After 17 grueling weeks of the regular season and three rounds of heart-attack playoff games, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals will battle it out at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa on February 1. Tickets are few and far between, and most hotel accommodations were sold out well in advance. But, if you're one of the fortunate gearing up to visit Tampa, the weekend is dotted with several events and attractions for fans of all ages.
1. Catch a glimpse of the players. The AFC champions, my beloved Steelers, will be staying at the luxury hotel Intercontinental Tampa. The NFC champions, the Cardinals, will be housed at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. Hunker down in the lobby with your morning coffee and a paper, and you might get a glimpse of Steelers safety Troy Palamalou or Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. You may also be able to catch them after practice and media events.
2. Da Coach's Championship Week Golf Classic. If you're planning to start the Super Bowl weekend early, football great Mike Ditka will be hosting the second annual "Championship Week Golf Classic" at the Avila Golf & Country Club on Thursday, January 29. You can hit the links with several of the "Gridiron Greats," including Eric Dickerson, Mel Renfro, Deacon Jones, and Chuck Forman. The event, which supports the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, offers golf foursomes, individual golf spots, and VIP packages.
3. Where football, photography, and fine arts merge. Check out the special photographic exhibition in honor of Super Bowl XLIII, all while sipping on martinis. Thirty photographs from Getty Images will be on view at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Tickets are only $4.
4. Legends of charity. He . . . Could . . . Go . . . All . . . the . . . Way! Pay tribute to the career of ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, who will be honored at this event, hosted by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, the famous radio hosts of ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning. The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on January 29 at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel.
5. The NFL experience. Get ready to rumble at this massive event, which features more than 50 interactive games and attractions. Held at Raymond James Stadium, the site of the title game, participants can get free autograph sessions with NFL stars, attend instructional clinics that focus on punting, passing, and kicking, or see the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy on display. The event is from January 24 to February 1, and tickets are $18.50 for adults and $12.50 for children under 12.
6. NFL Pepsi Smash Super Bowl Bash. Music artists Rihanna, Enrique Inglesias, Fall Out Boy, and Lifehouse will perform on Thursday, January 29, and Friday, January 30. The bash includes two concerts that will take place at the Ford Amphitheatre. Tickets for the NFL Pepsi Smash Super Bowl Bash are available for $20, $35, and $45.
7. Taste of the NFL. Head over to Tropicana Field, home of the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, for a food and wine frenzy, featuring 32 top chefs—including celebrity chef Tom Colicchio—from each NFL city, paired with a current or alumni NFL player. Guests will sample food and wine from E&J Gallo Winery.
8. Participate in the halftime show. Producers of the Super Bowl halftime show, featuring Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, want you to be in the game. They're still in need of around 2,000 fans to be part of the audience during the halftime show. Volunteers must attend all rehearsals and be over the age of 16. Interested volunteers can log on to www.superbowlcast.com to register and view the rehearsal schedule.