To the unfamiliar passing traveler, South Bend, Indiana may seem like a small city- maybe good for a quick pit stop on the way to the wilderness of the Michigan Upper Peninsula or the metropolitan streets of Chicago. Many Notre Dame students, after years of living here, feel the same way. However, South Bend proves to be a gem in the middle of Indiana with plenty of ways to spend your glorious vacation days or those few moments you aren’t drowning under homework. Even better- it’s all easily done on a college budget. So whether you are just driving through, visiting for a football game, or planning on spending four years, here’s a bucket list of South Bend commodities.
Run by The South Bend Chocolate Factory, Studebagels is a little known local proprietor of the best bagels in town. With flavors like Jalapeno Cheddar and Spinach Pesto and several different cream cheeses, egg combos and sandwiches, the menu is a CYOB: Create your own bagel. Highlight: Within walking distance of campus and incredibly cheap.
Lunch/Dinner: Chicory Cafe.
A cute cajun cafe with fantastic food, atmosphere and events throughout the week. Best place to get beignets this far north and its location in the center of South Bend is perfect for walking around by the river to burn off those calories. Highlight: Salsa Night
All the time: North Dining Hall
Newly renovated and fancy fresh, North Dining Hall now is serving options such as Vegan French Toast and Spaghetti Squash. They even had strawberries one day I heard. To make it even more exciting, you get to walk about 3 miles to figure out what food is where. It definitely brings a level of that hunter-gatherer lifestyle just to keep you grounded. Highlight: The Price is Right is on at 11 for your viewing pleasure.
Although South Bend is not a thriving metropolis comparable to Boston or Chicago, its small town charm shines through with a number of cheap, but exciting activities that run through the summer and into the fall. Notre Dame hosts quite a few events on the campus itself but sometimes it’s nice to exit the bubble and see actual people that aren’t tied to their backpacks.
South Bend Cubs: The minor league baseball team. They sometimes have fireworks after their games and the tickets are relatively cheap. Also, there’s a Ben’s Pretzel stand. ‘Nuff said.
University Park Mall: Typical mall, but the perfect place to go shopping for your next SYR or relive your high school days when going to the mall was the cool thing to do. Also, the only known sighting of a bubble tea shop in South Bend.
East Race: Don’t go looking too far away for adventure. Our very own St. Joe’s river has a portion sectioned off for white water rafting. It’s like being outdoorsy without the bugs and branches.
Notre Dame: The best sightseeing destination is sometimes the place where you live. Best advice is to just take some time and walk around without your phone two inches from your face. Best time is the golden hour: 7pm – 8pm, when the dome is at it’s best and the lakes are shimmering.
If you’re dead set on staying on campus, you have two options: someone’s futon or The Morris Inn. One has been rated a 4-star establishment and the other one probably smells like beer. Pick your poison: a sharp decrease in your bank account or a sharp increase in your need to shower.
Whether you’re a new student, returning Domer or a passerby, South Bend should make it into your travel blogs and Insta feeds. Don’t pass it up for the potential better posts of Chicago or the Great Lakes. South Bend’s pretty special, you just have to give it a chance.