There's more to see in South Bend than Notre Dame

South Bend, Indiana, and the University of Notre Dame are inexorably linked, but you would be mistaken to assume the home of the "Golden Dome" is all this city has to offer.

In fact, there's more to South Bend than South Bend. The region nicknamed "The Bend" encompasses Mishawaka and other towns following a curve in the St. Joseph River as it dips south of the Michigan state line.

Just 94 miles from downtown Chicago, "The Bend" has plenty to amuse visitors on its own or as an add-on to a campus outing.

Four Winds Field is the home of the South Bend Cubs, farm team for the Chicago Cubs. Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier


See the minor league South Bend Cubs, a High-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, play in a ballpark built to resemble Wrigley Field. Last year Ballpark Digest named Four Winds Field the Best High-A ballpark in the country. It offers four categories of individual seats, a tiki hut, picnic garden, lawn seating and Cubs Den Team Store in what had been a 1901 Jewish synagogue. In addition to a free playground for kids, parents can buy a wristband for kids under age 13 to access the Fun Zone's giant slides, obstacle course and bounce houses. This year's home opener will be April 11. Over the past 34 years, the team has won four Midwest League titles and eight division titles. Individual tickets range from $13 to $17. Parking costs $8.

A 1950 Commander Starlight Coupe sits among three floors of vehicles on display in the Studebaker National Museum. Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier

Classic cars

Car lovers spend hours inside the Studebaker National Museum. Vehicles cover three floors spanning more than a century of history from the family's 1835 Conestoga wagon to the last Studebaker to roll off the assembly line in 1966. Slide inside an iconic "Bullet Nose" convertible for a selfie then stroll the aisles to gawk at a red 1950 Commander Starlight Coupe, a space-age-looking Avanti, a Grand Turismo, Hawk, Lark and a 1964 Daytona, the last Studebaker produced in South Bend before production shifted to Canada. You'll also find some of Studebaker's military vehicles from World War I and II and a collection of horse-drawn carriages. Though not a Studebaker, the barouche President Abraham Lincoln took to Ford's Theatre on the night he was assassinated is part of a collection of presidential carriages. Admission $7-$11.

Masamba, a white rhino, loves to be petted during animal encounters at Potawatomi Zoo. Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier


Potawatomi Zoo, Indiana's first zoo, is small compared to the Chicago Zoological Society's Brookfield Zoo and likes it that way, said Executive Director Josh Sisk. "People's attention spans are different now," he said. You don't need to spend all day or a small fortune to get close to its 325 animals. To get closer, reserve an animal encounter with a sloth, otter, bison, rhino or giraffe (additional $20-$50). During one such encounter, Masamba, a white rhino, galloped toward visitors, leaned against a fence and waited to be petted. Last year the zoo opened a new giraffe habitat. This year it's planning a new home for its lions and The Lodge, a cafe overlooking the black bear exhibit. Admission $10 and $12.

Riverfront fun

Think of South Bend's Howard Park, with its ice-skating ribbon, playground, green space, sculptures, fountains and lawn space for concerts as a mini version of Chicago's Millennium Park. Mishawaka has a necklace of parks along its riverwalk, too, most within walking distance of downtown shops and restaurants. Both city's riverfront parks have access points for kayaks, spots for bank fishing and links to the Indiana + Michigan River Valley Trail, a 17-mile walking and biking path between Mishawaka and Niles, Michigan. Want to go white-water rafting? A Class II rapids course operates in downtown South Bend on summer weekends. The East Race Waterway, the first man-made white-water rafting course in North America, generates waves up to 6 feet. Headgates control the water level and obstacles in the water create turbulence. A single rapids pass costs $6.

For history buffs

You'll find a wide-ranging assortment of exhibits in The History Museum, including one containing artifacts of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League immortalized in the movie "A League of Our Own." The female professional baseball league founded by Philip Wrigley began in 1943 and stayed active until 1954.

In the Kidsfirst Children's Museum little ones can imagine growing up in a log cabin, attending a one-room schoolhouse and riding in a Conestoga wagon. Regional history unfolds in Voyagers Gallery starting in prehistory and continuing with settlements in the late 1700s and early 1800s, including the founding of South Bend and the forced removal of the Potawatomi.

A 30-minute film tells the story of the African American community in the St. Joseph River Valley and Underground Railroad sites in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

Tours of the Oliver Mansion are part of a visit to The History Museum in South Bend. Courtesy of Visit South Bend Mishawaka

Continue your museum visit next door at the 38-room Oliver Mansion built in 1895-1896. It was the home of J.D. Oliver who made a fortune selling plows and other farming implements. Furnishings on all three floors of the Romanesque Queen Anne are original: porcelains, glass, silver, prints and statuary, including two bronze busts by Chicago artist Lorado Taft.

The mansion and The History Museum share a campus with the Studebaker Museum. Combo tickets cost $9-$16, admission just to The History Museum and Oliver Mansion is $7-$11.

The South Bend Chocolate Company has been making chocolates since 1991. See how it's done during a factory tour. Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier

Chocolate and maybe dinosaurs

Tour the South Bend Chocolate Company factory to learn the origins of chocolate and witness the candy-making process. Don a hairnet and walk through the factory floor to see chocolates being made, including the panning and enrobing process. Enjoy a free sample and a visit to the Chocolate Museum, home to a collection of chocolate memorabilia, including a 1,300-year-old Mayan chocolate pot and hundreds of tins, containers and chocolate boxes. You'll be invited to dip a chocolate spoon. If you want more sweet treats, you'll receive 10% off your purchase in the factory outlet store. You might buy some Golden Domers, Rocknes or Chicago Cheese Crunch, a blend of caramel corn and cheese. The company got its start in 1991 creating chocolates licensed by the University of Notre Dame and now makes 500 different kinds of sweets available at shops across Indiana as well as in Michigan and Ohio. This year it plans to open a new factory and the Indiana Dinosaur Museum showcasing the fossils from the owner's collection. Factory tours currently cost $2 and $5.

The "Touchdown Jesus" mosaic on the Hesburgh Library is a highlight of a campus tour at the University of Notre Dame. Courtesy of Katherine Rodeghier

Notre Dame

You might be surprised to learn the University of Notre Dame is not in South Bend. It's part of a separate metropolitan area called Notre Dame. Located two miles from downtown South Bend, it has its own post office and fire department and encompasses the university as well as the campuses of Holy Cross College and Saint Mary's College.

During free one-hour tours, you'll learn the university was founded in 1842 as a Catholic mission to educate the Potawatomi Indians. It now covers 1,261 acres, including two lakes and two golf courses, and has about 8,500 undergrads and 3,700 graduate students from all 50 states and 90 foreign countries. Tours visit only a fraction of its 171 buildings. You'll see the 134-foot-tall mural "The Word of Life" on the exterior of the library facing Notre Dame Stadium. Depicting Christ with raised arms, it goes by its nickname, "Touchdown Jesus."

Other tour highlights are the main building with its 23-karat Golden Dome, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart consecrated in 1888, and behind it the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a 1/7th-scale replica of the original in France. You'll hear tales of the "Fighting Irish" football team, legendary Coach Knute Rockne and player George Gipp, "The Gipper," whose residence hall is supposedly haunted.

No charge for general tours; stadium tours cost $10 and $20.

• Information for this article was gathered during a writers' conference sponsored by Visit South Bend Mishawaka.

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South Bend, Indiana

Resources: Visit South Bend Mishawaka, (800) 519-0577,

Time zone: South Bend and Mishawaka are in the Eastern time zone.

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