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Road Games Travel Tips: Boarding gates to the Golden Gates

Week 10: Seattle at San Francisco, Nov. 11, 2019, 5:15 p.m. Pacific

SPONSORED – You need a wet suit to surf some spots in California.

That was my first discovery when my family moved to the state in 1990. The only California beaches I’d been to before then were down South. Huntington Beach. Manhattan Beach. Tressels.

So when my family moved to Santa Cruz in June, I headed to the beach with a boogie board and a rash guard, figuring that would be sufficient. My teeth were chattering 15 minutes later, and I understood one of the many ways in which Northern California is its own geographical, cultural environmental entity.

Fog is more common in the upper half of the state. So is flannel. In fact, the affection for In-n-Out Burger is one of the only things that the two halves of the state actually agree upon.

And as much as I love Southern California – and I really do – my roots run deeper in the Nor Cal. It’s where I graduated from high school, and I’ve been around the Bay Area long enough to know just how much there is to do in the area whether it’s to hike around Golden Gate Park – where I once saw the Beastie Boys – perform or head up to the Presidio, which is north of The City, but offers some absolutely breath-taking views.

Half Moon Bay – which is half an hour south down the coast – is the site for some of the biggest waves you’ll find in the entire country while the Brown Sugar Kitchen – over on the east side of the Bay in Oakland – is responsible for two of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten, and if you head there might as well stop by Marshawn Lynch’s Beastmode store and see if he’s there.

I’m even wistful about Candlestick Park, which was never going to be mistaken for a nice stadium. It was old, lacked sufficient elevators and was built on landfill jutting out onto the water. That last point posed a real problem not because what it was built on, but where. The wind would howl through there and make an August night feel like the Arctic, and back in the late 1980s there was a chainlink fence in the outfield and you could watch hot dog wrappers that would be stuck by the wind up on the wall.

I was in Candlestick Park for the earthquake in 1989, which delayed the World Series. I was went to Candlestick Park when I was supposed to be at a journalism camp on the campus of Stanford University back in 1992.

Now San Francisco plays down the road in Santa Clara in a state-of-the-art stadium that sits next to an amusement park. It’s a great place to watch a football game. It also feels a little like an old friend who left a place with a ton of character for a prefabricated home in a planned development.

All that means, though, is you’ve got to look a little harder to find the character of the area.

Arrival: The closest airport to San Francisco’s stadium is actually San Jose (SJC), and Alaska Airlines has at least six direct flights each day from Sea-Tac. You can also fly into San Francisco (SFO) or even to Oakland (OAK). If you want to start out with a few days in wine country, you can fly into Santa Rosa (STS) and drive north.
Stadium: Levi’s Stadium is in Santa Clara right next to Great America. The field is closer to San Jose than it is to San Francisco, which is something that’s very funny to remind San Francisco fans about.
Last time here: Dec. 16, 2018, San Francisco 26, Seattle 23. It was Seattle’s first-ever lost at Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014. Seattle had been 4-0 in that park, making themselves right at home.
Dining: Brown Sugar Kitchen (2435 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, 510.839.7685), In-n-Out Burger with multiple locations.