Since my freshman year I've been determined to experience downtown South Bend (affectionately referred to as DTSB by locals), and through my exploration of the city, I have come to the conclusion that the city has a lot more to offer college students than people give it credit for. So, without further adieu, here are my top 5 things to do in South Bend:
For all the runners and cyclists out there, this one’s for you. This trail for walking, running, and biking follows the East Bank of the St. Joseph River that flows straight through the heart of South Bend. It’s easy to access from Notre Dame, and it’s great if you’re wanting to escape campus or get in a few long runs before the Holy Half Marathon in April. It’s especially beautiful in the Fall with the changing leaves and cool river breeze.
4) Morris Performing Arts Center
Located at the heart of downtown South Bend and only a few minutes by car away from campus, the Morris Performing Arts Center hosts a wide array of concerts, musicals, and plays. I personally like indie/alternative concerts, and this Fall the Morris Center hosted Modest Mouse and NEEDTOBREATHE - both incredible shows. If you’re interested in musicals, they are currently hosting “The Sound of Music,” and in the spring, they will host “Les Miserables.” All of these are located in a great epicenter for all things performing arts!
3) Whitewater Rafting on St. Joseph’s River
That’s right. No one can say there’s nothing “outdoorsy” to do in South Bend. Located in downtown South Bend, the East Race Waterway has been providing a challenging whitewater rafting course since its opening in 1984, making it the first man-made white rafting watercourse built in North America. Take your friends from ND to change up your normal weekend plans, or go as a family when your parents come up to visit. Either way, be sure to bring a towel, and swing by Nom Nom Pho afterward to grab some warm noodle soup to warm up after your fun river adventure.
When people ask me about the Purple Porch (because I really do talk about it a lot), I like to describe it as a microcosm of Whole Foods. They have a small grocery store, cafe, and market, and they offer a variety of organic and health foods. This is where to go for all of your unsweetened oat milk and vegan shampoo needs. They also have DELICIOUS baked goods (my personal favorite is the chocolate peanut butter truffles). But the pièce de ré·sis·tance is the variety of Kombucha on tap flavors that they have (with free samples). Go! I promise you’ll be as enchanted as I am.
1) Zen Cafe
Everyone knows that an essential part of being a college student is having a go-to, niche, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. And Zen Cafe is your place in South Bend. Since it’s creation in 2010, Zen Cafe has been serving a wide variety of delicious fair trade coffee, and they prioritize positive and mutually beneficial relationships with their coffee exporters and farmers in countries like Peru and Nicaragua. The actual cafe is pretty awesome, too. It’s situated inside an old abandoned warehouse and has the cozy coffee shop vibe that everyone knows and loves. It’s a great place to study off campus or take someone out for coffee as an alternative to a DHD (Dining Hall Date).
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore the wonderful DTSB! I'll see you there.