Attending the Super Bowl in person is a bucket-list item for sports fans that seems to get more out of reach every year.
Last season, game tickets on the secondary market at one point reached an astounding average of $10,000 per seat, according to TiqIQ, which tracks ticket trends. Because there are only so many radio contests to go around, many fans who want to be a part of Super Bowl 50 in the San Francisco Bay Area will need other options.
Luckily for them, the NFL has turned the Super Bowl into a weeklong affair, organizing happenings in and around the host city that appeal directly to football fans, as well as the nonfans who are tagging along, including dining events and free concerts.
The heart of the official Super Bowl activity will take place in downtown San Francisco, about an hour’s drive from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers and Super Bowl 50.
If you’re planning to be in the Bay Area in the days leading up to the game on Feb. 7, it also helps to seek the advice of an insider.
Benjamin Hoffman is one: He is a Brooklynite who grew up in the East Bay and is preparing to cover his seventh Super Bowl for The New York Times.
“It’s always interesting, every year, to see what the NFL puts together in each city,” Hoffman said. “They always have some kind of hook. Sometimes it’s effective, sometimes not.”
This year, Super Bowl organizers are playing up the region’s reputation as a center for technology and innovation, with Keith Bruce, chief executive of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, promising the “the most interactive fan experience ever.”
Super Bowl City, which will offer free activities to the general public, will be set up at the base of Market Street, near the waterfront, and will run Jan. 30 through Feb. 7. The centerpiece is what organizers are calling the Fan Energy Zone, which will include the 40-foot-tall Fan Dome, which allows those interested to play interactive games as digital avatars that display on giant screens.
Those seeking more football-focused fun can check out the annual NFL Experience, which is an NFL-themed playland, with games, autograph sessions with players, youth football clinics and memorabilia displays. It will be open Jan. 30 through Feb. 7 and will be held at Moscone Center North and South in San Francisco. Tickets are $25 for children 12 and under, and $35 for adults.
Taste of the NFL provides attendees the opportunity to sample food of notable chefs from around the country and to mingle with current and former NFL players. The 25th edition takes place on Feb. 6 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
This experience does come at a price ($700), but all proceeds go to food banks located in the 32 cities that are home to NFL teams, and you will also be treated to a concert by the rock group Third Eye Blind.
“They get the best local chefs from the big restaurants to do their signature thing,” Hoffman said. “The problem for us vegetarians is that almost every chef’s signature dish is a meat dish.”
Thankfully, vegetarians will have no trouble finding other, and much more affordable, options in the Bay Area. For a lower-key and classic San Francisco dining experience, Hoffman recommends El Farolito in the Mission District.
“It’s almost clichéd to say it’s ‘the burrito place,' but it really is ‘the burrito place' for a reason,” Hoffman said, but also added, “if you find any taqueria in the Mission you’re doing well.”
If you’ve never been to the area and want to hit several of the key tourist destinations, consider buying a Go San Francisco Card, which is a customizable, all-inclusive pass to some the area’s top museums and tours, including a cruise around the Golden Gate Bridge.
And infrequent visitors should take care to pack appropriate clothing. Just because it’s California does not mean it’s always warm and sunny.
“There’s a certain rite of passage of going to San Francisco as a tourist, or even a local who lives outside of the city, of every time you go, you have to buy something to keep you warmer,” Hoffman said. “There’s a whole thriving tourist economy based on hooded sweatshirts.”