The Ultimate Guide to the 2020 NCAA March Madness Host Cities

Check out our mini city guides for the scoop on where to eat, drink and have fun in this year’s NCAA host cities.

By
Cara Sanders
On Friday, March 13, 2020 - 06:00
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Editor’s note: It was announced this week that due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus, NCAA games will be played without fans present this year. Whether you decide to keep your travel plans or book a return trip on another date, all of the NCAA host cities are fantastic destinations that definitely deserve a weekend visit.

March Madness is quickly approaching. With 68 teams competing in seven rounds over 20 days, it really is madness!

Beginning March 17, eight teams will duke it out in Dayton, OH in the “First Four” round to earn a spot in the main bracket of 64 teams. From there, each team will play in a single-elimination style within its region (ranked #1 to #16) until only two remain and meet up on April 6 in Atlanta to determine the 2020 NCAA Champion. 

What gets us most excited? The 13 awesome cities hosting these match-ups. From Houston, TX to Tampa, FL to Omaha, NE  to Sacramento, CA, the NCAA regional sites also happen to be some of our favorite cities and — spoiler alert! — some happen to be on our upcoming Top 100 Best Places to Live list. 

Whether you’re heading to the tournament or just looking for a great place to spend a weekend, check out our travel guides for each of the NCAA host cities for the scoop on where to eat, drink and have some non-basketball-related fun.

Round 1

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iStock Photo/DenisTangneyJr

Albany, NY

Where to Eat: Plan on stopping at Crave Burgers & Frozen Yogurt for one of the restaurant’s famous burgers. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): The City Beer Hall is the perfect spot to lounge on a patio or dance the night away, so there really is something for everyone. 

Best Sports Bar: With more than 50 TVs and an extensive menu full of game-time favorites, there isn’t a bad seat in the house at Recovery Sports Grill

Where to Rest Your Head: The Renaissance Albany is located in the heart of the city and is just steps away from the Capitol, making it the perfect meeting point.  

3 Fun Things to Do in Albany:

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Photo By Aaron Theisen

Spokane, WA

Where to Eat: Whether you love a classic or want to try something more adventurous, grab a slice at the Flying Goat

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Believe it or not, Spokane is a whiskey lovers’ paradise, so there are plenty of spots to sip something wonderful. 

Best Sports Bar: The Swinging Doors is the place to be. With 27 beers on tap, a full bar and more than 50 screens, what more could you want?

Where to Rest Your Head: The Davenport Grand is near the waterfront and in the heart of the city. Bonus: A skywalk connects the hotel to the convention center, providing panoramic views of the city’s skyline. 

3 Fun Things to Do in Spokane: 

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iStockPhoto/f11photo

St. Louis, MO

Where to Eat: St. Louis means business when it comes to pizza and Imo’s Pizza is the beloved local chain. Follow dinner up with a scoop (or two!) from Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Grab a burger and choose from more than 100 beers at the Burger Bar, which is located inside of the Lumiere Place Casino

Best Sports Bar: Friendly’s lives up to its name and has more than 40 TVs, games and great drink specials!

Where to Rest Your Head: The Hotel Saint Louis is in the perfect walkable location for visitors. 

3 Fun Things to Do in St. Louis:

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Visit Tampa Bay

Tampa, FL

Where to Eat: Tampa has some seriously cool dining options, including Sparkman Wharf Dining Garden. Here, 10 walk-up eateries are housed in brightly painted shipping containers and guests can eat their meals on the nearby artificial lawn. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Drink your way around the world at Hotel Bar

Best Sports Bar: Press Box Sports Emporium, a Tampa favorite for nearly 40 years, is the place to be. 

Where to Rest Your Head: Tampa Marriott Water Street is right along the water and is just steps from the Tampa Riverwalk

3 Fun Things to Do in Tampa:

  • Run, walk or bike along the waterfront at the nation’s largest sidewalk, Bayshore Boulevard

  • Take a tour and sample some free beer at the well-known Yuengling Brewery

  • On Sundays, Wat Thai Temple hosts a free market full of authentic Thai dishes and live dance performances. 

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iStock/Kruck20

Greensboro, NC

Where to Eat: Can’t decide between mac and cheese and tacos? No worries — Crafted: Art of the Taco has you covered with a combination of the two and trust us … it’s delicious. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): If you’re a whiskey devotee, plan on making a stop at 913 Whiskey Bar

Best Sports Bar: There isn’t a bad seat in the house at Rody’s Tavern.

Where to Rest Your Head: Proximity Hotel in Greensboro was the first hotel in America to receive a LEED Platinum Certification and it’s not only sustainable, it’s also beautiful! 

3 Fun Things to Do in Greensboro:

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iStock/Davel5957

Omaha, NE

Where to Eat: Looking for the best steak of your life? Look no further than Monarch Prime

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): A small, unassuming storefront called The Looking Glass houses an incredible speakeasy. Simply tell the store clerk you’re looking for the Wicked Rabbit and prepare to be amazed. 

Best Sports Bar: The Good Life has more than 35 flat screen TVs and four massive 80-inch screens so you won’t miss a second!

Where to Rest Your Head: Hotel Deco is a Mad Men lover’s dream. The downtown Omaha hotel is a perfect blend of contemporary and historic touches and cool art deco touches. 

3 Fun Things to Do in Omaha:

  • Take a trip to the Blackstone District, a fun, walkable spot with several breweries, restaurants and bars. 

  • Bob the Bridge is one of the longest pedestrian bridges to connect two states, which means if you’re standing in the right spot you can be in both Nebraska and Iowa at once. 

  • Create a custom ice cream flavor at Omaha’s eCreamery

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Sacramento, CA

Where to Eat: The better question is “where not to eat.” Sacramento is a foodie’s paradise!

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Revival, a rooftop bar, overlooks the Golden 1 Center.

Best Sports Bar: Fieldhouse has more than 17 different beers on tap and multiple televisions, including an HD projector. 

Where to Rest Your Head: Stay at The Citizen Hotel and plan to spend some time at the hotel’s restaurant, Grange

3 Fun Things to Do in Sacramento:

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Photo Courtesy of ThisIsCleveland.com

Cleveland, OH

Where to Eat: Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream is a Cleveland mainstay and grabbing a scoop is basically a requirement when you’re here.

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Visit 16-Bit Bar + Arcade, one of the coolest arcade bars in the country where if you drink, you play for free. 

Best Sports Bar:  The Third Place has drinks, arcade games and a jukebox —  what more could you want?

Where to Rest Your Head: Metropolitan at the 9 is an awesome blend of the arts and a unique place to stay. 

3 Fun Things to Do in Cleveland:

  • Plan a trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where inductees include Bob Dylan, Guns n’ Roses and Led Zeppelin. 

  • The West Side Market, which dates back to 1912, houses more than 100 vendors and is a great spot to sample all of Cleveland’s local flavor. 

  • Edgewater Park is 147 acres and the best place in the city to explore the great outdoors. 

Sweet 16 & Elite 8

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iStock/Sean Pavone

Indianapolis, IN

Where to Eat: What’s a trip to Indiana without a tenderloin? The breaded pork tenderloin sandwich from Steer-In is a must!

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Libertine Liquor Bar is a relaxed, hip, unpretentious hidden bar off of Mass Ave in Indianapolis that has a rotating menu of creative craft cocktails. 

Best Sports Bar: Indy is one of the best sports bar cities in the country, so there’s plenty of places to choose from. We recommend the Stacked Pickle.  

Where to Rest Your Head: Le Meridien is in the heart of the shopping, dining and business districts, meaning there’s no shortage of things to do.  

3 Fun Things to Do in Indianapolis:

  • Stop by City Market, which is home to more than 25 locally owned and operated businesses. 

  • Bookworms should pay a visit to Books & Brews, a local bookstore that sells gently used books, donates a portion of profits to a local literacy program and has an on-site bar with craft beers. 

  • There’s water everywhere in this city! Plan a trip to White River State Park, where you can either admire the water from the banks or rent a kayak for the day. 

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iStock Photo/Ron_Thomas

Los Angeles, CA

Where to Eat: Pizzana is a must — the Neapolitan-style pizza joint is a local favorite and their creative menu is sure to please everyone.

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): What’s a better way to mourn a loss or celebrate a win than a tiki bar? Drink a Mai Tai and forget your worries at Tiki-Ti

Best Sports Bar: 33 Taps has more than 30 different beers on tap and plenty of televisions to watch your favorite team. 

Where to Rest Your Head: AC Hotel South Bay has an unreal rooftop bar and lounge that makes it hard to leave your hotel. 

3 Fun Things to Do in Los Angeles:

  • Drive down the coast to eat at Malibu Farm and explore the pier. The views are totally worth it. 

  • The Getty Center is one of the most impressive architectural achievements in the country and houses an impressive art collection. Admission is free, but reservations are required. 

  • Take a hike at Runyon Canyon.  

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iStock/Sean Pavone

Houston, TX

Where to Eat: We’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend some classic Tex-Mex. Bodega’s Taco Shop is a local favorite. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Anvil Bar + Refuge serves up homemade bitters — need we say more?

Best Sports Bar: PJ’s Sports Bar is an old-school watering hole and local favorite that even has karaoke on Fridays. 

Where to Rest Your Head: Marriott Marquis Houston is home to an amazing infinity pool and  the world’s largest Texas-shaped rooftop lazy river, making it perfect for the whole family. 

3 Fun Things to Do in Houston:

  • The culinary scene in Houston is unreal. Fortunately, we’ve got the ultimate guide of how to eat like a true Texan

  • Discovery Green is a nearly 12-acre park complete with putting greens, interactive water features and a playground. 

  • While you’re in town, catch a show! Houston’s Theater District is one of a few in the country that features permanent companies for each of the major performing arts disciplines, including ballet, theater, music and opera. 

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iStockPhoto/espiegle

New York, NY

Where to Eat: Grab a New York slice from just about any street corner — you honestly can’t go wrong! 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Of all the gin joints in the world...Bathtub Gin, housed in the back of The Stone Coffee Company, is a can’t-miss. 

Best Sports Bar: Enjoy pitcher specials and an awesome patio at Printer’s Alley

Where to Rest Your Head: The Lexington Hotel was once home to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio and leans into architectural styles from the 1920s. 

3 Fun Things to Do in New York City:

  • Take a stroll along the High Line, an elevated park and greenway offering gorgeous views of Manhattan.

  • Travel across the Brooklyn Bridge to spend some time at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which is home to nearly 52 acres of gorgeous gardens. 

  • Get an up-close look at Lady Liberty by taking the Staten Island Ferry

Final Four & Championship Game

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iStock/Sean Pavone

Atlanta, GA

Where to Eat: The AG at the Ritz-Carlton is the best spot in town to grab a steak and cocktail. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Travel up 73 floors to The Sun Dial and take in gorgeous, sweeping views of the city. Pro tip — your ears might pop on the way up. 

Best Sports Bar: STATS has more than 70 TVs set up and is super close to all the action.

Where to Rest Your Head: Stick close to the action at the Marriott Marquis. Fun fact: Several movies have interior scenes that have been shot at the hotel, including The Hunger Games and scenes in various Marvel films. 

3 Fun Things to Do in Atlanta:

  • Plan to visit one of the city’s countless museums — like the Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola, where you can taste more than 100 beverages from around the world. 

  • Stop by Ponce City Market, a repurposed factory that houses tons of eateries and places to shop. 

  • Eat and drink your way down the Atlanta Beltline, a loop connecting more than 22 miles of the best neighborhoods in the city. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cara Sanders is the digital engagement manager for Livability.com.