Summer in South Bend: Sun, Water, and Sand

If you are looking for a way to escape the heat of summer without shutting yourself indoors, South Bend and the surrounding area have a number of beaches and pools where you can go to enjoy the sun (while it lasts!) and cool off in the water. Here are a few of the options:

Lake Michigan

The beach might not be the first destination that comes to mind when looking for things to do near South Bend, but Notre Dame sits less than an hour away from the shores of Lake Michigan. Complete with soft sand, rolling waves, mild water, and warm sun, it’s almost as good as a trip to the ocean itself! The lake shore can be accessed at several locations for a small fee or for free.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Forty-five minutes west of South Bend, the National Lakeshore has several pleasant beaches. The most popular is West Beach, which has showers, restrooms, lockers, lifeguards, and a large parking lot that only fills up on the busiest days. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there is a $6 parking fee per vehicle. Further east, you can choose between Porter Beach, Kemil Beach, and Lake View Beach, all of which have restrooms and all of which can be accessed for free. Note that the latter beaches have smaller parking lots, however, so plan to arrive earlier in the day before they fill up.

Finally, if you are willing to hike a few miles to get to an isolated beach, the Cowles Bog Trail leads to a stretch of Lake Michigan with a beach just as soft and pleasant as the others, but without the crowds. But don’t expect a relaxing stroll!

Indiana Dunes State Park

For the standard Indiana state park entrance fee ($7 for in-state vehicles; $9 for out-of-state), you can access the beach at Indiana Dunes State Park, nestled within the National Lakeshore. There is a parking lot at the beach, a bath house, lifeguards, and a nearby creek. Both the National Lakeshore and the State Park are also excellent spots for hiking, fishing, biking, camping, and birding, and they feature a unique terrain of sand dunes, bogs, and woodland. See my earlier post on Getting Outdoors for more ideas in this vein.

Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)

To the north, in the state of Michigan, there are a few state parks along the lakeshore. One of them is Warren Dunes, with three miles of beach and a number of hiking trails. With plenty of parking, restrooms, and a bathhouse available, Warren Dunes is a great place to spend a morning or afternoon. Daily park passes for Michigan state parks are $9 for those from out-of-state.

Silver Beach Park (St. Joseph, MI)

Silver Beach, popular among beach-goers, is located in the charming lakeside town of St. Joseph, Michigan, just over half an hour northwest of South Bend. The beach is staffed with lifeguards and there are showers, a playground, picnic areas, beach volleyball courts, a carousel, and boat rentals nearby. While you are in town, you can visit the numerous shops, restaurants, and parks in downtown St. Joseph, or take a stroll on the piers or through one of the town’s many beautiful neighborhoods.

Small Lakes, Pools, and Water Playgrounds

Soldiers Memorial Park Beach (La Porte, IN)

Those seeking to avoid the large numbers of beach-goers on the shores of Lake Michigan might consider visiting Soldiers Park in La Porte, Indiana, home to a small beach on Stone Lake. This beach has a bath house, picnic areas, and volleyball courts. The lake is also host to an annual power-boat racing competition, and the town features a number of other parks, as well as bike trails, restaurants, and a couple of small museums.

Rockne Memorial and St. Joseph Beach (Notre Dame)

Not to be forgotten are two facilities on Notre Dame’s own campus! The first is the beach on St. Joseph Lake, where you can get in the water, get some sun, and rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or paddleboard. Indoors, at Rockne Memorial, there is a 25-yard swimming pool, open to students and to their families. Check the RecSports website for the latest pool and beach hours, including family hours at Rockne Memorial.

Potawatomi Park Pool and Kennedy Water Playground (South Bend)

Next to the Potawatomi Zoo, Potawatomi City Park, in addition to a splash-pad and a playground, contains an outdoor pool, featuring a water slide and a wading pool for small children. Children up to two years old get in for free, older kids for $4, and adults (18 or over) for $5.

The water playground in Kennedy Park, with slides, swings, and plenty of water, is designed for children to be able to play outdoors and get wet without having to swim. Children up to 3 get in for free, kids up to 10 for $4, and older children for $5. On Sundays, admission is reduced to $2. For those who plan on frequenting either location, a reward card is available that waives the entry fee for every sixth paid entry into either the Potawatomi Pool or the Kennedy Water Playground.

The Kroc Community Center (South Bend)

The Kroc Center, run by the Salvation Army, is home to a variety of athletic and community activities. One of these is an indoor pool area with a water-slide, a lazy river, and a splash pad for small children. The Center also offers swimming lessons, lifeguard certification, fitness classes, and a swim club for adults. In order to use the pool, you must either purchase one of the Center’s several membership options for individuals and families or pay for a day pass. A membership will also give you admission into any other Kroc Center in the nation. For those in financial need, scholarships are available to cover or defray the cost of memberships or youth camps.

East Race Waterway (South Bend)

Finally, South Bend is home to an artificial white water rapids on the St. Joseph River near downtown. Open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the Waterway offers various raft sizes for rent and allows kayak owners to take their own boats down the rapids. Riders must be 54 inches or taller and groups may receive a discount when reserving their rafts.

Need to Knows post-arrival at ND

We asked our incoming group of grad students what info they wanted about campus after they’ve arrived in South Bend. I’m a third year grad student, and I still had to think hard about some of these questions! We all need a bit of refresher sometimes!

What is ND Roll Call?

ND Roll Call (previously known as Web Enrollment) is a required process which informs the University that a student is attending a particular semester. It’s different than adding courses to your schedule. You will receive an email when it is necessary to complete ND Roll Call.

How do I get an ID Card?

To obtain your University of Notre Dame Campus ID Card you will need the following:

(1) Your valid government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, passport, or state issued ID card) and

(2) your ndID number (begins with ’90’) or netID (alpha-based prefix to your account).

Please bring both to the Campus Card Office located in 423 Grace Hall (Campus Map) during the hours of 8:00am – 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

How do I register my bike?

Register your bicycle with NDSP and display the tag visibly on the bike. Registration is free and can be completed in person with your bicycle at Hammes Mowbray Hall, by flagging down an officer or at one of several registration events held throughout the year.

How do I obtain a parking pass?

Start by asking your department secretary as some departments issue parking permits under some circumstances. If needed, head over to the Parking Office located on the first floor of Hammes Mowbray Hall.  The hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:00am until 4:45pm. E-mail: Phone: (574) 631-5053

How is pay distributed?

Most students are paid on the first and fifteenth of the month. You can get the details here:  The easiest way to receive your pay is to set it up through direct deposit. If you get direct deposit at least once a month, you can get a free account from a popular local bank called 1st source.

Where do people hang out around South Bend?

Popular places include- Chicory Cafe, The General (a coffee shop), South Bend Brew Werks, and Crooked Ewe. You often find people hanging out on the river walk located along the Saint Joseph River.

When do you register for classes and find out TA assignments?

For most grad students, registering for classes is not a competitive process. You can go on to Insidend to register for classes. In general, you will want to consult your department’s director of graduate studies (the DGS) for details on schedule formulation. The procedure for TAs is specific to the department, so contacting your DGS is a good way to get the latest updates on that as well.

How do International Students get a bank account?

This will depend largely on the particular bank. You will at least need to have a lump sum to open the account. Popular banks an international student may want to establish an account with include 1st Source, Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, and WellsFargo. 1st Source is located in the Lafortune student center on campus.

Summer in South Bend: Food, Seasons, and Local Produce

Food is a truly beautiful thing. If ever there was a good valued by all, it is delicious food. Good food, like leisure, has its value not primarily from utility, but from delight. And significantly, like leisure, food is often found at the very heart of authentic community. In eating together, we don’t simply savor aromas and tastes. Food, used well, strengthens us to take joy in one another’s company, serving as a catalyst for the formation and renewal of friendship. Examples are not far to find: the family supper, the dinner date, the summer barbecue, the coffee-shop chat.

More wonderful still, every season on earth brings with it its own fruits and flavors, the old cycle of sun, earth, and water that has shaped all cultures and human lives. Summer in Michiana is no exception. It brings with it berries and cherries, cookouts and picnics, all in their time. Nowadays, the seasons notwithstanding, we can purchase whatever foods we want at the supermarkets all year round. Still, it is both edifying and enjoyable to take some time to peruse the seasonal produce of the region in which we Domers live. Here are a couple of ideas.

The South Bend Farmer’s Market
1105 Northside Blvd.
South Bend, IN 46615

The South Bend Farmer’s Market opened for the first time in 1911 on the Colfax Avenue bridge. As it grew in size and popularity, it moved in 1928 to its current location on Northside Boulevard. Although the market has since been rebuilt several times, it still opens on the same days as it always has for over 100 years: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (with the addition of Fridays during the summer). Join other shoppers here to browse all manner of local fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products, as well as jellies, honeys, pastries, herbs, cheeses, and all sorts of handcrafted and locally-made goods. Even if you aren’t buying, take a look around, strike up a conversation with the producers at their stands, or stop by the café at the center of the market, which serves a full menu for both breakfast and lunch.

U-Pick farms and orchards
Indiana and Michigan

Indiana and Michigan are filled with farms. Leave the urban sprawl of South Bend and Mishawaka, and you’ll soon find yourself amidst corn fields and stock pastures. One of the benefits of South Bend’s proximity to the rural countryside is the large number of orchards, vineyards, and farms nearby that are open to the public. Several farms and orchards open their fields during harvest-time to allow customers to pick their own fruit. In the summer, you can pick cherries, berries, peaches, and vegetables; return in the fall, and you can amble amongst the apple trees and pumpkin vines. Farms in St. Joseph County include Blueberry Ranch, Beech Road Blueberry Farm, and The Apple Patch. Across the border in Michigan, there are countless more: Lehman’s Orchards, Tree-Mendus Fruit, Eckler Farms, and dozens of others. Call ahead or take a look at the farm websites for information on what they are currently harvesting. For more farms, check out the listings under Cass and Berrien counties in Southwest Michigan on Pick Your Own, a website that keeps a list of U-Pick farms located across the nation.

Purple Porch Co-op
123 N. Hill St.
South Bend, IN 46617

Purple Porch Co-op sells local, organic, and bulk food items and household goods. They run a grocery store and a café, both open throughout the week, as well as a farmer’s market on Wednesday evenings, where you can meet, converse with, and buy from many of the local producers who sell their goods through Purple Porch. In anticipation of the farmer’s market, you can even pre-order items on Purple Porch’s website in order to help producers avoid wasting un-purchased food. All products sold at Purple Porch were grown or made within a 300-mile radius of South Bend, while all of the participating producers at the Wednesday farmer’s market come from less than 60 miles away.

Owning a Pet in South Bend

For those of you moving to the South Bend area with a furry friend in tow, you may be wondering about the best places for exercise, supplies, pet sitting, etc! I’m a dog owner, so this post may be *slightly* skewed in that direction, but some of this info will be useful to those of you with cats (or lizards, fish, hedgehogs, etc.) as well.

Official Stuff

Once you arrive in South Bend, make sure your pet has the required licenses and vaccines. You can find that information here.


Dog Parks

There are two dog parks in the area. Niles Ave Bark Park is conveniently located near downtown South Bend. One word of caution on this dog park: the “big dog” area is not super secure—the wrought iron fence leaves room for a medium-sized dog, s/he could probably slip under the fence or between the rails! So if your dog has a need to test boundaries like mine does, be sure to keep a close eye on them or use the little dog area, where the fence is reinforced with chicken wire.

Mishawaka also has an off-leash dog run, located in Prickett Marina Park, which borders the St. Joseph River. This is a much larger park, with a more secure fence, so there’s a bit more freedom to run and play!

East Bank Trail
My dog Luna enjoying the views on the East Bank Trail


Walks and Hiking

There are plenty of parks and walking paths in the area. My go-to spot is the East Bank trail, a paved, multi-use path that connects Angela Blvd. (near campus) with the downtown area and boasts some great views of the St. Joseph River. Bonus: the trail passes right by the Niles Ave dog park. Most hiking spots in the area allow dogs on-leash (just make sure to check the rules before you go!). Check out David’s post, Summer in South Bend: Getting Outdoors, for some ideas.


Pet Stores

If you need specialty pet supplies, there are several stores in the South Bend/Mishawaka area. Pet Supplies Plus is within walking distance of campus and they offer washing and grooming services. A little further from campus, you can find both PetSmart and PetCo. If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, Two Dogs and a Cat is a boutique style pet store located in nearby Granger, IN.



If your busy schedule keeps you away from home longer than you’d like, or if you’re out of town and need someone to come hang out with your pet, I recommend Amber’s Pampered Pets. She and her team offer walks, home visits, and even sleepovers! She has fit my dog into her schedule at the last minute several times. Plus she will send you photo updates and might even feature your pet on her Instagram.

Transportation and Housing Questions ANSWERED!

Do you want to know how to get around South Bend? Curious about housing options? Check out these videos made by our very own Graduate Student Orientation Ambassadors!



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Summer in South Bend: Baseball and the Zoo

Looking for a way to get some leisurely time outdoors this summer? Make a visit to the Potawatomi Zoo or to Four Winds Field, two of Michiana’s foremost attractions.

The Potawatomi Zoo
500 S. Greenlawn Ave.
South Bend, IN 46615
Open daily 10 AM-5 PM

The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend is an excellent way to spend a summer morning or afternoon. The zoo is small, but well-kept. It takes between two and three hours to see all of the exhibits, which include leopards, lions, buffalo, tortoises, and otters, among many other animals. The establishment is complete with a petting zoo, an old-style carousel, and a miniature train that circles the zoo. The manageable size of the zoo makes it a great choice for families, especially since children two and under get in for free. For a large group, the price of admission can start to add up: tickets are $10 for each person over the age of fourteen and $8 for kids between 3 and 14. Families may be interested to know, however, that the zoo sells family memberships for $72.50. While that might seem like a lot up front, it gets in the whole family, including two adults and up to six kids, for an entire year. Plus, you’ll get discounted admission to the Zoo’s educational programs, many of which are designed for parents and their children. Note that individual student-priced memberships are also available.

The South Bend Cubs at Four Winds Field
501 W. South Street
South Bend, IN 46601

The Cubs are South Bend’s own Class-A Minor League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. They play games most weeks of the summer, and tickets are relatively inexpensive. Their home, Four Winds Field, hosts a variety of concession stands as well as a small water-playground and bouncy castles for children. Every game is interspersed with contests and giveaways for the fans. Standard stadium seats sell for $11 each; alternatively, you can purchase a ticket to sit on the Lawn for $9, though you’ll have to bring your own blankets or cushions.

Summer in South Bend: Getting Outdoors

Summers in South Bend can be hot. Humidity and the summer sun may push the temperatures as high as 90 degrees or more, especially in July and August. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get outdoors! Even in the dog days of summer, mornings are often pleasant, and even the hottest weeks are broken up by days of mild weather. Besides, you’ll want to soak up that sunlight before the ‘perma-cloud’ settles in for the winter. Here are some ideas.

South Bend City Parks

Michiana, like many regions of the Midwest, is gifted with a large number of city parks, which have the distinct attraction of being free. Many of these parks have playgrounds, making them an excellent choice for families with children. In addition to parks, you can take a bike-ride or go for a run on the East Bank Trail, which extends from Central Park in Mishawaka to Holy Cross College, or the Riverside Trail, which begins at the corner of Angela Blvd. and Riverside Dr. and goes to Wheelock Park. Alternatively, you can ride a raft on the East Race Waterway, South Bend’s own artificial whitewater rapids course, for $5. From softball fields to golf courses, canoeing to water playgrounds, fishing to picnicking, South Bend city parks are a staple of summer leisure. Check out the official guide to summer activities at South Bend parks, including classes, competitions, and camps for adults and children alike, many of them available for free or at low cost.

St. Joseph County Parks

Around South Bend are also a number of parks maintained by the county. These too are free on most days of the year, except for weekends and holidays, when they charge a small gate fee. These parks are typically larger than the city parks, affording more opportunities for hiking and biking. Bendix Woods, for instance, does have a playground, but also contains a 6.5-mile trail for mountain bikes, as well as a few trails for hiking. In the fall, they offer hayrides; in the winter, there is a sledding hill. Ferrettie and Baugo Creek Park has an 18-hole disc golf course. St. Patrick’s Park features hiking trails and rents canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks during the summer; in the winter, they offer cross-country skiing and inner-tubing. Spicer Lake Nature Preserve has a lengthy boardwalk through its wetlands, where many types of animals can be seen year-round. The parks also offer many activities, classes, and camps for adults and children alike. Check out their events calendar for the latest information.

Potato Creek State Park

About twenty minutes south of town is Potato Creek, the nearest Indiana state park. The scenery is beautiful and varied, ranging from woods to wetlands to prairies, and you can take it in by bike, on horseback, or on foot. The park also feature various campsites and cabins for rent. The lake is open for swimming and fishing in the summer and for ice-fishing in the winter. Entrance fees are $7 per vehicle with an Indiana license plate and $9 for vehicles with out-of-state plates. Campsites will, of course cost more, depending on the type of site you reserve.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park

Forty-five minutes to the west is the scenic Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and nested within the Lakeshore is the Indiana Dunes State Park. Both parks preserve part of a unique system of sand dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan. The National Lakeshore is free to enter for the day, except for the West Beach during the summer, a popular spot for Lake Michigan beach-goers. You’ll be surprised how much a day on Lake Michigan’s beach feels like a day on the beach at the ocean. Besides the beach, however, the Lakeshore also has a number of hiking trails through the unique dunes, woodlands, and wetlands in the park. Inside the State Park, on the other hand, which charges the same gate fees as Potato Creek, are more hiking trails, numerous campsites, a swimming beach, and a nature center.