Are you a college football fanatic? A University of Michigan alumna or alumnus returning to Ann Arbor for a football game? A player’s parent from an opposing team? Whether you cheer “Let’s Go, Blue!” or root for the opposing team, attending a Michigan football game is a fun sporting event for everyone. Take it from someone who is not an American football fan AT ALL, there is plenty of fanfare and delicious food to experience on a Michigan game day in Ann Arbor.
Disclosure: I recently attended my fourth Michigan football game in partnership with Destination Ann Arbor and Wanderful. As part of that partnership, I’m sharing fresh content each month about things to do, places to stay, and (most importantly) where to eat in this southeast Michigan college town. You can also read my other Ann Arbor posts. If you are visiting Ann Arbor for a game day, click here for helpful resources as you plan your visit. As always, all opinions (and game-day tips) are my own.
My Day At Michigan Stadium
As I sat among Michigan Wolverines fans to my left and parents of Maryland Terrapins players to my right, I realized I’m right where I belong. As a Michigander and daughter of a University of Michigan alumna, I’ve cheered “Let’s Go, Blue!” throughout my life. Yet, on this day, my allegiance waivers for my own alma mater. Yep, I was a Terp in rival colors.
As the largest stadium in the United States, Michigan Stadium has rightfully earned its nickname, The Big House. Seeing the massiveness of the stadium and being part of a crowd of 100,000+ fans are just a couple reasons why a Michigan game day is so unique. When the Michigan Marching Band begins playing “The Victors,” the energy in Michigan Stadium is electric.
Fanfare aside, a Michigan game day is still about football.
If you are a true sports fan, a game day in Ann Arbor is your chance to see the winningest college football team. The Michigan Wolverines have won 11 national championships and 42 conference championships. Plus, three Wolverines — Tom Harmon (’40), Desmond Howard (’91) and Charles Woodson (’97) — have received the Heisman Trophy.
It’s not only in football that the Wolverines have dominated. At the southeast entrance of Michigan Stadium — near Crisler Center, where the Michigan basketball team plays — is the Circle of Champions (Varsity Colonnade). The monument features columns etched with Michigan’s teams and their respective championships. As you can see from the photo below, it’s a pretty long list for the football team!
Whether you are attending for the football or the fanfare, I have compiled my five top tips for Michigan game days in Ann Arbor.
Tip #1: Turn Your Michigan Game Day Into An Ann Arbor Getaway!
Why spend just one day in Ann Arbor when you could spend the weekend? Attending a Michigan football game is a great excuse to plan a weekend escape, and you’ll find plenty of activities and restaurants to fill your two-day itinerary.
Staying in Ann Arbor also allows you to fully experience all the game-day festivities. Plus, you won’t have to deal with getting into or out of town with the bulk of traffic. Instead you can walk or take a shuttle from your hotel to the stadium. After the game, you can walk downtown for dinner or celebratory drinks.
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Where To Stay In Ann Arbor
- Graduate Ann Arbor — This campus-inspired boutique hotel will remind Michigan alumni of their own glory days in Ann Arbor. Located downtown, Graduate Ann Arbor is in walking distance of Michigan Stadium, campus, and tons of dining options. Check for rates and availability!
- Weber’s Boutique Hotel — Located a short drive from Michigan Stadium and downtown Ann Arbor, this recently renovated boutique hotel has contemporary rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center, and a fantastic on-site restaurant. Check for rates and availability!
Need ideas of things to do or places to eat? Click here to begin planning your Ann Arbor trip!
Tip #2: Gear Up In Maize And Blue At The M Den
Located on State Street in downtown Ann Arbor, The M Den has everything you’ll need for showing your University of Michigan pride. As the official merchandise retailer of Michigan Athletics, you’ll find apparel, gifts, and accessories for men, women, and kids. As you gear up for a Michigan football game, these are some of the items I recommend purchasing:
- University of Michigan seat cushion — Trust me, these seat cushions make sitting on the bleachers much more comfortable. Best investment!
- Adjustable hat — Inside the stadium, you are completely exposed to the sunshine. Check out the ’47 Brand designs!
- Poncho — Umbrellas aren’t allowed in the stadium, so these are super handy and conveniently pocket-size.
- Sweatshirts — It gets pretty darn cold during late October and November games, so layers are key to staying warm.
- Pom Pon – This just adds an element of fun, especially when celebrating a Michigan touchdown!
The M Den is located at 303 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. The M Den also has locations inside Michigan Stadium.
Tip #3: Circumvent The “No Bags” Rule With Pockets
At Michigan Stadium, the “no bags” rule is strictly enforced. It includes camera bags, purses, binocular cases, and even fanny packs!
Exceptions To The “No Bags” Rule
Michigan Stadium recommends attendees with medical needs/prescriptions or diapers/baby supplies bring those items in a clear plastic bag. Those exceptions to the “no bags” rule are granted on an individual basis at the entrance.
Other Prohibited Items:
- selfie sticks
- bottles and containers of all types
- seat cushions that have pockets, seat backs, arm rests, or any metal component.
What Happens If You Forget The “No Bags” Rule?
Prior to entering Michigan Stadium, you will be told to take your prohibited item back to your vehicle. Unfortunately, you will probably park your car about a half-mile to a mile away. And, if you followed my advice from Tip #1, you might not even have a car to stash your bag!
According to the stadium’s website, there is a bag check at the south entrance of Crisler Center off of Stadium Way. While this seems to be the best solution in a pinch, I’ve never heard a worker suggest it to anyone with a prohibited item. And, there were quite a few fans walking umbrella in hand to the stadium on my most recent game day!
How I Work Around The “No Bags” Rule
Are you now wondering how to conceal your emergency tampon? Or how to even carry cash and an ID like any adult would? Don’t worry, girl. I got you.
The answer to this predicament is pockets! Entering Michigan Stadium, you are not asked to empty your pockets. So, anything you would conveniently carry in your purse, you can somewhat less conveniently still bring to a Michigan football game. You just have to strategically plan an outfit with plenty of pockets.
Tip #4: Watch The Marching Band
Yes, Michigan is the winningest football program in all of college football, but when attending a game, you should also dedicate time to seeing the Michigan Marching Band. You can watch the Michigan Marching Band’s pregame rehearsal at Elbel Field from 7 to 9: 30 a.m. for noon games, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. for 3 o’clock games, and from 12:30 to 3 p.m. for 7 p.m. games. I suggest you also stay in your seat for the half-time show and are settled in for the pre-game festivities.
Tip #5: Enjoy Game-Day Eats In Ann Arbor
In addition to being a college town with a youthful and quirky vibe, Ann Arbor is also a major foodie destination. This southeast Michigan city’s hundreds of restaurants offer a diverse range of cuisines, and there are many options in walking distance of Michigan Stadium. Just head straight down Main Street!
Breakfast Spots Before Noon Games
If you are attending a game day with a noon kickoff, I would suggest grabbing coffee or breakfast before the game. You could venture away from downtown to Zingerman’s Bakehouse for pastries and bagels paired with java from Zingerman’s Coffee Company. In downtown, Sava’s has a limited but delightful breakfast menu with avocado toast and omelets among other dishes. Conveniently, Sava’s is across the street from The M Den.
Game Day Lunch And Dinner Options In Downtown Ann Arbor
On a game day, I’m usually in the mood for food that pairs well with beer. That is why you might catch me at one of downtown Ann Arbor’s breweries — Jolly Pumpkin, Grizzly Peak, or Arbor Brewing Company, which is a great spot for vegetarian and vegan fare, too.
Right on Main Street, the Pretzel Bell has delicious burgers, and you’ll fit right in with the decor in your maize-and-blue game gear. Craving a steak? Knight’s Steakhouse on Liberty does steak well, and you are perfectly welcome in your Michigan attire. Or, if you are in need of some barbecue, head to Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery. Fellow cheese lovers, you have to try their Triple Mac of smoked cheddar, gouda, and Wisconsin aged cheddar!
Food Inside Michigan Stadium
Inside the stadium, you’ll find plenty of eats, too! The concessions have all my favorite guilty-pleasure stadium foods — pizza, hot dogs, and soft pretzels. What I really like about Michigan Stadium’s concessions is that some of the food is local, too. The pizza is from Cottage Inn, an Ann Arbor-based pizza chain, and the hot dogs are Dearborn Brand from my hometown about 35 miles outside Ann Arbor. In addition to the concession stands, you’ll also find food trucks inside the stadium gates!
Before You Go To A Michigan Football Game
Location: 1201 South Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Parking: You’ll find parking at Pioneer High School, on lawns of houses near the stadium, and in downtown garages. It is best to have cash on hand for parking and wear good walking shoes.
- From Detroit Metro Airport or Points East: Take I-94 West to Ann Arbor-Saline Road exit (#175). Turn right. As you travel north, Ann Arbor-Saline Road will turn into Main Street. Michigan Stadium is located at the northeast corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard.
- From Chicago or Points West: Take I-94 East to Ann Arbor-Saline Road exit (#175). Turn left and follow Ann Arbor-Saline as it turns into Main Street. Michigan Stadium is located at the northeast corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard.
- From Toledo or Points South: Take US 23 north to I-94 West. Follow directions above from Detroit Metro Airport.
- From Flint or Points North: Take U.S. 23 south to I-94 west. Follow directions from Detroit Metro Airport.
Get Tickets: Click here to purchase your University of Michigan football tickets
Have you been to a college football game? What are your game-day tips?
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