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When you first venture to Ann Arbor, Mich., prepare to fall for her "Main Street, USA" charm and friendly neighborhood vibe. It's easy to feel instantly comfortable here as you take in the tree-lined college campus, quaint shops and local fare. Lest you fear that this pleasant guise is a ruse quickly dropped once game day arrives, well, we're happy to inform you that contrary to their name, Wolverines really are one nice bunch of fans. If the stadium didn't already fill a record number of seats each game, we'd say this season for a top-ranked team is going to be a crazy ride for any college football fan to follow.
Where to stay
Hotels in Ann Arbor book up quickly during football games so make your reservations as soon as you can. Out-of-towners lean toward standard favorites like the Holiday Inn Express and Suites and the Fairfield Inn by Marriot. The morning after the game, gear up for travel with complimentary breakfast treats and find fellow fans to discuss key plays and referee calls.
Where to eat/drink
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A mere two miles from the roar of the stadium is local cult favorite Zingerman's Deli, serving traditional delicatessen fare that has sated the robust appetites of everyone from sports fans to celebs like Aziz Anzari and Mario Batali. Cop a squat at a seat outside the recognizable two-story brick building and sink your teeth into a classic like the Reuben sandwich, piled high with juicy layers of corned beef.
If you're looking for a cold beer, Ashley's has a reputation as the state's premier pub, offering a wide range of ales, porters, stouts and microbrews from a premium multi-tap setup. It has been a traditional staple in downtown Ann Arbor for more than 20 years, and many insist Ashley's is one of the best beer bars in America. Oh, and it's only a stone's throw from the stadium, making it the perfect watering hole for any thirsty football fan. For more of a sports bar atmosphere, head to Fraser's.
Game day tips
You're sure to find a broad array of tailgating action just outside the stadium in the Pioneer High School lot. Other nearby options include the University of Michigan Golf Course and AA Golf & Outing. Plan to show up early (6 a.m.!) and pay upwards of $50 per vehicle for one of these prime spots. If you are going to park away from the stadium, there are a number of shuttle pickup locations and they run every 20 minutes before and after the games. And if showing up for the game in person isn't enough, track team stats, game scores, audio and video with the MGoBlue2 mobile app, available for Android and iOS. It's a great source of up-to-the-minute news even if you're cheering for the visiting team.
What to do
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Ann Arbor is quite the family-friendly town. Start off your Saturday morning with a trip to the weekly Farmer's Market where you can scope out local produce, flowers and food carts. To keep your littlest sports fans happy, the brightly painted façade of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum fronts a busy station offering more than 250 interactive science and technology exhibits. If staying closer to campus is your pleasure, the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum spans 423 combined acres and is free to the public. You can find out what's in bloom by visiting the website, and plan to explore as many of the mapped trails and nature areas as possible.