I’ve been to South Bend/Mishawaka several times over the past 10 years or so. I spoke to the chamber of commerce there about tourism promotion at an annual luncheon eight or nine years ago. I’ve also had the privilege of attending a University of Notre Dame football game there the past two seasons, compliments of Going On Faith Conference CEO Joe Cappuzzello, who is a diehard Fighting Irish fan.
As college towns go, South Bend is about as iconic as you can get. Visiting the Notre Dame campus on a fall day for a football game is an event. Prior to the game, thousands of football fans for both teams swarm the campus. Lines are long to visit the campus sites: the Golden Dome of the Main Building, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and others.
A football day in South Bend starts early, as fraternities set up food and beverage stations throughout the campus, and the festive atmosphere often lasts longer than the football game. Whether you go once or dozens of times, a game in South Bend is an all-day affair.
I was there in the summer for the chamber event. We had beautiful weather that day, and I played golf after the luncheon with a former CVB executive at Blackthorn Golf Club. The night before I spoke, he also took me to The Blue Lantern steakhouse in Mishawaka, one of that city’s culinary institutions.
So, naturally, when Cappuzzello told me a couple of years ago that South Bend was hosting the Going On Faith Conference in 2015, I was thrilled. Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, this city and the Notre Dame campus are places you should see if you get the chance. In fact, Northern Indiana in general is a tourism region of note, as miles of Amish countryside spreads out around nearby Elkhart County.
“We are just so excited to be hosting the Going On Faith Conference in South Bend,” said Carolyne Wallace, director of sales for Visit South Bend Mishawaka. “This is a fantastic opportunity to share and showcase all that South Bend and the Northern Indiana region have to offer, not just to tour groups, but to faith-based events of all kinds.
“Obviously, the University of Notre Dame is our city’s biggest attraction, whether someone is Catholic or not. Even if you are not a football fan, if you have the chance to visit Notre Dame, you should take it. We are still putting all the final plans in place, but I can assure all delegates that they will have a chance to visit the campus and see all the sites. We may do it on the opening night, or we may do it as a sightseeing tour.
“In addition to being home to Notre Dame University, we’re very proud of our heritage here as an industrial and cultural center,” said Wallace. “Delegates will want to see the Studebaker National Museum that features not only Studebaker cars but also Conestoga wagons. Studebakers were discontinued in 1963, but there are still many collectors out there. Studebakers have some of the largest car collector clubs in the world.”
The museum also has a remarkable collection of presidential carriages.
“We actually have the carriage that President Lincoln took to Ford’s Theatre,” said Wallace. “It’s on loan right now, but it’s part of the museum’s collection. We also have carriages used by Presidents Harrison, McKinley and Grant.”
“Mishawaka is our retail and dining center,” said Wallace. “It’s only 10 minutes from South Bend. We have over 4,000 hotel rooms there and lots of restaurants. The two cities combined make a perfect hub-and-spoke destination for seeing Northern Indiana’s Amish Country and Lake Michigan, which are only 45 minutes away. We have four surrounding counties that are joining us in hosting this event, so we are all very accustomed to working with one another and packaging the entire area.”
South Bend is also home to a number of other significant historical and cultural sites that Wallace recommends all delegates see while they are in town. Those include:
• Oliver Mansion Museum at the History Museum
Home to South Bend industrialist J.D. Oliver, the 38-room mansion, Copshalholm, was built in 1895-96 and is a Romanesque Queen Anne home designed by New York architect Charles Alonzo Rich. The History Museum is adjacent to the Studebaker National Museum, making it convenient to see the two in tandem.
• St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
Built by the Studebaker family in 1901, this magnificent church features exquisite stained-glass windows, an ancient European baptismal font and Indiana’s largest pipe organ.
• Tippecanoe Place Restaurant
This local culinary institution is in the former 40-room home of Clem Studebaker. Groups can dine in any one of the home’s distinctive rooms spread over three floors.
• Morris Performing Arts Center
This 2,500-seat theater was built in 1922 and offers groups access to onstage and backstage activities, as well as its Palais Royale Ballroom.
• South Bend Chocolate Factory
Chocoholics will love this South Bend favorite, where you can take a piece of chocolate right off the production line, tour its Chocolate Museum and enjoy a video on everything chocolate.
• Outdoor Activities
South Bend/Mishawaka offers white-water rafting on the East Race Waterway, walking and jogging along the St. Joseph River Walk, minor league baseball with the South Bend Cubs and numerous gardens and greenhouses.