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Happy Football Season! College football is a big part of our lives. It is also a big part of our travel adventures. We are on a mega mission to attend a home game at every NCAA Division I school. One of my favorite football trips was Thanksgiving 2012, when we took a week-long road trip to watch the University of Toledo play. This trip also included a game at my beloved Notre Dame. This was our son’s first trip to Notre Dame. Join me as I relive our Notre Dame and Toledo football trip.
The Drive to South Bend
We left home on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at about 5:00 pm and drove all night long! On Friday morning, we stopped at The Loft in Pontiac, Illinois for breakfast and a change of clothes. We then continued on to South Bend, Indiana, arriving at Notre Dame’s campus at about 12:30 pm. Like all good ND alums, we went straight to the bookstore to stock up on ND gear! You can never have too much Irish clothing! While I stopped by the Alumni Association, my husband and son played football on the lawn.
Afterwards, we checked into the Holiday Inn Express in nearby Niles, Michigan. Niles is about 5 miles from ND’s campus. Here’s a tip: when going to a Notre Dame football game, look at hotels in Niles. You can find a nice place to stay in Niles much cheaper than in South Bend. In many cases, you can find a hotel closer to campus in Niles than in South Bend. Because Niles is in Michigan, a lot of people don’t think to look for hotels there.
We headed back to campus around 2:30 that afternoon. First, we took the tunnel tour, which was awesome! Basically, they allow fans to walk down the tunnel to the entrance of the field on Friday afternoons of game weekends. You can take pictures and look around for as long as you want. It was a fun experience. We then took a quick self-guided tour of the new law school. It was nice, but I miss some of the old stuff, like the student lounge in the basement. The new building doesn’t have the same cozy feel that the old building had.
The Pep Rally
Next, we headed over to the Administration Building to hear the trumpets under the dome. However, we changed our minds at the last minute and went straight to the Joyce Center for the pep rally instead. I’m glad we did, too, because I don’t think we would have made it to the pep rally in time if we had watched the trumpets.
I always enjoy the pep rallies at Notre Dame. If you go to an Irish game, go to the pep rally if you can. It is always fun. It gets you excited for the game in a way that nothing else can. Plus, you never know what famous person will be speaking! My son, who was barely 3 at the time, didn’t much care for the pep rally though. He was so tired at that point that he just needed sleep!
After the pep rally, we hit the drive thru at Fazoli’s and got dinner. We took it back to the hotel. We were all asleep by 8:00 pm!
Game Day at Notre Dame
Arrival, the ND Experience, and Lunch
On Saturday, we were up at about 7:20. We ate breakfast at the hotel, and then went to campus about 9:15. We parked behind Eddy Commons, across the street from campus. First, we went into a bookstore in Eddy Commons. We then headed over to the Joyce Center to check out the ND Experience. It was pretty empty, so we let our son play and burn off some energy in there for a bit.
We ate lunch at Legends, which was Senior Bar in my day. I couldn’t believe how different it looked on the inside. It is much nicer now, I found myself feeling nostalgic for the old days. Things have changed so much on campus that I hardly recognize the place! Lunch, however, was very good. And you can’t find a more convenient place to eat before a game.
Player Walk and Band Concert
After a potty break in Hesburgh Library, we enjoyed the Glee Club performance under Touchdown Jesus. Next, we saw the Player Walk to the stadium. Our son got a high five from Manti Te’o and some other players. That was fun!
Now, our 3-year-old decided on this particular day that he was a fan of trombones. Up to this point in the day, he spent a big chunk of time pretending to march and play a trombone. So, after the Player Walk, I spotted 4 trombone players from the ND Band. I asked if they would take a picture with him, which they were happy to do. They seemed impressed that someone wanted to a picture with them! After the picture, we went to Bond Hall for the band concert. When we got there, a tuba player was standing near us. Our son is also a big fan of tubas, so we took his picture with the tuba player too. The tuba was taller than our munchkin!
We all enjoyed the band concert and the Irish Guard Inspection. We got a picture with one of the Irish Guard when it was over. On the way to the stadium, we watched the band march by us near the law school. Then, we headed inside the stadium for the game.
It was Senior Day, which always makes me cry, especially as a mom. I don’t know why, but it is emotional for me. The game was awesome. My Irish shut out Wake Forest. I couldn’t have asked for anything better! My son and husband loved participating in the wave during the game. After the game, we grabbed dinner at Steak and Shake and headed back to the hotel, where we watched both Oregon and Kansas State lose their respective games. What a great ending to a great day!
Time for Toledo
On Sunday, we ate breakfast at the hotel before checking out. We then made our traditional South Bend stop at Meijer. This is one of the greatest stores ever invented! Unfortunately, we don’t have them in Texas. So, every time we are in the Midwest, we have to stop! Luckily, my husband shares my fascination with this store!
After our Meijer fix, we left South Bend. We made a stop in Nappanee, Indiana at Amish Acres. I always enjoy visiting the Amish. I picked up a few Christmas gifts. Our son chased a duck and some peacocks. We had lunch at Raymond’s Restaurant in Waukarusa, Indiana before heading to Toledo. Lunch was not very good. We checked into the Ramada Inn in Toledo at about 3:30 pm. Then came nap time!
For dinner, we found Pizza Papalis, near the Mud Hens stadium in downtown Toledo. It was yummy! The turkey flatbread sandwich was awesome! The Mud Hens stadium looked cool. If we ever get back to Toledo during baseball season, we will check out a game. After dinner, we called it a night.
A Day in Cleveland
On Monday, we did something on my husband’s bucket list: we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Breakfast was at a local McDonald’s before the 2 hour drive to Cleveland. We arrived at about 11:30 am and went straight to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We spent a solid 2 hours there. My husband loved it and would have easily stayed all day. My son and I weren’t nearly as entertained though! There were some cool exhibits, but I’m just not into music enough to last for more than 1 or 2 hours.
Our next stop in Cleveland was Westside Market. I would have liked to have spent some more time at this cool market. We did buy some fresh fruit there. We ate a late lunch at Great Lakes Brewing Co., near the market. It was pretty good. After lunch, we saw firsthand just had rotten the economy was. We were looking for a mall to kill some time, but everything we found was shut down. We found the Arcade, which was a historical building turned into a mall of sorts. It was beautiful, but most of the stores were out of business.
For dinner, we met my old law school friend, Brad, and his wife Suzanne at Melt, a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant. It was amazing! I have dreamed of those grilled cheese sandwiches many times since. We thoroughly enjoyed dinner and catching up with old friends. This is one of the best side benefits of these football trips. After dinner, we headed back to Toledo.
Toledo Zoo, Exploring Campus, and Game Time
On Tuesday, after breakfast at Burger King, we checked out of the hotel. We picked up our collectibles at the University of Toledo bookstore. Lunch was at Bob Evans. It was ok, but nothing special. We then spent the afternoon at the Toledo Zoo. We were pleasantly surprised by this zoo! They had some great exhibits.
We then explored the campus took our pictures. At the University of Toledo sign, a college girl volunteered to take our picture. Afterwards, she filmed us there at the sign for a school project. This campus is very quiet and beautiful with some great artwork scattered throughout. We saw their version of the player walk, which was much smaller than Notre Dame’s version.
For dinner, we walked across the street from campus to Oasis. It was a descent little college place. Toledo’s stadium, which is called The Glass Bowl, is small and old, but has lots of character. The crowd was small, and there was almost no tailgating or atmosphere. Our son got his picture taken with the two mascots, Rocky and Rocksy. Toledo beat Akron 35-23, with their backup quarterback getting the start. By the time we left, it was cold and raining!
The Drive Back Home
We drove to the Courtyard by Marriott in Ft. Wayne, Indiana that night. After some sleep, we were back on the road again by 9:00 am Wednesday morning. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner that day were eaten in the car. We drove all day and arrived at my sister’s house in Oklahoma a little after midnight. The next day, we celebrated Thanksgiving by having lunch with my family and then driving to Texas for dinner with my husband’s family at his aunt and uncle’s house. After dinner, we went back to our house and watched the TCU/Texas game on the TV. What a great trip!
I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane as I relive our Notre Dame and Toledo football trip! For tips on college football trips, see how to get tickets, tips to maximize your experience, how to maximize your bowl game experience, and the perfect age to take your kid to a game. Happy travels!