Posted on February 23, 2017 by Indiana's Cool North
Get ready sports fans! A home game for Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football team doesn’t just begin at kickoff—you’ll find fun things to see and do across campus and South Bend all weekend long. Even if you’re not a football fanatic, getting swept up in the wave of navy, gold, and green is an incredible experience that can’t be passed up when you visit Indiana’s Cool North. Check out our recommendations for how to make the most of game day in South Bend.
Walk in the footsteps of the Fighting Irish football team with a tour of the north tunnel—the very same one players have used to take the field on game day for the last 86 years! Get your head in the game by slapping a replica of the famous “Play Like a Champion Today” sign before you take the field in the north end zone. Seeing this sports mecca minus the roaring crowds is a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed. Free tours are offered between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. the day before a home game.
There’s no better way to soak in some school spirit than the pumped up pep rally the night before game day. The marching band parades from the team’s practice location to the Joyce Center just before 6 p.m. You’ll see performances by the band and cheerleading team, as well as remarks by guest speakers before Coach Kelly and the Leprechaun deliver their pep talk to get everyone excited for the big game. Pep rallies are free and open to the public—no alumni card required!
Fuel up for a day of football and get a taste of authentic local life at an off-campus restaurant. At Rocco’s, order one of their famous pizza’s and take part in “the other South Bend tradition”. Fiddler’s Hearth is one of the most authentic Irish pubs outside of the Emerald Isle, offering perfectly poured pints and traditional pub-session live music. You can’t find a more true blue (and gold) South Bend pub than Joe’s Tavern. This working-class joint was featured in the movie Rudy and is a great opportunity to chat with die-hard Irish fans.
Before kickoff, campus is alive with activity and excitement. Even the most veteran Irish fan would be hard-pressed to make it to every pre-game event, but if you’ve got time, take a tour around campus and search out some of the most popular campus traditions. The Fightin’ Irish Bagpipe Band kicks things of at 11:30 a.m. in front of the Golden Dome, then watch Coach Kelly lead his team from the Guglielmino Complex through Library Quad into Notre Dame Stadium at 1:15 p.m. Head to Bond Hall at 2 p.m. and watch as the Band of the Fighting Irish plays traditional game day songs and selections from their upcoming halftime show.
Tailgates are by their nature a big deal. But a Notre Dame tailgate favors the uncomplicated and old school mentality that permeates Northern Indiana life. There isn’t a lot of flash or fried food, but you will find plenty of flags, expertly grilled hamburgers, and the infectious enthusiasm of fans that treat every game like the most important one of the season. The parking lots south of the stadium are where you’ll find the most action, but the Legends bar and library lots offer some stiff tailgate competition.
With all of the awesome activities available before the game, you don’t even need tickets to feel like one of the Fighting Irish—though if you can score some we highly recommend it! Explore our Things to Do page to find more fun in Indiana’s Cool North.