I’ve been to the old Texas Stadium, but as yet, not the Cowboys’ gigantic new structure. Maybe once I do, I’ll bump Dallas up a few pegs. In the interim, Big D still gets credit, some 50 years later, for Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum, both of which will give you the creeps, but you’ve got to go there. And yes, there is a Southfork ranch. It’s in Plano. Other than that, I find Dallas itself lacking in character. Not in characters, mind you, but character. Twin city Fort Worth, a short drive west, is a more authentic cow town, and where you’ll want to hang out at night.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … Bourbon Street, yada, yada, yada. This city does very little for me. Ditto for the Superdome, even more so now with its ignominious Katrina history. Sure, there’s some good music here, but I just don’t get the attraction. One reason I know I’ll go back one day, though: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s.
The Georgia Dome is cavernous and obsolete, but thankfully, the Falcons are planning on building a new one near downtown (the designs look amazing!). Atlanta’s a “big” city, but surprisingly walkable. Get good fast food (including a personal-sized peach pie) at The Varsity, then pay homage at Ebenezer Baptist and MLK’s home, a national historic site. Underground Atlanta is not all that exciting, but the World of Coca Cola, although a gigantic marketing ploy, is worth it. And whether or not you agree with Jimmy Carter’s politics, his Presidential Library should definitely be on your agenda. I’m anxious to experience the High Museum of Art on my next visit, and when the new stadium opens, Atlanta will surely climb on my list. Your best bet for eats: the quality steaks and desserts at Bone’s Restaurant in Buckhead.
Fantastic stadium, complete with a pirate ship that fires blank cannons when the home team scores (not to mention the best press box food in the NFL!). But stay across the bay in St. Petersburg. St. Pete Beach: Go there, do nothing, and love it. Want a surreal experience? Visit the Salvador Dalí Museum.
Beautiful stadium, with all its purple seats, and it’s right near Inner Harbor – the place to hang out. Take a cab to visit Fort McHenry. The short drive from the city is worth the price of admission to see what inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. Warning: DO NOT walk to see Edgar Allen Poe’s house, even though it’s close enough to Inner Harbor. The neighborhood is unfriendly. Take a cab there, too, and pay a little extra to have it stick around and wait for you.
Another underrated place. It’s all about the Halls of Fame: Rock and Roll, downtown, next to a really nice Browns Stadium, and Pro Football, an hour’s drive directly south in Canton. Great location, and the city proper is foot-friendly. Travel tip: dine at John Q for a thick, juicy steak.
The Dolphins technically play in Miami Gardens, Florida, which is 25 minutes from South Beach, where you’ll want to spend most of your time. Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach are a bit further away, but most certainly worth it as secondary options. Miami should be higher, but Dolphins Stadium itself? Eh… A new building with a beach view is just what the Dolphins need.
The Chargers really need a new stadium, too, but the city and surrounding beach communities more than make up for it. Take a bus tour to get an overview of the many distinct neighborhoods (like Little Italy) of this very manageable big city. And even if you don’t stay at the renowned Hotel del Coronado, go there just to dip your toes in the Pacific.
Experience Primanti Brothers sandwiches if you must, but a better option is to treat yourself to a game-day breakfast at DeLuca’s. You’ll be drowned in a sea of Steelers black and gold, but you won’t get a better feel for how locals live than at this legendary diner. Don’t let the line snaking out the door and down the block deter you, either. You’ll be surprised at how fast it moves, and the hearty fare inside is worth it. Plus, Heinz Field, where the Steelers play, is in a prime location at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers, with Pittsburgh’s skyline (seen at times in “The Dark Knight Rises”) as backdrop. Steeler fans are loud and proud, too. One of the coolest venues in the NFL.
Call me a traditionalist (read “old”), but I loved Soldier Field more before the Bears renovated it. Still, it’s a great stadium in a great locale, in Grant Park overlooking Lake Michigan on one side and the marvelous Second City skyline on the other. Soak in the entire view from the top of the Willis (né Sears) Tower or John Hancock Center. And let me save you the trouble: The St. Valentine’s Day massacre site is a looooooong walk from the city center, and it’s now a parking lot for an apartment building, with nothing – not even a plaque – to memorialize the gruesome historical landmark.