San Mateo County
San Mateo County often gets overlooked by San Francisco visitors. It should not. With a scenic coastline, marinas, a 5-star resort hotel, baby christmas trees, quirky museums and an oversized Pumpkin Festival, this county grades high as a fun-filled or relaxing weekend getaway.
San Mateo County, the gateway between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, is graced with natural scenic beauty on 60 miles of unique Pacific coastline, surprising vineyards and wineries, and several unforgettable hotels, particularly the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Golfers find it hard to choose between putting or enjoying the spectacular views; while runners and walkers have miles of scenic trails and state parks to explore. Nature lovers explore tide pools, whale watching, deep sea fishing and winter elephant seal migrations to this wondrous coastal area.
As quiet as its kept, San Mateo County is earning a reputation as a culinary tourism destination featuring great chefs and venues known for local products and sustainability. It is no exaggeration to praise the incredible fresh produce, Pacific seafood, goat cheese, wineries and microbreweries, award-winning restaurants here. Nor should one overlook elegant estates that host weddings, quirky art galleries, unique boutiques, notable museums and vibrant town centers that make San Mateo County well suited for weekend getaways and day trips. With average rainfall only 20 inches per year, primarily between December to March, and temperatures rarely go over 78 degrees or below 50, you can plan those trips with confidence and layered garments.
Montara State Beach & Point Montara Lighthouse
DESCRIPTION: Bounded by low hills both to the north and south, this beach is a popular for visitors wanting to explore tide pools, go surf fishing and to picnic. Restaurants and grocery stores are nearby, the picturesque Point Montara Lighthouse offers overnight hostel accommodations. At 30 feet tall, its the perfect height for keeping a beam of light beneath the fog. Though the original lighthouse was constructed in 1875, a replacement lighthouse tower arrived in 1928 from Cape Cod, where it served from 1881 to 1922. Ever adaptable, the lighthouse served as a naval training base during World War II.
DAYS & HOURS: daily 8a-sunset
ADDRESS: 16th Street & State Highway 1, Montara, CA MAP
Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival
DESCRIPTION: Held in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, during the third weekend in October, it features a wicked lineup of rustic pumpkin patches, arts & crafts, home-style foods, three stages of entertainment, the Great Pumpkin Parade, a bone-chilling Haunted House, world-class pumpkin carvers, pie-eating, costume contests and the World Championship Pumpkins Weigh-Off for nearly $20,000. Home style foods include pumpkin pie, pancakes, ice cream, sweet rolls, cheesecake, fudge, sausages, roasted corn and bread, along with locally grown foods like hearty stews of artichokes and Portobello mushroom sandwiches.
ADDRESS: Miramontes and Spruce Streets, Half Moon Bay, CA MAP
California Canoe & Kayak
DESCRIPTION: Provides instruction in a sea kayak, whitewater kayak, canoe or recreational boat for over 35 years; Discover the freedom of paddling taught by instructors who are the best in the business. Also offers an easy introduction to sea kayaking for a business event or private party.
ADMISSION: Rental rates: $15/hr for single kayak, $25/hr for tandem kayak OR $50/day for single kayak, $60/day for tandem kayak
DAYS & HOURS: Kayak rentals are available by appt
ADDRESS: 214 Princeton Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA MAP
Huck Finn Sportfishing & Whale Watching
DESCRIPTION: Catch your own crab, squid, striped bass, sand dabs, halibut, salmon, tuna or rock cod fishing, nature, or watch the California Gray Whales continue their migration off shore from December through April; Eco-tour and summer nature trips also available.
ADMISSION: see website for daily prices
DAYS & HOURS: Tue–Fri 9a–4p, Sat-Sun 7a–4p; Times are weather-dependant
ADDRESS: 15 Johnson Pier, Half Moon Bay, CA MAP
Cameron’s Inn, Restaurant & Pub
DESCRIPTION: Authentic English Pub & Restaurant that sets the vibe before you enter. Outside, Cameron’s features a British telephone box, black London taxi and 2 original London buses; Inside the bar pulls over twenty beers on draft and 65 bottle types as well. The restaurant serves favorites from Bangers and Mash to pub snacks including cheesy garlic bread and spicy chicken wings.
DAYS & HOURS: Mon-Thu, Sun 11a-10p; Fri-Sat 11a-12a
ADDRESS: 1410 Cabrillo Highway South, Half Moon Bay, CA MAP
DESCRIPTION: One man, like thousands of Italian immigrants, came to make a better life for his family. The making of wine was his simple pleasure, blending the old with the new. He left a grandson who shares his name-Bartholomew Colucci and with the creation of Barterra Winery, Bart Colucci’s grandfather now has his piece of the American dream.
DAYS & HOURS: Tasting room Thu-Mon 12:30p-6p; you can often expect to meet the wonderful owners, Bart and Mary Colucci
ADDRESS: 643 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, CA MAP
La Nebbia Winery
DESCRIPTION: Exceptional, award-winning wines blended by hand in the coastal hills of romantic Half Moon Bay; bring a lunch and enjoy the picnic area or bring a small group to chill.
DAYS & HOURS: Tasting Room daily 10a-5p
ADDRESS: 12341 San Mateo Road, Half Moon Bay, CA MAP
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
DESCRIPTION: Pidgeon Point is one of the tallest lighthouses in the USA. Locals were anxious to build it in 1872, following a string of shipwrecks. The Fresnel lens occupies a lantern room that was constructed in New York at the Lighthouse Service’s general depot before being shipped around the horn of South America.
DAYS & HOURS: daily 8a-sunset
ADDRESS: 210 Pigeon Point Road, Pescadero, CA MAP
DESCRIPTION: A restored 1910 farmstead dairy producing fresh French style goat cheese, hand made and hand packed. Harley Farms chevre, fromage blanc, ricotta and feta cheeses are consistent winners at the American Cheese Society awards, and hold two international World Cheese Show medals. 220 American Alpine goats roam on the 9-acre farm and produce over 500 kids each Spring. When you visit, you’ll understand why they say “To The Goats.” Tours are available and the gift shop is a must visit.
DAYS & HOURS: daily 11a–5p
ADDRESS: 205 North Street, Pescadero, CA MAP
Año Nuevo State Reserve
DESCRIPTION: This state reserve is one of the largest mainland-breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals. They come ashore to rest, mate and give birth in the sand dunes or on the beaches and offshore islands. Reservations to enter the reserve fill up fast during winter breeding season.
DAYS & HOURS: daily 8a-5p
ADDRESS: 1 New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, CA MAP
Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards
DESCRIPTION: After massing your eyeballs in the storybook vineyard, the winery is a great place to taste wine, enjoy more views, meet Mortimer the winery cat and make the acquaintance of our tasting room staff. Its best to call first, since they host numerous events.
DAYS & HOURS: Wed-Sun 11a-5p
ADDRESS: 19501 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA MAP
DESCRIPTION: This beautifully preserved Georgian Revival house is situated on a 654-acre estate built in 1915 by William Bower Bourn II, owner of one of the richest gold mines in California. The 36,000 square-foot home containing 43 rooms, 17 bathrooms, 17 fireplaces and 17-foot high ceilings was purchased in 1937 by heirs to the Matson Navigation Company, who opened the house and gardens to botanical and horticultural societies, garden clubs and distinguished organizations. As a result, 16-acres of formal gardens became world-renowned for their beauty; among the many mature trees on the grounds are a row of immense Italian Stone Pines and Coast Live Oaks over 250 years in age. Amidst such natural beauty, numerous movies have filmed here and the mansion is seen in the opening credits of the TV series, Dynasty; The Filoli was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975.
ADDRESS: 86 Canada Road, Woodside, CA MAP
Allied Arts Guild
DESCRIPTION: Created in 1929 as a unique historical garden and shopping area that is a showplace for artisans and was designed after the famous Alhambra garden of Granada, Spain. It is an enchanting complex of shops, gardens and artists’ studios nestled in a quiet corner of a lovely Menlo Park residential community.
DAYS & HOURS: Mon-Sat 10a-5p
ADDRESS: 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park, CA MAP
La Honda Winery
DESCRIPTION: A beautiful winery in the heart of Redwood City produces and bottles small quantities of distinctive wines from fruit grown at their carefully managed vineyards. Its located just east of the Red Barn on the north side of twisting Highway 84, west of Skyline Road. The winery’s mission is to highlight the unique attributes of each vineyard by merging state-of-the-art equipment with old world winemaking.
DAYS & HOURS: Monthly tasting events every third Saturday and by appt
ADDRESS: 2645 Fair Oaks Avenue, Redwood City, CA MAP
DESCRIPTION: They resents the best reasonably-priced Jazz, Brazilian and Latin Jazz. They used to be located in the Mission District of San Francisco.
CREDIT CARDS: yes
COVER CHARGE: yes, excluding dinner
TAKES RESERVATIONS: yes
DAYS & HOURS: Mon-Thu: 3p-2a, Fri: 2p-2a, Sat-Sun: 11a-2a
ADDRESS: 1189 Laurel Street, San Carlos, CA
PARKING: on street
San Mateo County History Museum
DESCRIPTION: Features exhibits depicting the history of the Peninsula through the times of the Ohlone Indians, the Spanish explorers, the ranchos, pioneer logging, agriculture, dairy farms, whaling, and the Victorian era of great estates. Visit the “Journey to Work” exhibit, chronicling the history of the commute from stagecoaches to the automobile. It contains the largest stained glass dome in a public building on the West Coast.
ADMISSION: donations appreciated
DAYS & HOURS: Tue–Sun 10a–4p
ADDRESS: 2200 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA MAP
DESCRIPTION: The crown jewel and public meeting place of downtown Redwood City. Built in 1928and recently restored, this incredible live entertainment venue hosts a wide variety of public and private events including concerts, musicals, comedy acts, fundraisers, and a variety of cultural and community based events both inside and outside.
ADDRESS: 2223 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA MAP
Malibu Grand Prix
DESCRIPTION: Family entertainment center includes three courses of miniature golf, grand prix race cars, turbo go-karts, bumper boats, batting cages, game room, and pizza parlor. Save $4 off a Fun Pass when you buy on-line and sign on with the code “SMCCVB.”
ADMISSION: pricing matrix based on number of laps or purchase tokens
DAYS & HOURS: Mon-Thu 12p-9p, Fri 12p-11p, Sat 10a-11p, Sun 10a-9p
ADDRESS: 340 Blomquist Street, Redwood City, CA MAP
Hiller Aviation Museum
DESCRIPTION: The Hiller Aviation Institute is dedicated to the dreams of flight – looking back into aviation’s history while exploring its future. The experience is educational and entertaining casting new light onto the technical innovations. Before you leave, you’ll be transformed from visitor to explorer.
ADMISSION: Adult $11, Age 65+, Ages 5-17 $7, Age 4 and under enter Free
DAYS & HOURS: daily 10a-5p
ADDRESS: 601 Skyway Road, San Carlos, CA MAP
Downtown San Mateo Restaurants
DESCRIPTION: Containing the largest collection of fine dining restaurants in the county, cuisines include Brazilian, Chinese, Filipino, Greek, Hawaiian, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Spanish, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese. Including the cineplex at 3rd and Railroad, you can enjoy dinner and a show.
ADDRESS: 3rd & 4th Avenues between El Camino Real and Railroad Avenue, San Mateo, CA MAP
PHONE: 650-342-5520 Restaurant Association
Coyote Point Museum
DESCRIPTION: Located in beautiful Coyote Point Recreation Area in San Mateo, Coyote Point Museum provides visitors with opportunities to learn first-hand about the science behind the environment. The Museum offers interactive exhibits, hands-on science and art programs, and outdoor wildlife habitats with live, non-releasable animals native to California.
ADMISSION: $8 Adults, $6 Age 62+, Ages 13-17, $4 Ages 2-12, Free Under 2
DAYS & HOURS: Tue–Sat 10a–5p, Sun 12p–5p
ADDRESS: 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA MAP
DESCRIPTION: This rare brick estate with its exquisite gardens and ponds has been the host of countless social gatherings since 1914; the mansion is open year-round for wedding receptions, concerts, dinners and corporate events
DESCRIPTION: Visit downtown Burlingame, the Peninsula’s crown-jewel destination for boutique shopping, fine dining, and unmatched personal and professional services. Enjoy the treasures to be discovered along picturesque Burlingame Avenue and the surrounding side streets. Located just minutes from the San Francisco International Airport, downtown Burlingame is one of Northern California’s most desirable destinations.
DAYS & HOURS: daily
ADDRESS: Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame, CA MAP
PARKING: Street parking and garages
Millbrae Train Museum
DESCRIPTION: Located at the former Train Station, which has been continuously in use since it was rebuilt in 1907. The inside has been set up as a display area with photos, artifacts, documents, books, and more. The entire museum is dedicated to railroad history of Millbrae, the Peninsula, and to some extent the Bay Area. Venture inside a 1941 Pullman sleeping car from the Premium Streamliner City of San Francisco; the car is in its original configuration and paint scheme, inside and out.
DAYS & HOURS: Sat 10a-2p and by appt
ADDRESS: 450 Poplar Avenue, Millbrae, CA MAP