LAS VEGAS, February 4, 2015 – Super Bowl Sunday has seemingly turned into a national holiday with a large percentage of the country focused on the two NFL teams facing off for the annual championship. Though television has been bringing better viewing experiences with high-def, cable cam, and surround sound coverage, the best place to watch the game is in the stadium itself. So you didn’t have $2500 (or more) for a ticket to Glendale, Arizona, to watch the Patriots and Eagles? The next best place to watch the “big game” was in Las Vegas.
I went to the Super Bowl last year in New Jersey but the opportunity did not present itself for this year. So I thought I would go check out the atmosphere that Las Vegas offers to watch the big game. I will refer to it as the “big game” as the NFL may crack down on me for using the official name without its permission.
I have been to Las Vegas the past 24 years to watch the opening weekend of March Madness. The crowds, the game wagering, and the atmosphere make for a wonderful experience to view the games and cheer on your favorite team (anyone but Duke). So Vegas seemed like a perfect place to watch the big football game, the countless hours of pregame, viewing parties and post-parties. I found that there are so many football-related activities in this city during the big game weekend that the NFL may want to award Las Vegas all future rights to play the game here.
Quick research on local festivities showed dozens of viewing parties on Super Sunday. Though you could belly up to almost any bar and casino, the real fun happens inside private parties hosted in hotel ballrooms and restaurants. Prices ranged as low as $25 for a standing room only space to several hundred dollars for a seat, all-you-can eat buffet and open bar. Of course you could find the champagne and bottle service tables at high-end clubs for $1000 or more. If that was in my price range I probably would have opted to hop over to Arizona and watch the game in person.
After placing a few bets Sunday morning on the game’s outcome (don’t ask my outcome. Thank you very much Coach Pete Carroll, NOT!), I put on some comfy walking shoes and hit a few parties on the famed Las Vegas Strip. First stop was LAVO – a popular club inside The Palazzo – for the annual Lavo Bowl. $65 got you a general admission ticket with either open bar or the buffet. Tough choice. Drink or eat. $120 got you both which probably works out the best since doors opened 90 minutes before game time. At $120 I am sure many patrons were hoping for overtime but the young, hip crowd appeared to get their money’s worth of special cocktails, Kobe sliders, salt and pepper shrimp, and more. The vibe was rocking which matched the look of the club with its sultry lighting, plush couches and long bars.
Watching the game action was easy no matter where you were in the club as flat screen and projection TVs were never out of glimpse wherever you turned. I did not notice a lot of jersey-wearing party goers here as it seemed the bipartisan crowd was more concerned that final score was over 47 points. Onto the next spot.
Heading south down the Strip I stopped in to Caesar’s Forum Shops, a high-end mall attached to Caesar’s Palace. Carmine’s Restaurant had an inviting placard in front touting its “Big Game Party on “17 big screens.” For $75 it seemed reasonable thanks to the Italian Buffet from the legendary Italian family-style restaurant based in New York. The venue was more open and airy than LAVO which is the difference between a restaurant and a nightclub. A long buffet table welcomed viewers with wings, pasta and other tasty offerings found on the regular menu.
This crowd was into game watching and cheering a bit more than LAVO patrons. I spotted many Patriots and Seahawks’ jerseys in the crowd. Loud cheers could be heard down the Forum Shops cavernous walkway where shoppers tried to get a sneak peek into Carmine’s to see what just happened on the screens. The vibe in this party was very “homey”. If I had a giant kitchen at my home with hundreds of tables and 17 big screen TVs, this would have been a typical football watching party I would have thrown. Waiters kept replenishing the dozens of chafing dishes throughout the afternoon with more delicious food. By halftime no one seemed to be focusing on Katy Perry’s show on TV but rather piling more on their large plates.
I am hoping Carmine’s throws a similar March Madness viewing party this March when I make my annual visit with my college buddies.
My final stop was at a large ballroom bash inside The Cosmopolitan. Many of the larger hotels and casinos throw watch parties in ballrooms and theaters as they can sometimes fit thousands of people in the seats. This $300 ticket was not for the faint of heart or stomach.
Let’s start with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders welcoming patrons into the venue. That was almost worth the price of admission. The seats in two-level stadium seating venue were packed and the floor of the cavernous Castellana ballroom was filled with round tables, comfy couches, blackjack tables, four bars and rows of freshly made food being cooked and served by chefs.
But for all of the food and fun this, after all, was a football watching party. Instead of having flat screen TVs, we got to focus on movie theater-size projection screens in front with a six-side projection screen hanging from the ceiling. Sound was piped in so that we didn’t miss a word of Al Michael’s play calling on NBC nor any of the expensive commercials.
Let’s get back to the food. Going with the big game football theme we had our choice of New England Clam Chowder or Seattle Creamy Stew (they did have Buffalo wings in case the Bills made it to the big game). Snack stations throughout the venue served high-end fare from chicken kabobs to steak sliders, while other kiosks simulated in-stadium experiences like hot dogs, popcorn, and peanuts. After an afternoon of party-hopping all I really wanted was a little dessert. By “a little” I mean I started with a Haagen-Dazs bar followed by a brownie, chocolate chunk cookie, two homemade Rice Krispies treats, and an apple tart.
The game came down to a final defensive play that made Seahawks’ bettors wish they hadn’t eaten so much. My final play came about 20 minutes after the game-ending whistle when I left the Cosmopolitan ballroom and headed up to my room to take a nap.
Compared to last year when I sat in freezing MetLife Stadium in the Jersey suburbs watching a blowout big game, my experience this year in the beautiful Las Vegas climate made for a more fun time. Sure I didn’t get to see the fireworks and flyovers in person. But the wagering, strolling, non-stop eating and drinking in this city is the way to go if you don’t have the cash and the patience to visit the actual game (the security to get into the stadium last year took roughly the same time as my flight from Houston to Las Vegas).
So here’s to next year’s big game. I have just under one year to get in shape for more walking, drinking and eating to prepare to watch the 50th version of this football championship. The weather and setting should be nice in Santa Clara, California, but Las Vegas will be my site for experiencing the most fun that day.
And if the Seahawks make it for the third year in a row someone PLEASE tell Pete Carroll to hand off the ball the Marshawn Lynch. And take the over.