The 30 Best Things to Do in San Mateo (CA)

Looking for the best things to do in San Mateo (CA)? This stunning city located in San Mateo County offers so much more than just the typical views of the San Francisco skyline or a day spent on the golf course. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area with a variety of outdoor adventures, or explore the unique attractions that make San Mateo truly special. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience all that this city has to offer.

San Mateo, CA offers a variety of things to do for nature lovers, including outdoor adventures at recreational parks and other natural attractions. In addition to nature-based activities, there are also plenty of options for dining, shopping, visiting museums as well as other cultural institutions. Some popular things to do in San Mateo include visiting parks, trying local restaurants, and exploring museums and other cultural sites. Despite its suburban location, San Mateo offers a wide range of activities and attractions that may surprise visitors.

San Mateo, a southern California city known for its Mediterranean climate, is a vibrant and desirable destination for a day trip. With its abundance of historical landmarks, natural attractions, urban parks, entertainment, and delicious food options, there is no shortage of things to do and explore in San Mateo. Whether you’re visiting parks, checking out historical sights, or anything in between, San Mateo is an excellent choice for relaxation and leisure.

As you travel from San Francisco to San Jose, you’ll come across the delightful city of San Mateo. With its mild climate, picturesque views, and convenient proximity to other cities, it’s easy to see why people fall in love with this world-class city that exudes a small-town charm. If you haven’t yet visited, make sure to explore the many options for entertainment and adventure in this charming city.

Disclosure: Due to new safety regulations, some of the information regarding the attractions and sites listed below may have changed. For the most up-to-date information, please contact the location.

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Here are the 30 best things to do in San Mateo (CA):

1. The San Mateo County History Museum


If you want to learn about the history of San Mateo, the San Mateo County History Museum is a great place to visit. It’s located in an old courthouse that’s been around for over a century, and it’s run by a local historical society. The museum has a variety of historical artifacts and items that showcase the city’s origins, economy, and culture.

The San Mateo County History Museum is a must-see attraction for those interested in the history of San Mateo and the surrounding area. The museum displays a wide variety of artifacts that highlight the county’s history, including Spanish explorers, dairy farms, Victorian-era estates, pioneer logging, the Ohlone Indians, agriculture, and the ranchos. The museum also aims to educate the public about the cultural and natural history of San Mateo County, and it features a public building on the west coast with the largest stained glass. It is one of the best things to do in San Mateo.

Address: 2200 Broadway, Redwood City, CA 94063, United States

2. Par 3 at Poplar Creek


Experience the beauty of nature while indulging in a delicious meal at Par 3 at Poplar Creek. This lovely restaurant in San Mateo offers an array of mouth-watering options such as Coastal Fry Calamari, Caesar salad, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, Cubano sandwiches, Chilaquiles Con Huevo, chicken wings, Wild Mushroom, and Italian Sausage Pizza, hamburger with fries & cheeses, Bacon Bitz GF, and more. In addition to their delicious food options, Par 3 at Poplar Creek boasts an impressive selection of drinks including craft and bottled beers, wines, and handcrafted cocktails.

Address: 1700 Coyote Point Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401, United States

3. Junípero Serra Statue


The Junípero Serra Statue in San Mateo is a worthwhile stop for visitors, as it serves as a reminder of the 18th century priest, Junípero Serra, who played a significant role in spreading Catholicism in Western Mexico and California. The statue, which has stood since the mid-70s, features a plaque detailing the missions he founded, and provides a peaceful spot for visitors to sit and take in the scenery.

Address: San Mateo, CA 94402, United States

4. Magic Mountain Playground


Magic Mountain Playground, located at Coyote Point Recreation Area, is a top choice for kids to have fun. It features a variety of amenities such as thirteen swings and one of the biggest slides in the Bay area, as well as play structures in the form of dragons and monsters. The playground is split into four areas, including a Castle. It’s also a great spot for dog owners as it has designated areas for dogs to play. The park is open to the public and entry costs are affordable.

Address: 12 Airport Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94401-1006 United States

5. Neal’s Coffee Shop


Neal’s Coffee Shop is a highly recommended coffee shop for coffee lovers visiting San Mateo. With over 25 years of experience in brewing the perfect cup, they serve up hot and delicious coffee with a unique twist that will tantalize your taste buds. Not only that, but they also offer a variety of healthy options for those who are mindful of their diet and calorie intake. Don’t miss out on this must-visit spot for coffee lovers.

Neal’s Coffee Shop offers a variety of meals in addition to coffee, such as burgers, salads, waffles, gyros, fried chicken, salmon fillet, and more. They also have a kids menu with options like breakfast plates, Mickey-shaped sandwiches and pancakes, chocolate chip cake, grilled cheese, and various drinks.

Address: 114 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402, United States

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6. Coyote Point Recreation Area


Coyote Point Recreation Area, a 700-acre spot on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, offers a variety of outdoor activities and is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It’s a great place for things to do in San Mateo such as biking, swimming, bird watching, windsurfing, and fishing. Coyote Point Recreation Area offers a large playground with a medieval theme and interactive exhibits on ecology and the animal kingdom. Visitors can enjoy a picnic, take a walk on the beach or trail, play golf, visit a museum, or use the open grass fields and barbecue spots.

Address: 1701 Coyote Point Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401-1001 United States

7. Bel Mateo Bowl


For a fun and memorable bowling experience, check out Bel Mateo Bowl, one of the top things to do in San Mateo. It’s a great spot for a family outing or hanging out with friends, as they offer bowling leagues and other friendly competitions. The facility has multiple lanes and a full-service bar with a variety of drinks, as well as complimentary coffee.

At Bel Mateo Bowl, not only can visitors enjoy a game of bowling, but they also offer delicious signature pizzas to complement the drinks. The facility has a comfortable seating area for visitors to relax and it’s also a great place to host private parties, like children’s birthday parties. The staff at Bel Mateo Bowl is attentive, friendly and the facility is clean and well-maintained, making sure guests have a great experience.

Address: 4330 Olympic Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403-5173 United States

8. Hillsdale Shopping Center


The Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo offers a diverse shopping experience with over 100 retailers. It’s a great destination for entertainment, dining, and finding deals on home furnishings, fashion, electronics, and beauty products, with a total of 120 stores. Hillsdale Shopping Center boasts a variety of dining and entertainment options. 

These include; The Cheesecake Factory, Cinepolis Movie Complex, Belcampo Restaurant, Pinstripes Bowling Bocco Bistro, Shake Shack, and Palette Tea. The center also features well-known retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, and H&M. Visitors can indulge in a wide range of delicious options including burgers, gourmet coffee, California-style pizza, and fresh baked goods.

Address: 60 31st Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

9. Ryptic Room Escape


If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your friends and family in San Mateo, consider visiting Ryptic Room Escape. This game is open to players of all ages and can be played by groups of 4-12 people. Each room presents a unique challenge where players must find clues, solve puzzles, and escape within 60 minutes.

Ryptic Room Escape offers a fun and exciting team-building experience for couples, families, and friends. They host various events such as birthday parties and tea parties for groups of up to 500. The rooms are regularly updated with new and exciting elements, making each visit unique. The staff at Ryptic Room Escape is friendly and provides excellent service.

Address: 205 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401, United States

10. Do not miss a visit to Japanese Garden


One of the top attractions in San Mateo is the Japanese Garden, which offers visitors an opportunity to connect with nature. The garden, which is 16 acres in size, was expertly crafted by a Japanese landscape architect who has extensive experience working at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The garden is located within the city’s Central Park and was once tagged the estate of a wealthy mariner. The Japanese Garden, established in the 1920s, features a variety of elements such as bonsai and cherry trees, a grand multi-level granite pagoda, waterfalls, and koi ponds. The garden is well-kept and offers a secluded, picturesque setting for a date or peaceful solo stroll.

Address: Fifth Ave., San Mateo, CA 94401-4107 United States

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11. Create Mix and Mingle


Visiting Create Mix and Mingle is a must-do activity in San Mateo for a fun and enjoyable experience with friends and family. The art studio welcomes all skill levels, whether you’re a beginner or professional painter. Professional art instructors are on hand to guide and assist you in bringing your artistic vision to life. The instructors are experienced and friendly, helping to make the experience an enjoyable one.

With a huge room that can accommodate more than a hundred people, Create Mix and Mingle is also a fantastic location for a variety of events. As additional refreshments, they provide a variety of snacks, beers, and beverages. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Address: 1888 S Norfolk St, San Mateo, CA 94403-1102 United States

12. San Mateo Farmers’ Market


One of the top things to do in San Mateo is visiting the San Mateo Farmers’ Market. The market features a wide variety of local food products, including vegetables, flowers, meats, artisan bread, potatoes, winter squash, root veggies, baked goods, artisan olive oils, herbs, fruits, cheeses, gourmet foods, and local honey from vendors. It is a great place to find the best food products in the city.

The San Mateo Farmers’ Market offers high-quality, freshly picked items, including a variety of breads and fresh seafood. The market features a lively atmosphere with live jazz music and guitarists playing at various locations. Visitors can also interact with locals, learn about traditional San Mateo meals, and purchase fresh food products at reasonable prices.

13. Baking Arts


Experience a culinary adventure in San Mateo by taking classes at Baking Arts. This unique establishment combines a cooking academy with a baking supply store and offers a variety of classes for all skill levels, including a comprehensive two hour course on perfecting your baking technique.

Enhance your baking skills with the guidance of expert instructors at Baking Arts. Open from Tuesday to Friday, 10am-6pm, and Saturday & Sunday, 10am-5pm, this unique establishment offers a wide range of classes to help you master your craft. Don’t forget to stop by and pick up some delicious French Macarons to take home.

Address: 18 E. 3rd Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401 United States

14. Little Shanghai Restaurant


Experience authentic Chinese cuisine in San Mateo by visiting Little Shanghai Restaurant. This popular eatery offers a mouthwatering menu of fresh and flavorful dishes made with local ingredients. Whether you’re craving smoked fish, five-spice stewed duck, dry cooked string beans, curry beef, cashew nut chicken, or one of their many other traditional dishes, you’re sure to find something you love. The restaurant also serves a selection of drinks, including red wines, beers, fruit juice and soft drinks. The friendly and attentive staff will make sure you have a comfortable dining experience.

Address: 17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

15. Central Park


Central Park in San Mateo, located on East 5th Avenue, is a great destination for a fun-filled outdoor experience. It offers shaded picnic areas for couples and families, tennis courts, baseball fields, and a playground for children to enjoy. It’s the perfect spot for a memorable family outing.

Central Park offers a variety of activities for visitors, including a mini-train ride that takes children around the park to see oversized sculptures, a Japanese tea garden, and other relaxing and meditative areas. The park also features a large area for volleyball, biking and strolling trails, and clean bathrooms. It’s also a popular location for events such as Easter celebrations and live music concerts.

Address: 50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401-4107 United States

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16. The Swingin’ Door


The Swingin’ Door pub in San Mateo is a great spot for you and your friends to unwind, relax and socialize. With a variety of offerings, it promises a fun-filled night with no dull moments. Established in 1955 and located in a historic Kehoe building from the 1940s, it has been named the “hottest nightspot in San Mateo.”

The Swingin’ Door pub boasts a stylish decor, with 11 large TVs for sports viewing, and a heated outdoor patio. You can enjoy fish and chips and burgers, along with a wide selection of drinks. The pub also features live music, karaoke, pianos for entertainment, and is open seven days a week from 11:30am to 2am.

Address: 106 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

17. San Mateo County Event Center


A great way to spend your day in San Mateo is by visiting the San Mateo County Event Center, which offers an array of fun and entertainment. The event center is home to the annual STEM Fair, a tradition that has been taking place in San Mateo for over 30 years. The STEM Fair is designed to inspire and increase interest among students in the city, in subjects such as technology, math, engineering, and science.

While it may not be as well-known among tourists, the STEM Fair at the San Mateo County Event Center is a great opportunity to learn from the locals and the hardworking children who participate. The event center also hosts a variety of annual festivals, expos, meetings, sporting events, trade events, corporate events and other events throughout the year.

At the San Mateo County Event Center, you’ll find a snack bar that serves tasty foods and refreshing drinks. The center is beautifully decorated and is one of the venues that serves all major population centers in the Bay Area through freeways. The center is open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5pm, closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Address: 1346 Saratoga Dr, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

18. Horseshoe Lake


Horseshoe Lake is a picturesque spot that is perfect to visit. The lake has a selection of short trails that are great for hiking and are also suitable for people with mobility issues. The lake is surrounded by an array of wildflowers, and it’s a place where one might spot some orchids around the lake. There are a few benches available to sit and take in the beautiful views of the lake. The lake is not often crowded, making it a serene spot to spend time and relax. The lake also has clean and pleasant restrooms and ample free parking.

Address: Horseshoe Lake, California 95033, United States

19. Laurelwood Park


Laurelwood Park offers a variety of activities for families and friends to enjoy, including a picnic area with tables and shade, a lawn area, and a playground with features such as bridges, climbing walls, swings, and slides. The park also boasts beautiful scenery. Laurelwood Park features a spacious lawn ideal for playing baseball or football, as well as a designated area for educational or corporate meetings. The park also includes clean restrooms equipped with toiletries.

Address: 3471 Glendora Dr, San Mateo, CA 94403-3945 United States

20. Old Downtown San Mateo


Old Downtown San Mateo is a must-see destination in San Mateo, CA, and serves as the city’s cultural and historical hub. Visitors can explore a variety of tech startups and beautifully restored historical buildings from the 1920s and 1930s, including art deco theatres and churches. Additionally, Old Downtown San Mateo offers a wide range of dining options and culinary experiences. It’s the perfect place to start if you’re looking for the best restaurants in San Mateo.

Old Downtown San Mateo has undergone extensive renovations over the years, turning it into a vibrant neighborhood that is perfect for foodies and those who enjoy a good drink. A day spent exploring this area is sure to be enjoyable, and visitors should not miss the opportunity to dine at some of the local eateries and sample their delicious meals.

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21. Seal Point Park


Seal Point Park offers a variety of fun activities for visitors to enjoy with friends and family. The park features a 1.6-kilometer loop trail that is perfect for running, hiking, bird watching, and walking. There is also a three-acre dog park where dogs can be taken for a walk, but with certain rules and regulations. The park is easily accessible and well-maintained, with a clean water system. Visitors can expect to enjoy spectacular views, even though the park can sometimes be crowded. Seal Point Park is a great place to visit for those looking for a memorable experience.

Address: 1901 J Hart Clinton Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401 United States

22. Sawyer Camp Trail


The Sawyer Camp Trail is a well-known path that spans six miles and is paved, making it accessible for all. It features beautiful panoramic views, and moderate elevation changes. The trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, foxes, woodpeckers, deer, and rabbits.

Sawyer Camp Trail is a picturesque path that is popular among walkers, joggers, and bikers, thanks to its lush tree cover. The trail is managed by San Mateo County and is open from 7:30am-8:30pm. Visitors are encouraged to bring a camera to capture the beautiful scenery and create lasting memories.

Address: San Francisco Peninsula, California, Millbrae, CA 94030, United States

23. CuriOdyssey


CuriOdyssey is a great destination for families to visit in San Mateo, it’s open for everyone, kids and adults alike. The zoo and science play area is a perfect place to spend the day, where visitors can see a variety of wildlife, including animals that were rescued and cannot survive in the wild, such as eagles, river otters, owls, bobcats, foxes, opossums, and more.

CuriOdyssey is a great place for families to visit, it provides a play area for children to learn and have fun through interactive scientific exhibits such as reflections, physical forces, backyard science, patterns in nature, and perceptions. The organization aims to educate children about nature through its educational programs and daily public animal feedings.

Address: 1651 Coyote Point Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401, United States

24. Bicycle Sunday


San Mateo, California offers ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, especially for those who enjoy cycling. A popular weekly activity, Bicycle Sunday, takes place on Highway 280 just outside of town, where the course is closed to traffic from morning to afternoon. The ride covers around two miles of scenic countryside, passing by sights such as Pulgas Temple and the Filoli Estate. It is suitable for cyclists of all ages and skill levels.

Address: Bicycle Sunday, San Mateo, CA, USA

25. Pulgas Water Temple


The Pulgas Water Temple, located on Cañada Road in Redwood City, is a historic attraction built in the 1930s to commemorate the completion of a major aqueduct in the area. It is approximately 25 kilometers southeast of San Mateo. The temple is located within a large protected watershed area spanning nearly 25,000 acres. The water from the aqueducts used to flow under the temple, but it has been diverted in recent years. The temple is not open daily and is often used for special events such as weddings, so it is recommended to check its availability online before planning a visit.

Address: Pulgas Water Temple, 56 Cañada Road, Redwood City, CA, USA

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26. Filoli Estate and Gardens


Filoli Estate and Gardens is one of the most popular things to do in San Mateo, known for its scenic outdoor and historic attractions. Located in the city of Woodside, 15 kilometers southeast of San Mateo, and just west of Interstate 280, the property is widely regarded as the most impressive example of English Renaissance design in the country. Visitors can explore the 16-acre tract of land that is open to the public, and admire the views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and a local reservoir. The site also features a café and tea room. While the additional 600 acres of the property are private and not accessible to the public.

27. Hiller Aviation Museum


The Hiller Aviation Museum, located on Skyway Road in San Carlos, just a short drive from San Mateo, is known for its large 747 cockpit display, attracting aviation enthusiasts, history buffs, and families. The museum features a variety of aviation memorabilia and also offers a flight simulator for visitors to experience flying themselves. Guests typically spend 1-2 hours at the museum and it also hosts special events throughout the year.

28. Dine at the Pacific Catch West Coast Fish House


San Mateo, a city in the Bay Area region, boasts of many seafood restaurants, one of the most notable being Pacific Catch West Coast Fish House. It is known for its menu that features fresh, sustainably sourced seafood, prepared using Pan-Pacific techniques. The restaurant offers a variety of seafood delicacies such as poke bowls, sushi, sashimi, lobsters, crabs and more.

Address: 243 S.B St in San Mateo, CA

29. Go biking at Skyline Ridge Preserve and Horseshoe Lake


The Skyline Ridge Preserve is a nature reserve situated 28 miles south of San Mateo, offering 2000 acres of diverse landscapes such as forests, meadows, ponds, and more. With 10 miles of trails, visitors can hike, bike, and even ride horses. The preserve also boasts a picturesque Alpine pond and Horseshoe Lake where visitors can spot fish while taking a stroll.

Address: Highway 35, La Honda, CA (south of Alpine/ Page Mill Rd)

30. Enjoy a custom-blended cuppa at Philz Coffee


If you’re looking for fun things to do in San Mateo and enjoy trying new blends of coffee, Philz Coffee is a must-visit spot. Known for its relaxed atmosphere and custom-made coffee options, Philz offers unique blends such as Blackberry, Butterscotch, and Tobacco. You can also create your own custom blend with the help of the friendly baristas. At Philz, you can indulge in a cup tailored to your personal taste preferences, making it a great addition to your list of things to do in San Mateo.

Address: 113 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401, USA

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Final Thoughts

San Mateo is a city located in California on the West Coast, known for its suburban feel while still offering a variety of things to do. Once a suburb of San Francisco, it has grown into a bustling metro with plenty of options for visitors. If you’re looking for a place to escape the busy city, but still have plenty of activities to choose from, San Mateo is the perfect destination. There are countless things to do in San Mateo. San Mateo is a city that offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural and historical significance, and a vibrant arts scene. 

This makes it an ideal destination for those looking for an exciting and diverse vacation. The city is filled with opportunities to explore and discover new things, making it a great place to visit with friends and family. Whether you are interested in outdoor activities, cultural events, or art and history, San Mateo is sure to have something that will interest you. Make sure to add it to your travel itinerary and experience all the city has to offer.

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