Swing along the base of Lake Michigan to see a backyard battle in the Midwest
Playing football for more than 100 years, Notre Dame has developed rivalries with various schools, rivalries that began because of the other school’s proximity to the Golden Dome in South Bend, Indiana as well as their football prowess (Michigan Stadium sits just about 180 miles East of Notre Dame Stadium and the Wolverines are the only program in the country that has accumulated more wins than the Irish). This week’s rival opponent comes from Evanston, Illinois, a Chicago suburb that is home to Northwestern, which is even closer than Michigan Stadium.
On Saturday, when the Irish look to rebound from a tough loss in the desert against Arizona State, Notre Dame meets with the Wildcats for the 48th time in series history, but for the first time since 1995.
This week is homecoming at Notre Dame and the alumni and parents of the students that are flying in are mostly likely going to land in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and then go around the bottom of Lake Michigan over to the on-campus stadium, which was sporting a fresh coat of snow on Thursday morning. Obviously, Northwestern will travel on a similar road.
But this brings us to the first stop on our road trip, Chicago. There is more to do in Chicago than what will fit in one day so we’ll have to gloss over a few things, just to get a feel for the city.
Starting with neighborhoods that are cool to hang out in, Wrigleyville is an obvious stop for a sports fan. You will be letting me down personally if you don’t take a tour of Wrigley Field. It’s under some construction now but it’s still in the middle of a great neighborhood, surrounded by bars and restaurants that are fun places for sports fan. Wrigleyville is the perfect neighborhood for a sports fan in Chicago; I guarantee you will want to come back to Chicago during the baseball season to catch a Cubs game in the Friendly Confines.
Similar to what Atlanta is to the South, Chicago is something of the capital of the Midwest. There are plenty of transplants in these areas that come from other places and settle down in the big city, so that being said, if you are a fan of a specific team, chances are there will be bars or taverns dedicated to being unofficial viewing parties for any of that teams games. These places are all over the city, particularly in neighborhoods like Wrigleyville.
One place you have to stop by is Millennium Park, home of the Cloud Gate (the big silver bean looking thing you’ve probably seen on TV before). Millennium Park is filled with beautiful sculptures (such as the bean) and landscape design and architecture.
Another place with great nightlife is called the Magnificent Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue that has bars, clubs and restaurants for people to enjoy on a nightly basis.
If you get hungry, the Chicago staples to stop are at Al’s Italian Beef for a sandwich, probably the only restaurant that’s not owned by Mike Ditka that he would send someone toward.
Then there’s the pizza. Deep dish, Chicago style pizza. Not Sicilian. Deep dish. The most famous place for Chicago style deep dish pizza is at Lou Malnati’s in Lincolnwood (seriously type “Lou M” into Google and it pops right up. Sorry, Lou Monte.) Another place you can stop is at Giordano’s, which is very much a chain (they’re everywhere) but, still authentic enough for you to enjoy it.
There’s so much more to do in Chicago, before you go to the game you could even see Northwestern’s campus in Evanston, but the city of Chicago is huge and there is a million things to do and you will definitely want to go back, maybe even this Sunday to see the Bears play at Soldier Field or the Blackhawks against the Stars at the United Center.
Around the base of Lake Michigan you go from Chicago to South Bend and on to Notre Dame’s campus. The cool thing about Notre Dame’s campus is that walking around is like taking a trip to Europe or a museum, but it's also a fun college campus.
There are so many beautiful things to see that a campus tour might be as fun as a Notre Dame tailgate. And it is a VERY fun tailgate.
The Golden Dome, the Basilica, the Grotto, the South Quad, the Clarke Memorial Fountain, beautiful buildings and Notre Dame landmarks that are just fun to look at.
If you haven’t been able to tell, Notre Dame is drenched in tradition and history, so there are a number of different game day traditions that fans can have a good time seeing.
Similar to a couple of other schools, Notre Dame has a player walk where the Irish guard leads the team from the Guglielmino Complex (indoor athletics facility) to the south side of the Hesburgh Library, past the “Word of Life,” mural, often lovingly referred to as “Touchdown Jesus,” (the fact that there is a mural named Touchdown Jesus on the largest college library in the country should tell you all you need to know about what’s important to Notre Dame) and on to the stadium.
If you find yourself in South Bend the night before the game, the “Band of the Fighting Irish,” breaks off by section into different performances spread across the campus.
The tailgating on game day is fun because it is packed to the gills with Irish fans, as well as people who just wanted to see Notre Dame Stadium and everything on ND’s campus. The local Knights of Columbus chapter and various student organizations sell sandwiches (the KoC makes a mean steak sandwich) with the proceeds going to different charities. The same can be said about the unique student designed t-shirts that are sold at the games, which all fans are encouraged to wear to the stadium.
After the game, find a good Irish bar. Football is huge in the area so technically all bars in South Bend are Irish bars, but find one that’s proud of the old country.
O’Rourke’s on Eddy Street and Fiddler’s Hearth on Main Street should be a good jumping off point for you in South Bend. Eddy Street bars like The Linebacker get real crowded with Notre Dame fans, especially during homecoming.
That will do it for this week’s Ultimate College Football Road Trip. Join me next week when we are going (going) back (back) to Cali (Cali), to see USC and UCLA clash at the Rose Bowl.