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Zigging to the Zag on Super Bowl Sunday

Zigging to the Zag on Super Bowl Sunday

While everyone else is watching the Big Game, you can enjoy these 10 bucket-list destinations with smaller crowds and shorter lines

Posted 2 years agoby Allison Hata

America’s biggest sporting event of the year will kick off at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13. Millions will tune in for the on-field action, not to mention the superstar halftime show featuring hometown rappers Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg. While all eyes are on the gridiron, it’s the perfect time for non-sports fans to visit some of California’s most iconic sites.

Here’s a guide to help you experience California, minus the crowds, while the rest of the world is glued to the TV for Super Bowl LVI.

1. Book a Theme Park Trip

Beat the spring-break rush with an off-season trip to Disneyland Resort in February, when crowds thin out and the two Anaheim theme parks offer shorter wait times and special events. Super Bowl Sunday marks the final day of the Lunar New Year celebration at Disneyland California Adventure Park, so hop over to Disneyland Park during the day to avoid parade-goers and locals redeeming their remaining sip-and-savor marketplace coupons. It’s a great time to try fan-favorite rides like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which can have average wait times upward of two hours during the peak holiday season. The same off-season logic applies to other popular Southern California theme parks, including Universal Studios Hollywood, LEGOLAND California, and SeaWorld San Diego.

2. Play a Pebble Beach Course

Pebble Beach Resorts is legendary, with the No. 1 public golf course in the country and an exclusive private club that’s accessible only by its 250 members and their guests. Booking a tee time for non-guests is near impossible, but golfers can use Super Bowl Sunday as a chance to score a coveted noon tee time when pre-game coverage is in full swing. Try The Links at Spanish Bay, which features 14 oceanside holes that curve along the Monterey Peninsula coastline. (Also check out other hard-to-book courses like Torrey Pines in San Diego.)

3. Visit Yosemite National Park

Yosemite logged 3.4 million visits in 2021, but a trip in February will treat travelers to one of the historically slowest months at the High Sierra destination. Walk through the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, hike Cathedral Lakes on the John Muir Trail, or stroll along an easy one-mile loop to Lower Yosemite Falls in Yosemite Valley to see one of the world’s tallest waterfalls. While there’s too much to explore in just one weekend, be sure to catch a crowd-free sunset at Tunnel View, which overlooks El Capitan, Half Dome, and Glacier Point.

4. Take a Ski Trip

Hit the slopes in February, when powder days are plentiful and holiday crowds have dispersed. “Super Bowl weekend at Mammoth [Mountain] is historically a blast,” says spokesperson Lauren Burke. “Mammoth skiers and riders enjoy the first half of the day on the slopes, then tune in to the game in the afternoon. The hill is usually busy until right before game time.” While everyone heads inside to watch the kickoff, grab a chair out of Main Lodge for some crowd-free runs. This smart strategy applies to ski resorts across California, from Heavenly and Palisades Tahoe up north to Snow Summit and Bear Mountain down south.

5. Go to The Broad

Although a new reservation system has remedied the three-hour standby wait times, weekends book up quickly at this free downtown L.A. art museum known for its collections of postwar and contemporary works from artists including Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Use the Big Game as your ticket to secure one of the limited same-day passes and make a beeline for popular exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room: Longing for Eternity, where visitors are limited to just 45 seconds of viewing time.

6. Explore Alcatraz Island

Scoring a last-minute weekend seat on the ferry bound for San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island is a rare victory. Same-day tickets typically sell out, particularly for the 4 p.m. night tour that brings travelers to shore just as the setting sun casts an eerie shadow over the cellhouse. Spontaneous visitors willing to pass on the halftime show might luck into one of these limited evening spots that offer access to special programs, activities, and tour locations not available during the day.

7. Splurge on a Shopping Trip

If high fashion gives you an adrenaline rush, score big at one of California’s luxury hot spots on a day with fewer crowds. South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is California’s largest mall and a mecca for fashionphiles. From established fashion houses like Hermès and Oscar de la Renta to jewelers such as Harry Winston and Cartier, it’s rare to find this many big-name boutiques under one roof. Swing by Saks Fifth Avenue for a stylish Super Bowl experience—its limited-edition Game Day Capsule collection features 275 pieces of ready-to-wear, shoes, and accessories for men, as well as sports-centric merch for women and kids from brands including Balmain, Dior, DSQUARED2, and Fendi. Before you leave town, take advantage of Orange County’s coastal locale to shop alfresco with ocean views at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

8. See Griffith Observatory

As the rest of the world tunes in to catch—in addition to the hometown heroes previously mentioned—Mary J. Blige and Eminem perform at halftime, Griffith Observatory offers up a different kind of star power. The L.A. institution is only open Friday through Sunday and lines tend to peak around dusk, so aspiring astronomers should arrive shortly after the 3:30 p.m. kickoff for enough time to see exhibits, listen to staff talks, and use the high-quality public telescopes. “Sundays are often astronomically busy at the observatory, but you probably won’t have to run interference if you schedule your visit to coincide with the game,” says observatory director Dr. E.C. Krupp. “While everyone else is watching the halftime show, at about 5 p.m., you could be catching the colors of sunset from the observatory roof.” Hang out for a bit longer in the rooftop dome for some nighttime stargazing with the observatory’s original Zeiss telescope, installed at opening in 1935.

9. Book a Tough Table

Bypass crowds and screaming fans at a tough-to-book restaurant that promises a television-free experience in its dining room. Whether you want to enjoy an early Valentine’s Day dinner or finally try that Michelin-starred menu, gems like the seafood-forward Mélisse in Santa Monica are the antithesis of the Super Bowl with a chef-led tasting menu and intimate 14-seat space. Get on the waitlist or try to score an early dinner reservation at opening time for other restaurants that typically book up months in advance, like the dim sum–style State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, Providence in Los Angeles, and Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad.

10. Head to Monterey Bay Aquarium

Between weekend adventurers, tour groups, and school breaks, California’s largest aquarium always draws a crowd. A visit in February skirts around the high holiday and summer seasons for your best shot at exploring Monterey Bay’s more than 200 exhibits without the lines. “Since many people are home and focused on the big game, it is the perfect time to get up close to many of our animals and amazing staff,” says David Rosenberg, the aquarium’s vice president of guest experience. “Always be on the lookout for a feeding presentation at one of our major exhibits. Whether it’s the Open Sea, Sea Otters or Kelp Forest, a front-row view is spectacular and should be readily available on Super Bowl Sunday.”