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Free Things To Do In The Bend

Free is everybody’s favorite price. It’s also easier to find activities at that rate than you might think. Parks, tours, museums and live music — these are some of the best things to do in The Bend at no cost.

Tour the University of Notre Dame 

Take a self-guided tour of beautiful campus landmarks like the Grotto, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus. Campus is the kind of place you won't mind getting lost. 

RELATED CONTENT: 10 Iconic Landmarks at Notre Dame

Raclin Murphy Museum of Art 

There are around 1,000 works of art on display across 23 galleries at the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art from its permanent collection. There are also new commissions from internationally known artists. Outside the museum, you can browse the Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park. The Raclin, located on Notre Dame's campus, is an incredible experience made even more so by the fact that it is totally free.

Art Beat

One of The Bend’s signature summer events, Art Beat on Saturday, Aug. 10. It's a great way to check out work from the local arts community. The event typically draws visitors from across the region to browse handcrafted pieces, listen to music and taste food. You can window shop for free. But be warned: You might be inspired to buy.

South Bend River Lights

Located in the heart of downtown South Bend, the River Lights are an dazzling showcase along the St. Joseph River. The tree forest is currently down with Seitz Park under construction. But you can still get a panoramic view of the lights from the Jefferson or Colfax bridges. 

Browse Local Farmers Markets

Visit the South Bend Farmers Market year round for a look at vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade soaps and jewelry. Mishawaka’s outdoor market takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday from May 15 through Sept. 25 at Ironworks Plaza.

First Fridays

Downtown South Bend bursts with activity the first Friday of every month. Themed nights include “Classic Downtown,” “Dog Days of Summer” and “Downtown for the Holidays.” It’s a great opportunity to explore downtown’s restaurants, shops and more with special activities and live music.

Fridays by the Fountain 

People descend on Jon R. Hunt Plaza, located in front of the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend, every Friday from June through August for live music and a variety of food vendors. Grab a chair or blanket and relax on the lawn, grab lunch and listen to the live tunes.

Parks Around The Bend

The Bend is flush with parks that serve as serene escapes in an urban environment. Pack a lunch and head to Howard Park, a downtown South Bend park that runs alongside the St. Joseph River. Leeper Park also utilizes the river. Several Mishawaka parks — notably Battell, Kamm Island, Beutter and Central — run along the river as well. Shiojiri Niwa Japanese Garden is a gem with some of the best scenery in The Bend. Many parks, especially those along the river, offer trails for walking, running or biking. Happen to travel with your dog? Perfect! The Niles Avenue Bark Park in South Bend and Prickett Park in Mishawaka both cater specifically to dogs.

RELATED CONTENT: Your Guide to Visiting Howard Park

South Bend Museum of Art 

Although not required, the South Bend Museum of Art does suggest a $5 donation for non-members to view its various galleries. It’s well worth the support. There’s a full spectrum of historical and contemporary art featured in five galleries. The museum’s shop, the Dot Shop, features work by local and regional artists.