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Final Four 2016: What to do in Houston this weekend

Photo Credit: Ken Davis

After two weeks filled with shocking upsets, emerging stars and zero sense of predictability, March Madness has finally reached its climax.

College basketball fans have descended upon NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, with the city hosting its second Final Four in the past five years. While Villanova, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Syracuse’s quest to cut down the nets will be the focal point of the weekend, there is much more available for those in town for the festivities.

Here is a look at what Houston has to offer surrounding the NCAA Tournament’s epic conclusion.

Final Four Fan Fest:

The Final Four Fan Fest provides something to offer for all types of fans. Youth clinics, interactive games, autograph signings, giveaways and concerts headline the festival, which will be open Friday through Monday.

The event will take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. Adult tickets are $8 if purchased in advance or $10 at the door. Kids 12 and under are free if accompanied by an adult, with discounts available for military, seniors and students.

Discovery Green March Madness Music Festival:

The Final Four Fan Fest is not the only marquee event in downtown this weekend. The Discovery Green March Madness Music Festival, a free concert series, will run Friday through Monday as well. Kendrick Lamar, Jason Derulo, Flo Rida, Pitbull and Maroon 5 are just a few of the big names who will be performing.

Where to eat:

Houston is well-renowned for its take on Mexican cuisine, and a stop at one of the local restaurants is a must for anyone in town this weekend. Whether it is fine dining at Hugo’s, unforgettable fajitas at Lupe Tortilla’s or overpriced yet ever-so-delicious margaritas at Ninfa’s on Navigation, options are aplenty for visitors of the Bayou City. For those looking to save a little cash, the countless taco trucks around town provide cheaper options that will not disappoint.

Texas barbecue, various asian cuisines and a handful of restaurants featuring some of the most prestigious chefs in the country should also be noted as local staples to the Houston dining scene.

Special events in town:

Fans looking for something to pass the time in between the college basketball action this weekend will have no shortage of options.

For golf enthusiasts, the Shell Houston Open is ongoing through Sunday. Some of the top names in the sport are taking part in the tournament, and with a basketball-free Sunday, why not take a 30-minute drive out to the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, TX for the final round?

In addition, the Hermann Park Kite Festival on Sunday provides a relaxing option for visitors of all ages. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CT at Hermann Park, located just a few miles south of downtown.

Other sights to see:

Among the benefits of hosting a championship event in the fourth-largest city in the country is a never-ending list of options to fill the time surrounding the main event. And while special events will dominate the headlines, traditional tourist attractions have plenty to offer.

Space Center Houston is a quick trip south of downtown, and is widely regarded as one of the most iconic locations in the city. The facility offers several tours a day and is open seven days a week with extended weekend hours.

Houston also has a handful of premier museums, including the Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Children’s Museum, making a trip to the Museum District a worthwhile venture.

The Kemah Boardwalk and Galveston Island are available for those looking for a quick getaway. Both are located within 60 miles of downtown and provide entertainment that the whole family can enjoy.

For Villanova fans:

The team will be staying at the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria, located at 222 West Loop South. The Villanova University Alumni Association will be hosting a casual meet and greet at this location from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday. Other Villanova fan meet-ups will be taking place beginning at 6:00 p.m. at The Dogwood (21+ only, 2403 Bagby St) and Gorgeous Gael (5555 Morningside Dr).

The Official Pre-Game Villanova Fan Event at NRG Stadium will take place on Saturday from 1:30 to 4:30, with a $100 admission fee that includes food, beer, wine, soft drinks and entertainment. The event is sold out.

Tip-off for the Wildcats’ showdown with Oklahoma is scheduled for 5:09 p.m. CT on Saturday. Villanova fans will be gathering to watch the game at The Dogwood and Gorgeous Gael, as well as at Midtown Drinkery Bar & Grill (2400 Bagby St) and Little Woodrow’s in Rice Village (21+ only, 5611 Morningside Dr).

For Oklahoma fans:

The Sooners will be staying at the Westin-Galleria, located at 5060 W Alabama St, where the official team send-off will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. prior to their Saturday evening matchup with Villanova. The OU Alumni Pre-Game event will take place less than a mile away at The West End – A Public House (5320 Westheimer Rd) beginning at noon.

The OU Club of Houston is hosting its official watch party at Fuego’s Saloon (817 Durham Dr), Houston’s Oklahoma alumni bar, with an alternative viewing to be held at Champss (1121 Uptown Park Blvd) nearby the team hotel.

For North Carolina fans:

North Carolina will be staying at the Hilton Houston Post Oak (2001 Post Oak Blvd), where fans and alumni will be giving the team a send-off before its Saturday night showdown with Syracuse. Also going on at the team hotel before the game on Saturday is the Great Day to Be a Tar Heel Party. The family-friendly event will take place from 2 to 5 p.m., with free admission, giveaways, a DJ and a cash bar.

The Houston Carolina Club will be hosting a watch party at Revelry on Richmond, with a scheduled 7:49 p.m. tip-off. The venue will be decked-out in Tar Heel blue with full sound for the television broadcast.

For Syracuse Fans:

The official Syracuse pre-game party at NRG Stadium will begin at 3:30 p.m., and will include barbecue, beer, wine and soft drinks. Tickets are $65 each ($30 for children under 12). Tickets are still available for the event.

The SU Alumni Club of Houston will be hosting a watch party for the Orange’s game against North Carolina in downtown at Lucky’s Pub (801 Emanuel St).

The team is staying at the JW Marriott Houston (5150 Westheimer Rd).

Transportation:

Much to the appeasement of individuals looking to avoid the parking lot that is Houston traffic, Metro is offering $12 passes for unlimited train and bus rides Friday through Monday. The city’s light rail has stops within walking distance of all official Final Four events.

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