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.
Architecture, attractions and history
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.
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
Food, drink and nightlife
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.
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
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.
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
Lodging, cost & walkability
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.
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
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.
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.