The mega-event that has unfolded on the San Francisco waterfront, called Super Bowl City, brings the Bay Area’s rich history, culture and specialties to the masses as well as letting locals feel like they are getting to experience the big game.

“We are extremely lucky to have Super Bowl 50 in the San Francisco Bay Area,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. “The competition among cities to host the game is fierce.  And once a city does have the Super Bowl, they can’t wait to bring it back.  Use whatever football analogies you like, San Francisco will score big with Super Bowl 50.”

On Sunday afternoon, I got to feel the rhythm of San Jose’s rich Mexican heritage by visiting the Team San Jose exhibitions set up on Market Street, three blocks from the Embarcadero. The Calpulli Tonalehqueh Aztec dancers and drummer were entertaining and made a great photo op, but the performance also served as a reminder of the cultural melting pot that is San Jose.

The City Stage featured the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, which delivered praise-worthy harmonies and messages. I felt like I went to church, at least for a few minutes, and it was inspirational to step away from football to hear the choir bring it.

The City Stage

The main stage is a key venue of Super Bowl City, which stretches about seven blocks, with Market Street forming a T with the Embarcadero. To open the nine-day run of Super Bowl City, Chris Isaak performed on Saturday night. The Band Perry is scheduled to take the stage on Thursday night and Alicia Keys will be the headliner on Saturday, the night before the Super Bowl.

The concerts are free along with entry into the Super Bowl-themed village. There are lots of interactive games, including a tower with colored lights that are powered by stationary bikes. There’s also a zipline, which reflects the Bay Area’s adventurous side. As for technology, there are plenty of tech-centric attractions, but of particular note are the Wi-Fi coaches strolling around to help people get on the free Wi-Fi network available throughout Super Bowl City.

Super Bowl Security

The village is heavily guarded, with fully-armed police officers and special agents protecting all entrances and perimeters. I also spotted guards atop surrounding high-rise hotels, so clearly local and national law enforcements are on high alert.

All village entrances are set up with metal detectors. The lines weren’t too bad on Sunday afternoon, and it actually did make me feel safe, even if armed guards holding major weaponry was a  little alarming at first.

Taste of Sonoma

Sonoma County is the very proud official wine sponsor of Super Bowl 50. This fact is not taken lightly, as Sonoma has traditional been considered a step-sister of sorts to world renowned Napa Valley.

Along the Embarcadero, across from the Ferry Building, Sonoma County Tourism has set up an indoor tasting room, which features at least a dozen wineries each day. More than 50 wineries will be pouring their specialties throughout the Super Bowl City festival. I went directly to the whites, where I got a chance to meet the grandson and great granddaughters of the Robert Young Estate Winery founder.

To hear the story of how their family went from prune farming to grapes to making their estate wine was very interesting and shed light on yet another Bay Area specialty. Sonoma County Tourism has really done a great job bringing Wine Country to the Super Bowl.

Cheers to Super Bowl City, a vivid  example of a few of the possible experiences available for meetings and events held in the San Francisco Bay Area.