Be sure to walk through the stadium tailgating areas before the game (either east or west sides) and chat with the fans. If you are unable to score a free beverage from the tailgaters, you should visit an area north of the stadium called Wildcat Alley.
Wildcat Alley used to provide complimentary pre-game beverages, but that tradition has ended as of 2011. We can only hope that the tradition will be revived in the future, as it is much needed. There is only one bar within a short walk of the stadium, and even that one would not be open before 11:00 AM.
Wildcat Alley is a family-friendly place, and several games and activities for kids can be found there. For a list of activities, pictures, and a video, click here. The marching band plays a concert in Wildcat Alley approximately one hour before kickoff.
Enter the stadium and find your seat about 20 minutes before kickoff. If you are sitting in the areas designated for visiting fans, allow plenty of time to get to your seat. This is especially true for sold-out or nearly sold-out games. I have seen VERY long lines form at the gates for the visitor sections. This is partly due to the heightened security rules that have now become a way of life at big sporting events and partly due to the fact that regular season ticket holders know which gates to use in order to avoid lines. Note also that smoking is not permitted in the stadium seating areas, restrooms, or entryways leading to seating areas. Ticket re-entry is not allowed.
Ryan Field facing south
The stadium is U-shaped, with the open end facing north. In the image above, the three main parts of the stadium are shown: the west stands (right), the east stands(left), and the south stands(center).
The Northwestern University marching band (NUMB) will take the field about 15 minutes before kickoff. This may not be true for games in early September, as the band members may not have arrived on campus yet. At Northwestern, classes do not start until late September, so early season games are often played without any students in the student section and with only a small pep band to provide music.
The band will line up in the south end zone and march onto the field. They then pause as the drum majors are introduced. At this point, the three drum majors will bend over backward so that the tops of their hats touch the ground behind them. Next, the band will play the fight song and march to the north end zone to welcome the team.
As everyone is waiting for the team, the large video screen will show images and animations to excite the crowd. At some point, a miniature UPS truck will drive onto the field to deliver the game ball. Willie the Wildcat has to sign for it.
Randy Walker Terrace
At some point during the game, usually at the start of the second quarter, they open up Randy Walker Terrace. This is on top of the low building immediately north of the north endzone. Walker Terrace is named after NU football coach Randy Walker, who passed away in 2006. Walker Terrace offers a great end-zone view of the field, and there are usually games and food vendors there.
Fans enjoying the view from Walker Terrace
After the Game
After the game, check out the clock tower in downtown Evanston, across the street from Burger King. When it gets dark, the face of the clock will glow either white or purple. It glows purple after a Northwestern victory. It's white after a loss. During the football season, the clock face will stay the same color until the next game. A few weeks after the football season is over, the clock reverts back to white.