Super Bowl LI takes place on February 5th in Houston, Texas. The last time Space City hosted the Super Bowl was 2004 (do the words "wardrobe malfunction" ring a bell?), and a lot has changed in the past 13 years. The growing metropolis has poured money into updating its public spaces and developed a reputation as a culinary capital. It also has a plethora of Super Bowl–related activities planned for the days leading up to the big game. So even if you can't get your hands on tickets, a road trip to Houston during Super Bowl week is a stellar way to absorb all that energy. Here are a few of the can't-miss attractions and events.
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The city is planning a Texas-size "Super Bowl LIVE" celebration with 10 days of free concerts, culinary experiences, and fan events. Discovery Green, a 12-acre park that was just a parking lot during the 2004 Super Bowl, will serve as the event's headquarters, and activities will span the surrounding 35 blocks. Event planners are expecting 1 million visitors to the area over the 10-day period. As you can imagine, parking will be an issue. So plan ahead.
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Top sights to see before Super Bowl LI
Space Center Houston
If the crowds at Discovery Green are taking the jelly out of your doughnut, drive 25 miles south on I-45 and pay homage to the source of Houston's official nickname, Space City. Space Center Houston is the official visitor center of NASA's Johnson Space Center. Visitors can view Apollo 17, touch a real-life moon rock, and then tour the Johnson Space Center. Plan ahead and you can even lunch with an astronaut. That way you can ask pressing science questions, like, "Can you see the NRG Stadium from space?"
Relax. Visiting Houston's Museum District doesn't mean staring at swirls of paint for an entire day—unless you want to, of course! The Museum District is home to 19 cultural attractions that appeal to a variety of interests. Did we mention that many of them are free?
After checking out Museum District art, take a break from driving to stretch your legs in the adjacent Hermann Park, a 445-acre park that's seen $46 million in renovations and additions since 2004. Enjoy shady walkways lined by 80-year-old live oaks, manicured gardens, an outdoor theater, a zoo, and scenic McGovern Lake. Oh, and a municipal golf course if you're so inclined.
Waugh Bridge Bat Colony
OK, this one's fairly weird, so we recommend checking it out—from a distance. Each evening at sunset, 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats erupt from beneath the bridge on Waugh Drive. The colony is large enough to be seen by weather radars when they emerge to feed on insects (hey, a bat's gotta eat). The bats are less active when the weather is especially cold, so pick a warmer night. The bridge is about a 10-minute drive west of Discovery Green.
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Fueling up for the big game
Sightseeing is hungry work. No matter where you spend your days before the Super Bowl, keep an eye out for some of Houston's best meals on wheels. Dozens of food trucks roam the streets, dispensing everything from cupcakes to banh mi. Curious about what goes into engineering a mobile kitchen? We were, too.
H-Town is a food lover's dream. In fact, it was named one of the Top 10 food cities in the country by the Washington Post in 2015. High-profile chefs and unexpected culinary experiences are as abundant here as brisket and BBQ plates. If the Super Bowl has you in the mood for big screens, bar food, and craft brews, you're in luck. But call ahead if you plan to watch the big game at a pub, as normal hours of operation and admission may vary.
So there you have it—a short list of cool stuff to do in a city that's long on options.
Taking a road trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI? Tell us about it!