By: Scott Halleran Getty Images Sport
(USA TODAY) - For once, Bourbon Street and gumbo take a back seat.
The thousands of fans streaming into New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII this week will find an array of festivities and events to indulge in - from free outdoor festivals to parties with admission prices rivaling the cost of a new car - that have little do with what folks usually come here for, the city's famed cuisine and nightlife.
For weeks, workers have been raising mammoth white tents in bare lots around town that will transform into VIP lounges and sports-themed labyrinths. There's the Vince Lombardi Trophy and NFL Command Center ("You Make The Call!") at the NFL Experience in the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center.
The Wyndham Riverfront Hotel downtown has been transformed into the Bud Light Hotel, where Stevie Wonder will headline a VIP party Saturday night, and historic Jackson Square in the French Quarter has morphed into CBS broadcast headquarters.
Then there are the parties, hosted by the likes of Maxim, GQ, Bud Light and Express - all drawing celebs, showcasing top performers and vying for the title of "hottest party of the weekend." Tickets, if you can find them, run as high as $26,000 a pop.
"This is not your older brother's Super Bowl," said James Carville, the political analyst and New Orleans resident who is also co-chair of the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee. "It's hard to convey how big this has become the past 10 years."
This year also marks the unveiling of Super Bowl Boulevard, a four-block, riverfront free music and food festival the NFL plans to make a Super Bowl staple. The four-day festival will feature local favorites such as Trombone Shorty, Soul Rebels and Bonerama playing on four stages.
*A fireworks and musical show on the Mississippi River outside the French Quarter on Thursday will herald the arrival of a barge carrying the oversized Roman numerals "XLVII." It's free and open to the public.
*Train will headline a free concert Friday night at the Sugar Mill near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
*Country music group Rascal Flatts and rock band Journey will perform together on stage at the Sugar Mill in a free show on Saturday night.
Down the street, Aidan Gill, owner of Aidan Gill for Men, a traditional barbershop, said the ripples of the extracurricular Super Bowl activities are being felt by locals. His barbershop, which offers a free shot of Irish whiskey with each shave, has been reserved for each morning of the weekend starting Thursday.
He expects the crush of crowds to be just as big outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Super Bowl will be played, as within it.
"You can feel the energy, the excitement around here," Gill said. "The amount of money that's been spent in a short amount of time is phenomenal."
One of the most sought-after events is an invite-only party hosted by Maxim, the online and monthly magazine that caters to men. The Saturday night bash will take place in a sound stage in the city's Lower Garden District normally used by Hollywood studios and will host around 2,300 guests, according to organizers.
The theme will be "Greek Gods and Goddesses" and draw celebrities such as actor Neil Patrick Harris and rapper 50 Cent, as well as the magazine's signature models.
Of all the events Maxim hosts throughout the year, the Super Bowl party is, by far, the biggest, said Dan Bova, Maxim's editor-in-chief. About two weeks after the party, Bova said he'll start receiving requests to get on the list for next year's bash.
"It's taking on mythical proportions," he said. "You hear more people desperately trying to get tickets to the party than to the game."
Rick Jervis, USA TODAY Sports