My daughter recently enrolled at The Ohio State University as a freshman. We visited the school 5 times before she enrolled and have learned a fair amount about where to stay, how to get to various parts of campus etc. Our daughter asked us to come visit her over Labor Day weekend. She was homesick (just a tad) and wanted to take her brother to the football game. By way of background, our children are pretty familiar with the fun of Big Ten football games having attended a number of them at my Alma Mater, Michigan State. I tried to find some info on current pre-game football activities on this forum and had limited luck. I thought I would offer this Dummies Guide to Ohio State football Pre-Game so that I could share with others what I learned last weekend. I hope it is helpful and I hope others will contribute as well.
WHERE TO STAY: The hotels with OSU at the end of their names are the logical choices, of course. These are primarily located along Olentangy River Road or nearby. Many offer transportation to and from the campus on game day which is a real plus with the limited available parking. i.e. Hyatt Place-OSU. However, as with all Big Ten towns, hotels near campus tend to be very expensive on nights before games. The good news is that there are some great alternatives that are very convenient.
Here are some alternatives.
Hotels in the Worthington area: There are a number of hotels in the Worthington area that are a great choice and generally 20 to 50 percent lower in price than the OSU hotels on game day. The COTA bus system has an express bus line that runs from the Crossroads Park and Ride (located on the same circle road as most of the Worthington hotels). You can walk or drive to the Crossroads Park and Ride, pay $5.50 per person then take an express bus to campus. The stop is near 17th and Neil around the corner from Ohio Stadium. Very convenient. Buses pick up at the same location and return you to the Crossroads Park and Ride after the game. There are some great restaurants near these hotels to enjoy an after game dinner.
In the alternative, stay at any of the hotels near the Ohio State fairgrounds or a hotel a convenient drive to the Ohio State fairgrounds (Polaris area for example-directly north of the fairgrounds on I-71). COTA offers express bus service from this location as well. A plus for this location is that it is very close to the campus (about 10 minutes away). Many folks set up tailgates in these parking lots and seemed to be having a great time before the game.
We actually stayed in Worthington at the Hyatt Place Columbus-Worthington. We left our hotel very early (9:00 a.m. for a noon game) with the intent to park at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. However, we were so early that we decided to drive to campus to see if we could find parking. The good news is that many of the staff parking lots are open for parking on game day. We parked in a parking structure on South Campus and paid $15.00. It was convenient and reasonably priced for a game day. Lesson: Get to the game early so you can enjoy….
TAILGATING WHEN YOU HAVE NO CAR
Alright, admittedly tailgating is much easier when you have a car but at Ohio State it doesn’t matter! Between the Ohio Stadium and St. John arena you will find all kinds of vendors available to feed you, entertain you and generally get you excited about Buckeye football. Want a free poster, yep, it’s there. Want a free burger from Wendy’s, on this day, you could have that too. How about a cardboard Buckeye’s football helmet, seems every 30 year old man had to have one of those! Local food vendors offer their specialties and everyone is having fun. If you really want to get in the O-H-I-O spirit, head in to St. John’s Arena. We did not attend the Skull Session going on inside but the music from the band let us know that we will be buying tickets to this event in the future! It is the type of tradition that defines Big Ten football, and apparently Ohio State football, and should not be missed!
If you want a true party atmosphere, head to Lane Avenue. There is an over 21 year old “tailgate” offered at Village Club. Food, drink and Scarlett and Grey….who needs anything else? If you are not 21 years old or are significantly older than 21 years old and not interested in the type of scene offered at Village Club, many other food and drink offerings are available on Lane Avenue. My favorite by far was the Ray Ray’s Hog Pit barbecue truck. Expensive but exceedingly delicious barbecue. Another vendor offered Brats that would have been the envy of any Wisconsin Badger fan! Fine Midwestern cuisine! This is where you will find lots of Ohio State novelty vendors. My favorite novelty is the Buckeye necklace with plastic red and grey beads. It is a classic and seems to be worn by most of the people we saw.
I am sure there are other venues worth visiting but with a noon kickoff, this is as much as we experienced. It was lots of fun! We are glad our daughter will get the chance to spend the next four years enjoying her own Big Ten traditions at Ohio State.
ENJOYING THE GAME WHEN YOU HAVE NO TICKETS
There are a number of venues that we discovered offer television coverage of the game and lots of fans with whom to enjoy it.
Village Club: Lane Avenue-Previously mentioned.
Buckeye Grill: Located near the Hyatt Place-OSU, this OSU paraphernalia packed restaurant/bar is about as spirited as a place can be! Lots of screens showing all the action and pretty decent food too!
Grandview Café: Located in the trendy and fun Grandview area (lots of fun restaurants), this sports bar/restaurant has lots of screens and really great food too! OSU fans everywhere, everyday, everynight. They have a nice outdoor space but I don’t know if they offer televisions outside. Great brews on tap.
Roosters: Olentangy River Road: My whole gang LOVES their chicken fingers! So delicious! It looks like a very fun crowd on game day!
Ohio State Union: No need to buy anything (although you could enjoy the game at the Woody Hayes Grill). Students, alums and everyone else can pull up a chair to one of the numerous televisions showing the game. My favorite area is near the fireplace. It is relatively quiet compared to the above named venues but many of the kids who didn’t get tickets in the lottery seem to congregate here and turn this into a very fun venue.
Champps: I know of two locations (one near Campus and one in Worthington). Lots of screens and pretty good food for a chain.
WARNING FOR PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN: I realize that Ohio State fans may find this warning a bit offensive, but for people who are new to Ohio State, like my family, there was an unsavory aspect to the pre-game. It was pervasive enough that I think it should be mentioned. It is not drunk people of which I speak. Please know that I am a diehard Michigan State fan. That means I am not a University of Michigan fan in any respect (our daughter was accepted to Michigan but chose OSU and I was quite relieved). MSU v. Michigan is a huge rivalry. But it is a respectful rivalry. While attending the OSU v. Miami game, we would periodically hear various people (not necessarily students) yell “Fuc! Michigan” (as in the University of Michigan) then everyone around would erupt in a cheer and chant the same thing. I was unclear why anyone would be yelling about Michigan at the Miami game or yelling those particular words even if it was the Michigan game. On Lane Avenue, numerous vendors sell shirts that say the same thing or worse (Ann Arbor is a whor!, extended middle finger with the word “Michigan”etc.) We say a lot of people sporting these shirts. Our youngest daughter who has attended games at other schools asked us why people were wearing these shirts and saying these things. Why indeed? I have attended dozens of games at many Big Ten schools (I grew up in East Lansing, Michigan), including Michigan, and never have I seen such things said about a rival, especially one that is not present. If you are new to this school and this volatile rivalry, please be aware that your kids may see and hear these things-so will you. It may not bother you but a travel forum should point out both the good and bad about the locale. I do think people who are new to Ohio State football should be warned and prepared for this beharior.
Looking forward to hearing from locals about the things we should try during our next football visit! Moms