You’re all moved into your dorm, you’ve picked your major, and your RA has provided you with lots of information for on-campus events and resources. Now all that’s left is to settle into your classes, make a few friends, and get to know downtown Akron as your new home.
If you’re not sure where to begin, fret not: We’ve got a recent-ish UA graduate on our staff, and she’s here to function as your cool, new, downtown-loving big sister who is dying to share her unsolicited advice with you. (It’s me, the invisible author behind these guides.) Her (my) list of tips is below. We also highly recommend trying out the Zips 50, which is a curated list of 50 things to experience in downtown Akron during your time as a Zip.
Tip #1: Don’t Be Afraid of Downtown
Let’s get this one out of the way first: While Akron is by no means a big city, when you’re new here—especially if you’re from a smaller town—it might feel like one. If you’ve lived in Akron awhile now, this goes without saying, but the city really isn’t intimidating like it might seem on Day 1 of College Life.
There’s a thriving local food and shop scene, live music all the time, friendly people, and so much more, and downtown ambassadors work day and night to ensure it’s clean, welcoming, and safe. The crime rate is low, and people’s general feelings of safety are high. In fact, in DAP’s 2022 General Survey, 92 percent of respondents indicated feeling satisfied or very satisfied with downtown safety. If you ever do feel uncomfortable, though, you’re welcome to call an ambassador at 330-706-7383 for a safety escort.
Tip #2: Find Your Go-To Hangout Spots
Finding your go-to spots is essential to feeling at home in downtown Akron. A few good ones to get you started are the main branch of the library (perfect for studying in an atmosphere with plenty of natural light); the b-e-a-u-tiful public space at Lock 4 featuring cascading waterfalls, a stunning mural, and plenty of places to sit (perfect for relaxing after a long day of classes); and the North High Parklet, which is flanked by coffee, a movie theater, a pizza shop, and bars (perfect for nights out on the weekend, for those who are of age). We also love Cascade Plaza with it's large swings, chess tables, green space, and frequent free events.
There are so many incredible public spaces and unique hangout spots to discover, so start exploring and see what sticks.
Tip #3: EAT EVERYTHING
Gone are the days when your go-to eateries were Applebees and Steak ‘n Shake. In downtown Akron, there are close to 50 locally owned restaurants and counting, just begging you to try their delicious, expansive, unique offerings. From a Vietnamese coffee shop and New York style deli to gourmet grilled cheese, authentic Mexican cuisine, sushi galore, and pizza for every state of mind, downtown Akron pretty much has it all. Not to mention, all these eateries are within easy walking distance of campus. So, if you need a little break from your usual food spots on campus, come down the hill and start going down our list of restaurants.
You might not live in downtown Akron forever (although there are quite a few reasons why you should consider sticking around!), but while you’re here, definitely eat everything you can.
Tip #4: Walk It Off
As mentioned, downtown is within easy walking distance of campus, which makes for such a fun, well-rounded college experience. Take advantage of being able to walk all over the place; make an effort to explore the neighborhood. Walk to dinner. Walk to concerts. Walk to baseball games and other downtown events. And be sure not to miss the semi-hidden gem of downtown Akron: the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
The Towpath is basically downtown Akron’s very own river—er, canal—walk, located right behind Main Street’s storefronts. The trail spans 101 miles and is the city’s gateway to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s beautiful year round, and especially in spring time, when 472 sakura (cherry blossom) trees are in bloom along the trail in downtown Akron. It’s the perfect spot for long walks with new friends, runs, and bike rides. Bonus: You can even rent a bike for free.
Tip #5: Use Your Zip Card
There are a number of downtown establishments that offer discounts to students who present a Zip Card. The Akron Art Museum, for example, offers free admission to UA students any day they are open. METRO RTA also offers free fares to students. Additionally, the Akronite App—although not dependent on having a Zip Card—offers tons of discounts and savings to people visiting downtown businesses. Keep your eye out for other promotional offers and specials for students in downtown Akron.
Tip #6: Seek out internships
Did you know there are tons of (paid) opportunities to intern at downtown businesses and organizations? Doing so can get you more comfortable and acquainted with the downtown area and Akron at large, connect you with new people in your field of interest, and lay the groundwork for finding your career path after graduation. So don’t wait until you’re walking across the stage to think about what you want to do or where you want to be. When you’re in downtown Akron, the possibilities are endless!
To learn more about opportunities for community internships, talk to your advisor, or stop by the EX[L] Center in Bierce Library, room 168, to learn more about their Akron Community Internship Program (ACIP).
Tip #7: Have Fun
You’re young! You most likely have comparatively few responsibilities to those you’ll have even five years from now! Enjoy it!
College is such a unique, transitional time in a person’s life. Enjoy the freedom, and in between classes, don’t miss out on experiencing everything you can. There’s so much to do and discover in downtown Akron—opportunity is around every corner. So take advantage of the things you can do with your Zip Card, enjoy all the different places to eat, explore every inch of the sidewalk (on foot, or even by scooter), get involved in the community, and be part of the vibrant things going on all year long. If you ever need a nudge, check out our events calendar for an extensive list of everything happening downtown.