Travel and Field Guide to Notre Dame on Home Football Game Days

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On Saturday I’ll be guiding at least two, if not all three of my sisters’ husbands at their first ever Notre Dame home football game. It’s a really good one too, as the #16 Fighting Irish will be taking on #21 Navy. Full game preview and prediction available at this link.

Coincidentally, my very first ND game was also against the Naval Academy, back in 2007. That was a historical game, as it marked the first time that Notre Dame lost to Navy since the Roger Staubach era (1963). The game went to triple overtime, with a final score of 46-44. This ended Notre Dame’s 43, yes 43, game win streak in the series.

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While that was a brutal day for ND fans, I’ve seen a lot of winning and brighter moments for the program since I started covering the team in 2010. I’ve been to a few dozen Irish home games and back and forth from Chicago to South Bend close to 100 times.

I was there for the undefeated seasons that led to BCS and College Football Playoff berths. With that in mind, I wrote a field guide/tourist write-up, a “Let’s Go! Notre Dame or Fodor’s South Bend for my brothers-in-law this week. Here’s a more fleshed out and modified version of the email I sent them; which is for anybody making their first trip to a Notre Dame game, whatever the year may be.

The Joyce Center/Purcell Pavilion, next to Notre Dame Stadium, is the perfect place to start as that’s where the ND sports/pop culture museum truly is. It’s a big athletic complex, with classrooms and offices, but it’s wide open on game days. Also, I’ve TRULY seen stray White Claw cans on the floor/ground all season long.

Because as the social media meme has taught us, Ain’t No Laws When Drinking Claws. All the trophies, hall of fames (of sorts) and artifacts from all the movies about ND can be found on display in glass cases here.

-The Word of Life Mural (Touchdown Jesus)

It’s just across the Knute Rockne gate, north end zone, as it leads to the tunnel that goes to the stadium. You’ll have to selfie in front of it at some point, just like everyone else does.

Jesus is on the Hesburgh Library, named for one of the most interesting and extraordinary men that ever lived (be sure to check out the documentary on him that came out this year) and on the west side of the building is First Down Moses, a massive sculpture that’s a key photo-op. Is this Rick Steves enough for you yet?

Then just head straight west and you will walk into…

The Golden Dome

Make sure you get early enough on game days, as they have a really cool tradition on the balconies inside with the marching band. The trumpeters play the school songs around the cupola and the crowd cheers and sings along.

The inside is open, and it has a lot of nice ceiling frescoes to complement the Columbus murals on the street level.

Next door is the Basilica, and then you just curve west around that to The Grotto and the pond. (Just follow the herds). This whole area has a nice, faux Medieval European town feel to it.

By now you have covered all of the Rudy sites. In terms of post  and pre game partying options close to the stadium, Legends of Notre Dame is the classy, refined option. It will of course be quite crowded on game days.

The Linebacker Lounge on Angela Blvd will also be packed, but it’s the grimy, divey option. You can also head south across the Irish Green, until you hit the Eddy Street Commons, where there is more chain type restaurants and bars that you’ll be familiar with.

You’ll also find O’Rourke’s Irish Pub, which has a replica of the St. James’ Gate at the Guiness Brewery in Dublin, one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions and selfie stations.

A couple of fun facts to know that will make you seem like a local, the St. Joseph River is how the town got its name- the south bend in the river is where the city is situated/centered. Also, South Bend, from a media market stand point, is the same size as the nation of Iceland.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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