Vote in the Super Bowl Park Poll
A 49ers Fan and a Ravens Fan Defend Their Cities
This Sunday, many national park supporters will keep their hiking boots in the closet and get their blood pumping in a different way: by cheering their favorite teams to victory when the San Francisco 49ers face the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl. With national parks—as well as NPCA staff—based in both teams’ hometowns, two NPCA colleagues defend their turf in our first-ever national park smackdown!
What city do you think has the best national parks? Vote in our Super Bowl park poll!
In the Western corner: San Francisco
-Kati Schmidt, lifelong 49ers fan
As one of the most visited sites in our National Park System with more than 13 million annual visitors, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is as diverse, stunningly gorgeous, and steeped in history as San Francisco, the City by the Bay, itself. Nearly half of this park’s featured sites are within the city limits, and I consider myself lucky to call it my “home” park. A favorite setting for Hollywood blockbusters, its beauty is an easy walk, jog, or public transit ride from my front door, as well as rest of the city. While a love letter to Golden Gate National Recreation Area could easily elevate from sonnet to epic saga, in the name of brevity, I’ll call out a few of my favorite ways to experience the park:
- The Land’s End trail offers hiking and labyrinth-walking along the coast, with jaw-dropping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and sailboats traveling in and out of the city’s fog veil. The trail winds down to Sutro Baths, a former swimmable playground for many and, in recent months, home to a lovable river otter, aptly named “Sutro Sam.”
- Alcatraz is a must-see attraction for global visitors, and my most memorable experience there came last summer, when I braved chilly bay waters to swim from “The Rock” to shore–landing at yet another national treasure, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
- My weekend jogs feature Ocean Beach as a turnaround point. This beach beckons visitors to climb windswept sand dunes, stroll the shoreline, or just scope out surfers.
- My first San Francisco home was in the Presidio, where Ohlone natives originally lived and where numerous battles were waged, before the U.S. Army took control in 1846.
Our beloved San Francisco 49ers rally cry says it all as far as Golden Gate National Recreation Area and our city is concerned: “Who’s Got it Better Than Us?! Nobody!!!”
In the Eastern corner: Baltimore
-Ed Stierli, die-hard fan of all things Chesapeake
You’ll get a taste of Baltimore in the Superdome this weekend when Ravens fans show support for their city with a thunderous “OH!” as Alicia Keyes hits the high notes of the Star-Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key never could have predicted this lyrical change, but he would be proud of the city that valiantly defended America’s freedom (while San Francisco was still a part of Spain). Stories from the War of 1812 and the landscape of the Chesapeake Bay make the Baltimore region the most unique city for national parks in the United States.
Why we are the best Bay Area:
- Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine—This site is the only such doubly designated national park and one of the country’s last standing star-shaped forts. After the burning of Washington, DC, during the War of 1812, the fort bravely defended Baltimore and repelled the British Navy, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner. Almost one million visitors come to the fort each year, which also is home to a sprawling wetland.
- The Chesapeake Bay—North America’s largest estuary is home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. The bay’s watershed encompasses 54 national parks, and its iconic skipjacks, oysters, ospreys, and Cypress trees are unrivaled.
- Water Trails—Baltimore is home to not one, but two congressionally designated water trails: the Captain John Smith Chesapeake and Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trails. Both offer an outdoor paradise with thousands of miles for boating, fishing, hiking, and birding throughout one of the most beautiful landscapes in America.
- Charm City—Babe Ruth, Edgar Allan Poe, and the cast of Hairspray have all called Baltimore home. The city has more than 56,000 buildings listed in 52 National Register historic districts, providing a bustling National Heritage Area. Ask anyone who frequents historic Fells Point, a neighborhood which transports visitors back to when Baltimore was a “nest of pirates.”
- Blue Crabs—The Dungeness has nothing on Maryland Blue Crabs. The Maryland state crustacean is a favorite for crab cakes or steamed with some Old Bay. Crabcakes and football, that’s what Maryland does.
Is your heart in San Francisco? Does Charm City have the real charm? You decide the most Super City for Parks! Vote for your favorite in the poll above to help us crown the winner!