We know that bidding to be a Super Bowl host is no easy task. We’re not going to take anything away from Greater Phoenix in that respect. But come on, when your city can promise 72-degree February temperatures, world-class accommodations and a roster of extracurricular activities that would give Johnny Manziel a migraine, the place essentially sells itself.
When it comes to Super Bowl XLIX, the metro area’s third time in the spotlight since 1996, the toughest part for visitors won’t be getting into the big game in Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1—ticket resellers still have hundreds of seats they’re trying to unload—but figuring out what to do before and after it. Luckily, Forbes Travel Guide editors did a bit of pregame scouting around the city and came up with a plan for die-hard football fans and fair-weather followers just looking for clear skies and a grand old time.
What to Know
Back in early October, pop sensation Katy Perry was on ESPN’s College GameDay talking about the potentiality of being this year’s Super Bowl halftime act. The singer and the NFL appeared worlds apart in negotiations. Fast forward three months and Perry’s on Today not only confirming her appearance, but announcing that rock god Lenny Kravitz would be accompanying her onstage. There’s just something about performing in front of a domestic audience of 110 million people that brings sides together, isn’t there?
Even beyond a weekend of great sounds, however, the game itself has the makings of a classic. The defending champion Seattle Seahawks haven’t done anything flashy with the ball, but their choking defense hasn’t let anyone come up for air either. On the other side of the ball, the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots, who are making their sixth Super Bowl appearance since 2000, just keep doing what they’ve always done—win. So, no matter who ends up lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the $5,000 ticket for the game (and Perry-Kravitz duet) almost seems worth it.
What to Do
As is the yearly tradition with the Super Bowl, event planners said to heck with moderation and absolutely stuffed the calendar with things to do. In Phoenix, which sits about 10 miles from Glendale, the fun began before the NFL Playoffs even kicked off with an exhibit at renowned Heard Museum called “Beautiful Games: American Indian Sport and Art” back in December. This collection, which looks at Native Americans’ influence in everything from football to rodeo, shows through November. The city stays in the gridiron mood from January 28-February 1 with Verizon Super Bowl Central, 12 downtown blocks of family-friendly games, autograph sessions with former players, outdoor broadcast booths and nightly fireworks displays. But should you need a break from the turf, the overachieving Phoenix Suns can be found on the hardwood a few streets over at US Airways Center versus the Washington Wizards (January 28) and Chicago Bulls (January 30).
Now, if you think things are festive in Phoenix in late January, tighten up your chin strap before looking at Glendale’s agenda. Music lovers of all kinds will want to huddle around the DirecTV Super Fan Festival (Imagine Dragons, Snoop Dogg, Zac Brown Band) at Pendergast Family Farm (January 28-30). The same goes for the Westgate Entertainment District’s Super Music Series (Los Lobos, Eli Young Band) at the popular shopping center sitting in the shadow of University of Phoenix Stadium (January 28-February 1).
Even with all of this musical excitement, however, the only place to be on game day is the Prime Sport VIP Super Bowl Pregame Party, an invite-only get-together just outside the stadium hosted by Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and features celebrity appearances, an open bar, food and more.
Where to Relax
Weaving through bar crowds at CityScape Phoenix or haggling over game-day tickets can be the source of great pressure any time of the season. During Super Bowl Week, it’s only magnified. One way savvy visitors can tackle headaches before they arise is by stopping by Desert Botanical Garden. If there ever was serenity in the sands, it’s at this attraction where over 50,000 plants are collected in gorgeous outdoor settings. Of course, worrying about your team’s performance could prove too much for a stroll through the flora; should that be the case, set up an appointment at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa’s Aji Spa. A Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star escape that prides itself on implementing indigenous techniques into its practices, Aji’s healing Thoachta and exfoliating Nahtogig treatments are the kinds of services that leave everyday guests feeling like pampered professional athletes.
Where to Eat
If you didn’t start your Phoenix-area hotel searches for the big weekend before Halloween, you’re probably scrambling to find a budget room by now. But even though high-end properties such as Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Four-Star Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa and Four-Star The Phoenician are sold out, that doesn’t mean you can’t still bask in their culinary pleasures. Wright’s at the Biltmore is on its game every night with a fresh, classic dishes (roasted beet salad, salmon provençal) done with a contemporary twist. The same goes for the winning, just-picked tastes (black truffle chicken with Bloomsdale spinach) coming from Sanctuary on Camelback’s Elements. And at The Phoenician’s Relish Burger Bistro, the kitchen has really kicked things up a notch with two burgers oozing in flavors of the two Super Bowl cities. The “12th Man” burger (named after the clamorous Seattle fanbase) is made with freshly ground salmon, mixed with panko and dill, and topped with smoked crab and tempura oysters. The New England-themed “Pat the Patriot” burger consists of fresh lobster and shrimp, and is served with a clam and bacon tartar sauce.
On January 30 at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, break bread with former NFL coach Tom Dungy, legendary wide receiver Steve Largent and others at the Super Bowl Breakfast, a ticketed event where the 2015 Bart Starr Award for character and leadership will be handed out. If you don’t have a game ticket, stop by Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale Troon North’s Proof, An American Canteen on February 1 for the Super Bowl party you’ve dreamed about since your Pop Warner days. With 11 televisions, all-you-can-manage wings, a brownie bar, giveaways every quarter and more, the only place better to be might be the 50-yard line.