OT: Visits to ND and NU - Advice needed

Submitted by The Mad Hatter on October 20th, 2016 at 8:56 AM

In a few weeks I'll be taking my daughter (and wife/son) on visits to ND and NU.  The ND visit is on a Friday with NU the next day.

It's been a long time since I was last in South Bend, and that was only for a game and I didn't stay over.  I've never been to Evanston.

So far I'm thinking we should do the ND visit in the AM, leave as quickly as possible, and then head to Chicago for the rest of the day/night.  The NU visit is the next morning.  After the NU visit we either drive home or stay another night.

Should we stay in Chicago?  Or are there decent options in Evanston?  Any advice on things to see or do on the visits?  Why am I wasting my time taking this trip when she's going to Michigan, even if she's also accepted to NU and ND?


EDIT:  Thanks for all of the advice and suggestions.  It looks like we're going to have to push back the visits a week since hotels are crazy expensive and/or booked solid for the weekend we had planned on going.


kevin holt

October 20th, 2016 at 9:04 AM ^

Oh, I know this great place near South Bend you should definitely go, just down a couple streets from ND. First you go a bit down I-90 and turn north onto 131. Then you go east on 94 for a little bit until you feel a swelling sense of pride. Then shove her out the door and don't let her back in the car til she loves no city but Ann Arbor.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:05 AM ^

Three not wrong choices there. Even if you and her are pretty sure she'll end up at Michigan, try to enjoy these trips and visits as much as possible. Sounds like a lot of fun.

I'm not sure how deep you want to get with the visits, but you could spend all day on Notre Dame's campus.  There's so much allure there and it's such a unique place it almost warrants an entire day. I went there last fall for GT at ND, we arrived and got parked right at 8am for a 3:30 kick, and even after the game walked around the campus a bit more. We were by no means running out of things to see or  getting bored.

I've never been to Chicago so I can't offer up much there.

The Mad Hatter

October 20th, 2016 at 9:16 AM ^

I'm pretty sure the only reason ND is on the list is that she wants to see the campus in person.  She has a thing for old buildings and architecture, and oddly enough is the most Catholic of anyone in our family.

Maybe we'll spend more time on campus there and just stay over an extra day in Chicago.  My son (he's 4) loves tall buildings and trains, so a day in Chicago is going to be his reward for not behaving like a psychopath during the boring college visits.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:36 AM ^

Congrats. Borderline humble brag, but congrats.

Regarding advice on what to do, I could give some, but not sure what you really want. For South Bend, the campus is pretty, but it really isn't that old. If that's what she is in to, I'd definitely look at Cambridge, Oxford, or Harvard, Princeton, Yale.

It depends where you're coming from, but I kind of like a brief visit in Amish Country (Shipshewana or Goshen). Decent food and something some folks have never experienced.

As for Evanston, my sisters both live there, and I can give advice if you really want it. One of my sisters is in the foodie and arts world, so if there is a kind of cuisine or experience you're looking for, let me know.

One simple thing to do in Chicago is go to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building. On Saturday, they have a lunch buffet that won't kill your pocketbook (the way dinner might). Really, the views are the best you'll ever get, especially on a sunny day. It is an experience for your kids. North Michigan avenue has lots and lots of shopping options. Water tower place is right there. I just don't think you have lots of tourist time for museums, etc., but this is a memorable family experience that might fit your time frame.

On the other hand, if you are on campus Saturday, you probably would have to reserve the latest possible lunch you could.

Back to Evanston, there are a few decent enough deli options there (not that you need that, with several good choices in AA).

The Mad Hatter

October 20th, 2016 at 9:41 AM ^

And I've been to Chicago many times, so I'm pretty familiar with the city, but like I said I've only ever been to ND for games (not sober, at all) and I've never been to NU.

I would be interested in anything arts related at either school, since she's planning on majoring in art history (I know, I know).

Didn't mean for the thread to come off as a humble brag.  When she gets her acceptance letter to Michigan, that thread will just be a full on brag, nothing humble about it.


October 20th, 2016 at 10:05 AM ^

Well, as regards the art world, how much time and what do you want to do and what are you going to do with your 4 yr old boy? I mean, you've been to galleries, right? My other sister works for the Art institute, so I'm there often enough. But I just didn't think you had the time or the interest to go to galleries or museums. If that's what you want to do, I'll round up some suggestions for you. My other sister often has art on her walls from local artists (she and her husband have transformed their place in Skevanston into an arts incubator, where they host concerts every couple weeks or month or so.)

EDIT:  And regards the Signature Room at the John Hancock, rethinking it, I'd probably go to Sunday brunch there. As much as I love Lou Malnati's, I think being on the top of the John Hancock on a sunny day is a more memorable experience. It isn't just the food, it is the ambiance. I mean, a window seat looking out at the Lake or the city is pretty cool.

The Mad Hatter

October 20th, 2016 at 10:22 AM ^

I think we might split up after the formal campus tour.  Wife and daughter go do artsy stuff, me and the boy off to do sports / fun stuff.

I appreciate the offer, but don't bother your sister.  I'm sure they'll be able to point us to the on campus art museum and stuff like that.



October 20th, 2016 at 9:13 AM ^

You should spend as little time as possible in ND. Unless you have a strong affiliation with the Catholic church, I do not see the allure of Notre Dame. South Bend is a God-awful city. The campus is so prestine and shiny that it becomes creepy to me. The quality of degree can be replicated by a bunch of schools, even within the region, that are located in much nicer places - U of M included. 

Not like I have to convince you, it sounds like your daughter (who sounds like an exemplary student) has already made the right choice. 

It has been a while since I have been, but there are options in Evanston. Northwestern has a beautiful campus by the lake and Chicago is a great city to visit. For me, Evanston is a nice situation as Chicago is extremely accessible but you do not have to live in the city. Chicago, like I already said, is a city I love to visit but would not want to live in.

If you make time for pizza in Chicago, go to Lou Malnati's, not Giardano's or Uno's.


October 20th, 2016 at 11:12 AM ^

I will say that I did have Pequod's the last time I was there - I have a lot of trouble deciding between Lou Malnati's and that now. Pequod's was excellent indeed. 

Once in a while, we'll drop some money on the nationwide shipping option for Lou Malnati's through tastesofchicago.com - they end up on our doorstep, freeze-dried, but they come out well enough once cooked. Still prefer actually being there in the restaurant, of course.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:17 AM ^

Evanston is a beautiful campus right by the lake but you will have plenty of time to see it on Sunday. I would say either use Saturday to explore the ND campus or come to Chicago for the afternoon/evening. Obviously plenty to do here and I hear Hamilton tickets are dirt cheap ;)


October 20th, 2016 at 9:19 AM ^

I grew up in town directly north of Evanston; my dentist's building was across the street from NU's campus.  You will want to stay IN Evanston, and get a sense for the town and campus.  It's population-wise probably pretty comparable to A2, but it's not integrated with the campus like UM is.  Staying downtown will probably add a bit more stress than you want for the morning before you go up to Evanston.

That said, if you want a real inside-Chicago meal tip:  Totally completely agree that Saturday night either eat at Lou Malnotti's for authentic and out of this world deep dish pizza (go to the one on the north side, in Lincolnwood, it's the original IIRC), OR, go to one of the restaurants in Greektown (a short drive outside of downtown).


October 20th, 2016 at 9:26 AM ^

I live relatively close to South Bend / Notre Dame and worked for a number of years in Evanston so I'll give you my best.


ND campus is pretty awesome, but the city itself is very meh. Most of anything interesting to a college student tends to be either rundown bars or out in the strip malls of Mishawaka/Granger. 

Fiddler's Hearth is a great little bar with good food and a ton of great beer. Recommended.


I worked across the street from Mustard's Last Stand, the little restaurant by Ryan Field, for 6 years. That part of town by the football stadium is very chill, but downtown is rather vibrant now. Easy access from Chicago or you can stay in Evanston - some cool old hotels there. If you stay in Chicago you can take the train very easily.

NW campus is amazing. My first job out of college I was a researcher and spent a lot of time at the Evanston campus in the libraries. Fantastic place along the lake. 

Lou Malnati's or Prairie Moon are good spots to eat. 

DISC: My wife is a big NW fan and my F-I-L is an NU alum.

The Mad Hatter

October 20th, 2016 at 9:35 AM ^

I was wondering if we could get to NU from downtown Chicago easily via train.  My son would love that.

I think it's going to depend on if we decide to stay one night or two.  While I want my daughter to get a good feel for both schools, she's told me privately that she's going to Michigan if she gets in, even if she's also accepted to "better" schools.  So what I really want out of this little trip is for everyone to have a nice time and enjoy the weekend.

And that's why I'm letting my FIL waste his money taking her to Yale and the other east coast schools.

UofM 1990

October 20th, 2016 at 9:32 AM ^

I just went throught this process with my daughter last year - have fun!  Both of my kids have spent time at Northwestern for summer camps when they were younger and we usually stayed in Chicago when dropping them off or picking them up.  There are places closer to Evenston, but have fun in Chicago. 

BTW - the mother was pushing for my daughter to consider ND, but my daughter and I agreed that she would visit only if she was accepted to ND and not Michigan.  She was accepted to Michigan and we didn't worry about that again.  Unfortunately, she pick UVA over Michigan. 

All great schools - enjoy the process even if your daughter tells you that she is not making a decision based on football. 


October 20th, 2016 at 9:32 AM ^

There are hotels in Evanston, but I do believe most of them charge nightly parking fees the same way hotels in downtown Chicago do.  Not as exorbitant as downtown, but still large enough to add up if you stay more than one night.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:34 AM ^

You will want to stay in Evanston. There is a new Hyatt or the Orrington is a classic. Both great locations and will give you feel for the town. There are so many good places to eat near there as well - obviously people mentioned the pizza. Lou's is definitely the top choice but in case you don't want to stuff youself  might I recommend:



Bat 17 


Taco Diablo is really good and if it is still nice outside go upstairs to Five and Dime for a drink

Coffee at the Other Brother or Cupitol 

Dougnuts or other baked goods at Bennisons or if you are up near the football field at any point go to Tag's. Also, get a cup of coffee at Backlot

Anyways - enjoy your time. I am biased but Evanston really is a wonderful town. Can be weird sometimes but the lake, the various places to eat and the proximity to Chicago are pretty strong pulls. 


October 20th, 2016 at 10:33 AM ^

I agree that staying in Evanston will be best.

Definitely go to Bat 17. It was my favorite place to go for a quick meal when I lived there. I've only been back to Evanston 2 or 3 times in the last 5 years so there are new options I don't know about but I always try to go there when I can. Plus it was inspired (maybe even helped/mentored) by Zingermans.

Bando Calrissian

October 20th, 2016 at 11:49 AM ^

Bat 17 has changed a lot--it's basically a crappy sportsbar. Don't bother.

If you want to eat in downtown Evanston, there are a billion better choices than that. Bangers and Lace has a location there now, Farmhouse is good, and I'm a HUGE fan of Boltwood. Edzo's is great for lunch. I'd also highly recommend Found.

As for hotels, the Orrington is a great choice, and within a literal stone's throw of campus.

rob f

October 20th, 2016 at 9:39 AM ^

is not a nice city. I live 45 minutes from there and only go to that awful town to follow Michigan sports on the road. Kalamazoo is a far, far better city if I want to drive somewhere within an hour for restaurants, shopping, etc.

Are you familiar with Gary, IN? South Bend is like Gary but with cleaner air.


October 20th, 2016 at 2:21 PM ^

Interesting perspective. I grew up 40 mins from SB and went to Mishiwaka (sp) to shop over Kzoo/Portage. The mall is nicer IMO. I went to Kzoo for basically "having a good time" with my friends at Western.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:43 AM ^

There's not much to do in South Bend aside from visiting ND, whereas Evanston alone is Ann Arbor-sized.  When you add in the fact that you've got all of the resources of Chicago just down the road, it's a no-brainer.

I went to Northwestern Law, though the law campus is downtown so I hardly spent any time in Evanston.  The few times I was up there, campus seemed really nice - the setting on the lake is fantastic.  I would suggest staying in Evanston if possible, since you'll really want to get a feel for the area around campus.  When you want to go downtown, just hop on the purple line - it's easier than dealing with parking downtown, anyway.

(Though if you anticipate that the purpose of this trip will be more for fun than for campus visits, the inverse is true as well - it's easy enough to stay in Chicago and take the purple line up to Evanston and back.)