Late winter in Houston is usually dominated by all things rodeo, but this year, Space City is abuzz with anticipation of Super Bowl LI on February 5. With more than a million people descending upon Houston for the enticing match-up between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, it’s important to know the lay of the land before you go.
Forbes Travel Guide has mapped out the perfect game plan for where to eat, drink, stay and play.
Where to stay
By now, most of Houston’s best hotels — Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa; Four-Star The St. Regis Houston; Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Houston; Four-Star Hotel Granduca, Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Hotel Derek; and the newly debuted Marriott Marquis Houston — are practically sold out for Super Bowl weekend.
Though some are still showing limited availability for those dates if you call directly, your best bet at getting into one of these premier addresses is to book a hospitality package with the NFL’s official provider, On Location Experiences. Elite, Premium and Diamond packages can still be reserved, and each includes tickets to the game, VIP entry, priority hotel booking and insider access to pre- and post-game parties and festivities.
Where to eat
There’s never been a better time to nosh in Houston. Anthony Bourdain recently featured the city’s diverse offerings in an episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown. And with more than 10,000 restaurants to choose from, you see why he and others are screaming Houston’s culinary praises right now.
Of course, if you want a place at the table over the lively Super Bowl weekend, you’ll need to plan ahead.
For chef-driven experiences, make reservations now for hot spots like State of Grace (contemporary Texan plates), The Pass and Provisions (New American dishes), Kata Robata (Japanese and sushi offerings) and BCN Taste & Tradition (Catalan and Spanish cuisine).
For Houston’s best fine-dining experiences, you’ll need to cross your fingers and hope that La Table Château, Tony’s, Four-Star Quattro, Brennan’s of Houston, Rainbow Lodge or Da Marco can squeeze you in.
When you crave a porterhouse (Pappas Bros. Steakhouse), beef brisket (Killen’s BBQ) or irresistible Tex-Mex (The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation) in between all of the pigskin parties, the Houston area is more than ready to serve.
International cuisine is well represented in the city as well. Himalaya Restaurant and Catering in the Mahatma Gandhi District offers Indian and Pakistani standards like delicious curries, spiced kebabs and a heaping of vegetarians options.
For dim sum and fresh seafood, try Fung’s Kitchen while inspired takes on Vietnamese cuisine can be found at the upscale Le Colonial in the River Oaks District and at the more casual Crawfish & Noodles on Bellaire Boulevard in Little Saigon.
Where to drink
If there’s one thing that Houstonians love, it’s a good drink, and it shows in the multitude of excellent craft cocktail spots, wine bars, ice houses and beer gardens in Bayou City.
For easy bar-hopping with convenient access to the Metrorail, visit Main Street, between Congress and Preston, to sip and sample at Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge, Moving Sidewalk, The Pastry War and Notsuoh.
Wooster’s Garden in Midtown, where from-scratch drinks meet excellent gastropub fare, provides a quintessentially Houston experience with views of the downtown skyline.
Where to play
The most exclusive events taking place during Super Bowl LI weekend — ESPN The Party, AT&T’s DirecTV Super Saturday Night and Rolling Stone Live: Houston Big Game Bash — will, of course, be invite only, but there is still a plethora of things to do leading up to Super Bowl Sunday throughout the entire city.
Next to the Discovery Green urban park, the Avenida Houston promenade makes its debut, connecting George R. Brown Convention Center with the Marriot Marquis, where you’ll find public arts installations along with 10 new restaurants such as The Breakfast Klub’s new Afro-Carribean spot Kulture and James Beard Award finalist Hugo Ortega’s creative Mexican restaurant, Xochi.
Biggio’s Sports Bar, a two-story gridiron paradise located within the Marriot Marquis, has announced that it will host a Super Bowl watch party on its two 50-foot jumbotrons and nine big-screen TVs.
For the 10 days leading up to Super Bowl LI (January 27 to February 5), Discovery Green urban park will host Super Bowl Live, a fan festival complete with free concerts (Solange, ZZ Top and more), games, food and entertainment.
Fans will also be able to purchase tickets to The NFL Experience (January 28 to 29 and February 1 to 5) at the George R. Brown Convention Center for meet-and-greets with former and current NFL players, interactive games and more.
On January 30, a Super Bowl opening night event (media interviews, live entertainment) will be held at Minute Maid Park.
You’ll have an opportunity to hobnob with NFL hall of famers at the Luminaries of the Game gala (February 1) hosted by Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt at downtown Houston’s Marriott Marquis.
As if all of that weren’t enough, on Super Bowl Sunday, there will a star-studded all-you-can-eat Players Tailgate Party in the shadows of NRG Stadium that will feature an appearance by celebrity chef Guy Fieri.