A Game Day Guide to the Bay Area


First, a clarification—or maybe even an admission: “Game Day” really means Game Week, Game Month, Game Season, Game Year. We impassioned football fans are like kids at Christmas: No sooner is the Big Game winner official than the countdown begins to next year’s big day. Baseball and basketball are fine distractions—okay, for some of us mighty fine distractions—but look, there’s nothing like getting in some quality couch time with a bowl of chips and the big screen glowing with your team’s colors.

For a few of us, the obsession (not a clinical obsession, mind you . . . just the mild and totally benign sort) takes us to the actual Big Game. This year, the Big Game will be at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California’s high-tech mecca. And who doesn’t love some leisure time in NorCal, with San Francisco, Wine Country, the East Bay and beyond, all within easy reach?

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty—the exciting attractions and events that begin waaay before the actual game and help make the Big Game a truly winning experience.

Get There Early – Days Early!

There’s lots do in the Bay Area on any given day, but in anticipation of the Big Game, special haps and exhibits are suited up to get fans pumped up and informed.

Open January 30 through Game Day (February 7, but you know that), is a free-to-the-public fan village set up by the Host Committee. Stretching along Market Street and centered in Justin Herman Plaza at The Embarcadero in San Francisco, a host of family-friendly zones, presentations and diversions showcases both the beloved game of football and the unique vibe and attractions of the Bay Area.

Witness cultural performances, peruse interesting displays shedding light on the Bay Area’s considerable technological might, nibble on locally grown foods and join professional football-themed activities. All for a good cause: Fun and football!

Heads up, music fans!

FREE concerts:

  • Chris Isaak: January 30, 6:25pm
  • Aloe Blacc: February 1, 6pm
  • Matt Nathanson, February 3, 7:30pm
  • The Band Perry: February 4, 7:30pm
  • One Republic: February 5, 8:30pm
  • Alicia Keys: February 6, 7pm

Concerts by top bands at various spots around San Francisco and Santa Clara:

  • Heart: Mission College, January 31, 4:30pm
  • Dave Matthews Band: Pier 70, February 4, 9pm
  • Pharrell Williams: Pier 70, February 5, 10pm
  • Rolling Stones Live Party: San Francisco Design Center, February 6
  • Metallica featuring Cage the Elephant: AT&T Park, February 6, 7pm
  • Huey Lewis & The News: Santa Clara University, February 6, 6:30pm

Super Community

There’s more to Santa Clara than Levi’s Stadium. Santa Clara is rolling out the welcome mat with a host of Super Community events, including:

  • Super Community Concert and Fireworks, January 31. An afternoon of musical performances and “An Evening with Heart.” Enjoy food and a beer and wine garden with the evening concluding with a concert by Heart and a spectacular fireworks show.
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame Gridiron Glory Exhibit, open now through April 3. Highlights of this free exhibit include artifacts from the Hall of Fame’s collection, an interactive instant replay booth that allows fans to make their own game calls and autograph sessions with former players.
  • Free-ticketed Super Community Celebration, February 6. Celebrate the final countdown to kickoff at Santa Clara University with a celebrity sweat game, a pep rally and player signings, a wide range of culinary offerings, a concert featuring Huey Lewis and The News and fireworks.

Beat the Crowds – or Join Them!

You can check into a swank San Francisco hotel, something like the mod-lux St. Regis South of Market (SoMa) or the classically elegant Fairmont in Nob Hill. Or jet out to Wine Country to rest your head at a country-chic bed and breakfast or gorgeously situated boutique hotel (the Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford comes to mind). Relax at the spa, dine on exquisite meals, get away from it all, and maybe check the game on your in-room flat screen. Reality check! This is the Big Game! So get yourself on down to a rockin’ Bay Area pub and save Wine Country for some post-game detox and relaxation.

Live in Levi’s?

If you have luck, connections or deep pocketbooks – SB50 tickets are setting records as the most expensive ever – then you’ve scored a ticket to Levi’s Stadium to experience the Big Game in stereo. Most fans will be watching from home or a local watering hole. But we can still dream…

Levi’s Stadium: 2015 Sports Facility of the Year & 2015 Venue of the Year

Home of the San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium is in Santa Clara, about 40 miles from San Francisco. The stadium, built to replace the site of the 49ers’ aging home at Candlestick Park, broke ground in 2012 and opened in 2014.

Capacity: 68,500 (expandable to 75,000). Cost: $1.2 billion. Space: 1.85 million square feet. Surface: Turf. Environmental score: High, with an open and airy feel, hundreds of solar panels and other earth-friendly design features. Previous events: The core four surviving members of the Grateful Dead performed here in June, 2015. Country stars Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan graced the stage on separate dates in 2015. WrestleMania got a hold of fans in March of 2015.

The stage is set for multi-Grammy-Award-winning Coldplay with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars to perform during halftime.

If you’re actually attending the game at Levi’s, be sure to hop in a Taxi or an Uber, the ONLY ride-sharing services allowed to enter Levi’s. Uber has secured a deal with and will have its own pickup and drop-off zones at the stadium (Red Lot 7 on the north end of the stadium). Taxis will be on Calle de Luna, east of the stadium.

Other options include public transportation, private vehicles or a $55 express bus called the Fan Express that will shuttle ticketholders to and from the stadium.

Penalty Flag

Note: Tailgating will not be allowed in any parking lots.

Time out!

For those of you who don’t leave home without your smartphone: Get the equivalent of 50-yard-line access with the official Levi’s Stadium mobile app, available at the Apple App Store and Google Play. Download to get practical and thrill-adding features like wayfinding for navigating the stadium, mobile ordering of food and beverages, and a “game center” for watching high-def video replays.

Stay a While! Check out the Bay Area Post-Game

It would take a whole article in and of itself to cover the sights and attractions of the Bay Area (hmmm, we might do that!). From Coit Tower and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, to the oak-studded hills of Oakland and renowned wineries of Napa and Sonoma, to the shores of Half Moon Bay and the fog-mantled coast of Mendocino and beyond, this slice of California paradise deserves more than a few days of exploration. No matter who wins the game, it’s a touchdown for visitors, with no penalty for excessive celebration. Let the countdown begin!