17 Tips For The Best Game Day At The Michigan Big House

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The University of Michigan is famous for its beautiful campus, the rigor of its academics, and Big Ten football. On Saturdays, the U-M community and all of the town of Ann Arbor gear up to host game day at The Big House.

Are you lucky enough to have tickets to one of the 8 perennially sold-out football games at Michigan Stadium, The Big House? With 109,701 seats, Michigan's faithful fans come from all over the Midwest and beyond.

Here are 17 tips for the best game day at the Big House, compiled firsthand from an Ann Arbor resident who has cheered in the stands and served the crowd from the concession booths. You'll be ready with these questions answered to help you prepare for the game:

  1. Finding tickets
  2. Where do we stay?
  3. Where do we park?
  4. Is there handicapped parking?
  5. Eating in Ann Arbor
  6. Understanding Michigan Stadium
  7. What should we wear?
  8. What can we bring in?
  9. What can't we bring in?
  10. What about our purses?
  11. What about tailgating?
  12. Pro tips for the concession stands
  13. What food is available inside?
  14. Getting free water
  15. What about beer and alcohol?
  16. Pro tips for restrooms
  17. Embrace the Local Scene

Game weekends at The Big House are the center of everything in Ann Arbor. The community goes out of its way to create a festive, welcoming experience for the Michigan faithful. As an Ann Arbor local, the inside scoop is here! The research is done so that you can have the best football weekend ever. Go Blue!

The Michigan State University football stadium photographed outside, 17 Tips For The Best Game Day At The Michigan Big House

Welcome to Ann Arbor - Prepare to Enjoy the Game!

1. Finding Tickets

The best place to get Michigan sports tickets is from U-M (pronounced "U of M"), which can be found online at MGoBlue.com.

You can buy them in person at the Michigan Ticket Department in the South Sports Complex on South State Street: open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday.

2. Where Do We Stay?

Ann Arbor area has over 74 hotels, numerous Airbnbs, and other rentals for game weekends. Many have shuttles to Briar Wood Mall, where you can pick up school buses that run loops to the stadium.

Lodging prices can be higher for game weekends, with many requiring two-night stays.

If you hope to walk to the game from your hotel, the downtown hotels are 1.1 miles away. The 11 hotels near Briarwood Mall have access to the game shuttles at the mall. Walking is an easy 2.1 miles and is often easier since the line for the mall shuttle is quite long.

The Michigan State University gate

3. Where Do We Park?

The lots next to Michigan Stadium are mostly permit-only. The closest available public parking is at Pioneer High School (often $50) across the corner of Main St. and Stadium Boulevard from Michigan Stadium.

Many homeowners and businesses in the area surrounding the stadium offer parking on their lawns and parking areas. The cost ranges from $20-30.

Parking downtown near the main campus can be had for $10, with limited, free street parking. Obey all parking signs, as the city parking monitors are out in force, giving tickets on game day. Parking garages downtown may have special event parking for all-day game parking. Other garages have standard rates.

4. Is There Handicapped Parking?

The lots nearest Michigan Stadium and the adjoining basketball arena, Crisler Center, have some sections of parking reserved for those who have U-M mobility-impaired single-game permits, plus limited day-0f spaces available for purchase in cash.

Here is the latest information with contact information for seeking a single-game parking permit.

5. Eating in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor gears up each game weekend to host all the visitors for the football game. Throughout the area is an eclectic mix of over 400 restaurants with every food imaginable.

Part of the excitement of game day is arriving early for breakfast at Nick's House of Pancakes or Angelo's before the traditional noon start time.

For a 3:30 p.m. or a night game, come in early to enjoy the town's energy. Catch lunch on Main Street at Palio's or the Jolly Pumpkin. Or try a local favorite like Ethiopian cuisine at the Blue Nile or terrific pizza at The Original Cottage Inn. Reservations are recommended.

6. Understanding Michigan Stadium

The gates open a full two hours before game time. Aim to arrive an hour before the game so you don't have to stand in line with the boisterous fans who wait till right before kick-off to arrive.

You will file through the metal detectors at the gate, and then staff will read your tickets off of your cell phone on the ticket app. Here is the official Michigan Stadium Map to download to your phone.

How Many Sections and Rows Are in the Big House?

The stadium has 44 sections with up to 98 rows. Most of the stadium is below street level, so you walk in at Row 54. Go down the stairs for lower rows and up the stairs for higher rows. Elevators are available but not plentiful. Ask staff for help.

Inside the stadium, the sections run clockwise. Turn left to go to a higher-numbered section. Go right for a lowered numbered section.

Seating Section Locations

  • Section 1 to the 50-yard line is on the Crisler Arena side.
  • Section 12 to the Endzone, found along Stadium Boulevard.
  • Section 24 to the 50-yard line is on the Main Street side.
  • Sections 25 through 33 are the Student Section.
  • Section 34 to the Endzone faces campus.
  • Section 44 to the 49-yard line is on Crisler Arena's side.

An Airborne parachutish carrying the American flag heading for center field

7. What Should We Wear?

Maize (yellow/gold) and navy blue are standard. Some games will have maize out, and the entire stadium should wear maize. Always dress in layers, as the weather can change quite a lot from when you begin the day to when you make it back to your car. Blankets can make the game better during late fall games.

The Michigan State University gate

Do not wear Michigan State Spartan green or bright red/scarlet (we do not name the team from Columbus) unless you are supporting those two teams. Most people will ignore you in those colors. Some will share some good-natured taunting. A few may be rude.

Note that each seating section has security-wearing maize windbreakers who will help you with anything.

8. What Can We Bring in?

You may bring in:

  • Foam seat pads
  • Small non-pocket seat cushions without storage slots
  • Binoculars - no cases
  • Cell phones and pagers
  • Small cameras (those with a lens shorter than 6 inches)
  • Small radios
  • Blankets
  • Rain apparel (no umbrellas)

9. What Can't We Bring in?

Here is a list of what to leave in the car or at the hotel. Always check the latest list when you are preparing for game day:

  • All bags (including purses, fanny packs, etc.)
  • All bottles (including all types of water bottles)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Apparel or signage displaying profane or abusive language
  • Containers of any kind (including coolers, thermoses, cups, cans, flasks, etc.)
  • Food of any kind
  • Projectiles (including footballs, frisbees, and beach balls)
  • Seat cushions containing any metal or those with pockets, storage slots, seat backs, armrests, or attachments of any kind
  • Strollers
  • Video cameras, tripods, and selfie sticks
  • Umbrellas
  • Weapons

10. What about Our Purses?

Purses, fanny packs, and student backpacks are all forbidden. Instead of a traditional purse, you can use a small clear-gallon bag for any personal items. Luckily, there are now stadium-approved clear purses available.

Parents with toddlers can bring in a small diaper bag with formula in plastic bottles. You can address any necessary medical supply bags with the entry staff at the gates. Come early as it is easier for the staff to be thorough and kind before the crowds get too large.

11. What about Tailgating?

Tailgating is an art form in Ann Arbor for Michigan football games. Many families and friends groups have been tailgating in the lots around the stadium, across Stadium Boulevard at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, and at homes throughout the area. TVs, grills, corn hole (bean bag game), and music are all a part of the scene.

Pioneer High School will not host RV parking and tailgating on its property for the 2022 football and basketball seasons. 

12. Pro Tips for the Concession Stands

The stadium is always sold out, so there will usually be someone at each concession stand. After leading up to 18 workers in a big stand, here are some pro tips for the concession stands:

How to Order/Pay

  • All cashiers have their own line.
  • Choose the cashier with the shortest line.
  • Don't go at halftime, as all lines are long.
  • Head for concessions during the opposing team's offense to get a jump on lines.
  • Know what your entire family/friends want when you get to the cashier.
  • Have one person order and pay.
  • No cash will be accepted in 2021.
  • You may pay with credit or debit cards or with Google or Apple Pay.

Finding Food & Drinks

  • Stands that sell pizza usually do not sell french fries.
  • Stands that have soda in machines do not sell bottled soda.
  • You can have a soda with ice or without, but don't ask for specific ice amounts.
  • Concession workers have zero input on the prices, so please don't complain to them.
  • Ask for a cardboard carrying container if you need one. However, they are not always available.
  • All stands can give you a small cup of water for free.
  • The stands cannot give you a full-size cup of water without charging you the soda price.
  • Straws, ketchup, relish, mustard, and napkins are at islands in the concourse across from the concession stands.

13.  What Food is Available Inside?

Michigan Stadium concessions offer different things at different stands. Specialty items like a pulled pork sandwich, waffle fries, or Philly cheesesteak are only provided at one or two of the 90 stands.

The long stands offer machine soda, personal pizzas (pepperoni or cheese), hotdogs (regular and Kosher), pretzels (salted or plain), popcorn, and candy. The shorter stands offer burgers (regular and black bean), french fries, machine soda or bottled soda (not both), popcorn, and candy.

Other stands offer a variety of baked or boiled nuts, ice cream, or bottled soda.

14. Getting Free Water

Concession stands can give anyone a small plastic cup of free water. They cannot use a soda cup for free water. At the stadium corners on the outer rim, look for the free water stations. You can drink as much as you want of completely free water.

Remember to recycle the cups in the recycling stations.

15. What about Beer and Alcohol?

The University of Michigan is a dry, alcohol-free campus, so the stadium does not sell beer, wine, or alcohol at any concession stand. Kegs or cases of beer and all types of alcohol can be consumed everywhere around the stadium.

You cannot bring alcohol inside; for non-U-M events like National Hockey League games or major professional soccer matches, canned beer and wine may be sold at some of the concession stands. Check the Michigan Stadium website for these events.

16. Pro Tips for Restrooms

The 2007 renovation of Michigan Stadium not only added the towers but also added extensive modern restrooms under the Crisler Arena side concourse. Go down the big stairs (or take the elevator on the outer wall), and you will find over 100 stalls for women and a new facility for men.

Here are some additional tips for restrooms

  • Family restrooms (11 total) are available on the main concourse at the corners of the stadium.
  • A lactating room with six seats is available. Ask the staff wearing maize windbreakers for directions or an escort.
  • Do not take children to the restrooms during halftime.
  • Visit the restrooms before finding your seats for the game.
  • Visit the restrooms after the game as you may have a long walk, and you will be sitting in long traffic lines.

17. Embrace the Local Scene

For a genuine Ann Arbor experience, immerse yourself in the local scene before or after the game. Venture beyond the stadium to explore downtown Ann Arbor's array of unique shops, cafes, and art galleries.

This vibrant college town is known for its eclectic food scene, so seize the opportunity to sample local delicacies or enjoy a craft beer at one of the many breweries.

Engaging with the community and soaking in the local culture can enrich your game day, making it an unforgettable part of your Michigan adventure.

In Summary

The Michigan State University football stadium photographed outside, 17 Tips For The Best Game Day At The Michigan Big House

Seeing a football game with over 100,000 people decked out in maize and blue is a true community experience. Planning is the key to a successful Saturday in Ann Arbor, so you know where you want to stay, park, eat, and what to wear to the game. Find your seat and be ready to cheer, "Go Blue!" with the Michigan faithful.

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