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What to Do in All 13 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 March Madness host cities.

By Cara Sanders on March 17, 2023

Houston, TX, is the 2023 March Madness Championship Host City.

March Madness 2023 has officially begun! With 68 teams competing in seven rounds over a span of 20 days, it really is madness. Eight teams have already duked it out in the “First Four” 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 8 in Houston to determine the 2023 NCAA Basketball Champion.

What we’re most excited about? The fantastic cities hosting these upcoming match-ups. From Birmingham to Des Moines to Denver to Louisville, the NCAA March Madness regional sites are some of our favorite cities (not to mention some of our Top 100 Best Places to Live!). Fans traveling to see their teams play will be able to explore these seriously awesome places in their downtime — and we want to help them make the most of it.

Whether you’re heading to the March Madness tournament or just looking for a cool new place to spend a weekend this summer, check out our mini-city guides for each of the March Madness host cities for the scoop on where to eat, drink and even have some non-basketball-related fun.

Round 1 & 2: March 16 – 19

March Madness Host City: Birmingham, AL

Legacy Arena

Where to Eat: Enjoy a classic southern meal at Niki’s West. The spot has been open since 1957 and serves comfort classics like collard greens, peach cobbler and fried okra. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Try a local beer from Good People Brewing Company. The taproom is dog-friendly so you can take the sting off with your four-legged friend. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Railroad Park is a 19-acre greenspace in downtown Birmingham and is 30% water, making it a great spot to take a walk between games. Or, visit Ruffner Mountain, located in the heart of Birmingham. The spot is more than 1,000 acres, perfect for hiking, birding or observing wildlife at the preserve. 

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Clock in at Overtime Grill & Bar. 

What to Do Between Games:

  • Birmingham has a rich history, from the iron and steel industry to the Civil Rights Movement. Take a minute to appreciate the city’s culture by visiting any of the museums or one of the city’s five historic districts
  • The Marble Ring is a cool speakeasy behind a blue Police Phone Call Box. Once inside, simply pick up the phone and a hostess will either seat you or put you on the list. 
  • Spend an afternoon eating and drinking your way through Birmingham’s historic Avondale neighborhood. 
Des Moines
Des Moines / Courtesy of Michael Leland under a CC 2.0 license.

March Madness Host City: Des Moines, IA

Wells Fargo Arena

Where to Eat: Any Fong’s pizza slice will curb your gameday cravings. They are known for their crab rangoon pizza, which is just as strange and delicious as it sounds.  

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): El Bait Shop boasts the largest craft beer selection West of the Mississippi and has over 250 hops on tap. Or, pay a visit to the retro High Life Lounge next door. It will transport you back to another era (maybe one when your team was better at winning?). 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Visit one of Des Moines’ 75 public parks. We recommend taking an afternoon stroll along the trails at Raccoon River Park. 

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Make sure your camera is off and enjoy an afternoon at 1908 Draught House. 

What to Do Between Games:

  • Take a break from basketball and visit the Des Moines Art Center. The museum is made up of three distinct buildings (each designed by a world-renowned architect!) and houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, modern art and mixed media. And the museum offers free daily admission!
  • Wander through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which features works by nearly two dozen world-famous artists, all of which are begging to be Instagrammed. 
  • Go buy a hilariously irreverent t-shirt at Raygun, the Des Moines-based gift shop that bills itself as “The Greatest Store in the Universe,” and you guys — they’re not exaggerating. 
Orlando FL
Orlando / iStock/lightkey

March Madness Host City: Orlando, FL

Amway Center

Where to Eat: Orlando offers plenty of delicious vegan dining options, or try out Mrs. Potato Restaurant for authentic Brazilian fare. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Less than half a mile away from the Amway Center, tucked away on the third floor of a vintage furniture store, is Mathers Social Gathering. This hidden speakeasy is sure to delight any fan. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Get out and about at Lake Eola Park. The complex has plenty of green space and surrounds Lake Eola, which is a giant sinkhole. 

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Enjoy wifi and wings at Gator’s Dockside. 

What to Do Between Games: 

  • Explore Orlando’s many neighborhoods. The Church Street District dates back to the 19th century and is home to cobbled streets lined with smaller boutiques and independent stores. Additionally, the Milk District was centered around a milk factory, home to several funky shops and colorful street art. 
  • Spend some time at Icon Park and take a ride on the famed Orlando Star Flyer, the world’s tallest swing ride. 
  • And, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can pay a visit to Mickey Mouse’s house.

March Madness Host City: Sacramento, CA

Golden 1 Center

Where to Eat: Sacramento is a foodie’s paradise. If you don’t want to travel far, visit Revival, a rooftop bar that overlooks the Golden 1 Center, for drinks and delicious bites. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): After the final buzzer, make your way across the street to hit some balls at Tipsy Putt, where the motto is drink local, putt tipsy. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Stretch your legs at Capitol Park, considered one of the most beautiful State Capitol grounds in the country. There are more than 800 trees in the park, most of which are native to the United States and are marked with plaques to label them and their area of origin. 

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Public House Downtown has 25 HD TVs and over 60 beers on tap. 

What to Do Between Games:

March Madness Host City: Albany, NY

MVP Arena

Where to Eat: Fill up on a corned beef and pastrami sandwich at Gershon’s Deli, a Union Street staple for over six decades. Pro Tip: They close at 3 every afternoon, so bring your appetite early. 

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

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Cycle across all of Albany County on the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: 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. 

What to Do Between Games:

  • If you’ve got the time, just over an hour’s drive from downtown is Adirondack Park, the largest protected area in the continental United States. At 6 million acres, it’s bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Everglades combined.
  • Try an off-dry cider from Nine Pin Cider Works, the Empire State’s first farm cidery that sources fruit from the Capital and Hudson Valley regions.
  • Visit the New York State Museum, which offers free admission (but always accepts donations!).
iStock/Sean Pavone

March Madness Host City: Columbus, OH

Nationwide Arena

Where to Eat: Did you know there is such a thing as a $2 Grilled Cheese Monday? Well, there is one in Columbus! Bodega is a lively gastropub in the Short North neighborhood with excellent pub food, nearly 50 taps, and 150 beers. And did we mention the $2 grilled cheese on Mondays? Yeah, it’s a thing.

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss):

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Columbus is home to Scioto Audubon, a 120-acre park great for birding, biking and reconnecting with nature. The park is one of the best city parks in the nation

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Grab a seat (and a sip!) at Fourth Street Bar and Grill. 

What to Do Between Games:

  • No trip to Columbus is complete without a stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, which first opened its doors at the North Market. And speaking of the North Market, you’ll want to visit this public market that houses a variety of small businesses and restaurants. 
  • The “art and soul” of Columbus is the Short North neighborhood, which feeds all of your gallery hopping, local shopping, happy hour needs, and is a creative hub for the city’s thriving fashion industry.
  • Round out your trip with a visit to The Book Loft, a historic Bavarian neighborhood near downtown that has 32 rooms (!) of titles. 
Denver CO

March Madness Host City: Denver, CO 

Ball Arena

Where to Eat: Fuel up with the perfect recovery brunch at La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal, the Mile High City’s first dedicated pozoleria, where you can coax your body back to life with a bowl of spicy, tender-pork-studded pozole, the comforting traditional Mexican stew.

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Reservations are encouraged at Denver’s most hidden bar, but this secret speakeasy is worth the effort. Text the number listed on B&GC’s site on the day you wish to visit, and then go to the underground bar at the back of the Halycon Hotel.

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Denver is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, so the city has plenty of green space to explore. But, of course, Red Rocks can’t be missed! 

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: With 45 HD big-screen TVs and drink specials, Blake Street Tavern is the perfect spot to move your mouse so Slack stays active.  

What to Do Between Games:

  • Spend an afternoon in Cherry Creek North, a quaint 16-block neighborhood right outside of Denver. 
  • The altitude is no joke in Denver, so you may want to try some locally-grown herbs to curb altitude sickness. 
  • The River North Art District (RiNo) was once an industrial neighborhood that is now the epicenter of Colorado cool. There are plenty of things to do here, and spots like The Denver Central Market, Work & Class and Nocturne can’t be missed.  

March Madness Host City: Greensboro, NC 

Greensboro Coliseum

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 to stop at 913 Whiskey Bar. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Walk, bike, or run along the Downtown Greenway, an urban loop that features nearly 30 pieces of permanent and temporary public art installations.

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: There isn’t a bad seat in the house at Rody’s Tavern.

What to Do Between Games:

  • Is your bracket busted already? For an instant mood lift, immerse yourself in a wonderland of lush greenery and flowers at one of Greensboro’s four public gardens. 
  • Greensboro is the long-time headquarters of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Learn more about the history of the league and its 15-member teams at the interactive ACC Hall of Champions. 
  • If you’re into arcade games, pop into BoxCar Bar + Arcade

Sweet 16 & Elite 8: March 23 – 26

Las Vegas NV
Las Vegas / iStock/Sean Pavone

March Madness Host City: Las Vegas, NV 

T-Mobile Arena

Where to Eat: Las Vegas offers plenty of dining options, but check out Esther’s Kitchen for something more authentic. They make all of their noodles in-house and serve up Italian favorites. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): The Downtown Cocktail Room is a cozy spot serving delicious drinks and a two-for-one experience…keep your eyes peeled for the bar’s hidden speakeasy, Mike Morey’s Sip’n’Tip. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Take a walk down the strip to The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, which has an animatronic show every hour from noon to 8 pm called Fall of Atlantis with fireballs, fountains and a 50,000-gallon aquarium full of tropical fish in the background.

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Chickie’s & Pete’s is the perfect place to ‘work’ remotely and view every game on their 50 giant TVs. 

What to Do Between Games:

  • The Neon Sign Museum tells visitors all about Vegas history through neon signs. It’s the perfect spot for an Instagrammable afternoon. 
  • Try to spot an alien at the famed Area 51. 
  • To escape the hustle and bustle of Vegas, visit Valley of Fire. The park is more than 40,00 acres and contains ancient, petrified trees and interesting sandstone formations. 

March Madness Host City: New York, NY 

Madison Square Garden

Where to Eat: Grab a New York slice from just about any street corner – you 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 Stone Street Coffee Company, is a can’t-miss. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Stroll along the High Line, an elevated park and greenway offering gorgeous views of Manhattan.

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Enjoy pitcher specials and a fantastic patio at Printer’s Alley

What to Do Between Games:

  • It’s the Big Apple, baby! Step outside of MSG, and you’ll find plenty to do. If you’re overwhelmed, we recommend exploring the stalls and shops in the Chelsea Market. 
  • Visit the iconic New York Public Library. This iconic spot is a great place to take a break from the action and read a good book or visit an exhibition.
  • Travel across the Brooklyn Bridge to spend some time at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, home to nearly 52 acres of gorgeous gardens. 

March Madness Host City: Kansas City, MO 

Kansas City MO
Kansas City / iStock/Sean Pavone

T-Mobile Center

Where to Eat: What’s a trip to Kansas City without trying some of the city’s famous barbecue? The two-meat BBQ dinner at Joe’s Kansas City Barb-B-Que is the perfect pre-game meal to fuel up any fan. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): After the big game, head to The Peanut, Kansas City’s oldest bar that existed as a speakeasy before Prohibition was repealed. Today, The Peanut serves several bar favorites and drinks to wet your whistle.

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Get lost in the Glass Labyrinth at the Nelseon-Atkins Museum of Art — a 62-feet by 62-feet by 62-feet triangle with see-through walls.  

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Westport Ale House means business…just like you do. 

What to Do Between Games:

March Madness Host City: Louisville, KY 

KFC Yum! Center

Where to Eat: After coming face to face with a giant golden replica of Michaelangelo’s David, hop into Proof on Main for an elevated dining experience. 

Where to Celebrate a Big Win (Or Drink the Pain Away After a Loss): Troll Pub Under the Bridge is a bar that’s, well, exactly what it sounds like. The perfect place to hide out in shame after a tough loss or celebrate a win with loaded beer, cheese and Guinness on tap. 

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Catch a sunset on the Big Four Bridge, a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River connecting Louisville and Jeffersonville, IN.

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: 40 beers on tap and 100 different bourbons at Blind Squirrel should do the trick until you can close your laptop for the day. 

What to Do Between Games:

Final Four & Championship: April 1 & April 3

March Madness Host City: Houston, TX 

NRG Stadium

Where to Eat: When in Rome…or Houston… you’ve got to eat like a true Texan. Bodega’s Taco Shop is a local favorite and serves up authentic Tex-Mex. 

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?

Where to Stretch Your Legs: Discovery Green is a nearly 12-acre park complete with putting greens, interactive water features and a playground. 

Where to ‘Work’ Remotely During the Game: Social Beer Garden is the perfect place to whip out your computer and reply to some emails while watching the big dance. 

What to Do Between Games:

  • Visit M-K-T in Houston Heights. This mixed-use space is home to restaurants, retail and four acres of park-like space. 
  • Rest your head at Marriott Marquis Houston and have some fun while you’re there. The hotel has a fantastic infinity pool and the world’s largest Texas-shaped rooftop lazy river. 
  • Space Center Houston can’t be missed if you want an experience that is out of this world. The Smithsonian-affiliated museum serves as the visitor center for the NASA Johnson Space Center, where astronauts train. 
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