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Traveling Man and downtown Dallas
photograph by Allison V. Smith

Just in time for Super Bowl XLV, we’re giving you an inside look — sans the bad barbecue joints and typical tourist jargon — at what the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex really has to offer. (Don’t blame us if you decide to stay.)

Bill Simmons wrote several days’ worth of blog posts about his trip to Jacksonville, Fla., in 2005 to cover Super Bowl XXXIX. But the lasting memory of those columns wasn’t his description of New England defeating Philadelphia. It was his gentle but persistent jabs at the city itself.

Not that he didn’t enjoy its people, whom he called “fantastic.” It was that he didn’t have a Super Bowl–quality, party-time-type experience.

During previous Super Bowls, he wrote that he’d “had a couple of Those Nights — you know, the ones where you take out $200 at like 10 p.m., but you wake up the following morning and you have three one-dollar bills in there, only you don’t care because you’re just happy you still have your wallet? Or you find a credit card slip that says you spent $220, plus you gave the female bartender a $50 tip? You can’t really have Those Nights in Jacksonville.”

Was this true? Hard to say. Any time you visit a city, you run the risk of being directed to its more plastic, more sterile — let’s just say it — less cool places. It happens. You listen to someone who lives in a faraway suburb say, “Listen, the best scene in town is the bar at Blank,” but if Blank has a website that lists 118 locations nationwide, no offense, you will not be impressed.

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Cowboys Stadium
This is my great fear when people visit North Texas. As a longtime resident and an expert on all things North Texas, I always want to analyze any and all correspondence that influenced their itinerary, otherwise I’m terrified that they will spend a day touring malls and eating at bad barbecue joints, because that’s all people think North Texas has to offer. It’s not. If you want to have fun during Super Bowl weekend, from Dallas to Arlington to Fort Worth and back again, there are all kinds of options for indulging in the fun and glitz of official Super Bowl events and enjoying the places where the locals like to hang out.

Cool Super Bowl Events

Fort Worth: Taste of the NFL (Feb. 5, Fort Worth Convention Center) You know what I can’t get enough of? Cooking competitions. Top Chef, Iron Chef, any chef — I’m a sucker for them. And so, even though this event is $500, I’m going to go to it — for a couple of reasons. One, it’s for charity. (All profits go to fighting hunger.) Two, chefs from each NFL city will be there competing with each other. Three, Buddy Valastro, the star of Cake Boss, will be there. Have you seen his cakes? He made one with a tunnel, a hillside and a train track — all out of cake — with a moving model train. This fascinates me. Can’t wait to see his official Super Bowl cake. Plus, tons of top chefs from North Texas will be there, and, honestly, our food is better than yours. Yes, I’m talking to you, New York, San Francisco et al. Come try it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. www.tasteofthenfl.com

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Jordin Sparks
Arlington: Jordin Sparks Experience (Feb. 2 , Sheraton Arlington)
You know Jordin Sparks — she was the 2007 winner of American Idol. She sang that song. And her experience includes at least one very sweet-sounding event: the Red, White and Black Affair at Sheraton Arlington, from 7 p.m. to, well, the end of the night (2 a.m. in this case). The event features specialty cars (available for purchase that evening at an auction), high-dollar raffle prizes, impromptu celebrity performances, a VIP reception — and an after party. Bonus: The Red, White and Black Affair will have limited VIP seating available for an additional price (regular tickets are $150; VIP tickets are $1,000 — proceeds benefit the “I’m M.A.D. Campaign” and related projects). Who doesn’t love galas? Or at least tweeting about them? www.jordinsparksexperience.com

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The Super Bowl Gospel Choir at the 9th Annual Super Bowl Gospel
Celebration, 2008, Phoenix Symphony Hall.
Dallas: 12th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration (Feb. 4, Music Hall at Fair Park)
Don’t get me wrong: The Dallas SuperBash ($500 a ticket, hosted by Pamela Anderson at Fashion Industry Gallery in the Dallas Arts District, Feb. 4) is going to be a ball. If you have to see and be seen, get there and try to get yourself in. But in my mind, if you’re going to gear up for a big, bacchanalian Super Bowl weekend, you’d better get square with any and all higher powers on Friday night. The lineup itself looks fantastic (Patti Labelle, Cece Winans and many others). But for those of you who are new to Dallas, the other reason to go is to experience Fair Park, which houses the world’s largest collection of 1930s Art Deco halls. The Texas Hall of State itself is magnificent, so be sure to get there before the concert so you can walk around and explore one of the Southwest’s best-kept architectural secrets. And it’s being put on by local Super Bowl legend Emmitt Smith and his wife, Pat. Karma, my friends. www.superbowlgospel.com