Photo courtesy of Christopher Dydyk

Super Bowl brings out the best in the Bay Area

Super Bowl 50, held in Santa Clara, California, on Feb. 7, sparked events, exhibits, parties and more throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area for nearly two weeks. The regionwide party included not only football-related activities, but also the chance for visitors to engage with the Bay Area’s cutting-edge technology, visit natural wonders such as the Pacific Ocean and redwood forests, and enjoy the nation’s best-known wines and food, prepared by world-renowned chefs.

And that was just for starters. Let’s just say the San Francisco Bay Area knows how to throw a party. There were tons of events, as local cities, counties and organizations used the Super Bowl spotlight to highlight their destinations, from Sonoma to Monterey counties.

“The people of San Francisco were big winners in Super Bowl 50,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. “Our hotels were nearly filled with visitors spending not only on hotel rooms, but on restaurants, transportation, shopping, entertainment and more.”

The Super Bowl brought out the best in the San Francisco Bay Area, so if you’re thinking about holding a meeting, event or convention there, look no further than the super venues and cultural experiences on display during the festive time before, during and after the big game.

South Bay

Levis_Stadium_2015-3Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara

Santa Clara, home to Levi’s Stadium and Super Bowl 50, held numerous activities in conjunction with the game. The stadium features 400,000 sq. ft. of rentable space for events and nearly 200,000 sq. ft. outdoors. While the stadium seats 68,500 for games, the venue can host up to 8,200 for a private banquet.

lobby2Santa Clara Convention Center

On game day, Santa Clara Convention Center, across from the stadium, hosted three parties: NFL on Location, San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee and Anheuser Busch Bud Light event. According to David Andre, vice president of marketing and communications for Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau, the fact that the convention center was able to host fans before the game and that the fans then were able to walk over to the stadium shows the convenience of hosting major events in the city.

“The day was just fantastic,” Andre says. “It had a tremendous impact, putting Santa Clara on the map.”

It also didn’t hurt that Super Bowl 50 took place under sunny skies, with the second-warmest temperatures in the event’s history.

To celebrate the Super Bowl, Santa Clara unveiled a commemorative public art piece, called Anything’s Possible, by artist Linda Serrao. The piece is displayed on a public walkway across from the stadium and consists of two life-sized bronze figures commemorating the 50th Super Bowl. It also celebrates the city of Santa Clara as “The Center of What’s Possible,” a name that takes on a double entendre because of the area’s rich connection to important technology companies.

Triton Museum of Art, a contemporary museum located across the street from Santa Clara Civic Center, hosted a free art exhibit, Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The exhibit included more than 200 football mementos, award-winning photography, one-of-a-kind documents, interactive features, NFL footage and the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The museum features high ceilings, pyramidal skylights and a graceful, curved glass wall that overlooks a sculpture garden. Available for private events, the museum can host receptions for up to 300.

Santana-Row-Park-Fountain-and-BlvdSantana Row, San Jose

Team San Jose helped arrange local concerts, wine and beer tastings, and transportation to and from the game. A popular party area turned out to be San Jose’s Santana Row, a 42-acre residential, office, shopping and entertainment district where Silicon Valley luminaries often go to dine.

“The Super Bowl Opening Night at our SAP Center and our presence in Super Bowl City allowed us to showcase our great destination assets, including some of our amazing cultural partners,” says Laura Chmielewski, vice president for marketing and communications for Team San Jose.

Team San Jose reports that on Feb. 5–7, local hotels experienced a 181 percent increase for revenue per available room and 142 percent increase for average daily rate over the same period in 2015.

Preceding the Super Bowl, the South First Area (SoFA) of downtown San Jose hosted artists, craft retailers, live music and do-it-yourself activities. The SoFA area serves as the city’s visual arts and entertainment district. Cool, organic and creative, SoFA is a place where you can interact with some of the most eclectic and artistic people in the city.

On game day, runners and walkers participated in the Super Guadalupe River Run, a 10K and 5K run along the Guadalupe River Trail. The run benefited the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that promotes the development and active use of San Jose Central Park.

San Francisco

SB50_SF-Travel-164Super Bowl City, San Francisco

To say Super Bowl 50 had a major impact on San Francisco is an understatement. On Feb. 4–7, the city experienced a 190 percent increase in hotel tax revenue over the same period in 2015, according to San Francisco Travel, which relied on data supplied by analytics specialist STR to gain insights about the impact of the Super Bowl.

Those four days generated $8.2 million in hotel tax. The projection represents only hotel tax revenues; it does not include vacation rentals or increases to sales tax, business tax or other revenues to the private and public sector, which won’t be released until June.

On Feb. 6, the day before the Super Bowl, San Francisco hotels were at 90.7 percent occupancy. On Feb. 5, 6 and 7, the city experienced the highest level of hotel revenue on record.

Downtown, across from the Ferry Building and San Francisco Bay, the eight-block Super Bowl City was the center of the preparty celebration. Throngs of people braved lines to get through intense security and enter the free, fenced-off area, where they were rewarded with food, technology, and entertainment on small and large stages. Participating organizations and businesses included Team San Jose, Sonoma County Tourism, Verizon and Budweiser, which sponsored booths, music, dancing, exhibits and more.

Headliners for free concerts featured local rock star Chris Isaak, R&B superstar Alicia Keys, One Republic and The Band Perry. Other performers included music by Center Teen Jazz Orchestra, Marcus Shelby Trio and Oakland Interfaith Gospel choir, and dancing by Ballet Folklorico Costa de Oro—to name a few acts on the main stages.

“Look at how happy these people are,” Chmielewski said. In front of her, a man joined the colorfully costumed dancers on stage, shimmying right alongside them.

san-joseSuper Bowl City, San Francisco (photo courtesy of Janet Kornblum)

By showcasing local talent, San Jose was introducing crowds to “all its diversity and all its culture, all its treasures,” Chmielewski said. And it worked. “Everybody wants to visit now. This has been a really great thing for us. What bigger spotlight is there than the Super Bowl?”

Sonoma County, known in the Bay Area as the twin to better-known Napa Valley, had one of the more popular areas within the Super Bowl City confines. Sonoma County set up a tasting room that served chardonnays, pinot noirs and cabernets from 50 rotating vintners.

MNVMW3HiResMoscone Center, San Francisco

At Moscone Center, NFL Experience took advantage of San Francisco’s largest convention venue. Visitors paid $35 to play interactive games, shop for all things NFL and Super Bowl, and of course, eat and drink. Plus they got to visit the popular convention center, which is undergoing a $500 million expansion. When the project is complete in 2018, Moscone will feature more than 500,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space, a new 50,000-square-foot ballroom and more than 20,000 sq. ft. of secure terrace space.

The-Fillmore---Jazz-Heritage-CenterFillmore Heritage Center, San Francisco

In the historic Fillmore District, considered by many to be the heart and soul of San Francisco, visitors could participate in the Beats & Eats Pub Crawl, held the Thursday before Super Bowl. A DJ played old-school R&B during a gathering of former NFL players at Fillmore Heritage Center, which includes a 500-seat auditorium, bar area and outdoor terrace.

“Our hotels provided a perfect setting for the world to see as fans, media and Super Bowl attendees enjoyed the authentic hospitality that make San Francisco a great place to visit,” says Kevin Carroll, executive director of Hotel Council of San Francisco. “Super Bowl 50’s success holds great promise for San Francisco to host the game again.”

RCHALFM_00398The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

NFL legends, Super Bowl MVPs and Pro Football Hall of Famers led a field of golfers at the 30th annual NFL Foundation Golf Tournament, held the day before the Super Bowl at Half Moon Bay Golf Links. The course offers reception space for up to 400. Luxury accommodations can be found at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.

NFL stars and other celebrities participated in the Wounded Warrior football game at College of San Mateo. Wounded Warriors include men and women who lost a limb while serving the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Hiller-Aviation-Museum-4-by-Edna-GellerHiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos (photo courtesy of San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB and Edna Takeda Geller)

Hiller Aviation Museum, located south of San Francisco in San Carlos, explored the combination of football and flight in a family-friendly extravaganza the day before the game. The museum is a hidden jewel for special events, with space for up to 800.

Cow Palace, which celebrates its 75th birthday this year, is a key event venue in Daly City, south of San Francisco. With a seating capacity of more than 14,000, it has hosted two Republican National Conventions and top entertainers, including The Beatles, Jackson 5 and The Rolling Stones.

In the past two years, Cow Palace has undergone $700,000 in upgrades. It offers 256,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, allowing it to host popular events such as Grand National Rodeo.

North Bay

In addition to hosting its wine-tasting lounge at Super Bowl City, Sonoma lured tourists to visit wine country, with deals throughout the county. Businesses offered special discounts on hotels, tours, wine tastings and attractions.

Special rates were offered at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, which has several event spaces, as well as Old Crocker Inn and Farmhouse Inn. Sonoma events included tastings from Russian River Brewing Company and an art walk in the river town of Guerneville—known as a playground for much of the Bay Area because of its proximity to the Russian River—as well as small wineries and breweries. Those who weren’t satisfied with just wine and beer dined in crustaceans at the Great Sonoma Wine and Crab Fest at Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.

People who didn’t want to—or weren’t able to—go to the actual Super Bowl had several alternatives, including parties at Petaluma Golf & Country Club, an event at Victor Hill Wines dubbed “Wine and Swine,” and a catered feast by acclaimed chef Ari Weiswasser at Glen Ellen Star restaurant, which offers exclusive dining opportunities.

Yountville Community Center in Napa Valley featured a game-day watch party, hosted by six Pro Football Hall of Fame legends, which served as a fundraiser for the Tug McGraw Foundation. The party featured lounge areas hosted by a Pro Football Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz, Jack Youngblood, Dave Wilcox, Willie Brown, Chris Dolman and Joe DeLamielleure. The community center has two spaces that can hold 250 and 400 guests.

East Bay

Rachel-Capil-Photography---3---44---Renaissance-ClubSport-Walnut-CreekRenaissance ClubSport Hotel, Walnut Creek

On the Friday before Super Bowl, the 17th annual NFL Sanctioned Super Bowl Gospel Celebration was held at the Art Deco landmark Paramount Theatre in Oakland. The annual Super Bowl event drew NFL players, top gospel and contemporary Christian performers, mainstream Grammy award-winning artists and special guests. The 3,040-seat theater was the perfect venue for the evening of uplifting music and inspirational messages.

Berkeley is the home of University of California, which features a 63,000-seat stadium and a 11,877-seat arena. A popular host for college and professional teams competing in the Bay Area is Claremont Club & Spa, which offers 276 guest rooms and 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Walnut Creek has several hotels for events. The 338-room Walnut Creek Marriott features 13 meeting rooms, with 19,705 sq. ft. of total meeting space. The 175-room Renaissance ClubSport Hotel, also owned by Marriott, has 4,000 sq. ft. of event space. The 249-room Embassy Suites by Hilton Walnut Creek has 8,000 sq. ft. of event space.

Diablo Valley got some great news just after the Super Bowl when its headquarters city of Concord was ranked as one of the top 10 places in the world to retire by to Conde Nast Traveler. The 12,500-seat Concord Pavilion is a top entertainment venue and can be bought out for special events.

Monterey Joins the Party

bs_bixbybridge1_seemontereyPhoto courtesy of Rachel Capil Photography

Visitors flocking to the San Francisco Bay Area for the Super Bowl in February were lured through a clever campaign to the other bay in Northern California, Monterey Bay.

Known for otters, whales, a world-class aquarium, views, fine dining, top-notch shopping and luxury hotels, Monterey is a two-hour scenic drive from San Francisco. It features several convention-ready hotels as well as restaurants able to accommodate just about any private dining needs.

“The View is Bigger than the Game” campaign by Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau highlighted several Monterey treasures, including:

Sea otters playing with flavored footballs at Monterey Bay Aquarium, because who doesn’t love these adorable sea mammals?

A list of the top 10 selfie sites in Monterey, where breathtaking views are so common that it’s hard to choose the top 10. Don’t miss the iconic Bixby Bridge in Big Sur (pictured). If you’re lucky, you may spot an endangered California condor flying overhead or a humpback whale swimming below. And of course, no trip to Monterey would be complete without a visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium, where visitors can watch otters, jellyfish and sharks, and touch sea stars and other small aquatic life from the bay.

Recipes for delectable snacks, including a Dungeness crab, kale and artichoke dip recipe by Matthew Beaudin, executive chef at Cindy’s Waterfront restaurant at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

A list of Super Bowl parties at favorite venues, including Peter B’s Brewpub, which offers private dining for parties up to 16; Cannery Row Brewing Company, which provides an assortment of private options, including dining for up to 150 people; and Esteban restaurant in historic Casa Munras Hotel & Spa, which features private dining for groups up to 30.

A list of escape deals to fine hotels and activity sites such as the majestic Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa and Del Monte Golf Course.

Major Meeting Venues

East Bay

Claremont Club & Spa

Historic resort joined Fairmont family last year; 276 guest rooms; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 5,166-square-foot ballroom; award-winning spa.

Concord Pavilion

Legendary outdoor concert venue; available for buyouts; affordable alternative to San Francisco concert halls; seats 12,500; renovated in 2014.

Crowne Plaza Concord/Walnut Creek

Next to Buchanan Field Airport in Concord; 323 guest rooms; 26,300 sq. ft. of event space in 13 meeting rooms.

Hilton Concord

Free shuttle to BART; 329 guest rooms; 20,000 sq. ft. of flexible function space, including 8,832-square-foot Golden Gate Ballroom; Plate & Vine restaurant.

Hotel Shattuck Plaza


1910 mission-style building in downtown Berkeley; 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 199 guest rooms; Five Restaurant popular with locals.

Oakland Convention Center

64,000 sq. ft. of convention, exhibit and meeting room space; 45,960 sq. ft. of exhibition space can hold up to 6,000; catering department can accommodate specialty menus; walking distance to Jack London Square entertainment complex.

Oakland Marriott City Center

Adjacent to convention center; 489 guest rooms; 89,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space includes 36 event rooms, 30 breakout rooms.

Wente Vineyards

Livermore winery offers great event space; celebrates 30th anniversary this year; winery dates to late 1800s; hosts outdoor concerts and galas; Greg Norman-designed golf course.

Greater San Francisco

Bentley Reserve


Elegant downtown special event venue connected to Le Meridien Hotel; 15,392 sq. ft. of meeting space; curated artwork.

Embassy Suites by Hilton San Francisco Airport

Near San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in South San Francisco; 312 suites; 3,672-square-foot grand ballroom accommodates 500; five meeting rooms; tropical atrium.

Fairmont San Francisco

Renowned luxury hotel atop Nob Hill; AAA Four Diamond rated; on cable car lines; 592 guest rooms; 55,000 sq. ft. of function space; famed Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar; panoramic views of San Francisco skyline and bay.

Hilton San Francisco Financial District

Steps from Chinatown; 543 guest rooms; 20,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor function space; Chinese Culture Center is on the third floor.

Hilton San Francisco Union Square

Convenient to Union Square and Moscone Center; 1,919 guest rooms; 134,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 30,000-square-foot ballroom.

Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf

Renovated property near famed attractions; 316 guest rooms; 19,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes skylights and a fireplace.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco

On the waterfront across from Ferry Building; 804 guest rooms; 72,000 sq. ft. of function space; 8,456 sq. ft. of prefunction space.

InterContinental San Francisco

Sleek, elegant property adjacent to Moscone Center; LEED Gold certified; 10-room spa; 550 guest rooms; 43,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; Michelin-starred Luce Restaurant.

Moscone Center

Three-story convention center in the heart of the city; 700,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 256,225 sq. ft. of meeting space in 106 meeting rooms; 123,000 sq. ft. of prefunction lobby space.

Oceano Hotel & Spa

Located on Half Moon Bay; 20 minutes from SFO; 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 106 guest rooms; Coastal Spa offers more than 30 treatments.

Parc 55 San Francisco, a Hilton Hotel

Union Square-area property; 1,024 guest rooms; more than 30,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space divided among three floors.

San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront

Burlingame property is minutes from SFO; 688 guest rooms; 27,991 sq. ft. of event space includes 24 meeting rooms.

San Francisco Marriott Marquis

Downtown property near Moscone Center; refreshed after a $90 million renovation; 1,362 guest rooms; 117,000 sq. ft. of versatile event space; spa; fitness center.

San Francisco Marriott Union Square

Near shopping, dining, theater; 347 guest rooms; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes nine meeting rooms; fitness center.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

Stellar resort south of San Francisco; 261 guest rooms; 17,000 sq. ft. of event space; spa; 36 holes of golf.

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

23,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, including 9,300-square-foot ballroom; 336 guest rooms; Parallel 37 restaurant; JCB Tasting Lounge offers luxury wine tastings.

The Westin St. Francis on Union Square


Landmark hotel; 1,195 guest rooms; 56,000 sq. ft. of event space; Michael Mina’s award-winning Bourbon Steak restaurant.

North Bay

Andaz Napa

Downtown Napa boutique hotel; 141 stylish guest rooms; Andaz Farmers Table restaurant features farm-fresh fare; 2,600 sq. ft. of meeting space; lovely outdoor terrace; surrounded by tasting rooms.

Auberge du Soleil


Forbes Five Star resort is famous for its views of Napa Valley; near Silverado Trail in Rutherford; 50 guest rooms and suites; 2,915 sq. ft. of meeting space; award-winning restaurant and spa.

Calistoga Ranch

Private canyon features 50 free-standing guest lodges scattered throughout the 157-acre site; 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; restorative soaking pools and spa; The Lakehouse restaurant overlooks Lake Lommel.

Embassy Suites Napa Valley

Mediterranean structure with courtyard; pond contains resident swans; 205 suites; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including two ballrooms.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Premier luxury resort in wine country; 226 guest rooms; 7,537 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 15,077 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; superb spa; golf; Michelin-starred Sante Restaurant.

Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa

Historic Santa Rosa landmark has a retro vibe; 14,368 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 6,300-square-foot ballroom; 170 guest rooms; spa; two pools.

Fountaingrove Inn Hotel & Conference Center

In the heart of wine country in Santa Rosa; 7,900 sq. ft. of meeting space; 124 guest rooms; updated pool and spa; The Steakhouse at Equus restaurant.

Meadowood Napa Valley

Luxury retreat in St. Helena; The Restaurant at Meadowood is Forbes Five Star rated; 99 guest rooms; 20,384 sq. ft. of meeting space; nine-hole golf course; tennis courts; hiking trails.

Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa

Contemporary Napa property; 275 guest rooms; 11,466 sq. ft. of meeting space, including three ballrooms, 13 breakout rooms; outdoor patio; spa; VINeleven restaurant.

Silverado Resort and Spa at Napa Valley

Napa resort features 390 guest rooms; free Wi-Fi; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; two PGA championship golf courses; tennis courts; spa.

Solage Calistoga

Forbes Four Star property on Silverado Trail; 89 guest rooms; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; Michelin-starred Solbar restaurant.

The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa

AAA Four Diamond property in Sonoma; 182 guest rooms; 23,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including 3,080-square-foot Sonoma Ballroom and 17 meeting rooms.

The Meritage Resort and Spa

meritagePhoto courtesy of Rex Gerlert

AAA Four Diamond property; Napa’s largest hotel, with 322 guest rooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; several dining options; tasting room; terrace entertainment lounge; spa.

The Spinnaker

Popular banquet and reception venue in Sausalito; Bay Area landmark for more than 50 years; amazing views of the San Francisco skyline and Angel Island State Park; can hold up to 170 for banquets.

The Westin Verasa Napa

Sleek, modern resort near downtown Oxbow Market; 180 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; complimentary wine tasting daily; heated saltwater pool.

Vintners Inn

AAA Four Diamond property in Santa Rosa; courtyards and fountains; 44 guest rooms; 13,000-square-foot conference center; John Ash & Co. Restaurant; free Wi-Fi.

South Bay

Fairmont San Jose

Luxury property; 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a multimedia theater that seats up to 3,000; 805 guest rooms; McCormick & Schmick’s serves fresh seafood.

Hilton San Jose

Connected to San Jose McEnery Convention Center; 353 guest rooms; variety of venues for events, including reception space for up to 400.

Hilton Santa Clara


Walking distance to Levi’s Stadium; 280 guest rooms; 7,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; near 262,000-square-foot Santa Clara Convention Center.

Hyatt Regency Santa Clara

Connected to Santa Clara Convention Center; 60,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including 22,568-square-foot grand ballroom and Terra Courtyard that fits up to 800.

Levi’s Stadium

Home of NFL’s San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara; $1.2 billion venue with nearly 600,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space; 180 food options available; field available for private events.

San Jose Marriott

Adjacent to convention center; lobby and 484 guest rooms have been refreshed; 21,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; heated rooftop pool; Arcadia restaurant.

San Jose McEnery Convention Center

372,754 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, including 35,194-square-foot grand ballroom; accommodates up to 3,900; near 2,200 hotel rooms downtown.

Santa Clara Marriott

10 minutes from Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC); 27,209 sq. ft. of event space; ballroom accommodates 1,200 for receptions; 759 guest rooms; Bradley Ogden’s Parcel 104 restaurant.

Janet Kornblum is an award-winning writer and co-founder of Panic Media Training. Her work has appeared in USA Today, CNET, Reuters and many other publications.