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Road Trip: Minnesota


Mariucci Arena. The home of Gophers hockey is the pride of the Minnesota athletic department. Conference and national title banners pepper the rafters and the main concourse level pays tribute to former , Hobey Baker winners -- from Neal Broten to Jordan Leopold. On the east side of the arena, huge murals of past Gophers greats line the walls. Even the cheerleaders take their routine to the ice.

One tip: the Minnesota faithful take their hockey seriously, so not a lot of chants occur while the puck is in play. But the Minnesota Rouser followed by the thundering signature M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A chant after each Gophers goal will leave all 10,000-plus in attendance with goose bumps.

Campus Pizza. The Stadium Village stronghold, just blocks from Williams Arena, boasts thin-crust, square-cut pizzas that will leave the hungriest satisfied.

Mesa's Pizza. This Dinkytown hotspot is another UM fave. Its serves mammoth-sized slices with some unique topping including buffalo chicken, steak and fry, macaroni and cheese, etc. But don't go too late on the weekend -- the line wraps around the block when the bars close.

The Mall. Nestled between Coffman Memorial Union and Northrop Auditorium, the Mall is the ideal spot to spend an afternoon with your books.

Blarney's Irish Pub. Located in Dinkytown, Blarney's is the choice of most Gophers. Its got ample space, drink specials and the occasional karaoke night. On the first floor, Gopher fans can find a mural of legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks and team pennants hang nearby.

Al's Breakfast. After a night of drinking, Al's is the place to cure a hangover. Just be prepared to wait -- there is only seating for 12-15 people, but the food is well worth the wait. Try the blueberry pancakes, which has been compared to a breakfast from heaven.

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Coffman Union. With its comfy leather chairs, Coffman is the ideal spot to lay low between classes or spend a low-key night with friends. There's a big-screen television on the first level and Goldy's Gameroom in the basement has pool tables, a bowling ally and arcade games. Still not satisfied? During the fall or spring, head out Coffman's backdoor to the East River Flats and play touch football on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Williams Arena. When the Minnesota men's basketball team is even halfway competitive -- as it was this season under Tubby Smith -- the student section at Williams is as loud as any venue in the nation. Built in 1928, The Barn still gives a nostalgic feel reminiscent of the Palestra in Philadelphia. And when the Gophers go on a scoring run, the place can be down-right deafening.

Sally's Saloon. Before heading to Mariucci or The Barn, hit up Sally's off the corner of Oak Street and Washington Avenue in the heart of Stadium Village. It boasts one of the area's widest drink selections, tasty food and hundreds of Gopher fans eager for a victory.

TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota's football team was downright horrible this season, but that hasn't quelled excitement over the Gophers' new venue -- TCF Bank Stadium -- which is due to open in September, 2009 and will seat 50,000.

Spring Jam. If there's ever a weekend to visit Minnesota, it's Spring Jam in late April. There are usually festivities and a concert (Everclear, Cake and Mason Jennings come to mind), but the best times are on Saturday afternoons and evenings, where block parties are all the rage.

For the willing to venture off-campus, the nightlife alongside Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis is a good place to start. On Wednesdays, the Shouthouse -- located at Block E -- holds '80s night and offers free admission to anyone dressed in '80s attire.

On the weekends, check out Brothers Bar & Grill or Bootleggers. Both are in the Hennepin Avenue area and are within walking distance to the Target Center. For those who enjoy more a fraternity setting, The Lodge is the spot for you.