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Make game day a touchdown in Ann Arbor

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but once fall rolls around, this country becomes football nation. It’s all touchdown passes, parking lot tailgates and griping on Facebook about your fantasy football league standings from late August through the Super Bowl.

On a Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich., football nation comes alive. Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s downtown streets are a maize-and-blue sea as football fans make their way to Michigan Stadium before home games.

Michigan Stadium

Michigan Stadium

Known as “The Big House,” Michigan Stadium is the fourth largest stadium in the world. Its official capacity, announced in 2010, is 109,901. But, the attendance at the Michigan V. Nebraska game I attended Nov. 9 was 112,204 — the most football fans at any stadium in the country that day, the announcer said. Every home game attracts more than 100,000 fans — a record held since 1975. And, those are just the fans inside the stadium!

If you are visiting the United States from another country and looking for a quintessential American experience, go to a football game. If you are a college football fan — particularly a Big Ten fan who follows your team on the road — you should visit The Big House. For its massive stadium, tailgate parties and a downtown of bars and restaurants frequented before and after home games, USA Today readers voted Ann Arbor as the country’s No. 5 best college football game-day atmosphere.

Here are my game day tips:

Dress for the weather.

The sun can be brutal, especially during games early in the season. I once learned the hard way that while sunscreen and a baseball cap might not be “cool” in your early 20s, it’s a heck of a lot cooler than leaving at halftime because you look like Sebastian from “The Little Mermaid.” True story. If it’s a rainy day, take along a rain jacket or poncho. Umbrellas are not allowed in the stadium. For the chilly November games, wear warm socks (or double up) and shoes, layers for warmth, a hat and/or hood to protect your ears from wind that whips around the stadium and gloves so you can keep your hands out of your pockets (you’ll want to join the cheers like “Let’s Go Blue!”).

My friend, Ashley, and I bundled up with multiple layers, scarves, hats and gloves. And, we were still cold!

My friend, Ashley, and I bundled up with multiple layers, scarves, hats and gloves. And, we were still cold!

Fire up the grill and have yourself a parking lot party!

The University of Michigan golf course and Pioneer High School have game-day parking near the stadium. You can also park at small businesses and private homes, where residents turn their front lawns into miniature parking lots. Some may allow you to have a small tailgate, or you can join the party at one of the other parking lots surrounding the stadium. Toss the pigskin, drink some beer, eat a brat or hot dog, and get fired up for the big game!

Skydivers land on the field during the pre-game show Nov. 9 at Michigan Stadium.

Skydivers land on the field during the pre-game show Nov. 9 at Michigan Stadium.

Invest in a padded stadium seat.

The benefits of a seat cushion?

1. It’s much softer than the bleacher.

2. It’s much warmer on cold days than the metal bleacher.

3. It creates a defined seat on a numbered bench without any other boundaries.

I attended the Nebraska game with my friend, Ashley, and her uncle, who has season tickets. Season-ticket holders have the option to purchase a padded seat, and that extra fee is worth every penny.

Not a season-ticket holder? Bring a portable stadium seat cushion with you. Just make sure the cushion does not have a back, metal parts, zippers, storage compartments or any other restricted add-ons.

Participate in the cheers.

Michigan Marching Band performs a pre-game show. Don't miss halftime! At the Nov. 9 game, the band performed "Queen" hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Michigan Marching Band performs a pre-game show. Don’t miss halftime! At the Nov. 9 game, the band performed Queen hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Half the fun of attending a Michigan football game is the fanfare. Pump your fist in the air and shout, “Let’s Go Blue!” Sing along with “The Victors” by learning the words beforehand. Shake a pom-pom to the beat of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” while repeating, “Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.”

Leave your bag at home. (But you can probably sneak in a wristlet.)

Like the NFL, Michigan Stadium does not allow fans to bring in bags, including purses. So annoying.

It seems like a sexist rule to me. Men have deep pockets that can hold items like wallets, keys, mobile phones and even small cameras. The skinny jeans I wore to the game didn’t even have front pockets.

But the new rule did not prevent me from bringing anything I wouldn’t have packed in my purse. It just made it a whole lot more inconvenient. If you are like me and you still want to carry with you items you’d normally have in your purse, do it. You’ll just have to get creative.

I had my ID and credit card in the chest pocket of my chambray shirt. This was several layers down, but I knew it would prevent them from getting bent. I had cash in my back pocket, and I slid my iPhone into my other back pocket. Gloves and a knit hat were stuffed into the pockets of my outer layer. And, the best pocket of all? The hoodie pocket. It held my lip gloss and a compact hair brush.

At the game I recently attended, security did not ask us to empty our pockets. We weren’t patted down. We didn’t walk through metal detectors. So, it turns out I could have kept my cash, ID and credit card in the small, palm-sized wristlet that Coach makes and hid it in that hoodie pocket. So ladies, keep that in mind for future games, and stick it to the man.

Check this list for other prohibited items.

The Michigan Wolverines run onto the field Nov. 9 at The Big House. Let's Go Blue!

The Michigan Wolverines run onto the field Nov. 9 at The Big House. Let’s Go Blue!

Eat and drink in downtown Ann Arbor after the game.

Walkable downtown Ann Arbor is full of dining options. Have a hankering for a particular cuisine? You’ll likely find it downtown.

"Lipstick on a Pig" beer cocktail and the mac & cheese at Blue Tractor in downtown Ann Arbor.

“Lipstick on a Pig” beer cocktail and the mac & cheese at Blue Tractor in downtown Ann Arbor.

Main Street has some of my favorite bars and restaurants, but they are all extremely busy after the game. Instead, here are a few other options in Ann Arbor:

And, of course, don your maize and blue!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

Wish you were here,

Erin

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Really inspiring one.

    February 8, 2016

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