Friday, July 27, 2007

WCHA Roadtrip Town No. 9 – Grand Forks

Last week, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA towns make for the best roadtrips. I'm basing my list off of five criteria (Access, Bars, City Experience, Hotels, and Ticket Cost / Availability). For a detailed list of what these five items mean to me, click here and scroll down a bit.

Here is a list of the cities that I've already covered:

10. Houghton

This week, it’s city No. 9: Grand Forks, N.D., which is of course home to the University of North Dakota and the Fighting Sioux.


Getting to Grand Forks isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s far from the drive to Houghton on the difficulty scale. The city offers an international airport, which gives folks coming from the Colorado area (CC and DU fans) a viable option. Fans may also choose to fly into Fargo or Minneapolis as well, as both cities are within a reasonable driving distance.

Many folks who make the trip to Grand Forks, be it Sioux fans going to see their team or opposing team fans, may come from the Twin Cities area. It’s under a five-hour drive Minneapolis to Grand Forks, assuming the weather cooperates. Once you hit Fargo, it’s just 81 miles, and thanks to the 75 MPH speed limit between the two cities on Interstate 29, it’s a quick jaunt.

The downside to Grand Forks is that the closest other WCHA city is St. Cloud, which is still 251 miles away, so most fans will have a pretty long haul to get there.


Because Grand Forks is a fairly large city in WCHA terms, they have plenty to offer in terms of bars and restaurants. The downside to the city’s setup for the college hockey fan is that there is really only one viable bar within walking-distance of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, and that’s Suite 49. It’s a solid sports bar with a good variety on the menu.

Despite the fact that there aren’t very many bars close to the Ralph, a plus to the area around the arena is that they offer free parking a few blocks away from the arena, and that is complimented with a free shuttle service that takes you to and from the games. Opposing fans will have to put up with some good-natured ribbing on the ride over, but it’s worth it.

Personally, my favorite bar in the Grand Forks area is Overtime Grill & Bar. Overtime was formerly known as Dagwoods. It’s a smoke-free facility that makes for some great viewing for a sports fan. Not to mention the fact that some buddies and I had a great time the day after the Holy Cross debacle for the Gophers. I should note that I haven’t been to this bar since the name-change, but hopefully it’s still rock-solid.

If you’re looking to party it up a bit at night, the El Roco can get fairly wild. Other establishments to hit up include Southgate Lounge and Whitey’s, with the latter being located in East Grand Forks.

One thing to remember when going to bars in Grand Forks: many of them have some sort of casino-type game in them, which means they can be fairly strict on letting anyone under the age of 21 in, although there are some bars that may make an exception (relax…the Blarney’s cheap shots are on the way come Minneapolis’ review). There are several family-friendly options to be found, including typical establishments like Green Mill, Buffalo Wild Wings, and an Applebee’s, among others.

Though not bars, two must-stops for anyone include the famous Red Pepper, which is great for late-night dining, and Happy Joe’s, which has a great pizza buffet.

City Experience

Grand Forks really suffers in this area in my opinion, since there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do aside from watch hockey games. The one staple that I try to incorporate into the trip is a visit to the Columbia Mall, which makes for a good time-killer.

Grand Forks’ official website goes into more details on some other offerings that the area presents, so hopefully some of these options will suite your needs.


There are plenty of lodging options in the Grand Forks area, but there aren’t too many options within walking distance of the arena. I personally like to stay at either the Holiday Inn or Super 8 that are located right off of Interstate 29 and Highway 2. Both offer fair prices and decent accommodations. Most opposing teams shack up at the Holiday Inn, which offers a good-sized water park for those who enjoy that type of thing.

Ticket Cost / Availability

Because of the popularity of the Fighting Sioux, tickets can be tough to come by for bigger series (i.e. Minnesota and Wisconsin). For most other series, you’ll probably be able to get in the building, but the quality of your seats may not be the greatest. No matter where you sit, chances are your seats are going to be spendy. Single game tickets cost at least $25.00, depending upon who the Sioux are playing. Plus, if you buy them online, you’re subject to TicketMaster and their extra fees / charges, which is obviously a negative.


I personally rank Grand Forks as one of my favorite roadtrips, but it’s not because of the city. It gives you everything you need to make the trip solid, but it really suffers in terms of other things to do aside from watching hockey and it’s long distance from most other WCHA cities.

Overall Grade: C+