Monday, 16 December 2013

Real Man Travels University: Minnesota Golden Gophers

I’ve always struggled to understand the incredible allure that drives amateur sport that pro sport just doesn’t seem to replicate. The blind loyalty of a fan base that’s unquestioned as they cheer on their own. Their allegiance is predestined by geography, passed on through generations, and built into the fabric of their school’s campus. As an observer it’s been hard to comprehend. That all changed when the Golden Gophers of Minnesota invited us to experience what college football is all about.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Travel
left to right: Sam, Chris, and Mike enjoying the game from the sidelines
Driving to TCF Bank Stadium through the heart of the University of Minnesota campus, there’s no mistaking where you are. Rows of fraternity houses adorned with Greek letters blend into the towering school buildings. Campus buildings that have stood for over a century blend with modern facilities that you would expect from a state school. Students move to and from buildings showing their school pride in simple ways as the area buzzes over tomorrow’s Big10 match up against the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers.

“The Bank,” as it is known, is an oddity in college football. A state-of-the-art, brand spanking new on-campus stadium is something the Big10 conference hasn’t seen since 1960. The home locker room, the biggest in college and professional sports, is visually stunning and boasts 120 cherry-wood lockers. As Jeff, the senior director of TCF Bank Stadium & Outdoor Facilities, toured us through the $300 million stadium, we marveled at every turn.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Travel
Tossing the ball around during a tour of TCF Bank Stadium

When Saturday morning arrived we were giddy with anticipation. The buzz on campus and around the stadium was infectious. We watched Nebraska and Minnesota fans mix together in the stands as we navigated our way to the sidelines to take in the game. What would follow would be one of the most enjoyable football experiences of my life. I’ve watched a lot of football, but nothing the NFL has offered me could compare to what the Golden Gophers of Minnesota delivered that autumn day. A nail-biter of a game that was still very much up for grabs in the final five minutes until a Gophers rushing touchdown with 48 seconds remaining gave them the lead. An interception would serve as an exclamation point as Minnesota ended a 53 year losing streak against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The place went absolutely nuts, and I was hooked on NCAA football.

4th & Goal - 4 Reasons you should experience a Minnesota Golden Gophers home game:

  1. Minnesota is a team on the rise. After back-to-back 3-9 seasons the Gophers are rebuilding their program “brick by brick” under coach Jerry Kill and have earned bowl appearances in each of the last two seasons. They will face Syracuse December 27 in the Texas Bowl on ESPN. 
  2. Pure football experience. Don’t worry about your fantasy football line-up; just enjoy some of the best football on the planet.
  3. Players leave it all out on the field. These are real student-athletes with classes and exams to deal with all week long; but come Saturday they play for their school and their future, not for a pay check.
  4. The Fans. This fan base is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to mingle with. They know their stuff and they keep the stadium rocking for the full 60 minutes.
Golden Gophers Travel
some fans dressed up for the pre-Halloween game

Think your school can outdo the Gophers experience? The Real Man Travels team is currently looking for our next college football experience and would love to hear from you.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Jack Daniel's Barrel Tree Lighting Ceremony

Every once in a while something truly unique happens in your hometown or city. Toronto is never an exception to that rule and this year is the proud host of the Jack Daniel’s Barrel Christmas Tree.

Located at 544 King Street West in front of the marketing firm The Hive (who happen to share a rich history of business with Jack Daniel’s) the barrel tree is constructed out of Jack Daniel’s barrels that are decorated with lights, garland, ribbons and stands approximately 20-30 feet proudly. Sorry to burst all the bubbles of Jack Daniels fans but the barrels are empty!

Scott (@SFRealManTravels) and I (@EdRealManTravel) were lucky enough to be invited to the tree lighting ceremony on December 11th, 2013. At this ceremony we were introduced to a seasonal blend from Jack Daniel’s called Winter Jack. It is a mixed blend of apple cider liqueur (which really takes over the entire taste of the drink) Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whisky and holiday spices. The drink is best served warm and was nice to have after standing in the cold.

While I wasn't a fan of Winter Jack because I’m not fond of ciders, those who are will definitely find joy in this beverage during the winter season. You can find it at most LCBO’s across Ontario.

Many thanks to The Hive (@The_Hive) and Jack Daniel’s (@JackDaniels_US) for inviting us out to the lighting ceremony.

And if you are in Toronto be sure to get a photo of that beautiful barrel tree and share it on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #JDBarrelTree.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Loews Toronto Christmas Market

Do you ever get a little nostalgic when watching movies or looking at photos from “Christmases long long ago”? It’s easy to become indifferent about Christmas in the haze of mega-mall shopping and freezing cold temperatures that can leave your spirit meter depleted. Toronto offers the perfect remedy to your blue Christmas with the Loews Toronto Christmas Market.


The event recreates a European Christmas market complete with hanging lights, an absolutely massive Christmas tree, live music, a bevy of vendors, comfort food and festive beverages; all amongst the perfectly rustic setting of Toronto’s historic distillery district.

We managed to catch R&B artist Jully Black on stage while sipping Mill Street beers and hot mulled wine by open fires. Delicious aromas of poutine, schnitzel, churros and other treats mingled with the smell of the rustling wood fires to make it a truly sensational event.

The market runs from November 29 – December 15. Make a point to attend as it’s guaranteed to get you in the spirit of this amazing season.