Notre Dame Football: A Fan’s Guide

Photo - Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Headed back to Notre Dame for a football weekend this fall? I have put together a list of must see things to do when headed back to campus. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment … what are your favorite things to do/places to go?

CJ's Burgers are a staple for any successful weekend trip to South Bend for a game weekend.

Let’s start out with food. A weekend at Notre Dame typically includes food at the following two establishments … CJ’s and Tippecanoe Place. CJ’s is our Friday night dinner place. CJ’s is known for their great pub burgers, and has been a student favorite since 1984. When I was in school, CJ’s was just a hole in the wall. They recently had a fire and had to rebuild. The new CJ’s is bigger and better than ever! Now we not only include CJ’s in our Friday night dinner plans … but also for a little dancing on Saturday night as well, as they now have a dance floor! Go figure!

The second food stop is brunch at Tippecanoe Place. Tippecanoe Place is the former Studebaker mansion. It is one of the premiere landmarks in the heart of South Bend’s historic district, and the mansion is teeming with the charm and grace of yesteryear. The gracious spirit of the past still thrives in the mansion’s 40 rooms with their wealth of fine antiques, 20 gorgeous fireplaces, and hand-crafted woods. This is definitely a must see experience!

Moving on to nightlife, there are two spots that just can’t be missed on a weekend to Notre Dame … The Linebacker Lounge and Corby’s.

The 'Backer is the go to destination for the crew.

The ‘Backer and Corby’s

The Linebacker Lounge is a favorite of students and alumni alike! The Linebacker Lounge was founded in 1962 by former Notre Dame football player Myron Pontios, and local businessman Stan Pisek. They converted the building which had been an old drive inn into the now famous bar. The Linebacker has been featured on the Travel Channel, “College Towns”, and in October 2006 was the remote location for the television broadcast of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the morning” show. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be on a football weekend than at the ‘Backer singing “Oh What a Night!”

Corby's was shown prominently in Rudy and is a must see destination for a weekend trip.

Corby’s Irish Pub would be my next nightlife stop. Corby’s Irish Pub is a famous Notre Dame bar. The pub was established in 1990, and the movie “Rudy” was filmed at this location, which sealed the pub’s popularity. Corby’s is a very spirited Irish establishment and is the perfect place to be on football weekends when droves of alumni flock back to reconnect and relive their glory days!

As far as things that must be seen on campus, the list is long. For starters, no trip to Notre Dame would be complete without a “get your photo taken in front of the famous landmarks” on campus tour. Touchdown Jesus, Fair-Catch Corby, and First Down Moses are definitely must see campus landmarks.

The large mural on the wall of the Hesburgh Library which faces Notre Dame Stadium is lovingly nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus,” because it mirrors the raised arms of a referee signifying a touchdown. The mural is officially titled, “The World of Life,” and was created by Millard Sheets in 1964, and depicts the resurrected Jesus. It is absolutely a must see stop for any visit to campus, and can also be seen from inside the stadium! TOUCHDOWN!!

Stop by and light a candle at the Grotto.

The Grotto

The next must see place on campus is the Grotto. From the day Rev. Edward F. Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame du Lac, embarked from Le Havre, France, bound for his mission in the New World, Mary, the Mother of God, was his guiding star. The culmination of this early Marian devotion can be seen today in Notre Dame’s stone grotto, designed to closely replicate the grotto in Lourdes, France where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. The Grotto has since become a favorite devotional spot on campus. People of all faiths have found rest and peace in this place of quiet reflection. The beauty of its natural setting, the soft candle glow, bestow a feeling of warmth and welcome upon it’s visitors. No tour of Notre Dame would be complete without a visit to this peaceful shrine nestled among the trees in the shadow of the Golden Dome, to light a candle and say a prayer. (Spring at the grotto photo, courtesy of Kathleen Souder)

Badin’s Log Cabin Chapel

After your stop at the grotto, take a walk around one of the two lakes on campus, and then continue the spiritual part of your weekend by visiting Badin’s Log Cabin Chapel and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Badin’s Log Cabin Chapel is one of the oldest landmarks on campus, and it is a must see for any visitor to Notre Dame, new or old.

The one-and-one-half story log chapel-cabin was built by Badin in 1830 and when Sorin arrived a decade later it served as living quarters (ground floor) and a house of worship (attic space) for several months until a larger log house was constructed. With the completion of this second structure (located east of Badin’s building), Badin’s chapel assumed two secular functions. The first floor was a carpentry shop, while the second story became a crowded dormitory for the brothers who, by 1843, numbered 18 men. Religious services were then held in a chapel in the larger log structure. (Log cabin history taken from: A Spire of Faith: The University of Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Church, by Thomas J. Schlereth. Sunlight over the Badin Log Cabin photo, courtesy of Kathleen Souder)

After stopping by the Grotto, swing by the Basilica and take in mass.

Sacred Heart Basilica

Your next stop is the Sacred Heart Basilica, which stands in sharp contrast to the simplicity of the Log Cabin chapel. It’s majestic blue and gold will literally take your breath away. Our favorite Mass at the Sacred Heart Basilica is the 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning Mass. We have affectionately nicknamed it “Smells and Bells” because you get a healthy dose of incense, and the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir provides the beautiful music.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Notre Dame, Indiana, is the largest Catholic Church on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. It also serves as the mother church of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States. The neo-gothic church features 44 large stained glass windows and majestic murals which were completed over a 17 year period by Vatican painter Luigi Gregori. The basilica bell tower stands 218 feet (66 m) high. The current basilica was preceded by a smaller structure erected in 1848 by Father Edward Sorin, CSC. The current neo-gothic church was begun in 1870 and consecrated by Bishop Joseph Dwenger on August 15, 1888.

The Golden Dome

Situated right next to the Sacred Heart Basilica, one of the most well known campus sights is The University of Notre Dame’s Main Administration Building (known as the Main Building or the “Golden Dome”). The Dome houses various administrative offices, including the Office of the President. Construction of the Main Building began in 1864 and was finished in 1865. The building stood for 14 years before being destroyed by fire in the spring of 1879.

Father Edward Sorin’s unbreakable will was best demonstrated in 1879 after the disastrous fire destroyed the Main Building, which housed virtually the entire University. Father Sorin willed Notre Dame to rebuild the Main Building and continue its growth. “I came here as a young man and dreamed of building a great university in honor of Our Lady,” he said. “But I built it too small, and she had to burn it to the ground to make the point. So, tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild it, bigger and better than ever.”

Immediately after the fire, the University took action, selecting a new design by Willoughby J. Edbrooke and began construction. The current Main Building was completed before the fall semester of 1879. The Golden Dome that caps the Main Building was a gift from the sisters of the adjacent Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame’s sister school. The Golden Dome stands 206 feet above ground level, and 125 feet above the roof of the Administration Building. The Dome, gilded in gold leaf, is 139 feet in circumference at its base and is topped by a statue of the Blessed Virgin which is nineteen feet high.

Trumpets Under the Dome

One other tidbit about the Dome, on a football weekend, one of my favorite must see events is “Trumpets Under the Dome.” The trumpet section of the University of Notre Dame Marching Band gathers inside the Administration Building and plays the Fight Song and the Alma Mater under the Dome. It is definitely something not to be missed! Here is a video so that you can check it out!

There are two more things that round out my football weekend at Notre Dame list. One is a trip to the bookstore. No matter how many times we head back to campus, a trip to the bookstore to buy more Notre Dame stuff is something that always happens. It’s not as though I don’t already have an entire closet full of Notre Dame t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and more … but there is no way I can go home empty handed after a trip back to campus.

And last but not least, in the people to see category … look for famous people! Both as a student and an alum, my friends and I have seen, run into, and met many famous people at Notre Dame. Some of the people we have crossed paths with along the way include: Regis Philbin, Dick Vitale (his two daughters lived in my dorm!), Digger Phelps, Lou Holtz, Rudy, Julia Roberts, Vince Vaughn, Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. However, the most notorious sighting remains O.J. Simpson, sitting three rows in front of us at the 1993 Notre Dame/Florida State game, with Marcus Allen!

There you have it … my list of must see things to do on a Notre Dame football weekend! My best friend from college and I took four newbies to Notre Dame last fall for a football game. After a jam-packed football weekend at Notre Dame, I was told that I am the “Mayor of Notre Dame” because apparently all I did all weekend, between running them from must-see-stop to must-see-stop, was shake hands and kiss babies!


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  1. I am attending my very first Notre Dame game this fall (Nov. 3 vs Pitt) and this list is awesome, thank you!

  2. Thanks for the list/tips guys. My buddy and I will be at the ND-Stanford game this year for our first ever trip to ND. I can not even describe how excited I am. Lists like these are sure to make our trip even better. Go Irish!!!!

  3. Rocco’s is a great one! We ate there after the Blue-Gold Game this year! Midnight Drummer’s Circle is a fan favorite as well. I can’t wait to head back to campus this year myself!

    Go IRISH!

  4. Excellent lists! Chills running up and down my back, I’m ready. I like East Bank Emporium and Between the Buns also.

    Here come the Irish!

  5. Great list! A couple go to stops for me include Rocco’s pizza (amazing), the Midnight Drummer’s Circle on Friday night, and Knute Rockne’s grave.

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