NEWORLEANS - This weekend, the attention of basketball fans across America will be focused on New Orleans and the NCAA Men's Final Four games on CBS.
But while the rest of America gets to watch the games, the residents of the New Orleans area are invited to join tens of thousands of visitors coming here for a weekend of special events (many of them are free!)
The excitement is building for the championship, but for those who are here in New Orleans, there's a lot more to see and do than just the games themselves.
Even if you don't like basketball, you can still have a grand time at a series of NCAA Final Four events that begin Friday and continue through Monday, and are open to the public.
Friday's highlights include the first day of the Bracket Town games festival at the Convention Center, which you'll need tickets for.
There are a lot of other things you can do for free. You can watch the Final Four teams practice at the Dome Friday afternoon and then hang around and watch the All Star game.
The first of three days of Big Dance concerts starts Friday night at Woldenburg Park. Performers include Kiss, Blondie and Jimmy Buffett, Dr. John, Cowboy Mouth and the Funky Meters. The concerts end Sunday evening with a fireworks display over the river.
Other events include tailgating, a Basketball Legends game and a contest for kids to see if they can dribble a basketball all the way from the Dome to the Convention Center.
'Every Final Four has already been a historic event. Every one of them is considered an iconic event in the history of sport and American society. But to get to do them in this New Orleans, in this wonderful, iconic city is a very, very special treat for us to be back here among you,' said the NCAAPresident, Dr. Mark Emmert.(You might recognize Emmert - he was LSU's chancellor not long ago.)
New Orleans police have 650 officers, state troopers and Jefferson deputies providing extra security. Expect traffic jams, closed streets and diversions around the events.
And for the fans of the teams, restaurants will serve as home base away from home this weekend:
- Kentucky is at Huck Finn's Cafe in the French Quarter
- Louisville at Lucy's on Tchoupitoulas
- Ohio State at Poppy's in Spanish Plaza
- Kansas at Crazy Lobster in Spanish Plaza
Of course, restaurants across New Orleans will be hosting the fans as well.