Attending a game at Ryan Field is so much more than just a gameday experience, but it’s a chance to spend an entire weekend in Chicago, Illinois! Who doesn’t love a weekend in the windy city?  Because Northwestern is just north of such a major city, it gives you endless options on gameday – from traditional tailgating at northwestern in nearby parking lots, to bar hopping in the city and taking the metra in near kick-off. There’s an option for every type of fan. For a night game, you can even do a little bit of everything!

If your team is traveling out to face off against the Northwestern Wildcats, be sure to read along for everything you’ll need to know to not only have a great game day experience but a great weekend in Chicago!

Pro-Tip – a lot of people sleep on how much fun tailgating at northwestern really is. It’s a hidden gem. You’re going to have a great time!

Pre-Gameday Checklist!

#1 Purchase Game Tickets – tickets can be purchased online at (note as of March 24, 2021, Northwestern has not posted 2021 tickets yet. You’re only able to put down deposits for season passes. They should be up by late Spring) or by calling 888-GO-PURPLE (how cute). See the schedule below for the dates:

2021 Northwestern Football Schedule

Sept 4 – vs Michigan State
Sept. 11 – vs Indiana State
Sept. 18 – at Duke
Sept. 25 – vs Ohio
Oct. 7 – at Nebraska
Oct. 16 – vs Rutgers
Oct. 23 – at Michigan
Oct. 30 – vs Minnesota
Nov. 6 – vs Iowa
Nov. 13 – at Wisconsin
Nov. 20 – vs Purdue (Wrigley Field!)
Nov. 27 – at Illinois

#2: Review Game Day Policies (so you pack accordingly)– the Northwestern Football Fan Guide is a great place to start!

#3: Gameday Gameplan – it’s good to have a general idea of what you want your game day experience to be ahead of time. For instance, if you’re planning to drive and park at Northwestern so you can tailgate, you should look into renting a car for the weekend and booking an Airbnb so you have access to a kitchen. Or if you are joining a friend’s tailgate, or doing some bar hopping, you really don’t need a car for the weekend. Chicago’s public transport system is top-notch. From the airport, you can take the train into the city to your hotel, and then use ride-share, the metra, and walk for the rest of your visit.

Chicago, Illinois Disinfection Service | Commercial Cleaning

Where to Stay on your Visit to Chicago!

No question: Downtown Chicago!

One of the best elements of traveling in for a Wildcats football game is it’s in the incredible destination city of CHICAGO!

Now I’m from Chicago, so I may be a bit biased, but it’s truly an incredible city, and if you can take a day or two off from work, I’d do so and make your trip to an NU football game an extended weekend getaway in the city.

From the incredible sports scene to the endless top-notch restaurants and bars, to a diverse music scene, and even the beach, Chicago has it all and is a city everyone will enjoy. Check out the below blog posts for inspiration to plan out your weekend:

What you cannot I mean CANNOT miss: you must get deep dish pizza from Gino’s East and a cake shake from Portillos (probably not at the same time or you may not stand up for two days ????)

If you’re not a big fan of the cold, I’d suggest making your way out to a game EARLY in the season, September and October are great weather months that have that nip of fall in the air, but you might not love heading to a sub-40 degree game in November.

If you decide to stay in the city, it’s super simple to either hop an Uber/Lyft and head up Lakeshore drive to Evanston, or you can take the Metra as well, you may just need to make a few train switches depending on where you’re coming from. See the next section for more transportation options.

City, merchants may face huge drop in football revenue - Evanston Now

Getting to Ryan Field on Gameday

You’ve got quite a few options when it comes to getting to Ryan Field:

#1 Drive & Park

Ryan Stadium Address: 1501 Central Street, Evanston, IL 60208

See the below two maps for more detailed information on permit parking immediately around the stadium, and free parking options in the surrounding neighborhood. Do note, there are also some cash lots immediately around the stadium – for instance, the golf course will open a limited number of cash spots depending on extra space. There are also quite a few folks who will sell parking spaces on their lawns in the neighborhoods.

Tailgating at Northwestern Parking Options

#2 Metra

The closest line: Union Pacific North line to Central St. stop. You can see the full train schedule, train line, and fare information at Metra Rail. If you’re leaning towards bar hopping in the city as your pre-game experience, I’d recommend this route or ride-share depending on where you are coming from. But taking the Metra rail right up to practically the entrance of the stadium is pretty cool, and you’ll be surrounded by other football fans.

#3 CTA

Ride the Purple CTA line to the Central Street train station, 2 blocks east of Ryan Field. Parking is available at both the Howard and Linden Stations. Visit the CTA Sports Destination website for more information.

#4 Ride Share

Utilizing ride-share companies such as Lyft or Uber are always great options on game days, especially when you’ll be drinking. We’d suggest having your driver drop you somewhere a few blocks from Ryan Field to avoid any congestion in the area! It’s a beautiful area, so a small walk will be very enjoyable. The same goes for when you’re leaving the stadium – things can get very congested, so plan to walk a few blocks before calling an Uber/Lyft. You’ll get one much quicker this way.

For more information on getting to Ryan Field, check out Northwestern Athletics’ Football Transportation Guide.

Pre-Game Options

When it comes to your pre-game options at Northwestern Football games, it pays off to plan. Whether you just want to grab a bite and head to the game, hit up a bar for a few drinks, or full-on tailgate, there are limitations to all options, so it’s good to have a game plan going into the experience.

Tailgating at Northwestern

When it comes to tailgating, most of the lots around Ryan Field are where you’ll find all the action. Unfortunately, all of these lots (i.e. the West Lot, Canal Shores) are permit parking only for Northwestern season ticket holders.  Sometimes, the Canal Shores Golf Course will have cash parking on game days, but they sell those on a first-come, first-served basis and have a varying number each game day.

If you want to tailgate in the heart of the action, either find someone with a pass to a nearby lot, or you could utilize Tailgater Concierge (more details below) on the Canal Shores Golf Course – Hole 3.

One thing to note – the general parking lots require you to take a shuttle to the stadium! Be sure to account for that in your timing for the day. You don’t want to miss the kick-off.

If you’re planning on hosting your own tailgate, be sure to check out our other popular blogs:

Commonly Forgotten Tailgate Items: Check-List

How to Plan a Great Tailgate!

Wildcat Alley

If you’d like to purchase tickets to Northwestern’s Wildcat alley – you can do so here! Wildcat Alley typically opens 3 hours before kick-off and has live entertainment, a Northwestern Marching Band performance, and quite a few food trucks available. It’s a very family-friendly event!

Food and Beverage Options Around the Stadium

Overall, options are fairly limited for food and beverage in close walking distance to the stadium.

If it’s a night game, and you’re just looking to grab a bite close to the stadium and head over, we’ve heard great things from locals about Ten Mile House.

To pre-game at a fun bar, the best option within walking distance is The Bluestone. However, if you’re willing to hop in an Uber, a popular bar closer to downtown Evanston is Bat 17. Canal Shores Golf Course also has a cash bar in its golf shop!

When it comes to F&B, I’d recommend doing this before heading to the stadium if possible, unless you’re joining or hosting your own tailgate that is!

Northwestern University Tailgate ServiceTailgater Concierge Tailgate Service at Northwestern

If you’re interested in attending a game at Northwestern and would like to host your friends/family or even host a corporate event, we have you covered. Check out more information about our services at Ryan Field on our Northwestern Tailgate Page.

Location: We’ll be setting up all our tailgates at the Canal Shores Golf Course on Hole 3. It has an amazing tailgating scene on game days full of season ticket holders and die-hard NU fans!

All Packages Include:

  • Reserved premium tailgate space
  • Equipment set-up, take-down, and clean-up
  • Tailgate available 4 hours before kick-off
  • On-site concierge services
  • Catering and beverage delivery services available
  • Ice delivery

To book a package with us, hop over to our Northwestern page or give us a call at 888-301-2190.

Northwestern Tailgate Gear

Given the long off-season we’ve had from football – it seems as though every fan is in need of some refreshes to their tailgate gear. Here are some great finds out team found:



We always like to recommend the Logo Brand Chairs when getting team-branded gear. As of March 2021, this one is $35 on Amazon – typically these go on sale from time to time, so I’d wait until that happens before purchasing!



If you want to start repping your team sooner, here are some great coffee mugs you can add to your Northwestern gear collection. Linked here.


For anything clothing-related – we always encourage our tailgaters to check out Fanatics. They have a great assortment of attire for all fans, and typically are doing a ton of promotions and deals.



Northwestern Football Attire

If you’re thinking of upgrading some of your basic equipment, be sure to check out the following blogs:

Best Tailgate Tents of 2021

Best Tailgate Grills

Wrap Up!

Is there anything we missed? Please let us know in the comments below!

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Please note: Tailgater Concierge is a participant in the Amazon Associates and Fanatics Affiliate Programs and may receive commissions on purchases. Tailgater Concierge only recommends products that would be valuable for our tailgating readership!