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Behind enemy lines: A Detroit Lions fan’s guide to visiting Minnesota

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A guide of the dos and don’ts in Minnesota.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This year I wanted to do something different. A couple years ago I wrote about everything that Lions fans should do if they’re coming in from out of town for a game at Ford Field. This time I wanted to put myself in that position for once. So I went to our editor Jeremy Reisman and told him I need credentials for all the NFC North games. Eventually, he told me that I actually had to write this piece instead of just using it as an excuse to go to a game. I almost had him.

So here are my tips on what it’s like to go to Minnesota if you’re a Lions fan.

Fly

The first tip is that you have to fly here. It’s easy to drive to Chicago and it’s even easy, although not as easy, to drive to Green Bay, but Minnesota may be further than you think. For me—I live in western Michigan for reference—it would have been an eight-hour drive. For those who live in Detroit, it’s a little over 14 hours. That’s just too much for a football game. The ticket was pretty cheap. Something like $250 round trip. Just fly.

The airport

I have traveled a lot in my life. I’ve been in some of the biggest airports in the country and I’ve always felt like I could navigate my way around them with ease. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport is confusing as hell.

It’s not that bad when you’re trying to find your gate. It is bad going through security because they have two posts and nobody knew the other existed. When TSA told everyone, there was nearly a sprint to the other side of the airport to get in line.

Perhaps more confusing, though, was finding public ground transportation. Nobody tells you that you have to go underground to get to a completely different side of the airport. There are no obvious signs anywhere and if you asked someone, they’d say something like “take this escalator down and then take two up.” What?

So when I got my Uber, there was a giant cement wall separating him from the driver. I had to find an elevator because the escalator was broken and there were no stairs. Side note, Mitch Hedberg used to say a broken escalator was just stairs.

Finally I realized you have to go underground and come up on the other side. It wasn’t the end of the world. I got my ride and it was all good.

Don’t rent a car

Here’s the thing. The Uber ride to the hotel was about $27. Yes, that’s a lot, but it’s worth it when you get there and find out that there’s no parking anywhere. The limited parking that is there is very expensive. One of the guys in the press box said there were parking lots by the stadium that were charging $50 to park. That’s insane.

The other reason is that once you get downtown, you’ll quickly see that everything that you’d want to do within the city—whether it’s night life or just a good bite to eat—is right there within walking distance or a quick Uber ride away. If you plan to stay awhile and want to see sights like the Mall Of America or Paisley Park—both of which are well outside of downtown—go ahead and get that rental. Just don’t park by the stadium.

Food

I was only in town for two days, so my goal was to try to fit everything I could into Saturday. So I went with what I could. Here’s what I recommend.

My first meal was from Pizza Luce, a place I first saw on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” television show. This was a place I always said I wanted to try. It did not disappoint.

What I got was a pizza called The Bear. It was a meat lovers pizza with pepperoni, grilled chicken, grilled beef, ham and sausage. It was incredible. They have many other great offerings there for just about anybody, even gluten free stuff if that’s your thing. I throw my full support behind this place.

I also had another pizza while I was there. The Vikings had Black Sheep pizza delivered for the press box after the game. This was also pretty good, but they seem to specialize in a thin crust and thin-bodied pizza as well. Lots of grease and big pepperonis help it out, but Pizza Luce still wins hands down. But if thin crust is your bag, Black Sheep was pretty good.

Everyone said you have to try a Juicy Lucy when you’re in Minnesota. To Minnesotans? Minnesotians? I’m not sure. To the people that live there, a Juicy Lucy is what a Coney is to Detroiters. It’s the food that says, “Hey, I’m from Minnesota, and when I’m not ice fishing, I eat this.”

A Juicy Lucy is a burger stuffed with cheese. The one I had actually came with a side of a spicy sweet and sour sauce that you poured on top of it. It was pretty good. I’ve been told since that there’s better places to get one in town. Matt’s Bar seems to be the favorite, but I was meeting with some Vikings writers, and it was their call on where we went.

The Stadium

The first thing you’re going to notice is that this place is gigantic. It makes Ford Field look like a basketball arena. And, boy, does it get loud in there. When the Vikings fans get together to do the Skol chant thing, it is really a sight to behold and quite frankly, it makes me jealous that Lions fans don’t have a similar weekly ritual. Although we do have “Forward Down The Field,” but it’s not like this.

Since I was in the press box, I can’t give too much information about the amenities there. But I can say that the stadium is very easy to get into and navigate through. Once they began to let fans in, they seemed to pile in very fast. I love Ford Field and consider it a home away from home, but there’s only like three entrances and if there’s a line, you’re waiting for a while. Of course, I did show up three hours before the game, so I didn’t get to see much outside when everyone showed up.

The fans

This is probably what everyone wants to know if they’re heading out of town. What are Vikings fans like in their own house? They’re very nice. I don’t have a negative thing to say about anyone in the entire town. From the hotel, to the fans, to the Uber drivers, everyone was extremely polite.

At the game, I saw a lot of Vikings fans talking with Lions fans in a fun and friendly way, and they seemed to feel the same way about us. The Vikings fans I met the night before had nothing but good things to say about people from Detroit. Don’t get them started on Packers fans, though. Maybe that’s why we get along so well.

I must gave a special shout out to Arif Hasan of The Athletic Minnesota. He was kind enough to have dinner and a few beers with me on Saturday night. He told me all kinds of great stories about Minnesota, and I appreciate the time he spent with me when he didn’t have to. Go give Arif a follow on Twitter. He is very good writer, and I recommend you look at his work if you’re into football.