San Mateo County Attractions & Travel Information

San Mateo County's natural beauty and convenient location have made this area of Northern California a top destination among business and leisure travelers alike. Camping, golf courses, museums, beaches, day spas and wineries ensure that there will never be a dull moment while exploring San Mateo County. Sawy Cellar Wines in Redwood City, La Nebbia Winery in Half Moon Bay and Thomas Fogarty Winery in Portola Valley are some of the area's most celebrated wineries. Moss Beach is a favorite stop for Bay Area weekenders fro its gorgeous beaches and the famous Moss Beach Distillery, originally a speakeasy and now a historic restaurant. Golfing is also popular in San Mateo County and excellent courses can be found in Burlingame, Half Moon Bay and the rest of the county.

Redwood City

Redwood City, located just 14 miles from the San Francisco International Airport, has many attractions perfect for family fun. Malibu Grand Prix is one of the fastest go-kart tracks in the bay area and is a popular destination for businesses, birthday parties and other events. There are many other things to do in Redwood City, including seeing a play or concert at the Fox Theater or the Little Fox Theater. Wine tasting is another top Redwood City attraction that draws visitors from all over the Bay Area and Northern California—Sawy Cellar Wines in Redwood City is run by expert vintners to produce incredible wines. Visitors who want to spend a little time getting to know this region of California should be sure to check out the San Mateo County History Museum, which takes an in-depth look at how San Mateo became what it is today.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a beautiful beachfront community on the Pacific Coast just 25 miles south of San Francisco. Half Moon Bay is a popular destination for vacations, golfing, horseback riding, whale watching, surfing and camping. Half Moon Bay Golf Links is an Arnold Palmer designed championship golf course that rivals the best greens in Scotland. The Coastside Farmers Market gives visitors to Half Moon Bay a chance to learn more about the region's fertile farmland and to try some of its delicious food. Martin's Beach is another top Half Moon Bay attraction for families to spend a day together outdoors. La Nebbia Winery has been drawing wine lovers to Half Moon Bay for more than 30 years for fun and entertainment. Spa getaways and days of pampering are also popular activities in Half Moon Bay. When visiting the Northern California coast, make sure to see this gem on the Pacific.

Menlo Park

Menlo Park is a popular hub of the arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Located just north of Palo Alto and Stanford University, Menlo Park is best known for the historic Allied Arts Guild. The Allied Arts Guild has been an artistic garden oasis since 1929, and is still home to artists' studios and boutique shops. Nearby restaurants are perfect for having lunch and looking at this European-inspired area of Menlo Park. Located in the Silicon Valley, Menlo Park was also the birthplace of Google. A wide variety of day spas, shopping and dining in Menlo Park has made this a popular Bay Area getaway.

Burlingame

Those who come from outside the Bay Area might not know Burlingame, but this little city has many big attractions. Located just four miles from the San Francisco International Airport, Burlingame has plenty of long- and short-term parking and rental cars to make travels easier. The Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia draws young and old who want to learn more about this popular candy. The PEZ exhibit is home to hundreds of vintage dispensers, many of which are available for purchase. Golfing in Burlingame is also popular, especially at the renowned Crystal Springs Golf Course. Burlingame's GoKart Racer is another popular attraction. This course features instruction for beginners, tight hairpin turns and even an elevation change. Bay Area Paint Ball is another Burlingame favorite, and draws people from all over the Bay.

El Granada

El Granada is a small town on the Pacific Coast between Moss Beach and Half Moon Bay, about 23 miles from the San Francisco International Airport. El Granada is a popular sightseeing destination for weekenders due to its sweeping view of the Bay and surrounding hills. Sport fishing is one of the largest draws to El Granada. Huli Cat offers chartered boats for both whale watching and fishing for tuna, salmon and rockfish. For an even closer look at the marine wildlife, kayaks may be rented from Half Moon Bay Kayak.

San Mateo

San Mateo is one of the larger suburbs of San Francisco and is located 20 miles from downtown, and just nine miles from the San Francisco International Airport. San Mateo is home to many exciting attractions, so visitors don't need to battle the crowds of San Francisco in order to have a memorable trip to the Bay Area. Bay Meadows in San Mateo is an exciting thoroughbred racetrack that has been open since the 1930s. $1 beer and hotdog specials on Friday nights have made it popular with the area's university students, including nearby Stanford University. It's easy to be pampered while visiting San Mateo—Bella Imagio Day Spa, Bella Nails and many others are available for facials, massages and other relaxing treatments. Golfing in San Mateo is another top attraction. Poplar Creek Golf Course was renovated in 1999, making it one of the finest courses in the Bay Area.

Moss Beach

Moss Beach, located on the California coast 23 miles from San Francisco, is most famous for being home of the Moss Beach Distillery. Originally a speakeasy during prohibition, the Moss Beach Distillery became a legitimate restaurant in 1933. Today it is a historical site that brings visitors from all over the Bay Area and the rest of California. Moss Beach is also home to several quaint bed and breakfasts, making it an ideal location for weekenders looking to escape the crowds of San Francisco. Neighboring cities include Half Moon Bay, which is just seven miles away and Montara, which is one mile north on Highway 1. Nearby wineries, beaches and beautiful scenery keep travelers coming back to Moss Beach for a relaxing getaway.

Pescadero

Originally a farming community, Pescadero has since developed into a favorite weekend destination for Bay Area locals. Located on the California coastline, Pescadero offers incredible beaches, local shops and fresh produce from the area farms. Harley Farms Goat Dairy continually wins awards for its delicious goat cheese and children love to pet and milk the goats. School groups often visit to learn more about how cheese is made. Other notable attractions in Pescadero include Duarte's Tavern, the Pescadero County Store and Norm's Bakery, which offers delicious fresh-baked bread and pastries.

San Carlos

San Carlos, bordered by Belmont and Redwood City, is located 12 miles from the San Francisco International Airport, 24 miles from downtown San Francisco and 25 miles from San Jose and the Silicon Valley. True to the Northern California stereotype, San Carlos is a destination for wine lovers and home to Domenico Wines. The tasting room is open Monday through Sunday, noon to 5pm, for visitors to taste their excellent wines. Domenico Wines is also popular for weddings, corporate events, social gatherings and relaxing with friends—especially during the Sunday jazz jams. The Museum of San Carlos History and the Hiller Aviation Museum provide an educational, family friendly retreat while traveling in San Carlos. After a long day of exploring, there may not be a better way to unwind than by getting a massage or skin treatment at AvantGard Day Spa.

South San Francisco

South San Francisco is the travel core of the Bay Area. Known as The Industrial City, South San Francisco is just four miles from the San Francisco International Airport, one of the 30 busiest airports in the world. South San Francisco is all about travel convenience, evident in the various car rental locations and transportation companies including A National Ground Transportation, Compass Transportation and Golden Gate Concierge Inc. All of the Bay Area's top attractions are near South San Francisco. The Silicon Valley is just 38 miles south, while San Bruno, Daly City and downtown San Francisco are just minutes away. South SF hosts some of the largest conventions in the Bay Area at the South San Francisco Conference Center and its proximity to the airport makes it an ideal venue for business travelers.

Portola Valley

Portola Valley is a very wealthy town in San Mateo County on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Portola Valley's neighbors include Palo Alto, home of Stanford University, Los Altos and Menlo Park. One major Portola Valley attraction is the Thomas Fogarty Winery, one of the San Francisco area's most respected wineries. Situated on top of one of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Thomas Fogarty Winery has unbeatable views of the Bay Area and surrounding cities. Portola Valley is centrally located in the Bay—downtown San Francisco is just 37 miles north, and the Silicon Valley is about 25 miles to the south, making it convenient for both business and leisure travelers.

Woodside

The town of Woodside is a popular Bay Area retreat for wine enthusiasts, artists and weekenders looking to leave the bustling city behind. Woodside Vineyards is one of the oldest wineries in California and produces some of the highest quality estate wines in the country. The vineyard specializes in chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon wines, but limited quantities of sparkling wines and ports are also available. Woodside is also home to one of the oldest and best-maintained country estates of the early 20th century: Fioli mansion and gardens. Guided tours of the house and grounds are available by reservation and self-guided tours are offered during the open season.

Millbrae

In close proximity to San Francisco and the San Francisco International Airport, Millbrae is a popular destination for travelers. The city's economy is driven mainly by its large number of airport hotels, small shops and restaurants that cater to residents and visitors, with the city's connections to BART and CalTrain creating a steady flow of visitors. Recently, chain restaurants like In-N-Out and many Asian restaurants have set up locations in Millbrae to add to the booming hotel market. Travelers can take BART straight from Millbrae to the airport in under ten minutes, making it an ideal place to spend the night before a vacation or stop en route to San Francisco. Millbrae's Mediterranean climate also makes it temperate year-round, as well as home for many species of endangered wildlife.

San Bruno

San Bruno's major claims to fame are housing the internet media supergiant, YouTube and producing actress Suzanne Somers, who attended San Bruno's Capuchino High School in the 1960s. However, the city is also home to Artichoke Joe's Casino and Tanforan Shopping Center, named after the city's horse racing track with the same name that operated from 1899 to 1964. Also located close to the San Francisco International Airport, San Bruno boasts Skyline College as well as its own cable TV and internet system, which is managed locally. The Gap employs many San Bruno residents at its executive offices, and J.C. Penney and Sears are also among the city's major employers. San Bruno's 21 parks and close proximity to both San Francisco and Oakland's professional sports teams also make it a great place to stop en route to the city for shopping or gambling.

Belmont

Located halfway down the Peninsula, between San Mateo and San Carlos, Belmont is a suburban community characterized mostly by residential areas and retail stores as well as its proximity to the headquarters of the Oracle Corporation. Known for its view of the San Francisco Bay and reputation as a suburban community among wooded hills, Belmont is a community of 26,000 residents and maintains a small-town feel. Neighboring San Mateo is home to the Bay Meadows and residents enjoy the nearby horse racing events. Belmont is a small Bay Area suburb boasting a number of nice homes, community-oriented residents and local shops that visitors will enjoy perusing.

Foster City

Foster City is an affluent Peninsula suburb located near San Mateo, home to the headquarters of Sony Computer Entertainment America as well as VISA International. These corporations employ many residents and the community of Foster City maintains a reputation of being a place to live that is both safe and well-to-do. Averaging just one murder a decade, Foster City residents enjoy the city's element of community as well as the parks and public sports facilities—Foster City has more parks per capita than any other California City. This focus on recreation as well as the city's affluence make Foster City an ideal choice for many suburban families and visitors will enjoy the city's relaxed environment and proximity to the Bay Area and other Peninsula destinations.

Atherton

Although started as a flag stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad for convenient access to the summer homes of wealthy San Francisco residents, Atherton has evolved to become one of the Peninsula's wealthiest communities. Home to residents like Jerry Rice and Charles Schwab, the quiet community of just over 7,000 boasts a median home value over just over $1 million, making Atherton's 94027 zip code the nation's wealthiest in 2005 according to Forbes. Atherton is also home to Menlo College, a four-year private institution, as well as a number of public and private elementary and high schools. Atherton also acts as headquarters and a starting point for Bay Aerial Helicopter Tours, which allow tourists a breathtaking, personal view of the Bay Area. Easily accessible from the CalTrain, Atherton is a charming Peninsula city located midway between Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

East Palo Alto

Roughly halfway between San Jose and San Francisco on the Peninsula, East Palo Alto is home to a diverse population of residents as well as a number of diverse retail offerings. East Palo Alto, or EPA as it is known by residents, houses the largest number of Pacific Islander residents in any city outside of Hawaii and is also inhabited by many Latino residents, which make up about 60% of the city's total population. In recent years, East Palo Alto has improved its retail offerings by building a large shopping center off of Highway 101 that includes giant stores such as IKEA and Home Depot. A Four Seasons Hotel has also added appeal to East Palo Alto for mid-Peninsula travelers. Areas near the Dumbarton Bridge are also home to many local species of birds, fish and mammals, including the endangered California Clapper Rail.

Daly City

Located just south of San Francisco on Highway 280, Daly City is known for its shopping malls and suburban homes. Rumored to be the inspiration for Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes," Daly City is home to many similar looking tract homes and neighborhoods. The city's two large shopping malls, Serramonte and Westlake Center are popular shopping options for Bay Area residents because of plentiful parking and lower sales tax than San Francisco stores. Daly City's Cow Palace is also a major venue for entertainment, hosting annual International Rodeos and the Exotic Erotic Ball near Halloween. Daly City also houses the Olympic Club golf course, which has hosted four U.S. Opens and will again in 2012. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is also a popular destination for hang gliding and includes the city's Thornton Beach. Daly City's shopping and recreation facilities make it a popular destination for Bay Area residents and travelers.

Colma

The dead outnumber the living in Colma, a small Peninsula city originally founded as a necropolis, leading residents to adopt the unofficial motto: "it's good to be alive in Colma." The incorporated San Mateo County town near South San Francisco numbers just over 1,000 residents but also houses 18 cemeteries (including one just for pets) and is the place of burial for celebrities like Joe DiMaggio and Wyatt Earp. Aside from the city's many cemeteries, attractions for Colma visitors and residents include the Lucky Chance Casino, which specializes in traditional card games and slots as well as Asian gaming. The city is also located in close proximity to public transportation options such as BART and SamTrans, making it a convenient escape from South City or Daly City. A number of small businesses and car dealerships have diversified the business climate of Colma in recent years, allowing residents to find employment opportunities in areas other than the cemetery industry.

La Honda

Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Coast near Highway 84, La Honda is a California City made famous for its role as a birthplace of the Psychedelic Era. Although an unincorporated town in San Mateo county, references to the small city can be found in works such as Charles Jones' A Separate Place and pages of Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest were found written on the walls of his La Honda home. Kesey and his gang of friends known as The Merry Pranksters experimented with psychedelic drugs during this period and their escapades are documented in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Besides the city's historical affiliation with the Psychedelic Era, the coastal city is home to Ziranjie, a quaint bed and breakfast known for its intimate setting in the wilderness.

Montara

Just 20 miles south of San Francisco, Montara is a small, coastal area of San Mateo County with mild temperatures year-round. Although Montara State Beach is not recommended for swimmers because of its steep sand, the area is a haven for experienced surfers eager to ride the 10-15 swells in winter months. Endangered and rare flower species Hickman's potentilla, a yellow variety of the rose, can be found at Montara's northern edge and a commercial flower farm has been in operation in the area since 1900, taking advantage of the mild climate. Point Montara Light House was erected in 1875 and the area expanded after becoming a stop on the Ocean Shore Railroad. Although the community is home to just 2,950 residents, Montara remains a popular destination for city dwellers looking to relax in a more natural setting.

Princeton-by-the-Sea

Located between Half Moon Bay and Moss Beach on Highway 1, Princeton-by-the-Sea is a quaint, seaside town with a population of just 297. Despite the small number of inhabitants, the coastal city is an ideal destination for visiting weekenders, who often choose to stay at the historic Princeton Inn Hotel. Adjacent to Pillar Point Harbor, the city is also home to many boating activities. A number of small businesses and local restaurants are popular with residents and tourists alike, making Princeton-by-the-Sea a serene location for romantic getaways or seaside strolls.

Hillsborough

Visitors to Hillsborough, an incorporated town of San Mateo County, will marvel at an assortment of mansions and large homes that have given the city its rightful reputation as a community that is home to some of the Bay Area's wealthiest residents. The city's 2,500 square-foot minimum house and half-acre lot sizes have created a neighborhood that includes famous homes built by William Randolph Hearst and William Crocker, grandson of a 19th-century railroad guru. No apartments, condos, or townhouses are found within the city limits; the skyline is dominated by large homes and Hillsborough has consistently ranked in the top 10 cities in American in terms of median household income.