There’s no place like home, but sometimes a road trip, like Dorothy’s voyage away from Kansas, is the excitement you need.
The 49ers' 2021 schedule has been released, and all things are trending towards fans being allowed in stadiums. While going to every away game is a football enthusiast’s dream, it’s time to prioritize which road trip should be at the top of everyone’s list.
When determining which away contests would be the best experience, a lot of criteria come into play. It is not only the city in which the game will be played, but the cuisine, culture and the other attractions that are available.
The amenities at a venue can make a difference in your viewing pleasure as well as the ease of getting to and from the game. The time of year that the contest will be held also plays a factor. The sunny side of Levi’s Stadium can be a deterrent in early September and a non-issue in Weeks 10-18.
We ranked the 49ers' away schedule from enjoyable getaways to the ones you won’t want to miss.
No. 9: Week 1 at Detroit Lions (Sept. 12)
This is not a knock on the Motor City, which does have a lot to offer, but in comparison to the other 49ers’ away game destinations, Detroit ends up lowest on the list.
Going to the season opener always is an exciting event but Michigan in early September has the potential to be a little muggy. Ford Field, however, is a covered stadium which means fans will be comfortable while watching this Week 1 contest.
The 49ers' matchup with the Lions could be an interesting one as Nick Bosa and company will face ex-Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff. It also will be the debut of head coach Dan Campbell, whose introductory press conference has already made him someone to watch.
There is a lot of history in Detroit, home to both the Motown and Henry Ford museums. The city’s Riverwalk is a 3.5-mile stretch that can be explored on foot or via bicycle. Eastern Market is another famed site that when fully open offers 48 acres of stalls for eating and shopping.
The same weekend that the 49ers are set to kick off the 2021 season the Detroit Tigers host the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park Sept. 10, 11 and 12th, which means you could make it a two sporting event weekend.
No. 8: Week 11 at Jacksonville Jaguars (Nov. 21)
The best part of the 49ers’ visit to the Sunshine State is that it is scheduled near the end of November. Just when you might need a little warmth, a visit to Jacksonville to see the No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft will come to the rescue.
If Jimmy Garoppolo has not been supplanted as the starting quarterback by Week 11, the 49ers' matchup with the Jaguars still will be an interesting contest. Urban Meyer’s system will be in full effect and even if the billing doesn’t include Trevor Lawrence vs. Trey Lance, TIAA Bank Field is a great venue for a game.
Former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde also is on the Jaguars roster. The nine-year veteran will be sharing the field with Clemson rookie Travis Etienne.
To keep you entertained outside of Sunday’s game, Jacksonville beaches and the Riverside area offer a pleasant escape with seafood and rooftop bars abound. If this is a family getaway, Disney World is a little more than a two-hour drive away.
No. 7: Week 9 at Arizona Cardinals (Oct. 10)
Another warm weather destination for the 49ers is their face-off with the Cardinals in early October. DeMeco Ryans will have his work cut out for him facing Kyler Murray, and DeAndre Hopkins, while Kyle Shanahan will have to scheme against All-Pro pass rusher J.J. Watt.
Not only is a divisional matchup a great game to see, State Farm Stadium is a great venue for a game. If it is too warm outside the roof can be kept closed, and there is not a bad seat in the house.
There is plenty to keep you busy in the Phoenix area if you plan on going for more than just Sunday’s game. If you also are a fan of college football, USC and ASU are scheduled to face off on Saturday the ninth from nearby Tempe.
There are several outdoor activities at your fingertips as well with multiple golf courses in the area. Camelback Mountain is not just a pretty backdrop, but a great hiking option as well. Old Town Scottsdale offers plenty of food and drink options and the resort town of Sedona is just a two-hour drive away.
The only logistical drawback to this game is that the stadium is located in Glendale, Ariz., which is a long ride share away from the heart of Phoenix, which makes renting a car a near necessity.
No. 6: Week 14 at Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 12)
The Queen City often gets overlooked as a desirable destination, but Paul Brown Stadium is located in the riverfront area that makes it picturesque and easily accessible. The game is late in the season, which could potentially feature a chilly environment.
The 49ers’ matchup with the Bengals not only boasts the potential comeback of Joe Burrow, but also rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase facing off with the likes of Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley.
Outside of the fact that we witnessed a body being pulled from the river at the beginning of the 2019 season, it was a great visit. There are plenty of places to eat and drink, all within walking distance.
Cincinnati is known for “Skyline Chili” that is served over hot dogs or…spaghetti. Its unique flavor comes from the addition of cinnamon and chocolate. If that is not to your liking you can wash it all down with products from the abundant local craft breweries in the area, or Graeter's Ice Cream which originated in the city.
Historically, Cincinnati was a stop on the underground railroad and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is located on the riverbank walking distance from the stadium.
No. 5: Week 18 at Los Angeles Rams (Jan. 9)
Finishing the regular season with a division rival always provides an exciting matchup no matter what each team’s record is. The bonus with this finale is SoFi Stadium, which made its debut in 2020 without fans being allowed inside.
Having been inside SoFi for the 49ers' second victory over the Rams last season, I can confirm the venue is state of the art and a must as an NFL fan. It has all the bells and whistles that money can buy with Hollywood as the backdrop.
Add to the mix that this game could affect both team’s postseason chances, along with Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald vs. George Kittle and Fred Warner and you’ve got a must-see event.
A trip to Los Angeles might not be incredibly warm in January but it will be more temperate than Northern California. Santa Monica and Venice Beach offer the sights, sounds and food that will provide lively entertainment and of course there’s Hollywood and the Sunset strip as well.
No. 4: Week 13 at Seattle Seahawks (Dec. 5, Sunday Night Football)
The Emerald City will be cold in December, but the bright lights of Sunday Night Football will keep you warm. This division matchup is always dramatic, with each team’s postseason hopes hanging in the balance.
There are already so many questions that will be answered before these two division rivals meet for the second time in 2021. Will Russell Wilson be under center for Seattle? Who will be leading Shanahan’s offense down the field in Week 13?
Outside of the usual stops of Pike Place Market and eating seafood at Anthony’s on Pier 66, the nearby smaller town of Ballard boasts an incredible selection of micro-breweries that have received Matt Maiocco’s stamp of approval.
Coffee is not the only beverage that the Pacific Northwest claims as one of their own.
No. 3: Week 2 at Philadelphia Eagles (Sept. 19)
The last time the 49ers played in the City of Brotherly Love, the play on the field was not so friendly. While the rain came down in droves, several players left the field injured and did not return, including Joe Staley who received stitches under his eye mid-game and broke his right orbital bone.
Philadelphia, however, is one of the best cities in the country to visit and Lincoln Financial is a great location for a game (as long as you keep yourself out of its infamous in-house jail).
The Eagles' home is part of a sports complex that also houses hockey and baseball venues for the Flyers and Phillies. There is a large structure centered in the middle of all three buildings that has wall-size televisions and several restaurants and bars to choose from.
The amount of history in Philadelphia rival the amount of great food in the city. While most tourists compare the steak sandwiches of Pat’s and Geno’s, take a lesson from Mike McGlinchey and venture to Dalessandro’s (his favorite) or the bevy of others that include Jim’s Steaks, Tony Luke’s or Dinic’s Roast Pork.
If meat is not your thing, head to Reading Terminal Market to fuel up before walking the city to see the Liberty Bell or the numerous museums in the city. And of course, there’s always the run up to the Museum of Art steps and the Rocky statue.
No. 2: Week 16 at Tennessee Titans (Dec. 23, Thursday Night Football)
The road trip to Nashville would have been No. 1 on the list but the fact that it takes place during Christmas week, not to mention on a Thursday night, took it down one notch (I might have to answer to the Kittle family about this one).
The matchup between the two teams is set to be a great one. Derrick Henry, the two-time league leader in rushing yards (2019 and 2020), will be facing the stout 49ers run defense.
Nashville on its own is a popular destination. Add a competitive NFL game to the mix and its a no-lose choice for a getaway. Nissan Stadium is located on the Cumberland River, close to the heart of downtown.
Nashville is known for several things, the honky-tonk bars on Lower Broadway, hot chicken, and the Grand Ole Opry to name a few. It is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the Johnny Cash Museum.
If you get enough of the local barbecue and biscuits, you can venture a little ways away from the city and follow the Tennessee Whiskey Trail visit the several distilleries in the area.
No. 1: Week 8 at Chicago Bears (Oct. 31)
2021 will mark the fourth time the 49ers have traveled to play in Soldier Field in the past seven seasons and it still never gets old. Part of the allure of this visit is that it takes place on Halloween in the heart of fall weather.
This matchup with the Bears also brings the possibility of two of the top quarterbacks from the 2021 NFL Draft playing in the same contest. Of course instead of Trey Lance and Justin Fields, we could end up seeing Jimmy Garoppolo and Andy Dalton too, but there always is a chance.
Not only is there Lou Malnati’s amazing deep dish pizza and Garrett’s gourmet popcorn, the city is overflowing with excellent eateries. Chicago is a town where they take their food and drink very seriously, and everyone benefits from it.
There also are several local attractions in the city, like Wrigley Field. Even if there isn’t playoff baseball in the windy city, a tour of the famed ballpark is a must. Wandering around Wrigleyville also will not disappoint. Navy Pier, Millennium Park and a walk along the river are all enjoyable outings.
Chicago is accessible on foot, including getting to the stadium, and the end of October is one of the best times of the year to enjoy it.
All of the 49ers' 2021 roads trips are in cities where there will be much to entertain you, but maybe this list can help you narrow down your options if need be.
See you on the road!