Have you ever been to Disneyland, seen a Disney movie, or encountered Disney marketing? Sure you have. You can’t miss it!
Well, grab your Mickey Ears and Notre Dame’s “The Shirt,” because we’re going to give you a brief glimpse of the Disney of College Football: Notre Dame.
The first thing anyone notices about Notre Dame is the Golden Dome. Like Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle, all roads point to the Golden Dome. As the face of Notre Dame, it sits in the middle of campus for all to see, especially when anyone makes the beautiful drive up Notre Dame Avenue to Main Circle.
After taking the obligatory photo in front of the Golden Dome, the savvy visitor should venture inside both Main Building, the official name of the Golden Dome, and the Basilica where one can take in the ornate structures and artwork that represent traditions of Catholicism and the University.
Like Disneyland, Notre Dame is divided into unique parts. Each quad has its own traditions, and each quad has its own unique structures.
For example, South Quad is home to South Dining Hall a cafeteria known for its medieval design where sitting at one of the elevated tables makes you feel like you’re eating at the last supper. South Quad is also home to Dillon Hall, “The Rock,” and O’ Shaughnessy Hall.
On North Quad, you can find the LaFortune student center, Stone Henge, and the remnants of the old Field House, all sites with individual stories and individual distinction. Notre Dame even has its own Epcot Center called Stepan Center which has the same eerie golf ball design as Epcot.
I don’t want to take all of the adventure out of your trip, but be sure to research and visit God Quad, Mod Quad, and West Quad. You’ll find tradition, history, and opportunities for photos on each.
Notre Dame is also famous for multiple religious monuments that have been affectionately renamed with Notre Dame’s football legacy in mind. Everyone is familiar with “Touchdown Jesus,” the mural on the side of the library that overlooks Notre Dame Stadium, but have you heard of “First Down Moses” or the “Holy Hand-Off”? Be sure you check them out. I think you’ll be surprised at the duality of each structure when you see them.
Similar to Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy, Notre Dame has an unrivaled legacy of characters that have solidified themselves in the minds of America. The legends of Notre Dame Football began with Knute Rockne and the Four Horseman and continued to include the Gipper, Parseghian, Holtz, and Rudy to name a few. Which one is your favorite?
Notre Dame doesn’t reach its full potential as a tourist attraction until home game weekends. Unlike Disneyland, you definitely want to visit Notre Dame when the crowds are at their peak.
On Friday nights before the game, you can find the team, fans, and surprise guest speakers in the JACC for the pep rally. You can also see the trainers repainting the helmets with Notre Dame’s signature gold paint as you walk past the north side of Notre Dame Stadium.
If you’re awakened on Friday night before the game thinking you hear the echoes of Notre Dame, don’t fear, it’s only the drumline playing Irish tunes at midnight in front of Main Building. Have a listen or go back to sleep, it’s almost game time!
Saturdays begin with the break of dawn, dew on the ground, and the smell of bratwursts in the air. When you get to campus, you’ll find fathers and sons throwing footballs on the quad. You’ll find tailgaters galore, and you’ll find that tradition begins well before the game begins.
Go to the Bond Hall, the architecture building, where you’ll find the band playing pre-game tunes. The anticipation builds and you get the chills. It isn’t even game time, yet! Line the walk from the Basilica to the Stadium to see the team make their way to the locker room. Then, go tailgate with the nicest fans you’ll meet at any college or professional sporting event in the country.
It doesn’t need to be said, but the game is special, as well. I won’t ruin the surprises, but you won’t be let down. After all, what would Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, or the Haunted Mansion be if you knew all of the surprises before the ride?
Whether you love the Irish or hate the Irish, magic is around the every corner at Notre Dame. From the unique architectural motif to the never-ending reminders of Notre Dame’s tradition, no place can overpower you with a sense of awe like a trip to South Bend.
And… If you look really closely, you just might see Tinker Bell fly over the Golden Dome. Well, at least, you’re guaranteed to see a little man in a green suit. No, I’m not talking about Regis. Like Disney, though, you won’t be disappointed. Go Irish!