This year’s Super Bowl matchup between the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs and NFC champion San Francisco 49ers could be a high-scoring affair, with two potent offenses taking the field. Early odds favor the Chiefs, who have game-changing quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But when it comes to choosing a place to visit, San Fran may have the edge. Let’s kick off this home city faceoff.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge at the golden hour from Baker Beach.
San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge is the city's top attraction © Karsten May / Getty Images

Architecture, attractions and history

Kansas City

The City of Fountains boasts more than 200 watery works of art. The Crown Center Square Foundation and JC Nichols Memorial Fountain, with its four heroic horsemen, are the most popular. History devotees will find plenty to enjoy at the National WWI Museum, where visitors can climb the Liberty Tower to see the whole city, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which has hosted more than 2 million guests since 1990.

San Francisco

Every trip to the Bay Area must include jaunts to Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz, the famed prison (and setting for many a movie over the years). Wander down to the Golden Gate Bridge to snap the requisite photo, then check out the more than 400 stunning Mission Murals. Still have time? The Powell St Cable Car Turnaround feels like a window into an older world. 

Score: San Francisco 1, Kansas City 0

Closeup of a plate covered in light brown napkins and topped with a rack of smoked bbq. There's a knife covered in barbecue sauce to the right of the plate. At the top of the frame you can see the bottom section of a glass bottle. There is a bottle cap next to the bottle.
For some, barbecue is a way of life in Kansas City © Michelle Lee Photography / Shutterstock

Food, drink and nightlife

Kansas City

Rate the city’s barbecue bona fides with a culinary hat trick: Try the savory burnt ends at Q39, LC’s Bar-B-Q and Arthur Bryant’s. For dessert, sample more than two dozen flavors at Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, where the homemade waffle cones melt in your mouth. End the night at Mutual Musicians Foundation and discover Kansas City’s unique jazz traditions through after-hours jam sessions. 

San Francisco

A restaurant that’s thrived for more than a century is clearly doing things right. Swan Oyster Depot opened in 1912, and it serves the best crab salad in town. In the mood for Chinese? Mister Jiu’s spectacularly weds Chinese and California cuisine. And don’t leave San Fran without sampling an unforgettable sourdough tortilla at Californios. For a unique nightlife experience, head to Monarch. Purchase a drink at the library bar and watch circus performers from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Score: Kansas City 1, San Francisco 1

The large green lawn at Dolores Park is filled with people laying on blankets, walking around or playing around.
Dolores Park is a great outdoor space to enjoy sunsets in San Francisco © Katherine Papera / EyeEm / Shutterstock

Natural features

Kansas City

Find more than just penguins at Penguin Park, where kids can frolic alongside larger-than-life figures including kangaroos and giraffes. On a romantic holiday? Fasten a lock to Old Red Bridge to symbolize “unbreakable” love.

San Francisco

Dolores Park includes a humongous mega-slide on the playground and loads of sports courts. It often hosts events like native dance ceremonies or free movie nights. In addition to museums, Golden Gate Park has gorgeous flowers, redwoods and even bonsai. 

Score: San Francisco 2, Kansas City 1

Streams of water is illuminated by blue light spray from a stone fountain. In front of the fountain is a man riding a large horse.
Downtown Kansas City is an inexpensive alternative to California © Derek Slagle / Getty Images

Lodging, cost & walkability

Kansas City

The Great Plains are cheaper than other parts of the country, and KC’s downtown has become more walkable in recent years, though most hotels are located further on the outskirts of the city. Enjoy 24-hour room service at Kansas City Raphael Hotel or pedal around Kansas City on free bikes provided by the Honeycomb hostel.

San Francisco

California is one of the costlier destinations in the country, though travelers can save money by eating at food trucks and enjoying many free entertainment options. Walkability is excellent, but some visitors may have to work up to tackling the city’s big hills. 

For lodging, brightly colored Parker Guest House sits at the city center and has an unforgettable garden, while Orchard Garden Hotel provides environmentally conscious visitors a luxurious experience. 

Score: Kansas City 2, San Francisco 2


Biggest celebrity

Kansas City

Though actors such as Eric Stonestreet and Paul Rubb rep the city, let’s not forget about Ellie Kemper, Dianne Wiest and Jean Harlow who each hail from KC. But the biggest star of them all will be on the field at the Super Bowl — reigning NFL MVP Mahomes.

San Francisco

Impossible to say. Danielle Steel, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, George Lucas, Dilbert creator Scott Adams — that’s just the tip of the list of famous San Fran natives and transplants. 

Final: When it comes to vacations, San Francisco wins in a squeaker, though the Super Bowl probably will see KC come out on top. 

You might also like: A first-timer's guide to Miami during Super Bowl LIV 

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