QuarterBack Cook-Off, in Houston
Brett Coomer  /  AP
Joe Montana (16) works on making avacado dip with Taste of the NFL Chef Tobin McAfee, far left, as he is taunted by Dan Marino (13), standing with chef Paul O'Connell, during the Kraft QuarterBack Cook-Off, in Houston.
updated 2/2/2010 11:49:17 AM ET 2010-02-02T16:49:17

This year's Super Bowl is in Miami, but all South Florida wants to play.

The region's three international airports give visitors the flexibility to try a variety of beaches, restaurants and social scenes on the mainland and south into the Florida Keys, said Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee.

"It's not a bad place to be entertained while you're waiting for the big game," he says.

More than 70,000 ticket-holders are expected to attend the game, while more than 40,000 extra people will likely show up just for the parties and extracurricular activities, Barreto said. Many will extend their trips to include the Pro Bowl, also being played in Miami, on Jan. 31. Here's a sampling of what they'll find across South Florida:

Football festivities
The big game doesn't kick off until 6 p.m. on Feb. 7, but the pre-gaming starts days earlier. A Feb. 3 fishing tournament in Miami, organized by the host committee, honors Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley, who died last year when their boat overturned off the coast of Florida. Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson hosts the Billfish Bowl, Feb. 4-6 in Key Largo; the sailfish tournament, benefits Gridiron Greats, an organization helping retired football players with their medical costs.

Image: Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Fla.
Lynne Sladky  /  AP
The neon lights of art deco style hotels light up Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Fla.

The NFL Players Choir will perform in "The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration" at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Feb. 5. A free concert with fireworks is scheduled on the beach next to the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel on Feb. 6; scheduled acts are Barenaked Ladies, O.A.R., and Robert Randolph and The Family Band. But you don't have to come to Miami to catch The Who's performance. The band will provide televised halftime entertainment during the big game.

Only VIP tickets remain for the Taste of the NFL fundraiser for hunger-relief groups on Feb. 6 in Fort Lauderdale. Taste of the NFL invites one chef from each city with an NFL team to cook with the help of an alumni player. A "Super Sunday Brunch" is planned Feb. 7 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.

Tailgating is welcome at LandShark Stadium, though fan parking is limited because of security and other activities set up outside the stadium. Of course, Miami will try adding a little glamour.

Morton's The Steakhouse is offering platters of filet mignon sandwiches, lamb chops, shrimp cocktail, mini-New York cheesecakes and other gourmet options for tailgaters who don't want to cook; order the platters for pick-up at the restaurant's Coral Gables, North Miami Beach and downtown Miami locations. Donald Trump's International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach will send a personal chef with tailgating guests as part of its "Tail-Great" package.

Let's be honest: People come to South Florida to see and be seen. Score an outside table at one of the restaurants on Lincoln Road in South Beach and watch shoppers, dog-walkers and beach-goers traipse by. Lounge chairs for rent on the beach offer a comfortable view of Miami Beach's best-known tourist attraction: people wearing next to nothing. NFL cheerleaders will show off their, um, skills in a beach competition Jan. 29 in Fort Lauderdale.

For a more family-friendly sunbathing session, stretch out near the lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne, an island just off downtown Miami. The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables offers cool serenity; the swimming pool is a historic landmark carved out of coral rock and features caves, stone bridges and waterfalls.

Image: Airboat tour
J. Pat Carter  /  AP
Victor Diaz pauses during an airboat tour in a "gator hole" to explain that the drought in south Floirda is taking its toll on the Florida Everglades during a tour near Coopertown, Fla. Few canals still have enough water for the boats, which require only a few inches of water to travel.
A water taxi along the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale offers an alternative to area's congested roadways; fares and schedules available at www.watertaxi.com. The route is lined with mulitmillion-dollar yachts and mansions belonging to high-powered executives, celebrities and socialites.

Locals and tourists swarm beneath the neon hotel lights on beachfront Ocean Drive in South Beach. A less glitzy strip of hotels and motels is worth a drive across the causeway downtown: the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District. "MiMo" is short for Miami Modern, an architectural style from the 1950s and 1960s. Their futuristic shapes can look shabby now, but the neighborhood is home to hip cafes and independent boutiques.

Missing the theme park experience of central Florida? Ride the wooden roller coaster, go-carts, bumper boats and other rides at Boomers! in Dania Beach.

Natural Florida
Winter is the most comfortable time of year to visit the Florida Everglades. The best way to traverse its swamps and sawgrass is by air boat. Tiny Coopertown — with just eight residents — is a tourism hub with air boat tours, a restaurant that serves Everglades delicacies such as frog legs, and an exhibit housing more than a dozen live alligators; book a tour at coopertownairboats.com. A tram carries visitors around a paved, 15-mile loop at the Shark Valley Visitors Center in Everglades National Park. Bicycles can also take you around the loop, but beware the speed bumps — those are alligators sunning themselves next to the pavement.

Image: Miami Beach
Lynne Sladky  /  AP
A man sun bathes on Miami Beach, Fla.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida also calls the Everglades home. Details about the tribe's air boat tours, motocross course, RV campground, traditional village and casino gambling are available at www.semtribe.com.

An entire state park lies underwater off Key Largo. Snorkeling, scuba and glass-bottom boat tours launch daily from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Take advantage of Florida's year-round growing season at the fruit stands and produce markets in between the historic sites in the rural Redland area around Homestead; maps for a self-guided tour are available.

Other sports
Is the big game not enough? The Florida Panthers host the Calgary Flames in Sunrise on Feb. 5. The Miami Heat host the Houston Rockets on Feb. 9. The University of Miami men's basketball team hosts Georgia Tech on Feb. 10 in Coral Gables. Women pick up the pigskin during the Kelly McGillis Classic Flag Football Championship, beginning Feb. 7 in Key West; yes, the event is named for the "Top Gun" actress. Horses jump hurdles and riders compete for almost $6 million in prizes during the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington. Check out Mark Spitz's starting block from the 1972 Olympics and other memorabilia at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale. Compare your best catches with the records at the International Game Fish Association museum in Dania Beach. It shouldn't be hard to find a golf course or a tennis court — this is South Florida, after all.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Miami: Sunshine statement

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  1. Tower to the people

    Lifeguard towers on Miami Beach are colorful and easy to distinguish. Lifeguards care over swimmers who play nearby, and the towers make a great meeting place when surrounded by an endless area of sand, surf and beach umbrellas. (Richard Cummins / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Hot spot

    Thousands of people descended on Miami Beach for Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. The city hosted a number of private and public events ahead of the big game. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Wet and wild

    Jet skis cruise along Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach Marina. Tourists visiting the Bay can enjoy a number of recreational activities, including snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and more. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Life's a beach

    South Beach, also nicknamed "The American Riviera," is well-known for celebrities, chic lifestyles and, of course, beaches. The man-made beach runs along the Atlantic Ocean for miles. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Savoring history

    The Art Deco district of South Beach is a hot spot for celebrities and is home to eccentric residents. The district has more than 800 buildings, built in the '30s and '40s, that are architecturally protected, helping its image as a chic, popular destination. (Randy Faris / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ear to the ground

    Caribbean Flamingos -- this one eats from a pond at the Metro Zoo in Miami -- gets their color from the carotene in its diet. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Dolphins walk, whales fly

    The Miami Seaquarium is a popular attraction that features eight marine animal shows. General admission tickets cost $37.95, and kids between the ages of three and nine get in for $27.95 (plus 7 percent sales tax). (Jon Davison / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Luxe lodgings

    The Biltmore Hotel of Coral Gables "has been a favorite of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars since its opening in the 1920s," its Web site boasts. The resort features 275 rooms, including 130 suites, a spa and fitness center. (The Biltmore) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pretty in pink

    Classic buildings aren't the only thing visitors to Miami Beach will find. Vintage cars are often spotted in the Art Deco district. The annual Art Deco Weekend hosts a classic car fest where proud owners can show off their treasures. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Colorful celebration

    A dancer wears a costume as she participates in the Miami Carnival. The carnival has been an annual event since 1984. It has grown from a small neighborhood festival to an international event bringing live bands and calypsonians from the islands. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Collins mix

    The renovated Delano Hotel (left), National Hotel (center) and the Sagamore Hotel line up Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. The city has a concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Double-tall MOCA

    Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art "is internationally recognized as a force in defining new trends and directions in contemporary art," its Web site says. Admission is $5 per person, $3 for students and seniors. MOCA Members and kids under 12 can enter for free. (MOCA Miami) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bass appeal

    The Bass Museum of Art was established 47 years ago ater Miami Beach accepted the art collection of John and Johanna Bass, and agreed it would maintain the works and make it available to the public. (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Different strokes

    A visitor looks at "Thinking" during Art Basel Miami Beach back in 2008. "Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas," the event's Web site boasts. This year's event takes place Dec. 2-5. (Juan Castro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Reflective moment

    Artist Jude Papaloko is reflected in a mirror on a painted wall in his gallery, the Jakmel Gallery, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Feeling the groove

    Club patrons enjoy themselves on the dance floor at Mansion nightclub in Miami Beach, Fla. Once thought of as a place to visit Grandma in January, Miami's reputation as a party city has grown since the days of "Miami Vice," through the birth of the Art Deco fashion district in the early 1990s and the more recent explosion of the South Beach club scene. (David Adame / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Port of call

    Frequent cruisers can be forgiven for seeing Biscayne Bay and Miami simply as a departure point. However, the area offers a wealth of activities and events that can satisfy tourists with a variety of different interests. (Jeff Greenberg / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Can I get a refill?

    The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Miami, started out as a quarry pit and was transformed in 1924 into the Venetian Casino. Now, more than 100,000 people visit Venetian Pool each year. During summer months, the pool is drained nightly and replentished from a subterranean aquifer. (Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Year of the crab

    Plates full of cracked stone crab claws are ready to be served at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach. Joe Weiss opened a lunch counter in 1913, and the eatery has been serving the public for 97 consecutive seasons. (Wilfredo Lee / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Feeling the beat

    A crowd dances to the rythmic sound of congas at a local latin club in Calle Ocho (8th street), the main street of the Little Havana district of Miami. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Home field

    Miami's Sun Life Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a final score of 31-17. (Dave Cross / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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