The traditional third wedding anniversary gift is supposed to be leather. Admittedly, Bobby and I had no idea that was the case when we decided a late November trip to Chicago and Green Bay would be our gift to one another this year, but it ended up working out perfectly. Why?
Because there is no greater leather than that of the footballs from our three favorite teams. By luck of the draw, it was an extremely cold weekend in the Midwest, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying an outdoor double feature of football games: Northwestern vs. Michigan State and my beloved Green Bay Packers vs. Bobby’s Minnesota Vikings. The below freezing temps just meant that extra layers were necessary…and frozen toes were a given.
We flew into Chicago on Friday night. Seeing my favorite big city from above never gets old.
The chill kept me wide awake for a late dinner with Lauren and Monica. We checked out Rolls ‘N Bowls, a BYOB sushi restaurant. All of us went the “rolls” route and weren’t disappointed. The Hidden Dragon was especially delicious with shrimp tempura, kanikama, cucumber, unagi, avocado, tempura crumbs, unagi sauce and masago.
After we ate, we walked across the street to Lincoln Karaoke! We hadn’t been back since the weekend of our spring Pinterest party and this place was sorely missed. It was so much fun to belt out our favorite songs at the top of our lungs again.
Lauren got a little sleepy toward the end. 😉 We headed back to her place and called it a night.
On Saturday morning, Bobby and I headed up to Evanston. It was great to be back on campus!
It was a blustery 20-something degrees, but the shining sun at Ryan Field helped warm us up.
Unfortunately, that was all it helped with, since our beloved Wildcats ultimately added to their losing season, 6-30 (yikes). We’ve had a lot of bad luck this year, but this game simply came down to the fact that Michigan State was the better team. Ah, well. Here’s hoping we can beat Illinois this week so we can at least have one Big Ten victory!
We drove to Green Bay immediately after the game. As we crossed over the Fox River and saw the giant “G” lit up on top of the stadium, I couldn’t stop smiling. It has been a dream of mine to visit Lambeau for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I once drew a bookmark of the field for my dad – who, as a Milwaukeean, instilled Packers pride in me from a very young age – complete with hash marks and yardage numbers. Now I was finally getting a chance to see it in person.
We had hopes of arriving in enough time to snag tour tickets, but they were sadly sold out by the time we got there. The hall of fame had also just closed and won’t reopen until 2015. On top of all that, I knew that our quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, would be out with a collarbone injury at the game the next day. These were all bummers, for sure, but they paled in comparison to the overwhelmingly happy feeling of standing in the parking lot of the stadium for the first time, staring up at 56 years of history – and beyond the building itself, 94 years of history as a football team.
Bobby and I decided to create a tour of our own. We walked around the outside in the frigid air to make sure we checked out every angle. Even Vikings fans can’t help but be impressed by Lambeau.
Eventually we made our way back into the warmth of the atrium and decided to grab dinner at Curly’s Pub, named after the team’s first head coach, Curly Lambeau.
The inside of the restaurant was so cool with its football-shaped lighting and giant ceiling “G.”
I ordered a glass of Curly’s Special Ale for the occasion, which was delicious.
Then Bobby and I decided to share an order of “Packers Popcorn,” which are hand-breaded Wisconsin cheese curds served with marinara sauce. I’ll admit I could have easily polished off the basket myself. These were so good!
We also split the Packers Fan Staple, which consisted of two bratwursts topped with sauerkraut served with a side of curly fries. Of course, none of this was healthy, but it was all fantastic.
From there we headed back to our hotel room to get some sleep. After all, we needed to be up bright and early in order to enjoy all of the tailgating options that Green Bay has to offer! We heard good things about Stadium View and ultimately decided to head there because it promised an indoor option – the temperatures were in the teens with an even lower windchill.
Although they said the festivities technically started at 9:30 am, by the time we got there at 9:35 it was almost completely full! Fortunately we snagged a table toward the back. It was so much fun to see everyone decked out in their green and gold (or purple and gold, as the case may be). There was a lot of creative headwear going on.
My Vikings fan and I both ordered a Spotted Cow to start. It’s one of my absolute favorites!
We also shared a meaty Super Bowl chili topped with cheese and onion. Perfect on a cold morning.
Once we finished eating, we gave our table to another group and headed outside. The music was blaring, people were dancing – everyone was having a good time. We snapped a pic of us in our gear before piling back on the layers.
Then we made our way back to the stadium in order to get seated before pre-game warm-ups.
Of course, I said hello to the infamous Vince Lombardi on the way in.
I also spotted this sign across the street. The Packers love Ellen and Ellen loves the Packers!
We walked inside – and I saw that bookmark I made all those years ago come to life.
Not going to lie, it was freezing. But so, so worth it. Soon the Packers came onto the field to do their stretches. I caught James Jones and Mason Crosby on the big screen.
And despite not playing in the game, I technically saw Aaron Rodgers throw a pass to Jordy Nelson!
The entire experience was unforgettable. Turns out more than 77,800 fans showed up in the Frozen Tundra on Sunday. After the national anthem, a World War II B-17 bomber did a flyover.
The game got off to a great start with a Packers touchdown, but from there the Vikings dominated the first half. By the time the fourth quarter started, we were down 20-7. Soon after that the Vikings got another field goal to make it 23-7. Down by 16 points is not a fun place to be when you’re the home team, but fans still rallied with plenty of “Go Pack Go!”
Soon after, our team rallied, too. If not Rodgers, it was great to see Matt Flynn put in as QB, and ultimately our offense tied up the game to send it into overtime. I got to see a couple more Lambeau Leaps on our side of the field, too.
In the end, both teams couldn’t deliver the winning “punch,” and we ended up in the first tie of the NFL since new rules were introduced last year: 26-26. The only other tie between the Packers and Vikings was back on November 26, 1978. What are the odds?
Of course, it would have been great to have the win with our playoff chances balancing precariously right now, but it was pretty hilarious that Bobby and I attended our first-ever rivalry game together and wound up each leaving with a half win. Apparently our teams wanted to accommodate both of our competitive natures. Thanks for thinking of us, guys.
Toes sufficiently frozen after an unexpected five quarters of football, we made our way back to the car and began the drive to Chicago. I met up with Lauren for one last dinner to cap off a great weekend. She had been raving forever about Au Cheval, and so we paid it a visit. We each started out with an Urthel Saisonniere, a creamy Belgian ale with hints of banana and brioche. Yum.
Lauren really wanted me to try their cheeseburger. I had already eaten every other bar food under the sun in the past two days, so why not add one more? I have to say, the reality lived up to the hype. This was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Good call, Laur!
Too soon, I was waking up at 2:30 am for our flight back to Arizona. But the memory of my first trip to Lambeau Field is permanently ingrained in my mind. It was truly as magical as people say it is.
Until next time, Green Bay!!
Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving week. Any big plans for the holiday?