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Since construction for renovations began in 2002, Chicago's Soldier Field has been a target of architectural controversy. Described by many as a resembling a UFO that landed on the old Soldier Field, the futuristic look has slowly gained at least partial acceptance from Chicagoans.
Although it did not become the permanent home to the Bears until 1971 (nearly 47 years after it opened), it is firmly seen as the home of the Bears. Soldier Field has hosted boxing title bouts, college football, soccer, and concerts, along with many more events over the years.
Today, fans can enjoy great seats throughout the stadium with views of the city, lake, and museum campus.
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".
Soldier Field smells great from the time you get a whiff of what's cooking in the tailgating section, right up until you sit down in your seat. Make sure you bring a wallet full of cash though, because there are plenty of good, but expensive options.
Find the Smoke House BBQ outside of sections 122 or 442, and go for either the beef brisket, pulled pork sandwich, or smoked turkey leg (each for $8.50). My preference is for the smoked turkey leg, which they do a good job of keeping moist.
Other quintessential Chicago eats that you may want to try include a Polish sausage ($5.25) or pizza ($7.50). The Polish is below average in my opinion, and the pizza, provided by Second City Pizza, is good, but seems a little overpriced.
Beer will cost you $8, but there are probably close to 20 different options throughout the stadium.
Soldier Field can be a reflective place. Around the stadium there are numerous statues, and placards, many of which are dedicated to the memory of those who have served their country over the years.
Each time the Bears score, the familiar tune of "Bear Down, Chicago Bears," is played with the lyrics posted on the jumbo-trons in each end zone. It is a catchy and jubilant fight song, which all fans seem to enjoy.
Once inside Soldier Field, the architecture becomes irrelevant, and it is just a beautiful place to see a football game. In fact, I kind of like the old coliseum look, juxtaposed with the shiny metal dropped on top.
Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL (63,000 capacity), which makes for an intimate feel and good seats throughout. Although, if you are sitting in the upper reaches of the upper section, be sure that you are in shape, and don't forget the napkins- it is a long, steep hike to the top.
Tailgating is definitely the norm for most Bears fans, and lots fill up early with people grilling, drinking, and playing various games. If you want a very detailed guide for Soldier Field tailgating, try this great resource at Bears History. For people who want to stay indoors, the south loop of downtown Chicago is only about 1/2 mile away.
The Bongo Room at 1152 S Wabash, offers up great breakfast, and is just a short walk to Soldier Field. If you're a fan of Eggs Benedict, then you will almost certainly walk away happy.
If you are looking for drinks before or after the game, then try Kitty O'Shea's, located inside the Hilton at 720 S Michigan. It's about a mile walk to Soldier Field. Also, keep in mind that alcohol can't be served before 11am on Sundays in Chicago, so if you are doing pre-game drinking, you'll have to order and drink fast to be in your seat by 12pm kickoff.
My new favorite stop is Flo & Santos at 1310 S. Wabash. It's a Polish and Italian joint with pizza, and 11 sandwiches highlighting the menu. It's a great way to sample food from two important Chicago ethnic cuisines, before going to watch a Chicago institution, Da Bears. Try the thin crust pizza including the "Flo's Polish" with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and bacon. Most sandwiches are around $10, and 12-inch pizzas start at $16. The Polish reuben is very good, and I can also recommend the Flying Pork Wing as a tasty treat. They have nine beers on tap, including Chicago brewed Half Acre beers (try the Daisy Cutter). Overall, a great place for pre or post game food.
Besides the numerous bars and restaurants in the area, Soldier Field is also surrounded by museums, including the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium. Further into downtown is the beautiful, Art Institute of Chicago. If you want to spend some time on your feet, after a day on your rear end, any of these would be fine choices, and within walking distance.
Sitting surrounded by Bears fans, was truly interesting. There was a real good variety of knowledgeable fans, fantasy football talk, cheering, and drunken buffoonery. Bears fans are really great. They have some of that Chicago pessimism (like Cubs fans), south side swagger (like White Sox fans), and a bit of arrogance (like Blackhawks fans all of a sudden). One thing is certain, the group will make some noise. Whether it's cheering, booing, complaining, or cursing, you'll be hearing it all day or night.
Parking can be extremely expensive around the stadium, but there are other transportation options. Anyone coming into the city by train can get off at the Roosevelt stop for the red, green, or orange lines and have about a 15 minute walk to the stadium. If you don't plan on tailgating, I would seek out alternatives to parking in a stadium lot. If you do plan on tailgating, get there early, and enjoy!
Bathrooms are fine, but can get a bit crowded during peek times like halftime (to no one's surprise).
If you are lucky enough to snag tickets at face value, then the price won't seem quite as bad. However, for me a $150 ticket in the upper half of a 400 section seemed like a bit much. Add in the cost of the food and drink, and you approach $200 pretty quickly. Now, start to imagine doing this with a family of four, and there it is, your entire vacation budget for the year.
Food does not seem outrageous (although it's getting there), and there are affordable ways to get around parking, but for the best value, a trip to Soldier Field needs to be planned out well enough in advance to try and buy tickets when they first go on sale, rather than through second hand means.
Once you get over the UFO-landing look of the stadium additions (which I have by the way), then this is truly a beautiful stadium where it matters most (inside). There are great views and an intimate feel throughout.
This is a venue that has seen a lot over the years, and the facelift definitely did wonders for the place. When you combine that with the scenic location, great fans, and a storied franchise, then you're in for a fantastic NFL experience.
I'm a Bears fan, but I absolutely hate his field. I will NEVER pay to go again. The seats are terrible and unless you have extremely expensive seats and are sitting right on the field you can't see anything. I see more watching it on TV then I ever have at the stadium. Don't waste your money go to another stadium to see the Bears play! The training camp is great in Bourbonnais, IL only place I will go other then Green bay to see them play!
I recently attended a Bears game at Soldier Field and found it to be a great experience. The stadium has a unique look that blends the classical look of the surrounding museums with a modern feel due to the stadium expansion. I found there to be good access to concession stands, souvenir stands, and restrooms. Although there areas were generally crowded during peak times like before the game and half time. The food and beverages were quite expensive, but they do have plenty of options to a lot of classic Chicago foods. If you want to save some money, I would recommend eating before or after outside the stadium as there are ample choices. The areas around the stadium are loaded with other attractions and restaurants making it easy to spend the day in the area. The one drawback is the lack of easy access to the stadium. If you do not park at the stadium, then you must cross to the stadium at Roosevelt St or at the 18th Street pedestrian bridge. Overall I had a great time and look forward to going back to another game!
I've been to the stadium a few times over the years and just went back for a game a few weeks ago. Amazing views from the stadium, both downtown and the lake. My main complaint is the fact that a beer costs $8.50. A craft beer, maybe, but we're talking Coors/Miller/Bud products. On a lighter note, the hot dogs are to die for. Nothing too fancy, just a quality all beef hot dog and the grilled onions are a must! I've been told that there is not a bad seat in the stadium either, nice when trying to decide where to sit.
The people, atmosphere, food and architecture are all top notch!!
Field condition sucks
Looks wierd on the outside, great on the inside. Gets really loud when it matters
1310 S. Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60605