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With the 50th season of the Big Game coming to Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, February 7, I wanted to look back at some of the other cities who have hosted this professional football championship. They were all great host cities, but they certainly have a lot to offer beyond that important event. Here’s a look at some past Big Game host cities and what you can see and do there – other than watch a great football game.
Los Angeles hosted the first professional football championship game, and the city’s diverse neighborhoods offer different attractions for various cultural, historic, culinary, and, of course, sports interests. Perhaps its best-known neighborhood is Hollywood. For star-struck visitors, make a trek to the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Although it will always be known for its former name, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, this venue still has its famous concrete display of the handprints and footprints of past and present silver screen legends. And of course, visitors can follow along the Walk of Fame. Consider visiting Griffith Park, with hiking trails and outdoor performance venue known as the Greek Theater. Its Griffith Observatory allows for full sky views due to its lengthy Zeiss telescope. LA has its own Museum Mile on Wilshire Boulevard with major sites such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (or also known as LACMA) with wide ranging collections spanning from antiquity to contemporary pieces. Plus explore Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and Sawtelle Japantown.
This Louisiana city is a culinary and cultural melting pot that keeps on getting stirred up. Of course, the major event in NOLA is Mardi Gras, an annual colorful carnival celebration that happens on the Tuesday before the season of Lent starts. One area that is a big draw is the French Quarter, noted for its cast-iron balconies and walled courtyards and jazz halls like Fritzel’s and Preservation Hall. Bourbon Street may be touristy, but Royal Street has fine stores and galleries. Or spend time around the open space Jackson Square or learn more about the US side of the Second World War at the National World War II Museum. Yet one of the best ways to savor New Orleans is through its food. Order the original muffuletta, an Italian sandwich, from Central Grocery or dress up for fine dining at old guard style venues like Antoine’s or Arnaud’s. Find beignets at Café Du Monde and shop at the French market. Away from the French Quarter, go to the Garden District and Uptown for more of an older residential feel of the city and learn more about the cultural heritage of the Tremé neighborhood.
Miami has everything from sand and sun, to nightlife and quite the scene. Its many beaches attract various crowds with different interests. And there are ocean-side ops for anything from swimming to snorkeling and SUP-ing to fishing. Miami Beach’s Art Deco scene features prime architecture reflecting this period, so head to Ocean Drive to see buildings from the twenties through the forties. For nightclubs, stay in South Beach for the LIV or head downtown to Bardot, or find a beat at Hoy Como Ayer. Get more of a flavor for Miami’s Latin culture by going to Little Havana; a neighborhood permeated with Cuban restaurants, fruit stands, Domino Park, and cigar stores. The last Friday of every month features Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays, an arts event. Plus the annual Art Basel brings out Miami’s artistic side.
Besides hosting Big Game XLVI, Indy’s top sporting event remains racing. In 2016, the annual Indianapolis 500 marks its centennial running; it takes place every Memorial Day Weekend. As for dining, Indy has a farm-to-table movement, with standouts like Traders Point Creamery, an organic dairy farm/restaurant, and its farmers’ market, Locally Grown Gardens. Its coffee scene percolates with independent roasters like Funkyard, a Fountain Square shop with fun 3D wall art, and Mo’Joe Coffee House, which attracts both suits and students at its downtown spot. For those who prefer to see Indianapolis on foot, there are a number of parks and walkways to explore. Along with green space, the White River State Park has two museums, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Indianapolis Zoo. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an eight-mile biking and trail that connects various neighborhoods like the shopping/dining area of Mass Ave, while the downtown Canal Walk is a waterside promenade that’s good for walking, running, biking, and sightseeing.
Along with having the Big Game XL, Detroit has its good share of sports teams including baseball, hockey, basketball, and, yes, football. Though the Motor City has been hit hard economically over the decades, today Detroit is feeling more of an entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of revitalization. The DNR Outdoor Nature Center tells locals and visitors more about Michigan's outdoor recreation scene through replicas of natural settings, hands-on exhibits, and educational displays. Placed along the Detroit River, Belle Island Park offers a lot of outdoor fun with Dossin Great Lakes Museum, which teaches about the area’s nautical history. The historic Eastern Market is good for watching vendors at work and for picking up produce. On the downtown area, try a Coney Island dog at either American Coney Island or Lafayette Coney Island. Music lovers will groove onto Motown Museum, and artistic types should explore the Detroit Institute of Arts or The Z, a parking garage/art gallery, also in downtown. For getting around, The Detroit People Mover stops at locations including Ford Field, Greektown, or the redeveloped Detroit Riverfront.
Which of these former Big Game host cities is your favorite?
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As a kid flipping through the pages of National Geographic magazines, Michele Herrmann became hooked on learning about new places and cultures. As an adult, she's turned her love for writing and passion for travel into a career that's been full of adventure and surprises. Her work has appeared on Yahoo Travel, The Lost Girls, The Points Guy, ShermansTravel, Epicure & Culture, and Budget Travel. She also posts about travel from her own perspective on her blog, She Is Going Places. Follow Michele on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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