Welcome to the NCAA Tournament! If your team is headed somewhere, chances are you’ve looked at where to head for beers and sightseeing, along with how to get there. With St. Patrick’s Day overlapping with these tours, too, we might need some extra help.
So I reached out to Friends of the Program—some familiar faces, some friends from elsewhere—to help give us a few tips and tricks for navigating each of the cities where Big Ten clubs find themselves. Feel free to join us in the comments with your own recommendations, too!
Salt Lake City || Northwestern Wildcats
We were totally at a loss for this one, so we asked our American Southwest expert, buckyor, to tell us where ‘Cats fans should go if they head to the Beehive State (also I needed recommendations).
buckyor: Ok, some thoughts on SLC. We lived there from summer of 97 through spring of 2000, so many of the places that we used to go are either gone or different than they were (pours one out for the departed Port O' Call, formerly on 4th South and West Temple). But some have stuck around, and I'll give you some thoughts on those, as well as the area in general.
First thing to know- nearly every street (and all directions you may be given) are all relative to Temple Square. It's sort of the north terminus of downtown (we used to live 1 block north, just on the other side of the assembly hall). So streets are named based on their relationship to Temple Square: There's North Temple (on the north end of Temple Square), South Temple (on the south end), West Temple (on the west end). 1st south is one block south, 2d south is 2 blocks south, etc. The city is largely a grid pattern with the focus being the Temple.
There's actually quite a bit of stuff downtown, between the Gateway (just west of the Delta Center or whatever it's called now) east to the Gallivan Center, and it's a pretty walkable downtown, with one caveat: the blocks are looooong. One block in SLC is about 2+ blocks anywhere else. So if someone says something is 3 blocks away, it's actually a bit of a hike. There's light rail that can take you around parts of downtown, or out to areas like the U. I don't know how expensive it is, but it's pretty convenient.
As I've pointed out elsewhere, Squatters Brewery is *the* brewpub in town. On 3rd South just off West Temple, where it's been forever. Red Rock Brewery is just around the corner, on 2nd west. Squatters had the better beer (I really liked their Vienna Lager, though I don't know if they make it any more—think Negra Modelo), Red Rock the better food (they were more focused on the hoppier stuff that the bearded crowd seems to like). If you want to eat like a Utahn, you gotta have a Crown Burger—they're all over the place. Basically a hamburger with a load of pastrami on top. A real gut-buster. With the fries you get fry sauce, which is basically a mix of ketchup and mayo.
Also worth trying are the Red Iguana (on North Temple a little ways out of downtown) and the Blue Iguana (Arrow Press Square, West Temple between 1st and 2d South). Both are pretty good Mexican food, though I though the Red was a little better. Higher end east include Cafe Molise (100 South between West Temple and Main, across from the mall) and the Market Street Grill, on Market Street (toward the south end of downtown) between West Temple and Main Street. There used to be a number of other very good restaurants right there as well (e.g., the New Yorker steak house), but I think those may be gone.
For breakfast the Mrs. and I used to stop into Lamb's, a diner/coffee shop on Main just north of 200 South that I think may be the oldest restaurant in SLC. I think they serve other meals as well but that was our Saturday am bacon and coffee place, and it was awesome. If you want a more substantial breakfast, The Other Place is a little east of downtown on 3rd South, at about 5th East. Greek-type place.
Not too far east of downtown is the University of Utah, which has a fairly scenic campus built into the Wasatch foothills. One of my favorite pizza places of all time is out there- The Pie. It's on 2d south just past 13th east. It's a bit of a hike top get there, but I think the Trax light rail goes near there. other potential places of interest include Trolley Square (7th East and 6th South), the 9th and 9th neighborhood (9th East Ninth south), and Sugar House (21st South ~ 11th East). I think there's a Wasatch Brewery near there. Oh man, I just learned Fiddler's Elbow is still there too; that place was awesome.
Of course, you probably should check out Temple Square as well. Even if you're not LDS, it's worth seeing. Very beautiful grounds. I used to walk through there on my way to work sometimes. Really something when decorated for Christmas. I would amagine there is a lot of foliage just coming into bloom right now, so it ought to be pretty cool. Related, a few blocks away is Memory Grove Canyon and City Creek park, which stretch north from the NW corner of Temple Square past the Capitol.
Finally, if you want to see where I lived, just walk up West Temple til it ends at 200 North, just across the street from the assembly hall. That corner house was where my grill blew off my front porch in the tornado of 1999.
Buffalo || wisconsin badgers
I don’t know anyone who loves Rust Belt New York quite like our own SpartanHT, and while this list is suspiciously low on fruit recommendations, it is chock full of great tips on sightseeing.
1. Bars to Visit:
Anchor Bar - This is the bar where the Buffalo wing was invented. I’m partial to Duff’s, but they make very good wings and it’s worth checking out if only to see where food history was made.
Liberty Hound - It's a restaurant and a bar, but it's located near the arena and allows you to eat/drink with a view of the river and Naval Park (more on that below).
There are a few other bars near the arena. Lagerhaus 95 is a German restaurant/bar build in an old warehouse, and you also have Cobblestone and the Lockhouse Distillery within walking distance as well. Friday will be St. Patrick's Day, so I imagine just about any bar will be ready for a good time.
2. How to Get Around:
Fly into the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. It's a pretty straightforward path to Keybank Center from there (or even driving in via I-90).
NFTA is the public transit option for the area, and you can take it from the airport to downtown or directly to the Keybank Center.
3. Sightseeing - What to do on your day off:
I highly recommend checking out the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. The collection of old Naval vessels and military vehicles is fantastic, and it's within walking distance from the KeyBank Center. Niagara Falls is an obvious pick and a quick drive, but if possible, go over to the Canadian side as the American side is a bit of a pit. There are plenty of wineries in the area, particularly over in Canada at Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery makes for a nice visit, if you're looking for a more typical museum.
4. Other Tips and Tricks:
While the Anchor Bar is where the Buffalo wing was invented, Duff's is arguably more popular between wing enthusiasts from the area, and in my opinion has far superior wings. The original location on Sheridan Drive in Amherst (near UB's campus) is a great dive if you're craving some wings. The 20 wings plus large fries and a large pitcher of beer deal is great if you're going with a friend or two ($33.95). I don't make a trip to Buffalo without stopping at Duff's, and think your trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting a location there.
While on the topic of food, while everyone talks about the Buffalo wing, a Beef on Weck sandwich is another must-try while you're in the area. Buffalo also has Wegmans, which is something not found in the traditional B1G footprint and is worth checking out, if only to see what the hype is about (and for some of those old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies).
If you have a passport/enhanced driver's license and can go into Canada, the area opens a good bit more. Toronto is a relatively quick shot up the QEW and there's a host of extra things there like the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, and a host of museums. Wayne Gretzky's restaurant is a hockey lover's paradise, with memorabilia from his entire career, including game-worn jerseys, used sticks, and some of his awards. You also can purchase whiskey in a bottle shaped like an ice skate at the Niagara Duty Free going back into the U.S., because Canada. Picture:
There will almost certainly be snow. The area is supposed to be getting a winter storm that could have as much as 20 inches of snow in the next couple of days, and then snow again once the weekend hits. Wear shoes/boots that won't get wet too easily, and dress appropriately as the Keybank Center is on the Buffalo River and is close to Lake Erie, so there should be a cold breeze off the lake.
Finally, the KeyBank Center is attached to a complex called HarborCenter, which has been a major component of Terry Pegula’s vision to revitalize downtown Buffalo, and I would be hard-pressed to label it anything but a success. HarborCenter has a Mariott and a bar inside, but the effect of building it has brought new life to the area. There are multiple bars/restaurants as well as a casino all within short walking distance as well. Thanks to the Pegulas, that part of downtown Buffalo isn't anything like what it was when I was a kid, and has become a great place for hosting events like the NHL Combine and the NCAA tournament.
With the proximity to Niagara Falls and Canada, the amount of amenities near the arena, and of course basketball, there should plenty to ensure that you have what I hope will be a fun weekend in an area that’s often overlooked.
Milwaukee || Minnesota Golden Gophers, Purdue Boilermakers
Who are we kidding? If you’re a Minnesota or Purdue fan, you’ve likely been to Chicago before. Would you like a much smaller Chicago (or twice-as-large St. Paul)? Milwaukee is the town for you. Either way, I’ll do my best to help you out, and I know we’ve got a few members like MC ClapYoHandz and kmals to help you out in the comments.
1. Bars to Visit:
MNW: A great place (close to the Bradley Center) to check out is all of Old World 3rd Street. Within two blocks, you’ve got about 15 different bars and restaurants to try out. My recommendations on Old World 3rd:
Milwaukee Brat House: Excellent bar food, especially their brats (duh), now with a nice upstairs bar as well.
Old German Beer Hall: Looking for a liter of Germany’s finest? This is the place to head.
Uber Tap Haus: Its hours are not quite as late as the rest of the places on Old World Third, but for a wonderful on-site selection of cheese, dozens of local beers, and an easy place to have conversation, head here.
Breweries/Distilleries! Do lots of these. They are everywhere, tours abound, and there’s fun to be had.
MKE Brewing Company: Tours every half hour on Friday afternoons and Saturday after noon. But that’s not the best part. Pay $10, get free pint glass, and then enjoy all-you-can-drink for two hours. It’s a great place to drink a lot of good craft beer in a short amount of time.
Lakefront Brewing Company: As known for its Friday fish fry as its beer, Lakefront is just a mile and a half north of downtown. Check out the taproom, take a humorous and raunchy tour (All Hail the Bung King!), and enjoy an up-and-coming neighborhood.
All of S 5th Street: Want a place to take a brewery crawl? Start at one end of South 5th and head up and down the five blocks to (from north to south) MobCraft (great sours, darks, and experimentals), Brenner (Bacon Bomb is the best rauchbier ever, hands down), and Urban Harvest (get the Corkscrew IPA and talk badger sports with the owner, Steve, and his brother, Jeff). Conejito’s Place is delicious cheap food—$5 for enchiladas, beans, and rice on paper plates!—Steny’s has a great burgers, and there’s plenty of Mexican food all around.
Great Lakes Distillery: Since you’re already in Walker’s Point for 5th Street, head one block over to 6th and check out Milwaukee’s finest craft distillery. Take the tour ($10) for 5-6 shots of their Rehorst vodka, honey citrus vodka (yum), Roaring Dan’s Rum, Kinnickinnick whiskey, absinthe, and some specialties, too.
When it comes time for some food, especially brunch (you damn pesky whipper-snapper, you), head to the Third Ward for all the bougie food you can handle. Grab a bloody at Wicked Hop, check out the Public Market, and head to Benelux for the finest the Low Countries have to offer.
2. How to Get Around:
Unless you’re staying in one of the downtown hotels or Airbnbs, Milwaukee is not a terribly accessible city, so plan on renting a car if you come from the airport. Plan on taking Lyft, Uber, or cabs if you’re traveling more than 3-4 miles in any direction. (Ride-sharing apps are rather affordable, with a $5.45 minimum fare, last I checked.)
One of those from the airport will run you about $20. There’s an Amtrak line that runs a few times a day and sets you back $8-9, or there are MATC buses that do the trick as well. (The Green Line runs all the way from the airport through downtown to the Bayshore Mall, but takes a while.)
If you are driving, know that Milwaukee has a lot of construction along I-94, which runs East-West and then south to Chicago. Get around the city by taking 894, and know that I-43 gets obnoxious heading north from downtown during the early evening.
People love talking about the Safe House, a spy-themed bar which makes you do all sorts of wacky hijincks to get in. I’ve not tried it, but there you go.
If it’s nice out (it’s apparently snowing today), head down to the lakefront and enjoy a nice, long walk along Milwaukee’s excellent park system. Check out the Milwaukee Art Museum while you’re down there, which is an architectural gem and has some good exhibits inside, too.
Milwaukee purports to have a "Riverwalk," which is technically true and has The Bronze Fonz. That’s a thing, I suppose.
4. Other Tips and Tricks
Also, if it’s prohibitively expensive to fly into MKE, you can take the CoachUSA bus from O’Hare to the Milwaukee Intermodal Station for $30. The Amtrak from Chicago to Milwaukee is also very convenient and for $25, not a bad value.
If you don’t mind a little walk to the Bradley Center, I’d recommend looking into parking on Marquette’s campus. The ramp on the corner of 13th and Wells costs $5 if you enter during business hours, $3 after, and is about a mile walk to the stadium. Unless MU mixes up its parking charges, that’s a damn good deal. Just mind that you don’t park overnight unless you want a ticket.
Orlando || Maryland Terrapins
Thanks to my friends (and scions of quiz bowl in Florida) Virginia and Travis for taking some time to help us out!
1. Bars to Visit:
Redlight, Redlight --- not a sportsbar, but easily the best craft and international beer selection in Central Florida.
Hourglass Brewery --- in Longwood, a short drive up I-4 from downtown Orlando; offers an impressive collection of housebrewed IPAs and sour beers.
Frank & Steins --- in downtown off of Church St., a bar for sports-lovers who enjoy excellent beer.
Graffiti Junktion --- a burger joint with a good beer menu and plenty of TVs, with locations throughout the greater-Orlando area.
Wall Street Plaza --- a concentration of bars and clubs, a center for nightlife in downtown Orlando. Plenty of options for drink specials and immersion into Orlando's party culture.
2. How to Get Around:
Rent a car; Orlando's sprawling area is too much to reasonably tackle with public transit (which primarily consist of Lynx buses and Sunrail, the local light-rail system that's handicapped by a limited number stops and operating times).
Visitors could try to use Uber or Lyft, but given Orlando's size and traffic (avoid I-4 whenever possible!) this may not be the most economic solution.
Universal Studios and Walt Disney World will compete for the top tourist destinations in Central Florida.
International Drive is built for out-of-towners, and is lined with shops, restaurants, and attractions to fill a weekend.
For folks willing to do a bit of driving, major beaches like Cocoa, Melbourne, or even Daytona can be reached in under 2 hours.
4. Other Tips and Tricks:
Central Florida prides itself as a major tourist destination, so visitors should have plenty of options that cater to their preferences.
The best advice is to avoid extended driving on Colonial (State Road 50), Semoran (state Road 436), and I-4 as much as possible if you want to get anywhere quickly.
If driving to downtown Orlando, pay attention to street parking signs; often, there is free parking available on weekends a few blocks off of Orange (towards Lake Eola). Given that garages can charge as high as $20, finding a free spot a few blocks away can turn into extra beer money.
Tulsa || Michigan State Spartans
I genuinely do not know what to tell you; no one from Tulsa that I knew came to mind. I can offer you tips that I learned from when Chandler got relocated to Tulsa during that little story arc in the ninth season of Friends, but I don’t know whether Slim Pickins or So Cheesy are really places. But you can smoke in any office building with 15 or fewer people*, and I hear there’s lots of shark porn on TV**.
Share your tips in the comments if you’ve been there, and Sparty fans, please accept my apologies for not being able to offer you anything good!
Indianapolis || Michigan Wolverines
87 Rides a Surfboard was kind enough to help us out here with some recommendations, though this is probably the city Big Ten fans know the best (though will get to know less in the coming years because fuck you Jim Delany it’s really stupid that we have to go to DC and MSG).
1. Bars to Visit:
Kilroy's. Fantastic stuffed breadsticks and 50 kinds of Long Island iced tea. Definitely a college-y bar.
Libertine. Hipster as all get out. Bartenders wear bow ties and have handlebar mustaches. Drinks are $13 a piece. A neat place to go and have A drink.
St. Joseph Brewery. Brewery in an old church. Cool place to visit. Plus the beer is damn good.
2. How to Get Around (including airport advice, if necessary):
Take a cab or Uber from the airport. Check with your hotel to see if they provide a shuttle.
As for downtown you can walk just about anywhere. There are also a bicycles you can rent all over the place, but they're a little pricey.
3. Sightseeing - What to do on your day off:
Children's Museum, NCAA Hall of Fame, natural history museum. Or go to mass Ave, Georgia street, and/or Virginia Ave and bar hop.
4. Other Tips and Tricks:
Kilroy's has half priced drinks on Wednesday. Unless you're a big racing fan the Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn't worth visiting outside the month of May. If you're trying to take home a random then Broad Ripple (about 6 miles north of downtown) is your best bet.
Thanks to buckyor, SpartanHT, Friends, 87 Rides a Surfboard, and especially me for taking the time to give us some ideas. You guys get 20 OTE bucks on me!
What have we forgotten? What have we oversold? Are you from Tulsa and can you help us? Tweet, comment, email, reply; and let us know if you’re going to watch your squad!