My South Bend Summer Bucket List

Author: Mary Kate Healey


Although Notre Dame students have opportunities to spend their summers around the world, a surprising number of students (and alumni like me, who we can’t seem to get rid of) choose to spend their vacation right here on campus.

Summer is a great time to be in South Bend because students tend to be less busy than the school year, so there is more time to explore the city and surrounding area. Additionally, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, or as I call them, “Our Leslie Knope,” is especially active during the summer. They have a ton of programming for everyone, from outdoor concerts to fitness classes.

Here’s my list of the top ten events, activities, and experiences of summer 2017.

1. We Shall Overcome Unveiling

More than two years in the making, this larger-than-life sculpture commemorates the iconic moment Martin Luther King Jr. and Fr. Ted Hesburgh (the then-President of the University) shared at a Chicago civil rights protest.

The unveiling featured several notable speakers, including Fr. Jenkins, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Dr. Virginia Calvin. Check out our Snapchat story to see it yourself.

Statue Reveal

2. Summer Restaurant Week
If you’re familiar with my other blogs, you’ll know how much I love eating. During Summer Restaurant Week, several restaurants create special $11, $22, and $33 menus that include appetizers and dessert with an entree. In addition to the deals, proceeds benefit Memorial Hospital.

I was fortunate enough to have my parents visit during Summer Restaurant Week, and they took a friend and me to South Bend Brew Works, which I highly recommend to anyone who loves a great burger, mac and cheese, or grilled cheese sandwich.

3. Best Movie Night Ever
This event was part of the Best Week Ever, and it lived up to the name. Star Wars: Rogue One was projected onto a giant screen in the park, but not before a fifteen-minute fireworks show.

4. Beach Days
St. Joseph Beach is located a stone’s throw from the Golden Dome. Kick back and relax in the sand, on the dock, or even in a kayak you can rent by the hour. Make sure to check the hours for when they have “Dog Days” if you want to meet some furry friends! Off-campus, South Bend is a quick drive from countless Lake Michigan beaches.

5. Summer Fitness Series
In South Bend, summer Saturdays mean free fitness classes outside. 8:00 a.m. yoga and 9:00 a.m. zumba are followed by a third 10:00 a.m. fitness class, switching it up every week between pilates, barre, kickboxing, and more. After class, get some brunch at Le Peep or Kim’s Cafe.

6. Make South Bend
Need a creative outlet? Want to learn a new skill? Make South Bend has tons of classes and workshops from oil painting to metalworking to 3D printing. Make sure to register early online because classes are popular and can fill up quick.

7. East Race/Art Race
For adventure seekers, the East Race is a must-do. This white-water rafting course takes you through the heart of downtown on weekends during the summer. Occasionally, the sidewalks are also lined with local artists and artisans for Art Race, where you can also shop for unique handmade and vintage goods.

8. Fridays at the Fountain
There’s no better way to end your workweek than with a live concert downtown. Pack a brown bag or pick up lunch from local food vendors and enjoy the free concert. For an extra laid-back start to your weekend, bring a picnic blanket and listen from the lawn.

River lights

9. Michiana Greek Festival
If you’re looking for an authentic gyro or baklava, look no further! This event had live music, dancing, cultural exhibits, and most importantly, delicious Greek food and desserts.

10. Riverlights
This large-scale installation is almost too cool to describe, so you’re going to have to check out some youtube videos to see it in action. This artwork is not only stunning, but also interactive. The movement of visitors triggers the lights, allowing everyone to become a participant in the art.