I shared two weeks ago on Instagram that I went on a road trip to South Bend, IN for a mini-weekend getaway. It was the perfect time for me to get out of town to get some fresh air, mental clarity, and experience new adventures during a beautifully warm autumn weekend.
In 2020, Hotwire named South Bend, IN #4 on their list of Itty Bitty Cities for America’s Best Cities for a Quickie getaway. I loved the change of scenery and exploring a new place. I live in Naperville, IL, the Western suburbs outside of Chicago which was a short 2-hour drive. I also did my research prior to the trip that it was COVID-friendly and South Bend was following the CDC guidelines at all of their venues. This was my first real vacation staying at a hotel for the first time since February of this year before the quarantine.
South Bend Mishawaka (aka “The Bend”) is a quaint little city with many unique hidden gems. There were loads of places to stay, eat, and experience fun outdoor activities. It’s also well known and home to the infamous University of Notre Dame. I’m sharing my entire trip and recommendations to add to your bucket list when you visit South Bend, IN.
Where I stayed...
South Bend Downtown has many options for great hotels to stay at near all of the hot spots. I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott with an entire suite all to myself. Aloft hotel has a modern chic ambiance, had the opportunity to stay at their location in Chicago on the Magnificent Mile, and an excellent second choice in The Bend.
Courtyard Marriott is located in Downtown South Bend across the street from the Art Museum (South Bend Museum of Art), an ideal location for both business and leisure travelers. They are centrally located with easy access to the South Bend International Airport and the University of Notre Dame. The location offers a variety of restaurants and local attractions for guests to enjoy.
I had a large living room, cafe/bar, separate bedroom with 2 queen beds, and the bathroom a shower and bathtub. I also had free coffee in the room with my very own Keurig machine. The Courtyard Downtown South Bend follows all COVID-19 CDC Guidelines to assure their guests are safe and have a healthy environment to work or play! Some of the safety precautions include touchless check-in on their app, requiring all guests to wear masks when in the common areas and bistro/bar, and pausing all maid cleaning services during my stay. If you want to see a full room tour, check out my South Bend Koco Travels Instagram story highlight!
Places to eat and drink...
Friday drinks ~ Whiskey Exchange – Swanky bar in a former bank with ample whiskey choices, top-shelf cocktails & gourmet light bites. I felt like I was back in the Chicago nightlife scene and the cocktails were pretty and strong!
Friday dinner ~ Cafe Navarre – A more upscale dinner spot with great Restaurant Week deals going on all of November. Upmarket option for global fare & fine wines served amid romantic light from tabletop lamps. My restaurant week recommendations I ordered for the starter was potato leek soup, for the main course was filet medallions, and for dessert was chocolate ganache.
Saturday breakfast ~ South Bend Farmer's Market Cafe – We walked around the farmer’s market to check out all of the vendors for local fresh foods and small businesses in the area before grabbing breakfast at their indoor cafe.
Saturday lunch ~ South Bend Brew Werks – Brew Werks is Downtown South Bend’s only family-owned and operated brewpub. They have 20 taps that rotate frequently with a variety of seasonal and staple brews. We paired the beer with their nachos, tacos, and pasta with locally sourced ingredients!
Saturday wine & apps ~ Ironhand Vineyard Wine Bar – The ambiance has a marvelous rustic modern interior and love the touch of the barrels to give it a more authentic vibe! We tasted their flight of local wines, the 2018 MI Pinot Noir, 2017 Leprechaun Noir, and had the yummy brie with bacon jam app. I highly recommend this picture-perfect cozy venue to try their assortment of wine collections plus the delicious food.
Saturday pre-game drinks ~ Brother’s Bar & Grille – Outpost of a Midwestern sports-bar chain serving casual American eats in a party atmosphere. We grabbed drinks prior to heading to the Notre Dame vs. Clemson football game.
Sunday brunch ~ The Lauber – A modern restaurant in the East Bank neighborhood that combines South Bend's rich history with a hand-crafted dining experience. We ordered the mouth-watering and highly recommended mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwich with fried buffalo chicken thigh, bloody mary, mimosa, and beer.
Monday brunch ~ Uptown Kitchen – Stuffed French toast, locally sourced & gluten-free American dishes & more in a contemporary space. Highly recommend their breakfast burrito and cappuccino.
Fun things to do...
Football Fridays on the Gridiron – Football Fridays tailgate event on the Gridiron has Ultrafab playing a free concert from 6 to 8:30 pm in Downtown South Bend. Courtyard by Marriott South Bend Downtown provided us with drink tickets where we listened to live music.
Hike at St. Patrick’s County Park – Riverfront park with wooded trails and a large red barn plus a boat ramp, play equipment, and picnic sites. I hiked at St. Patrick’s County Park and felt so rejuvenated after being out in nature on a gorgeous warm fall day. I left feeling happy and with mental clarity. There are loads of trails to wander around and worth the visit to South Bend!
Ali on the Boulevard – Ali on the Boulevard is an adorable women's jewelry, clothing, and gift boutique located in the heart of South Bend's art district. Allison “Ali” (Oesch) Patel has been crafting one-of-a-kind, contemporary jewelry for nearly two decades. Her collection of original jewelry is both beautiful and fashion-forward; featuring pearls, gemstones, metals, and crystals. From elegant and simple to dynamic and bold, Ali has something for any occasion, from jewelry to apparel.
Inspire Me – Inspire Me is a women's fashion boutique located in South Bend East Bank Village, for women of all ages. They continue to gain recognition for their unique and ever-changing assortment of over 50 coveted American and European designer and accessories brands, including Fifteen Twenty, Chan Luu, Alembika, Gretchen Scott, Free People, Johnny Was, Velvet, Vilagallo, and Nally and Millie.
Tour South Bend Chocolate Company – I had received a complimentary chocolate bar by the Courtyard Marriott from the factory store which was so yum! You can tour Mon-Sat for only $5/person. If you're limited on time, then definitely stop by the store to shop for their chocolate collection! They also have gift baskets for the holiday season.
Tour the Notre Dame University Campus – South Bend is home to the marvelous Notre Dame University campus. I was invited as a guest to attend my first live football game, Notre Dame vs. Clemson. Notre Dame won which was an epic win for the team. They only allow a limited number of fans at their football games, so you must plan ahead before attending a game! I also had a personal guided tour of the entire Notre Dame University, it reminded me of Hogwarts. Walking around in the autumn scenery was breathtaking, a must-see when you come to visit!