Things to Do in San Mateo

Sternsmith Group

San Mateo, California, is a stunning city of more than 100,000 residents that effortlessly combines urban chic with the charm of the great outdoors. Nestled on the San Francisco Peninsula, it offers a plethora of attractions and activities that cater to all ages and interests.

From gorgeous gardens to unique virtual reality experiences and lively farmers’ markets, there is no shortage of things to do and see in San Mateo. Here are some must-visit places in this Californian jewel.

Check out the amenities

Old Downtown San Mateo

For lovers of food, history, and architecture, there’s no better way to spend a few hours than by exploring San Mateo’s old downtown area.  This is one of the city's most walkable neighborhoods and has undergone a remarkable transformation, making it a go-to destination for hip eaters and drinkers from all over the Bay Area. Eateries range from amazing ramen and sushi restaurants to laidback taco shops – and nearly everything in between.  Coffee connoisseur? You can pick from Philz Coffee, 3 Bees Coffee, Peet’s Coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee, Fiero Caffe, Starbucks Coffee, Joe & the Juice & more. Tess’ son James (age 7) loves Iciclee for an after dinner treat. The portions are massive, so we recommend sharing.

Photo by Tess Salter

Relax at the Japanese gardens

For a moment of tranquility, visit the peaceful San Mateo Japanese Garden in Central Park. Inspired by the traditional gardens of Japan and designed by acclaimed architect Nagao Sakurai, this picturesque spot is perfect for those looking for peace and reflection. Enjoy the beautifully maintained landscapes, serene koi ponds, bamboo groves, and authentic tea house. Our little kids loved walking over to see the koi fish.

Experience Virtual Reality at Sandbox VR

In San Mateo, even the indoors are full of adventure. Sandbox VR provides a unique, fun-filled experience that combines virtual reality technology with physical spaces, creating immersive worlds where you can play games, take on challenges, and enjoy new adventures. This really is fun for the entire family or a great date night.

Have fun at The Great Entertainer

For those looking for an evening full of fun, games, and laughter, The Great Entertainer is the place to be. This family-fun entertainment center boasts a variety of arcade games, billiards, and even a karaoke room. It's a perfect venue for some friendly competition and great food.

Play & Shop ‘til you drop at Hillsdale Shopping Center

If your idea of fun things to do in San Mateo is a retail therapy adventure, head to Hillsdale Shopping Center for stylish finds. This bustling hub offers a range of high-end and high-street retail stores, making it a go-to destination for fashion-forward visitors. Experience luxury movie-going at Cinépolis San Mateo with reclining leather seats, full waiter service at the push of a button, and a full bar! If you’re looking for a unique spot to connect with your family and friends, Pinstripes bowling alley and bocce courts are the place to be seven days a week. Take a break from routine and gather where sophistication meets fun. Enjoy our full-service Italian/American bistro food and beverage menu while taking in the entertainment and excitement of bowling and bocce in San Mateo.

Unleash your creativity at Clay House Art in Bay Meadows

Finally, unleash your artistic side at Clay House Art. This ceramic studio offers classes and workshops where you can learn pottery-making and sculpture, making it a fun and creative way to spend an afternoon. The studio will be an outlet for all to learn, share and explore the medium of ceramics. Clayroom offers short and long format classes, memberships, kids programming and community events. We are counting down the days to the opening!

Explore the parks and outdoor adventures

San Mateo is green and lush at every turn, boasting numerous well-maintained parks and recreation spots that promise endless outdoor pursuits. Here are a handful that you don’t want to miss.

Poplar Creek Golf Course

Poplar Creek Golf Course is a captivating haven for golf enthusiasts. Set against breathtaking natural vistas, this premier destination offers an immaculately designed course that challenges and inspires players of all levels. Built in 1933 and renovated in 1999, the 18-hole Poplar Creek Golf Course is truly fantastic, hosting two championship tournaments and a storied past.

Central Park

San Mateo’s beloved 16.5-acre Central Park is found in the heart of the city. It offers a serene environment with a beautiful Japanese tea garden, a mini train ride, shaded picnic spaces, a playground, tennis courts, and a baseball field. Central Park also features rentable indoor spaces and banquet rooms to host your memorable events.

Seal Point Park

Seal Point Park offers stunning views of the Bay, along with hiking and biking trails and an off-leash dog park. Here, you can watch aircraft soar through the sky, hang out with your fuzzy pal, take a stroll, or enjoy a relaxing picnic.

Coyote Point Recreation Area

As a popular spot for biking, jogging, picnicking, boating, swimming, fishing, and more, Coyote Point is the perfect place to spend those sunny afternoons. There’s even a dragon-themed Magic Mountain playground for kids to expend their energy, as well as the CuriOdyssey, featuring various animal exhibits ready for exploration. Coyote Point offers exquisite bayside views, a boat launch, bird-watching opportunities, a marina, and tons of green space.

Beresford Park

Beresford Park is a top-tier community park offering a range of facilities, including picnic areas, lit-up tennis courts, and a recreation center with many activities. It also hosts a community garden, fitness equipment, a bocce ball court, a baseball diamond, and a skate park.

Laurelwood Park and Sugarloaf

Laurelwood Park is home to Sugarloaf Mountain, where you’ll find scenic hiking trails, picnic areas, oak trees, and playgrounds. With plenty of open space and grassy areas, it’s the ideal place for a frisbee session or a picnic with the family. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike to the top of Sugarloaf for impressive views at the peak. The playground is fully enclosed, so it is great if you have a kid that is a runner.

If it’s raining in San Mateo, head to Safari Run for indoor fun

Safari Run is the perfect refuge for kids to play, explore, and have a blast while parents take some time to relax, read a magazine, log onto our free Wi-Fi, or catch up with a friend all in a safe, clean and secure environment.

Try out the exceptional restaurants

San Mateo features an exquisite culinary landscape, with various cuisines from top-rated, unique dining destinations. Here are some of the best restaurants you just have to try out.

Pancho Villa Taqueria

Casual and delicious! Enjoy the vibrant flavors at Pancho Villa Taqueria, a culinary gem that captures the essence of authentic Mexican cuisine in San Mateo. With a menu boasting an array of mouthwatering tacos, burritos, and traditional dishes, each bite is a journey for the senses. Don’t skip the beef fajitas, the “super burrito,” or the chicken and prawn salad.

Sushi Maruyama

This exquisite restaurant is a true dining treasure. Using the highest-grade short-grain rice and fish, Sushi Maruyama promises top-notch flavors and ingredients. From the mini sashimi fish tacos to the yellowtail sashimi and spicy tuna rolls, the fantastic menu has so much to offer.

Attend community events

Summer Concert Series

In Central Park, don’t miss the Summer Concert Series from June through August. Featuring fantastic music, flavorful food vendors, and tons of fun, this is a popular community celebration that brings neighbors and friends together.

San Mateo County Fair

The San Mateo County Fair is a local tradition that celebrates the county's agricultural heritage. Visitors can enjoy live entertainment, amusement rides, food stalls, and exhibitions showcasing the very best of the county's arts, crafts, and livestock.

Tess &  Family enjoying San Mateo County Fair

College of San Mateo’s Farmers’ Market

Foodies will feel right at home at the San Mateo Farmers’ Market. This bustling market offers a wide variety of fresh, locally sourced produce, artisanal goods, and delicious prepared foods. Strolling through the market is a great way to spend a sunny Saturday morning.

About Sternsmith Group

If you’re ready to find your place in San Mateo, team up with the top San Mateo agents at the Sternsmith Group, a premier real estate organization specializing in the luxury housing sector. With a solid reputation for their unwavering focus on the client, they know how to get results. If you're looking to buy or sell a home or have any questions about the San Mateo real estate market, contact this exceptional team today. We have been the top realtors in San Mateo since 2018. We are proud experts in the neighborhoods, community, and we are proud to the be #1 agents in San Mateo.


Insightful local knowledge and extensive expertise. We looks forward to earning your family’s trust and leveraging our success for your benefit for generations to come. We looks forward to earning your family’s trust and leveraging our success for your benefit for generations to come.

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