December First Fridays: Downtown for the Holidays

About December First Fridays

Santa Claus is coming to town this First Fridays, and downtown South Bend will be alive with holiday cheer. 

It all kicks off at the Gridiron at 5:00 pm with live holiday music by The Erly, a letters to Santa station, roving costumed characters like The Grinch, Rudolph, Stu, and Swoop, plus live reindeer, holiday photo ops, giveaways, and more! 

Santa will be arriving a little after 6:00 p.m. to light the tree, followed by a fireworks show. Santa’s House will be open for visitors after that, approximately 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

Free parking is available on-street and in the DTSB garages nights and weekends, and a free shuttle is provided by Transpo – South Bend Public Transportation Corporation every First Fridays. The December shuttle will feature holiday carols and singalongs with The Music Village Jammers!

Free cookie decorating will be taking place in the DoubleTree atrium from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. that evening, and you’ll find a variety of First Fridays activities and promotions all around downtown. Check out all the details below.

This First Fridays is just the start of a month-long celebration of the holidays in downtown South Bend. For full details on the over 50 events and performances taking place throughout December, click here.


Free Parking

Parking (on-street and in DTSB-managed garages) is always free in downtown South Bend nights and weekends.  For full details on downtown parking options, click here

Free Transpo Shuttle – with The Music Village Jammers!

Transpo will be offering FREE shuttle rides on one of their new CNG buses from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. Click here for a map of the shuttle route. Transpo shuttle service will pass each stop approximately every 15 minutes. The December shuttle will feature holiday carols and singalongs with The Music Village Jammers from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m

The shuttle service also has First Fridays Tour Guides. They will tell you all about the different activities and promotions that are taking place downtown at First Fridays, as well give general info about the downtown businesses, mixed with historical tidbits and fun facts. Grab a seat on the new First Fridays Transpo Tour, and enjoy the informative ride!

If you’re interested in being a First Fridays Tour Guide, click here for more information.

Entertainment & Activities

Tree Lighting Ceremony & Santa’s Arrival

5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Gridiron

The annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place at the Gridiron with entertainment starting at 5:00 p.m. Enjoy live music by The Erly, a letter-writing station for notes to Santa, roving costumed characters like The Grinch, Rudolph, Stu, and Swoop, plus live reindeer, holiday photo ops, giveaways, and more! Santa will be making his grand entrance shortly after 6:00 p.m., with the tree lighting and fireworks to follow, and an encore performance by The Erly. The South Bend Chocolate Cafe will be also be selling hot chocolate out on the Gridiron.

Visits with Santa

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Gridiron

Santa’s House will open up for visitors directly following the fireworks show, at approximately 6:30 p.m. Bring your camera for free photos with Santa in his red house by the South Bend Chocolate Cafe. If the line is long on the night of the Tree Lighting, and you want to go do other First Fridays activities instead don’t worry – you will have chances to visit Santa throughout the month of December (see hours below.) Each child who visits Santa will receive a sticker that will enable them to receive discounts and trinkets at participating downtown businesses. Click here for a list of this year’s “I Believe” sticker promotions.

Fridays – Dec. 7, 14, 21 • 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
(Santa’s house will open Dec. 7 right after Tree Lighting Ceremony, approximately 6:30 pm)
(Special bonus Santa Hours Dec. 21 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

Saturdays – Dec. 8, 15, 22 • 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. 
Sundays – Dec. 9, 16, 23 • 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday – Dec. 19 • 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Thursday – Dec. 20 • 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Monday – Dec. 24  • 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  

Free photos with the Grinch at South Bend Chocolate Cafe

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
122 S. Michigan St.

Visit the Grinch this First Fridays at the South Bend Chocolate Cafe and bring your camera for free photos. The Grinch and Rudolph will be at the Chocolate Cafe on alternating weekends throughout December, on the same schedule for Santa’s House & Workshop (see above.)

Enjoy free live music by Laura Whidden from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Also take advantage of their First Fridays special of 2 for $18 any crunch/pretzel combo.  The Children’s Museum of South Bend will also be at the Chocolate Cafe this First Fridays, in the Rockne Room, with the following free hands-on activities for kids: making bird feeders, Christmas tree cup stacking, Christmas light circuits, and using the science of sound and various objects to play Christmas music.

Holiday in the Gallery

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
120 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Join the South Bend Museum of Art for an annual tradition of art, music, food and festivities to celebrate the season! Also view the 2018 Gingerbread Village in the Dot Shop.
*Reception for the SBMA Student/Faculty Exhibition, with awards announced at 6:00 pm.
*Musical entertainment by the John Adams High School Show Choir at 6:30 p.m.
*See Exhibitions:
-Destination: Latin America
-Joe Segura: Introspective Landscapes/Paisajes Introspectivos
-Michael Menchaca: Codex Animations
-Works of SBMA Permanent Collection
*Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts in The Dot Shop, featuring art for everyday living created by local artists.
*Refreshments sponsored by The Art League

Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Pick up & Drop off by South Bend Chocolate Cafe

Dream Coach Carriages will be offering horse-drawn sleigh rides from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tickets will go on sale beginning at 6:45 p.m. by the South Bend Chocolate Cafe. The cost is just $20 per 15 minute sleigh ride, which can accommodate up to four passengers.

Annual Holiday Open House at Dismas House

3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
521 S. St. Joseph St.

Dismas House will be holding their annual Holiday Open House this First Fridays, with free holiday cookies, punch, tours of their 120 year old house, photos with Santa, music, and more.  Plus you will be able to purchase holiday gifts for good causes, as Dismas Designs and other nonprofits will be selling jewelry, crafts, and other items. Other not for profits will also be selling their items. Dismas House is a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 to provide transitional housing and support services to men and women who have been recently released from incarceration.

Latin Dance Party at Cinco 5

10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
112 W. Colfax Ave.

Cinco 5 hosts a Latin dance party on the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month, playing bachata, salsa, cumbia, merengue, and more. 21+ only; $3 cover after 11:00 p.m.

Kennedy’s Kitchen at Fiddler’s Hearth

9:00 p.m. to midnight
127 N. Main St.

Enjoy free live music at Fiddler’s Hearth by local Irish band Kennedy’s Kitchen from 9:00 p.m. to midnight every First Fridays!

The Steepwater Band at Vegetable Buddies

10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
129 N Michigan St.

Vegetable Buddies will be featuring a concert by The Steepwater Band. Come out early for a great dinner and to make sure you get a good seat. Doors open at 5:00 p.m.  21+, $10 cover.

Holiday Art Show at Fire Arts

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
305 E. Colfax Ave.
Fire Arts will be opening their Holiday Art Show this First Fridays, and will also be featuring 10% of all art in the Gallery throughout the month of December.

Tours of the Historic Hoffman Hotel

5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
120 W. LaSalle Ave.

The Hoffman Hotel will offer free tours of their renovated historic apartment spaces and free refreshments. The tours will be given every half hour (5:00, 5:30, 6:00, etc.) This First Fridays they will also be having an open jam session, and will be featuring art for sale be Sara, Chris, and other residents.

Live Music at LaSalle Kitchen & Tavern

9:00 p.m. to midnight
115 W. Colfax Ave.

Enjoy live music by The Whateverly Brothers from 9:00 p.m. to midnight.


Specials on Retail & Services

Christmas Tree &  Wreath Sales

The Gridiron
5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Downtown South Bend annual Christmas Tree & Wreath Sale is back again this year, with proceeds benefiting local nonprofit groups. Unity Gardens will kick off the sales this First Fridays, selling several varieties and sizes of fresh, locally-grown trees, and wreaths, plus they will be offering great Unity Gardens gift items for sale like their famous Honey From The Hood, Beeswax Candles, Hand Balms and Hot Sauces. The Tree Sales will be located in the parking lot near the South Bend Chocolate Cafe, and will take place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through December 16th. Unity Gardens will be back to host the December 14th sale, Cub Scout Pack 541 will host the sale December 8th and 9th, and Relay for Life will host the sale December 15th and 16th. Trees are provided by J & K Tree Farm from Laporte. 

Author Signing at Idle Hours

5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
212 S. Michigan St.

Idle Hours Bookshop will be holding an author signing event this First Fridays. 
Come out and meet local author Dominick Russo and his first book, Keahi’s Legacy The Emerald Scale. Dominick will be there to answer any questions and sign his new book from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Copies will be available for purchase. Plus they will have a big sale and holiday open house!

Pop-up Bakery & Vintage Christmas Items at CircaArts

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
528 E. Colfax

CircaArts Gallery and Carpenter Gothic Furniture will be featuring a holiday pop-up shop by The Ragamuffin Bakery and will also have unique gift items for sale, including vintage Christmas items for gifts and decorating, Christmas tiles by Motawi Tile Works, hand-made glass ornaments form 2 Fine Chicks, and more!

Wreath Painting Class at The Pigeon & The Hen Pottery

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
217 S. Michigan St.
Come paint your one-of-a-kind wreath for the holidays at The Pigeon & The Hen Pottery this First Fridays. Large Wreath will be discounted for this event- $55.  Wreaths comes with pegs, lights, paint and firing. They will teach you the latest and greatest techniques! Seating is limited -only 10 spots available. 
Tickets can be purchased in-store or online. Wreaths will be ready to pick up in 7-10 business days.

Holiday Market at Purple Porch

5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
123 N. Hill St.

Celebrate First Fridays with festive food, drink, and local products at the Purple Porch Co-op, including  Naturavila Skin Care Products, Violet Sky Chocolate, Zen Cafe, and Elder Bread.

Friends of the Library Book Sale 

12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
333 S. Michigan 

The Friends of the Library Book Sale is back open in their newly renovated space – with extended hours. Enjoy amazing bargains on books, CDs, magazines, and more for both kids and adults from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Gift Card Sale at Woochi

5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
119 N. Michigan St.

Buy a $50 gift card at Woochi and get a $10 gift certificate for the next visit.

Food & Drink Specials

Holiday Cocktail & Snack Menu

4:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
105 E. Jefferson Blvd. (located on Michigan next to Jimmy John’s)

Spirited will be launching their new Holiday Cocktail and Snack Menu this First Fridays including the “Chrismukkah” drink pictured above. They will also be having food and drink specials that evening.

Free Cookie Decorating

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
DoubleTree atrium

Enjoy free cookie decorating across from the Gridiron in the DoubleTree atrium. Starbucks will also have a beverage station set up in the atrium, with $2 hot chocolate, $2 coffee, and $5 adult beverage mix-ins. Cookie decorating will continue throughout the month of December, but will move to the South Bend Museum of Art. Click here for schedule.

$1.99 Santa & Grinch Smoothies at Edible Arrangements

5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
123 S. Michigan St.

Edible Arrangements will be running a special on $1.99 Santa (strawberry) and Grinch (pineapple) smoothies, in addition to their normal First Fridays special of 1/2 priced dipped chocolate boxes. They will also be featuring 20% off pre-order Christmas arrangements.

Food & Drink Specials at Brew Werks

5:00 p.m. to 12:00 am.
216 S. Michigan St.

South Bend Brew Werks will be featuring their beer of the month – the Holiday Dubbel – supporting The Music Village. They will also have a special Holiday Poinsettia cocktail of champagne and cranberry juice.  They will also be offering a free appetizer for Mug Club members. Their First Fridays food specials include a Hot Bloody Mary soup with pumpernickel croutons, a holiday queso dip with tortilla chips, the Naughty but oh-so-Nice sandwich (thick cut turkey, cranberry aioli, peppered bacon, greens, provolone cheese on pumpernickel bread with side of hot red eye molasses gravy) and for desserts  – peppermint ice cream or hot chocolate Cocovelvet ice cream. 

Free Hot Dogs for Kids at Linden Grill

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
119 S. Michigan St.
Linden Grill will be offering a free hot dog and bag of chips for up to 2 children with each adult meal purchased. Plus they will have free face painting and games for children.

Food & Drink Specials at Cafe Navarre

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
101 N. Michigan St.
Cafe Navarre will be offering wild mushroom arancini with a basil aioli for $9 and a grapefruit winter cosmo for $7. They are also running a gift card special, with a $25 gift letter for every $100 gift card purchased.

Cocktail Special at Tapastrie

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
103 W. Colfax
Tapastrie will be featuring their Invierno original cocktail for $7.


Ongoing First Fridays Promotions


Baker’s Bar & Grill

123 N. St. Joseph St. 
Buy one appetizer, get one 50% off.


713 E. Jefferson Blvd.
$4 pints every First Fridays; also featuring a First Saturdays special each month: any large 2 topping pizza, an order of breadsticks, and a pitcher of pop (or a 2 liter on carry out orders) for only $19.95 plus tax. 

Ben’s Pretzels

122 S. Michigan St.
3 pretzels for $10 (not including sauce)


131 S. Michigan St.
Get one 14″ 1-topping pizza for $12

Chicory Cafe

105 E. Jefferson Blvd.
Live music, $1.50 one scoop gelato, and 16 oz. Hurricanes for $6.00

Edible Arrangements

123 S. Michigan St.
50% off a box of dipped fruit (pick-up)

Hair Crafters

602 Lincoln Way East
20% off for new guests and 10% off all retail

South Bend Brew Werks

216 S. Michigan St.
New seasonal beer release and food pairing

South Bend Chocolate Cafe

122 S. Michigan St.
2 for $17 any crunch/pretzel combo

Tippecanoe Place

620 W. Washington St.
1/2 price appetizers In the Studebaker Lounge

Event Sponsors: