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South Bend sits on the southernmost bend of the Saint Joseph River, hence its name. It’s the fourth-largest city in Indiana and home to the University of Notre Dame, a heavy influence in the area. The St. Joseph waterway is at the heart of town, running from the east and bending north at the city center before continuing to Lake Michigan. During South Bend’s 150th birthday celebration in 2015, lights were illuminated along the river and became a permanent feature. The water is a central spot for recreation, including kayaking, inner tubing, and rafting.
The Bend — as locals call it — offers many state and local parks with multi-use trails and paved pathways. In town, the Rum Village Trail is a favorite through mixed woodlands with a chance of spotting deer, foxes, and more than 100 bird species. Downtown, you’ll find the History Museum, the Studebaker National Museum, various art museums, and a museum for kids. Indiana University’s South Bend Campus houses the Civil Rights Heritage Center with a permanent exhibition in addition to a self-guided landmark tour through town honoring the region’s past and ongoing struggles for civil justice. The city also offers lots of places to shop, dine, and take in the local craft brewing scene.
South Bend International Airport (SBN) is located just a few miles outside the city center. South Street Station in South Bend is a passenger hub for bus services and Transpo operates most of the bus routes in the city, with service to Mishawaka, Osceola, and Roseland.
Getting around South Bend’s downtown is easy on foot, as the streets are in a grid pattern that runs along the river. If you’re up for a fun day trip, the electric commuter railroad, the South Shore Line, runs from the airport to Millennium Station in downtown Chicago. Amtrak also runs a passenger service.
South Bend’s climate is influenced by its proximity to Lake Michigan, with moderate temperatures throughout the year and cold, snowy winters. Springtime and autumn are usually mild but overcast, leading to storms. The summer months are the warmest and tend to be popular times to visit the area.
South Bend hosts many events throughout the year, including music festivals that spotlight international, religious, and local music. Most of these festivals take place during the spring and summer months, making the most of the warm weather, which is important to note if you’re booking your South Bend vacation rentals during these times.
The Studebaker National Museum is a great spot for car fanatics. The American car manufacturer was long associated with South Bend and today, the former buildings are now a popular museum. You can check out a variety of classic Studebaker cars, military vehicles, and the world’s biggest collection of US presidential carriages — a particular favorite is the 16th president’s barouche. You’ll also find an archive of drawings and designs around the development of many of Studebaker’s famous cars.
The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842 and has been a mainstay of South Bend ever since. The campus offers a variety of attractions for non-students, including the impressive Snite Museum of Art and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, with its late-19th-century French stained-glass windows. If you grab some ice skates, you can head to the arena during one of the public skating times. You’ll find one of the most popular campus activities at the stadium, home to the famous college football team — where on Saturdays in late summer through the fall, you can watch their games.
Potawatomi Park is a beautiful spot in the east of the city and opposite the St. Joseph River, with plenty to do, including a splash pad, picnic area, and performing arts stage. On the southeast side of the park are the Potawatomi Conservatories, which feature waterfalls, a sensory garden, and year-round tropical plants.