Mar 28 2014, 11:32am CDT | by Forbes
It isn’t only basketball teams and colleges that win in the NCAA semifinals and finals; the tournament’s a huge gain for host cities.
Take Indianapolis. “Indy is anticipating a $20 million economic impact” from the three games of the Sweet 16 this weekend, says Morgan Greenlee of Visit Indy, the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau – hotels, transportation, food and fun, not to mention tickets. It’s even bigger for the Final Four, held in Arlington, Tex. next weekend, where organizers estimate that out-of-state visitors will spend a jaw-dropping $60 million in the city and $276 million in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region.
To wit, here are the Sweet 16 and Final Four venues and some suggestions from locals of where to spend your March Madness mad money: places to see, eat and drink, along with some unexpected moments you can Facebook to the folks back home and make them insanely jealous.
West Regional Tournament
March 27 & 29 – Honda Center/>/>
What to do. A few miles from the arena is a little park called Disneyland. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Almost 60 years since Walt opened the gates, attractions like the teacup ride, It’s a Small World and Space Mountain are still draws. Newer (13 years old) is Disney California Adventure next door, where you can ride through Cars Land, stream the California Screaming roller coaster, plunge in the Hollywood Tower of Terror, or view World of Color, a nighttime sound and light show projected onto a wall of water from fountains on the lagoon.
Where to eat. Sample California’s bounty at Napa Rose restaurant in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, or go Cajun and musical at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in the Downtown Disney district, the well-scrubbed shopping street by the theme parks. Upscale national chains like McCormick and Schmick’s and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine line the Anaheim GardenWalk shopping center. Craving ethnic? Try Little Arabia on the other side of Anaheim.
Where to drink. Watch game after game at ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. At the Disneyland Hotel, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is tiki to the max, with tall, strong drinks and good clean fun. Order the Krakatoa Punch and watch what happens.
Unexpected moment you can Facebook to the folks back home. De-Disnefy at the surprisingly hipster scene of the newly revitalized Center Street, a few miles from the stadium and Disneyland. Look for shops like the Look and Good (women’s and men’s clothing), smoothies to sandwiches at Healthy Junk, and Barbeer, where you can get a brew with your shave or haircut. Nearby, in the also revived Packing District, sample house-brewed beers at the tasting room of Anaheim Brewery, or get a top-flight burger at SoCal’s mini-chain Umami.
South Regional Tournament
March 27 & 29 – FedExForum/>/>
What to do. Live la vida Elvis. Across town from the FedEx Forum, Graceland, the Presley mansion, is preserved as it was during the King’s lifetime and enhanced with hall after hall of memorabilia from gold records to sequined jumpsuits. Back in town, Sun Studio is a national landmark where legends including Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins recorded; the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet was inspired by a meeting they had here.
Where to eat. Gus’s Fried Chicken. GQ has called this simple shack in downtown Memphis one of the top five restaurants in the country worth hopping on a plane for. The chicken’s not the only thing that’s fried: fried green tomatoes and fried pickles are starring sides, and the dining room is filled with pure country artifacts.
Where to drink. Beale Street, baby. Yes, it’s kind of a cliche now and some say it’s for the tourists, but it’s the street where Elvis learned about the blues, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for you. Rum Boogie is an always-busy joint with over 360 guitars in its collection, and down the street is the original location of B.B. King’s Blues Club.
Unexpected moment to Facebook. Stax Museum of American Soul Music pays tribute to the record label of Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, the Staple Singers, Otis Redding and more, and the entire history of soul and funk. It’s the only museum we’ve ever visited where boogieing on a disco floor is encouraged with classic videos from TV’s Soul Train as your backdrop. Or get a selfie in front of Hayes’ gold-trimmed, white fur-lined 1972 Cadillac Eldorado.
Midwest Regional Tournament
March 28 & 30 – Lucas Oil Stadium/>/>
What to do: The NCAA is headquartered in Indy, and its Hall of Champions covers the 23 NCAA sports from football to skiing. Experience tennis balls being shot at you at full speed (a glass panel keeps you safe), a downhill ski simulator and a 1930’s-style basketball court where you can shoot hoops. Its in an easy walk from Lucas Oil Stadium in White River State Park, 250-acres of downtown green space with great views of the city skyline.
Where to Eat: Author Kurt Vonnegut is a native Hoosier and local hero, and Bluebeard, named after his novel, does farm-to-table cooking in a library-style room. It’s not just for literati, though: the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, is also a frequent guest. Open up your bill (in an old library book) and you may find his signature. It’s a few minutes’ drive from the stadium, with a patio for when the weather warms up.
Where to Drink: Just a few blocks from the stadium, Slippery Noodle Inn claims the title of Indiana’s oldest bar and the history to prove it. Look for bullet holes in the wall from John Dillinger days and the basement door where slaves arrived when it was a station on the Underground Railroad. Upstairs: originally a brothel, naturally. There’s nightly live jazz and blues.
Unexpected Facebook moment. Indianapolis was mapped out by Alexander Ralston, an associate of Pierre L’Enfant, who planned our nation’s capital, and Indy claims to be second only to D.C. in the number of war monuments and memorials. Climb the 330 stairs to the top of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial on Monument Circle, which marks the center of downtown, for a 360-degree view of the city. A couple blocks north is the Indiana World War Memorial, where the shrine room is spectacular.
What to do. Are you kidding? It’s New York! What can’t you do? But there’s always something new in City that Never Sleeps. The National September 11 Memorial Museum opens May 21, but for the time being you can visit the twin reflecting pools in the footprints of the twin towers, with the names of those who perished etched in bronze, open 10am to 8pm daily; getting a timed pass in advance will speed your visit, at 911memorial.org.
Where to eat. The closest of New York’s dozens of ethnic neighborhood to Madison Square Garden is Koreatown, on 32nd Street. It’s a great way to try cooking your own beef barbecue at grills embedded in the tables. Or in Hell’s Kitchen about 10 blocks north of the Garden and a few blocks west, the new food hall Gotham West Market has 8 mini-restaurants from tapas to ramen to ice cream, meaning that there’s something for every taste, in a cool post-industrial setting with high ceilings and communal tables.
Where to drink. Sports fans swear by Foley’s, near Madison Square Garden, for its many TVs, craft beer selection, burgers, sports memorabilia and, um, oversize urinals.
Facebook moment. If you haven’t been to New York in the last few years, you may be surprised at how bike-friendly it’s become. The Citibike bike share program costs just $9.95 per day and allows you to pick up a bike at one location and ride it up to 30 minutes at a time to another Citibike station. That’s long enough to ride across the Brooklyn Bridge for a skyline selfie and rest up before the next leg of your journey.
National Semifinals & Championship Game
April 5 & 7 – AT&T Stadium/>/>
What to do. Arlington, between Dallas and Ft. Worth, is a sports town if there ever was one; a freeway named for legendary Cowboys football coach Tom Landry runs right through it. If you’ve o-d’d on b-ball, the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame showcases the history of bowling (back to ancient Egypt) to its current spot as the No. 1 participatory spot in the world. Kids can practice on a small alley where the pins are raised using strings. Arlington’s also home to Six Flags Over Texas, the landmark amusement park and DFW area’s biggest attraction.
Where to eat. Irish nachos at J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill, a local institution. They’re topped with bacon bits, chives, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos topped and mucho melted cheddar. What makes them Irish: fried potatoes instead of tortilla chips. Owner Randy Ford says that the restaurant averages about 5,000 potatoes and 150 pounds of cheese weekly for the nachos alone. See “what to do” above if you need some activity to work them off.
Where to drink. BoomerJack’s Grill & Bar is a Texas-sized sports bar about a half-mile from the stadium. Folks are in awe of the sheer number of TVs so you needn’t miss a second of your favorite game, whatever it is.
UMYCFTTFBH. AT&T Stadium, where the championship game is held, is also where the Cowboys play. It’s also the only NFL stadium that’s also a fine art museum; the Dallas Cowboys Art Collection houses 58 contemporary works from artists up-and-coming American artists to the art world rock stars like the Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson. Download the smart phone app for an in-depth tour.
Source: Forbes Auto
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