The Chicago experience

by Samantha Benish March 06, 2023

Looking back on my life, there have been a handful of experiences that have left me completely awestruck. From meeting Ellen DeGeneres to reading my first nationally-published article, these out-of-body experiences remind me why I am human. They remind me of what it means tolive

Going into the weekend on Friday, September 24, I was optimistic. A group of my best friends and I were traveling down to Chicago, Illinois, for the highly-anticipated Wisconsin and Notre Dame football game. The excitement for this weekend had been building for months now: we had bought tickets and booked our hotel rooms way back in July, eager to watch our beloved Badgers in the biggest city in the Midwest.

The weekend started off great. After Friday classes ended, we all packed up in my little Chevy Malibu and started the three-hour drive down to Chicago. Energy was high, songs were sung, everything was good. I even managed to navigate driving in downtown Chicago during peak rush hour — still don’t know how I managed that if I’m being honest.

Once the car was parked and bags were dropped off at the hotel, my friends and I decided to walk around downtown. I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of Badger fans on the sidewalks as we walked to dinner, even if the majority of them looked to be in their late 60s. Every group or couple we passed, someone would yell ‘Go Badgers!’ and cheers and hoots would follow after. A few brave souls even cheered as Notre Dame fans would pass, and booing and thumbs down would ensue. We felt like kids again.

Our dinner at Giordano’s honestly deserves an entire article itself, along with the Nutella Cafe’s dessert. After a delicious meal, we stumbled back to The (haunted) Congress Plaza Hotel in what felt like a food coma—yes, haunted. (Speaking of which, we definitely did encounter something during our stay, but I won’t go into that. That’s a story for another time. Here’s more information about the hotel if you are curious: )


The Congress Plaza Hotel (Wikipedia)


We bid the ghosts ‘goodnight’ in the early hours of Saturday morning and promptly woke up a few hours later at our 6:00 a.m. alarm. Tired was an understatement. Nevertheless, we rallied. Everyone had this sense of giddiness. 

We were ready to take down Notre Dame.

After a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts and some pictures in the park, we began the 30-minute trek to Soldier Field. The sidewalks were packed with people from both teams, ranging in ages from toddlers to grandparents. We even got lucky enough to see the squad of Badger Coaches carrying the UW team into the stadium’s parking lot.


Pictures in the park, of course.


The tailgate and pregame were extremely interactive and crowded. Big names from Barstool, College Gameday and more surrounded us in the parking lots surrounding Soldier Field, and we made sure to check them each out. 

Around 10:15 a.m, 45 minutes before kickoff, we entered the stadium and found our seats. The Notre Dame and Wisconsin student sections sat behind each end zone, which led to a fun, competitive environment. Our seats truly felt like a dream. We sat in section 151, row 14, only a couple of feet from the field. All by luck, too! Thanks, UW.


My friends and I at our seats in Soldier Field.


The game itself went exactly like how you’ve already probably read about: the energy and hype was there throughout the first three quarters, and then the absolute garbage fourth quarter came. The student section’s excitement was exemplified by the fact that we were in an NFL stadium; yet, it really seemed like all the cheering couldn’t help our Badgers. 

Despite the ending of the game, there were some memorable moments from my time at Soldier Field. (Let’s just ignore the fact that I spent $11.00 on a cheeseburger and $7.00 on a bottle of water.) We had an incredible view of the game, and I was surrounded by people who truly made the entire experience. My favorite part, though, was the end of the third quarter when ‘Jump Around’ blasted through the speakers. Moments like those make me proud to be a Badger.

I left with around three minutes left in the fourth quarter, and let me tell you: it was the worst feeling to be walking out of the stadium and hear the roar of thousands of Notre Dame fans cheer. It’s even worse to think we were tied going into the last quarter and had the game end up how it did. There’s always next week, though. 

Overall, my experience in Chicago actuallydid end up leaving me awestruck - for a wide variety of reasons. From the football game to the food and ghosts, I can truly say there really is no place like Chicago.

Samantha Benish

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