What is it about Michigan Wolverines football? It may be those famous winged helmets, a signature of the program since 1938. Maybe it’s the tradition, with 11 National Championships (second only to Alabama with 14). Maybe it’s just being a part of the largest college football crowd in the world.
Whatever it is, there is little doubt that a visit to Michigan Stadium, “the Big House,” is a must-see for any fan of college football. Recent renovations have increased the total capacity to 109,901 (although more than 114,000 is the record attendance). Even with that gaudy attendance potential, the stadium doesn’t feel as big as you might imagine. The single bowl design gives you the impression that you are in a much more accessible venue, and your view of the field will be outstanding, even from the back row.
A crisp autumn afternoon, surrounded by a sea of maize and blue while you hear the Michigan marching band blast out “Hail to the Victors” is without a doubt, one of the best college football experiences in the country.
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If you walk the entire circumference around Michigan Stadium, you will find plenty of options. On the inner part of the concourse there are small concession stands offering all of the expected stadium foods. Pizza ($8), hot dog ($4.50), jumbo Kosher hot dog ($6), bratwurst ($6), popcorn ($5), and soft pretzel ($4.50) are all here, and all over priced.
Coke products are available in a 32-ounce souvenir size ($6) or a regular for $4.50. Tom Horton's provides coffee and hot chocolate ($3 for a small, $8 for a souvenir sized mug), and bottled water is available for $4. Alcohol is not served in Michigan Stadium, as is the case in most college football stadiums.
What really elevates the food selection is the smattering of smaller vendors that dot the outer part of the concourse. I highly recommend the pulled pork sandwich from Red Rock Downtown BBQ served on Texas toast ($9). It is easily enough for two people and is absolutely delicious. I couldn't finish the whole thing.
I also tried the Philly cheesesteak from the Victors grill, served on local Zingerman's bread ($9). It was also good, but not quite as tasty as the pulled pork. Bottom line: Stay on the outer part of the concourse and you will find plenty of great options to enhance your visit.
Big Ten football is a lot of fun, and if you're going to visit anywhere in the conference, then Ann Arbor is the place to go.
Be sure to be in your seat 20 minutes prior to kickoff to enjoy the marching band. When the team enters the field from the tunnel with the marching band blaring, you will surely get goosebumps. The simple, but compelling traditions, including the "Let's Go Blue" cheer, as well as the clapping along to Hail to the Victors are a lot of fun to see, even if you're there to support the visiting team.
The seating is metal bleachers throughout, and feels a little bit crowded as you might expect. Despite the size though, there is absolutely no bad seat in the (big) house. Accordingly, consider going for the least expensive ticket you can find when choosing your seat. In fact, in some ways, a spot in the back row is a great way to take in the whole atmosphere at Michigan Stadium.
Two scoreboards are found at the two ends, measuring 85 feet wide. They display the rushing and passing yards, time remaining, down and distance, play clock, and time outs, as well as replays of the action on the field. Regardless of where you are sitting you'll be able to know the game situation.
Ann Arbor is one of those perfect college towns. Whether it's game day or not, there is a certain energy that emanates from the city that is undeniable. The option to tailgate among thousands of others in the parking lot of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School is a tough one to turn down. It is an expensive parking space ($50), but if you arrive early and come well supplied you will have a fantastic time.
If you choose not to tailgate, then there are several great options in downtown Ann Arbor. It is about a mile walk from downtown to the stadium. You can save a lot of money by parking in one of the downtown garages. If you end up at a parking meter and the meter expires, the fine is only $10 if you pay it within 24 hours, so it may actually be a cheaper option that most of the parking arrangements closer to the stadium.
If you're looking for craft beer, then you have several options. I like the Blue Tractor (they also have great BBQ), but Arbor Brewing Company and Grizzly Peak are also available. If you like Italian food, then Gratzi and Mani Osteria are both great places to go, especially if you want something a little more upscale. Frita Batidos serves up tasty Cuban-inspired food.
The Blue Nile serves up Ethiopian food which is both unique and delicious. Ashley's is one of my favorite all-time bars with an overwhelming beer selection, and tasty stilton fries. Zingerman's is a foodie paradise, and would be a perfect early morning stop if you want to get supplies for a gourmet tailgating party.
Kids will love the Ann Arbor Children's Museum. There are several other great spots. If you're not a regular in town, and don't want to tailgate, then go downtown and explore a bit.
Michigan doesn't have a mascot all dressed up as some zany wolverine. Instead, the atmosphere is largely carried by the huge crowd and the outstanding Michigan marching band. If you're outside of the stadium on a game day, the noise from the crowd can be heard from a half a mile away or more. The sheer magnitude of the event is awe-inspiring.
Fans of Michigan football are die-hard to say the least. You'll hear fans discussing teams from long ago and high school recruits that may or may not be coming to the program 2-3 years down the line. Everyone in the stadium seems engaged during the game, and the enormity of collective oohs and ahs is really something to see.
The student section is large and vocal, and the closer you get to the field the more passion you will experience from the students. They love their football in Ann Arbor, and there is no doubt about this when you're at the game.
As you may imagine, the town gets pretty hectic on a game day. It is worthwhile to check out the University's parking guide when you're planning your visit, but even if you don't find a spot in a stadium lot, there is still plenty of parking available, including free street parking if you're willing to walk a bit.
The route I took for parking, and my recommendation to you is to park along Pauline. Around two hours before kickoff there was street parking available at around 1100 Pauline (about 0.7 miles from the stadium). Soon after, you'll find residents who open up their driveways or front lawns for a cost of $15-$25 for "EZ Out" parking. The closer to the stadium of course the more you will pay. If you can manage the walk, then bring some comfortable shoes and save some money by walking a bit.
Downtown is an option as well in one of the parking garages, but plan to be there early, and know that you'll have a mile or more to walk to the game. However, if it is a nice fall day, it is a very pleasant walk. It's also a good option if you are planning on dining downtown.
If you plan on tailgating, then the parking lot at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, adjacent to Michigan Stadium at the corner of Stadium and Main, is the place to be. It's a hefty $50 to park, and $250 for an RV, but you'll be sure to have a great time.
Restrooms can get crowded and are a bit cramped, so if you don't mind missing some of the play on the field, it may be worth your while to skip out 2 minutes before halftime.
For some sections, the seating inside the stadium can back up through the aisles. Section 15 in particular during my most recent visit seemed to be a problem as there was a line of fans waiting to get to their seat well into the first quarter. You would be wise to enter the stadium at least 30 minutes before kickoff so you can grab any food or drink you might want, walk the stadium a bit, and be seated in time for the game. In fact, seeing the marching band is a big part of the experience, so plan to be in your seat at least 20 minutes before kickoff for the most entertainment value.
Tickets start at $75, and you won't find much of a break on the secondary market. Because the views are so good in this bowl seating design, you can safely go for a low priced ticket and have a great view. Get your tickets early for the best prices.
This is one of those experiences that you'll easily spend $100-$200 and feel like it was all worth it. Parking can be expensive, but there are ways to mitigate that if you're willing to walk. Food inside the stadium is definitely on the expensive side compared to other college football venues, but there is some quality to be found. Programs will cost you $5, but are very well done. Overall, you may spend a bit, but it will be money well spent indeed.
I'll award a few extra points for some cool factoids that come along with the immense capacity of Michigan Stadium. This is the site for the largest crowd ever to witness a hockey game, when 104,073 witnessed a Michigan vs Michigan State contest in December 2010. The streak of 100,000+ fans for every game since 1975 is pretty impressive, and there is also a cool mystery attached to the official capacity. One seat in the official capacity is reserved as Fritz Crisler's seat, although no one knows where it is specifically. In honor of him, the official capacity has always ended with an extra allotment, thus the current capacity number of 109,901 (also cool because of the palindrome).
The fact that Michigan has the most wins in the history of college football, and is also an 11-time National Champion, just adds to the ambience of the home venue. You can't help but appreciate the history as you walk the concourse and see the tributes to the championship teams outside sections 20-26, or the great player tributes outside sections 1-5.
Finally, I'll give an extra point for the town of Ann Arbor, one of my favorite college towns in the land.
Michigan football is an institution, and Michigan Stadium is a classic. There is no doubt that every college football fan should have this on their must-visit list. You may just be a part of the largest crowd to witness a college football game.
Engulfed in a sea of maize and blue, you sit amongst 110,000 delighted football fans. Welcome to "The Big House," the home of Michigan Wolverines football since 1927. The tradition of hailing to the victors dates back to 1901 when the University of Michigan won its first of 11 National Championships. Only Alabama can claim to have more college football championships of the current FBS teams.
Over the years, the University of Michigan has worked to expand Michigan Stadium and maintain its claim as the largest capacity in college football. Renovations in 2008 and 2010 have grown the official capacity to 109,901. You may be surprised that rather than producing an overwhelming experience, the magnitude and sheer size still result in a comfortable and energetic environment.
The large new press box, completed in 2010, helps to maintain some of the crowd noise, while also providing room for several luxury boxes, and a great working environment for the media. Michigan Stadium has never been known as one of those earth-shaking venues like LSU's Tiger Stadium or Texas A&M's Kyle Field, but it certainly can pack its own noisy wallop.
if you can catch a game under the lights...do it.
great atmosphere at night/against relevent team but if UM is playing Western Michigan or Toledo...its not the best (very quite, very boring).
Night game vs ND was amazing. Even the 50-70 year old subway alums got up and cheered!
I suppose that this being my alma mater I am a bit partial. But I love watching games here! As a student it cannot be beat watching a good game with so many other fans that bring as much energy and excitement that I have ever seen in a single place. There isn't too much right around the stadium, but on a crisp fall day it is an easy walk from campus and downtown ann arbor with the mobs of other fans ready for cheering on the wolverines. Go Blue!
Thanks for the nice review. Lots of great tips turned into a great trip. Visited a few of the recommended restaurants and took advantage of the E-Z Out parking, which turned out to be a perfect tip.
Thanks for the help!
If you've not been to Michigan Stadium(AKA the big house), you should next season(2013). I used to work there from 2008-2011. for 2012, I only attended the home opener against Air Force, We won that one. I love the food and atmosphere. In fact, from our house(in the backyard), we can faintly hear the roar and PA Announcer Carl Grapentine, but it's muffled. The metal bleachers are not that great, but that doesn't stop me from having a great time. What really blew me away the first time I saw them was the 2 MONSTEROUS High definition scoreboards. They are 87X45, that's big. You can't miss a replay or game information on those babies. So cheer on the Maize and Blue and get out to Michigan Stadium this season(2013)
Never a dull moment. Nothing beats a Football Saturday in AA.
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