The largest city in Indiana’s northern tier, South Bend (pop. 101,735) is probably best known as the home of the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame University, and home of the car- and carriage-making Studebaker Company. The Notre Dame campus is most visitors’ destination, whether or not it’s a Saturday during football season. The 1,250-acre campus, along Michigan Street a mile north of downtown, is worth a stroll to see its many Roman Catholic icons, including a replica of the grotto of Lourdes and the famous “Touchdown Jesus.”
For fans of classic cars, the Studebaker National Museum (201 S. Chapin St., 888/391-5600 or 574/235-9714, daily, $8) is maybe the bigger draw, displaying a comprehensive survey of horseless carriages, stylish cars, fire trucks, and other motor vehicles produced by the South Bend-based company before the factory closed in 1963.
One of South Bend’s best restaurants, Tippecanoe Place (620 W. Washington St., 574/234-9077), is housed in the old Studebaker Mansion. One final piece of car culture history: Washington Street was part of the historic Lincoln Highway, which first crossed the USA in 1915.
The small town of Peru, on US-31 midway between South Bend and Indianapolis, was the home base of many traveling circuses during the mid-19th century, an era remembered in the Circus City Museum (154 N. Broadway, 765/472-3918), downtown.