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10 Things Guys Should Know When Traveling to Ann Arbor

By / 09.13.13

1 – There’s a clear bias when it comes to Southern college football fans that there are no fun times to be had in the North. If it’s not SEC football with SEC girls then it can’t be fun, right? As an impartial observer who’s seen both, I can tell you that’s not really true. A weekend at a Michigan game in Ann Arbor can be a great time. For starters, you can’t watch a live game with more people than you can in Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium, aka the Big House, seats 115,109, which is 8,537 more people than the next biggest stadium. It’s also a beautiful place in the fall as the seasons change and the weather drops a little bit. The town is built around the campus — not the other way around, so everything is within walking distance.  And there are still plenty of places to drink and plenty of girls to take down, so you won’t go home unsatisfied.

2 – Since it’s up north, the best weather you’ll get for football in Ann Arbor comes in September and October. After that it can get a little chilly. The obvious choice for a game would be when Ohio State comes to town every other year for the last regular season game, but you might freeze off a ball that weekend. It’s Michigan’s biggest rival and will likely feature the best team Michigan plays every year. The Big Ten schedule is still not finalized after 2014, but each team currently plays eight conference games until 2016, when it changes to nine. Michigan’s division rivals starting next year are Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers. They’ll alternate home games with those clubs every year, so catching a Michigan State or Penn State (when they’re back to form) would be another decent option. When the schedule switches to nine Big Ten games, you’ll have to catch Nebraska and Wisconsin when they come to town.

3 – Of course you’d want to stay with friends, but that’s obviously not available for everyone. The main hotels on campus are Bell Tower and the Campus Inn, but you’re going to have to break out the checkbook and to book those when reservations start a year in advance. Your other hotel options would be over by I-94, about 2-2.5 miles away from campus. You’ll just be stuck renting cabs or driving back and forth. A larger group can look into renting a house with GamedayHousing.com being one place to look.

4 – There are two main spots to tailgate. The college crowd generally stays around the houses within the “Student Ghetto” bordered roughly by Hill St. to the North, Packard St. to the South, S. Forest St. to the East, and State St. to the West. You’ll see your share of keg parties, with people flooding front/back lawns, and even pouring onto the street.  Most of these parties are Greek-based, thrown by older fraternity members living outside their chapter house.  However, it's always fairly easy to just join any party along one of the many streets overflowing with people.  Just be a little careful carrying a beer on public property should you wander out to the street.

5 – Your other tailgating options are closer to the stadium. The golf course is the top tailgating destination for Michigan alums. You just need to get there early enough, park your car and set up. It’s everything you’d expect to see at a tailgate with games, TVs, and high-end grilling options. Per usual, expect the porta-potty situation to be a nightmare. There’s also the Pioneer High School parking lot across the street where RVs start parking a couple of days before the game.

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6 – There are a few ways to kill time before the game other than eating and drinking. (Shocking, I know, but just work with me here.) The scene at Yost Arena for a Michigan hockey game is one of the best in the country. The Mud Bowl hosted by SAE takes place during homecoming weekend and is exactly how it sounds. Everyone alumni you talk to will tell you to check out “the Arb,” It's a maze of forest located right next to campus, with miles of hiking trails. If you need a reason to go, just go for a run down to the Huron River, which runs right through the forest, and then make your way back up. It's an amazing location, at any time of year. Or as one of my friends said, “it’s good for getting away and eating brownies and enjoying yourself.”

7 – If there’s one food location that’s talked about the most in Ann Arbor, it’s Zingerman’s. Get there during an off peak time (mid-morning, early afternoon, before they close) to avoid the rush.  It’s a Jewish deli where the Reuben and the Oswald’s Mile High are the must-have food items. The cookies and cakes are pretty good too. It just ain’t cheap. If you’re not into the big hype machine of Zingerman’s, Maize and Blue deli is a pretty good option as well. Go big with the “Triple Play Reuben” that has corned beef, pastrami, two types of Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Just be prepared not to take some of your sandwich to go. If you sit here for an hour, you're bound to see at least a couple football players stroll in to order one of their huge sandwiches. Prickly Pear has upscale Southwestern food and is a go-to for many. The breweries in town (Arbor Brewing Company, the Ravens Club, and Jolly Pumpkin) do pretty awesome food with the Jolly Pumpkin having the best food and it’s not that expensive. (Go all in on the truffle fries.) The hash browns at Fleetwood Diner are another carb to ingest and enjoy.

8 – As a New Yorker, pizza is sacred to me, so you’re not expecting high-end pizza in Ann Arbor. The pizza at Pizza House is decent, but you go there because girls love to go there and order the chapatis (basically a salad stuffed into a very large, very soft pita). Breadsticks with the chapati sauce aren’t a bad idea either. They also have sandwiches, etc., and a bunch of TV's due to the recent expansion.  This is also pretty much the only place that will deliver late-night. Your other best late-night food option is a burrito at Panchero’s. Go to Cafe Zola, which has arguably the best brunch in town. Get the Complete Crepe, and you'll be good to go. Another option for brunch is Angelo’s (there will be a line, but it's worth it), where you’ll want to eat the raisin French toast. They also have Deep Fried French Toast, which tastes as good as it sounds.

9 – There’s no lack of bars, as you’d expect in a college town. From the end of March to the end of football season, Dominick's is a nice outdoor day-drinking scene. (It’s actually the original Domino's pizza, but you’re not there for the pie.) You're here for the massive mason jars of house-made Sangria or Constant Buzz (strawberry daquiri and pina colada mixed together) and sitting outdoors on the patio. Both will set your wallet back but knock you on your ass. It’s more for groups than for Bros picking up chicks, but you have to start somewhere. Scorekeepers is a huge, multi-floor bar showing all local-area teams on its many screens. The Brown Jug is an Ann Arbor classic, paying tribute to Michigan legends of the past. There's not much space to stand, so it's a good place to pregame if you want to get some cheap beers and some food before hitting the real parties later in the day. Ashley's has an amazing beer menu, which probably explains why it caters to a slightly older crowd. Connor O'Neil's is a great Irish Pub where visiting fans tend to congregate on college football weekends.  (It doesn't attract a college crowd, as it's a little farther than anyone would like to stumble home from after a night of boozing.) Heidelberg has boots of beer as big as your head. World of Beer on South University Ave is a new bar.  There’s no food, but over 500 beers in bottles and many more on tap.

10 – The best bar to get after it in Ann Arbor is Rick’s. It's pretty Greek/athlete dominated, but it's a shit show with people just getting DRUNK. (Shark bowls for everyone…) It's nothing fancy, at all. Get there early or you'll have to wait in line.  There are drink specials every night and you'll hear your usual mix of hip hop and EDM. If it's a home game you'll probably catch some of the football team gathered at the back bar.  This is the place to find a drunk sorority girl if that's what you're looking for. (And we know it is.) Occasionally you'll get a good sighting like Derek Jeter or Michael Phelps. Stay till closing time, as you won't want to miss drunk chicks singing along to Kenny Rogers' “The Gambler” as the last song of the night… every single night.  Charley's, right across the street, is great too. The drinks are big, strong and cheap. Go to Charley's for a snack and a drink or two and then when you see a line forming at Rick's head across the street and just get wasted. Older crowds who want to dance and get drunk, go to Rush Street or Café Habana (under Lena restaurant). Both have the DJs pumping tunes.


TAGS10 things to knowAnn ArborTravelUniversity of Michigan
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