When questioned about whether he still considered Michigan an elite program, the newly crowned head football coach uttered the now infamous six words "This is Michigan for God's Sake!" It has since become a rallying cry among the Wolverine faithful, and it is undeniable that Michigan remains one of the best supported football programs in the country.
Michigan boasts a pedigree that is matched by few. To be an elite player at Michigan, is to be truly elite. There are only eight Wolverines who have reached Michigan Legend status, and New England Patriots golden boy Tom Brady (a former Wolverine) is not among them. Whitey, Al and Alvin Wistert, Bennie Oosterbaan, Ron Kramer, Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard and former President of the United States Gerald Ford have reached Legend status.
Central to the mystique of the Wolverines is The Big House. Michigan Stadium has been home to Wolverines football for nearly 90 years and is currently the largest stadium in the NCAA. Affectionately known as The Big House, Michigan Stadium currently holds attendance records for most fans at a hockey game and a football game. The rivalry with Ohio State is legendary, and as good as any rivalry in sport. Michigan football should be on every Stadium Journeyist's bucket list simply because it IS the Big House, and this IS Michigan, for God's sake!
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There really seems to be two different sets of food options at Michigan Stadium. The inner ring offers the regular Michigan concessions. There is nothing really out of the ordinary here, but the selection and quality is good. Burgers, hot dogs, sodas, nachos and popped maize (popcorn) are all available.
Coca-Cola products are the sodas that are available. There is no alcohol available for sale. There are a few inner concourse stands that offer philly cheesesteaks and chicken sandwiches as well. There are more unique options on the outer concourse.
Specialty stands surround the outer concourse. One stop you should definitely consider is the Red Rock Downtown BBQ. They have a variety of BBQ options, and their mac and cheese is very good.
How can you go wrong with the largest football stadium in the country? Michigan boasts a capacity of over 109,000 fans. At the September 2013 Michigan - Notre Dame football game, the Big House set a new attendance record with over 115,000 fans.
The seating at the Big House is surprisingly simple, a single level bowl construction. Upon first entering the seating area it is perplexing how such a small area can fit such a large number of fans. However, it becomes clear once your neighbours start filing in, and your personal space on the benches becomes smaller. The reality is that the seating area is not comfortable, especially if you are above average height. The metal benches, which encompass the entire stadium, and allow for the very high attendance, can only be tolerated for short periods of time. Frequent standing during commercial breaks is highly recommended. Be prepared to have someone's knees in your back, and to have your knees in the back of your neighbor in front of you.
Recently, there has been a great deal of chatter when it comes to the NFL's new security policies, putting greater restrictions on what can be brought into stadiums. The NFL policies seem ridiculously liberal compared to the security policies at the Big House. When coming to a Michigan football game, plan to bring nothing with you that won't fit in your pocket. Absolutely no bags are allowed when entering the stadium, even though the official merchandise store is in a large tent across the street before entering the gates. At the very least, make sure you are familiar with the security restrictions before heading to Ann Arbor.
The marching band at Michigan is one of the great bands in the NCAA, and even during a blowout game, most fans don't leave until after the band plays at halftime. They play before the game, and the in stadium music is provided by the band during the game. Michigan has done an excellent job of miking the band so they can be heard by the entire stadium.
The simple accents of the stadium help create the atmosphere of long standing tradition. Throughout the concourse there are murals celebrating National Championship teams, Michigan Legends, and current players. The seating bowl is kept simple, and there is little individual team or personal honors that can be seen from your seats. The videoboards are large and set at the north and south ends of the stadium.
A fellow traveler once referred to Ann Arbor as "one of the coolest towns in the USA." Being a quintessential "college town," Ann Arbor offers many options for pre and post game meals. South State Street around North University and East Washington offers a concentrated salvo of eating and drinking options. Ashley's and the Red Hawk Bar and Grill offer unique options. There are also a plethora of chain establishments in the area.
Michigan also has a fantastic tailgate tradition with many spots around the stadium, and fans with some pretty awesome setups. Tailgating can be a very expensive proposition, as parking prices near the stadium can be quite high, including $50 in the nearby parking lot in front of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School.
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. 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.
Did I mention 115,000 fans? The fans are fantastic at Michigan games. The student section is large and jumping with songs and chants throughout the game. They provide significant energy to the experience and help make Michigan one of the great college football experiences. Michigan fans are knowledgeable, courteous, loud, and obviously come out in droves to support their team. You can't ask for anything more.
I do have to give the town of Ann Arbor credit. They do a pretty darn good job of keeping the traffic moving in and out of town for Michigan football games. There is a ton of parking in every conceivable place around the stadium, including at the nearby high school and on the University of Michigan golf course. However, within the stadium you have to remember that there are over 110 thousand people there, and there are just not enough facilities. They do what they can, but I'm not really sure what washrooms for 100,000 should look like!
One recommendation for parking is to park along Pauline. Around two hours before kickoff there is 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 strolling a bit.
Heading to a Michigan game is an experience. All things considered Michigan prices can be okay. Early games are cheaper than the later games. Big Ten match-ups will hit you close to $100. If you are looking for the Ohio State game, good luck finding anything under $250! The concession prices are decent, but what can really kill you is the price of parking. Some lots can run you over $200. There are a few lots with decent pricing, but you are going to need to undertake a significant hike to get there. 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.
The experience at Michigan, however, is unbelievable and worth a trip for any traveler at least once. How regulars afford some of these prices is a whole other story.
An extra mark for Michigan having a President in their group of Legends.
An extra mark for the Michigan Marching Band, which is worth the show all by itself.
An extra mark for the James Bond inspired halftime show, complete with the Michigan President being rescued from Brutus (the Ohio State mascot) which included a flyover by the University of Michigan helicopter.
An extra mark for over 130 years of Michigan football tradition. 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 ambiance 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.
Whether or not you wish to engage coach Brady Hoke in a debate over whether or not Michigan is an elite program, the truth remains that The Big House remains an elite level experience. Every sports traveler worth their salt should experience the Big House at least once in their lives. This is Michigan ... for God's sake!
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!
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.
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.
Witnessed Michigan taking on Michigan State and had an amazing time!
I am convinced - Michigan Stadium must have been designed for little people. There is no way anyone can be comfortable in 8 inches of bench space with their knees around a stranger's head. Ugh.
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