Mishawaka and South Bend combine rural charm with big city culture

2014-05-15T09:12:00Z Mishawaka and South Bend combine rural charm with big city cultureJulie Dean Kessler nwitimes.com
May 15, 2014 9:12 am  • 

For a quick getaway with plenty to see and do, head east for the attractions of South Bend and Mishawaka, Indiana. The two cities’ shared border makes exploration of each a convenient combo.

Consider first going the extra few miles to Mishawaka and starting from there, making the explorations all westward and thus more efficient. Art, fun, food, nature—the possibilities are plenty for a day trip or leisurely but event-packed weekend.

Mishawaka, named for an Indian princess, hugs the banks of the St. Joseph River with a beautiful park system. You can walk or bicycle Riverwalk’s circular layout on either side of the river, with several connecting bridges.

Fortify yourself for further adventures at Doc Pierce’s on Main Street, with its cheery venue and service. Old, wooden booths and soft lighting encourage a relaxed experience. Salads are crisp-cold with seasoned croutons and dishes range from pub food to dinner-on-the-town without breaking the budget. Looking for something out of the ordinary? Try Corndance Tavern, where they’re serving up bison, alligator, ham hocks and more.

A few miles west in South Bend, enjoy a blast from the past: The Studebaker National Museum boasts four presidential carriages, 70 cars including a 1917 Studebaker Series 18 Touring Car, and the first and last Studebaker cars built in South Bend.

Another classic: the Studebaker Mansion, built by five wealthy Studebaker brothers, who decided 26,000 square feet were just about right to include 40 rooms and 20 fireplaces. Says General Manager Kevin Jakel, “People come here for the history, beauty, and overall elegance of the place. There’s an appreciation for the craftsmanship of this building from the 1880s.” Someone’s always available to answer questions during your self-guided tour. Jakel rightly calls the mansion’s Tippecanoe Place dining room “affordable elegance.”

Another fine-dining choice is LaSalle Grill, a Triple A Four Diamond Award-winner for its food and wine, so, best make a reservation well in advance.

Elegance and education are joined at the Oliver Mansion and Center for History, a magnificent museum campus including Copshaholm, an elegant 38-room Victorian mansion with a local-history gallery and a children's museum.

Browse and buy at the South Bend Museum of Art, home to amateur and expert artists’ works and the Dot Shop, for unique items created by local artisans.

Nearby are the Potawatomie Conservatories, where all manner of flora flourish, from a jungle-like setting to colorful bougainvillea and bird of paradise. The greenhouse inspires green thumbs and the Arizona Desert Dome houses unusual species.

Need we remind you of Notre Dame? The iconic Touchdown Jesus, Golden Dome, and if you’re lucky, a sports event, will all heighten appreciation for the traditions of this campus.

End the day at Fiddler’s Hearth Public House, where a Celtic vibe reigns, pub food abounds, and there’s live music every night. Looking for big names in entertainment? Check the schedule at the Morris Performing Arts Center, which ranks among the 100 top theaters worldwide. If the play’s the thing, plan ahead for South Bend Civic Theatre and Broadway Theatre League shows.

Street smarts: First Fridays of the month downtown are lively with music, demonstrations, refreshments, and special promotions at galleries and other shops. Plenty of free parking!

Make it an overnighter at a memorable bed and breakfast, like Beiger Mansion, completed in 1907, Cushing Manor Inn, est. 1872 and the only Four-Diamond bed-and-breakfast inn in Indiana and Illinois, or Innesfree, a circa 1890 Queen Anne-style B & B with a Celtic theme.

Be a super-planner: You‘ll find all these attractions and more at visitsouthbend.com.

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