How to Celebrate the Holidays in South Bend, Indiana

The South Bend area is teeming with excitement during the holiday season. With its lively cultural activities, plentiful snowfall, and festive shopping, this cozy Indiana city has something for everyone that rivals any large city in the United States! Whether you plan on visiting from far away or you live in the nearby area, these South Bend events should be at the top of your seasonal to-do list. Regardless of if you prefer guided tours of places or you’re more inclined to roam about attractions on your own, you and your loved ones can take in the sights and celebrate the holidays with the local community. If you’re looking for a new holiday tradition, take a look at our list of fun things to do in South Bend, Indiana this winter:

The Potawatomi Zoo

Not all zoos close for the cold seasons of the year, and the infamous Potawatomi Zoo is one that stays open on certain days during the cold winter. In addition, during the holiday season, the zoo lights up during the Gift of Lights event, where the entire place is dressed up in thousands upon thousands of Christmas lights for an incredible display of holiday cheer. Visit the zoo during Winter Day events throughout the season to see what the animals do when it’s anything but hot and muggy outside – you might be surprised at some of the changes the animals make in order to adapt to the cold wintry season!

Skating in the Park

Nothing will get you ready for the holidays like some good old-fashioned ice skating. South Bend has several winter parks for you to choose from. Stop by Howard Park for a 1,600 square foot ice trail with an adjacent pond. The trail goes all the way around the park, giving you plenty of room to stretch your legs. You can even play some broomball if you’re feeling competitive. The city lights up the park for the holidays, setting the mood for an unforgettable evening. The park also rents out ice skates if you don’t have your own.

You can also take your friends and family to Merrifield Park for even more outdoor fun. The price of admission is a bit less expensive than Howard Park, but space can be limited, especially during evening hours, so be sure to get there early. They even have a DJ playing some tunes on Friday nights. Bust a move on the rink to get in the holiday spirit.

Fun on the St. Joseph River

If you’ve got the itch for white water rafting, a breezy walk near a beautiful riverside, an evening full of gorgeous river lights, or even just a little picnic in a serene location, the St. Joe River has all of this and more. The river runs right through the city, and at night, lights up in a spectacular and colorful display of lights that are motion-activated. The lights fill the downtown river area with fun, dreamy visions that will sooth your stress away and make you smile, guaranteed. It’s a spectacular display that’s not to be missed!

Downtown for the Holidays

Downtown South Bend comes alive during the holiday season. The entire city lights up, creating the ultimate shopping experience. Shop at some local stores, grab a bite to eat at one of the area’s many restaurants, or indulge in treats from the South Bend Chocolate Company. If you’re in the mood for a visit to one of the area’s famous museums, you have plenty to choose from, including the Snite Museum of Art, the area’s history museum, small additional South Bend art museums, the Studebaker National Museum, and others.

Experience the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and enjoy a performance at the Morris Performing Arts Center. Be sure to leave time to make a trip to the East Race Waterway, and visiting the University of Notre Dame is an absolute must!

The downtown area hosts dozens of fun events this time of year, including an illuminated parade, a gingerbread village building competition, and a chance to meet one-on-one with Santa. Look for the small white house next to the Chocolate Café. If you have small children, this is their chance to tell Santa exactly what they want for Christmas.

A Day at Oakwood Resort

If you’re looking to get out of the city during the holiday rush, you can always head down to Syracuse, IN and spend a day at Oakwood Resort. It’s located right on Lake Wawasee, the perfect place to get in the holiday mood. Stop by the spa and resort for some rest and relaxation before or after your holiday celebration. Top it off with a meal at the Pier & Back Porch Restaurant. The entire resort is filled with hardwood floors, soft warm lighting, and all the holiday decorations you need. You can even spend the night on the lake for a last-minute romantic getaway.


Oakwood Resort is less than 65 minutes away from South Bend. Just hop on US-20 and head towards Lake Wawasee. Make our resort a part of your holiday tradition. Event planning has never been easier. Visit our website today to place your reservation.