kingdom! My daughter loved exploring all nooks and crannies of this great play area. The only downside is that it is so massive if you have more than one child it could be difficult to keep track of them all. If you find it too overwhelming, head over to the splash area that is conveniently right next to the playground. The splash is perfect for toddlers and older children. Another great splash pad can be located at the Mary Gibbard Park!
If you are looking for more hiking trails and outdoor experiences venture over to Potato Creek State Park or the Spicer Lake Nature Preserve. Discover more great parks in South Bend here.
When most people hear the word Studebaker they think of the classic automobiles. It took me by quite a surprise to learn that Studebaker manufacturing began in 1868 and produced wagons, buggies, and carriages. This South Bend-based company quickly grew and became a leader in the automobile industry. The museum takes visitors on a tour through Studebaker’s history from the world’s largest collection of presidential carriages to one of the last Studebakers to roll off the line. Fun fact: the museum is home to the carriage in which Abraham Lincoln rode to Ford’s Theater on that fateful night.
Children will love seeing all the different cars and vehicles that the museum as acquired over time. A favorite spot was the Studebaker Super Service Center exhibit which gives children the opportunity to get hands-on with car repair. Grab a work jacket, get your clipboard and start fixing that car. From replacing the tire, a rusty muffler to working under the engine this play area is perfect at keeping kids engaged and entertained. We may have a future mechanic on our hands!
Great Family-Friendly Dining in South Bend
One of the many reasons I love visiting college towns is food. Great restaurants, coffee shops, and bars line the streets offering tourists a smorgasbord of tasty options to choose from. There are many great family-friendly dining options in South Bend with one of our favorites being the Lauber Kitchen & Bar. This old sheet metal factory turned local eatery is serving up scratch-made pizzas, entrees and more. Sample one of their craft cocktails (non-alcoholic or alcoholic) while letting the kids play out on their huge patio complete with outdoor games.
Toddlers often require quick meals which is why lunch at Barbici should be on your list. Quick pasta classics are prepared right before your eyes and everyone is eating within minutes depending on the size of the line. The fun bicycle decor adds to the fun atmosphere of this quick and convenient restaurant. Bonus: They do carry-out!
For a more unique dining experience grab dinner at the Crooked Ewe. This brewery is serving up an intriguing menu that is quite delicious. This Korean infused menu will have you coming back for more as you sample hushpuppies, Bahn Mi tacos and more.
No dining experience would be complete without a little dessert. Swing into the South Bend Chocolate Chocolate Company to treat yourself to over 500 chocolates and sweets. Tours of the factory and museum are offered at the top of the hour during hours of operation.
Tour The University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame commands your attention the minute you catch sight of the signature golden dome. Founded in 1842 the University is home to more than just scholars and students. Priceless artifacts, art, and impressive architecture are found throughout campus. Free public tours of the University give visitors a glimpse at social life at Notre Dame while diving into history. Take a look at the tour schedule or do a self-guided tour. We recommend a self-guided tour for a family with little ones in tow. Keep in mind that stadium tours are offered separately from University tours.
There are plenty of walking paths and open areas for little ones to explore on campus. Swing into the Eck Visitors Center to grab a map and create a tour that works for your family. While touchdown Jesus and the Main Building (The Golden Dome) are must-sees here are a few other places not to miss.
Basilica Of The Sacred Heart
One place not to be missed is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This jaw-dropping church is full of relics, a magnificent pipe organ and a gorgeous alter. Grab a self-guided tour map at the front of the church or opt for a tour. If you can, take the tour to learn more about the objects and relics in the church. We overheard a tour guide explaining that one of the crosses contains a piece of wood believed to be off the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Fascinating! Remember to be respectful in this holy place as many do come to pray and worship. Directly behind the Basilica, you will find the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Snite Museum of Art
A hidden gem on the University is The Snite Museum of Art. Open to the public at no cost this museum houses an astonishing collection of art. Take a closer look to truly appreciate the many different styles of expression. Check out their different exhibitions and fun events that they offer.
The Embassy Suites by Hilton at Notre Dame
If you are looking for the perfect family-friendly hotel in South Bend, look no further than the new Embassy Suites by Notre Dame. The rooms are massive and include a separate living room that is perfect for a pack-n-play. A kitchenette with a mini-fridge, microwave, and sink makes life so much easier with kids in tow, also there was a tub in the bathroom! The hotel was sparkling clean, the beds were super comfy and it offers a stunning view of the University of Notre Dame. Fresh made-to-order omelets as a part of the complimentary breakfast was a huge hit with my daughter, while the complimentary happy hour every evening was a hit with the rest of the party. An indoor pool and, friendly staff and great amenities rocketed the Embassy Suites to one of our all-time favorite places to stay.
Looking to put together a northern Indiana road trip, check out our itinerary here.