“It’s something we want hands from all over the world to be a part of,” Wanger said. The first bead was placed in November, and the last will be placed on Feb. 13, the day after Mardi Gras known as Ash Wednesday.
One thing the city won’t be short on is music. Super Bowl weekend kicks off with a gospel concert on Feb. 1 at the UNO Lakefront Arena with performances by Fantasia, Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Winans and Bishop Paul S. Morton of New Orleans. Dozens of local acts will be performing throughout the weekend on stages along the Mississippi River and in the French Quarter. On game day, Beyonce will be the half-time performer.
Other local attractions include steamboat cruises — many with live jazz — on the Mississippi, the recently-expanded World War II Museum, Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas and New Orleans Museum of Art by City Park. Just outside the city, options include airboat tours of Louisiana swamps and bayous and plantation home tours.
Foodies can indulge in charbroiled oysters, seafood gumbo, fried softshell crab po-boys and shrimp and grits. The city has 52 more restaurants than it did in 2002 — the last time New Orleans hosted a Super Bowl. Newer restaurants include Susan Spicer’s Mondo and Donald Link’s Cochon. Chef John Besh, who owned two restaurants before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, now owns eight — including Luke, Domenica and Borgne.
But with the two major events bringing thousands of people in, reservations are going fast at old favorites like Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s and Brennan’s.
“We had one party book the entire restaurant for the Friday before Super Bowl, so we have no tables that night,” said Regina Keever, co-owner of Bayona, a Spicer restaurant in the French Quarter.