Superbro, Harbowl, Superbaugh...whatever you want to call the big game on Sunday, I call it a battle between two cities near and dear to my heart.
I grew up in the Baltimore area and have been a huge Ravens fan since they came to town in 1996. My father grew up in the San Francisco area and I still have family there. So, how do these two cities go head to head for a vacation?
Flights: A direct round trip flight (Thursday-Tuesday trip in June on Expedia) from Chicago to San Francisco costs around $370. The same ticket but to Baltimore costs around $315. Of course prices can vary quite a bit depending on specific dates, airline specials, and price fluctuation, but a ticket to Baltimore will typically cost slightly less.
Hotels: I was visiting SF this past summer and stumbled upon The Metro Hotel, a funky boutique hotel in the Lower Haight neighborhood and an absolute steal at $100 a night. Rooms were small but comfortable and the backyard garden was perfect for enjoying the rare SF sun. I haven't tried too many hotels in Baltimore, but they do have all the major chains, and I've had pleasant stays at the Fairfield Inn and Suites near the Little Italy and Inner Harbor areas for some special events.
Food and Drink: Everything I ate my last trip to SF was fabulous and the city is definitely know for being a foodie destination. Some of my favorites include Outerlands, Ragazza, and Bar Crudo. With close proximity to Napa and Sonoma, you can't turn around without hitting a good bottle of wine. There's also local brews Anchor Steam, 21st Amendment, and Lagunitas. While Baltimore may not have the stellar restaurant reputation as SF, but it's hard to beat the seafood here, especially the local specialty, steamed blue crabs. Mussels and oysters are also great here. Some local favorites include Thames Street Oyster House, Bertha's, and Nick's Fish House. I've gotten feedback from friends, especially those of the vegetarian/vegan variety that eating around town can be challenging. Baltimore is a beer drinking town, with National Bohemian serving as the local Old Style. Great beer can be found at Max's Tap House, The Brewer's Art, and Pub Dog.
Attractions: SF's got the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight/Ashbury, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Full House...house. All cool, and the city's on a bay AND ocean. It's a picturesque city with a lot of great neighborhoods for exploring. When most people think of Baltimore, they think of The Wire and run down rowhouses. Those are definitely there, but there's also plenty of other touristy sights that don't involve Omar and Bubbles. The National Aquarium, American Visionary Art Museum, The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, Fort McHenry, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards will definitely keep a tourist busy.
Budget Friendly: SF has consistently been rated as one of the most expensive cities in the country. Baltimore has not. Overall, you will definitely get more stretch out of your dollars in Baltimore, but deals can be found in SF is you look closely.
So which city wins as a tourist destination? I think SF and Baltimore offer very different but worthwhile experiences, so why not visit them both?
By the way, Go Ravens!