Skip to main content

11 Cool Things to do in San Mateo

11 Cool Things to do in San Mateo

There are a lot of cool things to do in San Mateo, from visiting parks to checking out historical sights and everything in between.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

January 29, 2022

Driving from San Francisco to San Jose, you’ll pass by the charming city of San Mateo. Thanks to its mild climate, scenic views, and easy commute to surrounding cities, visitors easily get attached to the world-class city with a small-town charm—we totally get it. Who would want to leave fancy restaurants, water adventures, and forest escapes? We know we wouldn’t. If you’re still not familiar with this place, you have to check all the fun things to do in San Mateo for guidance.

The 670-acre Coyote Point Recreation Area was originally an island in San Francisco Bay with a marsh connecting it to the mainland.

1. Spend the Day at Coyote Point Recreation Area

Family fun is inevitable at Coyote Point Recreation Area, one of the best parks in San Francisco. There are exciting adventures at every turn at the 700-acre park. On the beachfront, swimming, windsurfing, and kayaking are a few of the exciting things to do in this San Mateo attraction. But if you’d rather stay on the shore, check out the fun running trails, as well as the picnic and camping areas. As for the kids, they’ll be busy playing at the medieval-themed playground.

2. Browse Hillsdale Shopping Center’s Shops

More than 100 retailers, restaurants, and entertainment venues make Hillsdale Shopping Center one of the best malls in the Bay Area. The premium shopping destination first opened in 1954 and has been growing in popularity by the day—the city even had to make a train stop in front of the mall for easy access to visitors from surrounding areas. Whether you want to spoil yourself, buy gifts, or spend time with friends, you’ll find it all at Hillsdale.

Designed by landscape architect, Nagao Sakurai of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo, the Japanese Garden in San Mateo is one of the finest in California.

3. Relax at the Japanese Garden

Without a doubt, one of California's most beautiful gardens is the Japanese Garden in San Mateo. This stunning design was built in the early 1920s by a Japanese landscape architect who was employed at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The San Mateo attraction is a serene 16-acre green area located within Central Park, the city's park. Imagine taking a stroll under Japan's blooming sakura as you stroll by the granite pagoda, koi ponds, waterfalls, and bonsai trees. If you share our love of cherry blossoms, you should visit the garden in the spring to see a pop of pink. 

4. Learn About Science and Nature at CuriOdyssey 

Your little ones will absolutely love CuriOdyssey. This family-friendly attraction in California allows your kids to feel like total scientists exploring the nature around them and experimenting with everything. And the fun at this interactive playground isn’t limited to one day; the non-profit science museum organizes camps and events throughout the year. So, whenever you’re in Coyote Point Recreation Area, make sure to participate in one of the most fun things to do in San Mateo

5. Trek the Sawyer Camp Trail

To enjoy the full beauty of San Mateo and the Bay Area, hike the Sawyer Camp Trail. The easy, six-mile-long out-and-back trail is fully paved and kid-friendly. As you embark on the adventure, you’ll be walking along Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir and up to San Andreas Lake. The views around San Andreas are the most breathtaking you’ll ever see on a hiking trail. Take advantage of your presence in the city and enjoy one of the best Bay Area hikes. 

Downtown San Mateo is a unique place to shop, dine, and enjoy with more than 800 businesses and beautiful historic buildings.

6. Explore Historic Downtown San Mateo

Throughout your visit, Historic Downtown San Mateo will no doubt keep you occupied and amused. The region has seen significant change in recent years, becoming one of the hippest areas of the city without sacrificing its charm. Downtown has a variety of dining options, from upscale to informal, and a mix of historic buildings and modern firms for its buildings. One of the best things to do in San Mateo is to stroll around the historic downtown, which makes for the ideal activity.

7. Indulge in Japanese cuisine at Wakuriya

Wakuriya is perhaps the coolest restaurant in San Mateo. The compact, upscale eatery serves kaiseki menus that everyone is obsessed with. What people love most about this Japanese restaurant are the surprises. The menu changes every month, and each of the pre-fixed nine dishes is made of the best and freshest ingredients. The Michelin-starred restaurant is only open between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday and is almost always fully booked, so make your reservations early.  

8. Join Bicycle Sundays

San Mateo residents are the most outdoorsy people you’ll meet thanks to the abundance of recreational opportunities available. Every Sunday, locals meet on Highway 280 right outside of town and go biking together. You'll see a number of exciting attractions during the two-mile scenic ride such as the Pulgas Water Temple and the Filoli Estate. The locals are super welcoming, which is why joining them will be one of the best things to do in San Mateo this weekend.

It's almost impossible for us to 'romaine' calm at a farmers market, even when you just need some 'peas' and quiet.

9. Buy the Freshest Food at the 25th Avenue Farmers Market 

Who doesn’t love going to a good farmers market in the Bay Area? Every Tuesday evening between May and October, join the San Mateo community at the 25th Avenue Farmers Market. Expect to find the freshest fruits and vegetables, live fish, baked goods, and so much more at this weekly event. Not only will you be supporting local farmers and fishermen, but you’ll also be saving up a lot. 

10. Stroll Around Central Park

For good reason, Central Park in San Mateo is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The 16.5-acre park has several walking routes, picnic spots, a sizable playground, baseball and tennis facilities, and other amenities. A number of annual events take place in Central Park, with the most well-liked ones being the Fourth of July and Easter festivals. One of the most enjoyable things to do in San Mateo on a day is to take a stroll in Central Park. 

Junípero Serra founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco.

11. Check Out the Junipero Serra Statue

Although his name may not be recognizable to you, Junipero Serra was the priest who brought Catholicism to California in the eighteenth century. A Franciscan priest founded several missions across the Golden State. In the middle of the 1970s, a memorial statue honoring him was placed in Hillsborough, just outside of San Mateo. Check out this San Mateo attraction by stopping by.   

Recomended businesses

Show me
Recommended Businesses near

Discover the best of California. Our recommended businesses are top-quality and are committed to their communities.

Need help with a home improvement project? Get a free quote today!

Enter Your Zip Code

Enter Your Zip Code

RELATED Articles

Discover More

fueled by the power of California love
We're committed to helping you discover the places, people and businesses that make our state Golden. Our online publication, updated daily, brings you all the content you need to live your California dreams. And that's just the beginning…
Purpose section
Purpose section