San Mateo Things to Do

San Mateo Things to Do

A bustling community of over 100,000, San Mateo is a beautiful suburb of San Francisco with some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the county. Top schools and stunning views are just two of the reasons why so many are interested in San Mateo real estate, and that’s just the beginning. From a charming historic downtown to world-class shopping and plenty of outdoor recreation, there are ways for everyone to enjoy San Mateo. If you’re interested in investing in San Mateo County homes for sale, get to know more about the area you’d be moving to. To start things off, check out this list of the best things to do in San Mateo.

The Japanese Garden

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The Japanese Garden remains one of the best things to do in San Mateo. Located right beside Downtown San Mateo on E 5th Avenue, the Japanese Garden was designed by Nagao Sakurai, a renowned Japanese landscape artist. The best times to visit the garden are late in the winter or throughout the spring, when the weather is cooler and the cherry blossoms bloom. The Japanese Garden also features a koi pond, a bamboo grove, a pagoda, and a tea house. It’s open from 10 AM-4 PM throughout the week, and from 11 AM-4 PM on the weekends.

San Mateo Central Park

Surrounding the Japanese Garden is San Mateo Central Park, an energetic, 16-acre park with plenty of entertainment for the whole family. The Central Park playground and picnic areas invite families to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, while the walking paths and rose gardens inspire contemplation and rejuvenation. The park is also home to an ice skating rink, tennis courts, and a fairy garden. Residents often frequent the park during yearly events like the Central Park Music Series or the Easter Eggstravaganza.

Hillsdale Shopping Center

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No trip to San Mateo would be complete without a visit to the Hillsdale Shopping Center. Located on 31st Street, this indoor mall is a perfect retreat for anyone in need of a little retail therapy. Hillsdale has a selection of upscale brands and well-known chains to choose from, along with a fantastic array of international cuisine. Shops like Aldo, Ann Taylor, and West Elm are great places to start before browsing the mall’s more than 100 restaurants and retailers.

Old Downtown San Mateo

One of the best ways to get to know San Mateo is to take a walking tour of its historic downtown area. With buildings dating back to the 1860s, the five-block historic district invites locals to step back into the past and discover San Mateo’s roots. An area rich in history, Downtown San Mateo now serves as the city’s heart and soul, with seasonal events, great shopping, and world-class restaurants.

Coyote Point Recreation Area

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Coyote Point Recreation Area is a local favorite for getting out by the water. Steps from the Poplar Creek Golf Course, this park is a go-to place for individuals and families to unwind. It features a large playground themed with castles and dragons, picnic areas, and jogging trails that wind through the park. Visitors can spend time lounging by the water or take to the waves to swim, fish, kayak, or windsurf. The beach promenade offers the perfect spot for viewing wildlife or enjoying the sunset.

The STEM Fair

For more than 35 years, the San Mateo County Office of Education has hosted the STEM Fair. Typically hosted at the Hiller Aviation Museum, this fair brings together 5th to 8th grade students across the county to showcase their best projects, which are all STEM-based and have to present a solution to a real-world problem. Past winners have included eco-friendly fire retardants for forests, a mechanism for filtering seawater, and a mathematical model for charting the orbit of planets.

The Carolands Chateau

The Carolands Chateau is an incredible Gilded Age mansion in Hillsborough. A perfect example of Beaux-Arts architecture, this ornate mansion was built at the turn of the 20th century and sits on nearly 500 acres of land. It’s a stunning glimpse into a bygone time that now serves as a museum. Tours take place on Wednesday afternoons and are offered through a lottery system. The Carolands Foundation also hosts a number of charity events throughout the year, ranging from dinners and receptions to concerts and seminars.


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Located on Coyote Point Drive, CuriOdyssey is a great place for the whole family to learn, explore, and have fun together. This interactive museum centers around environmental conservation, teaching kids about ecosystems and wildlife. Live animal encounters are hosted at the museum’s outdoor zoo and feature animals from otters to bobcats. CuriOdyssey puts on great monthly events like First Friday Nights, where families can come together for a night of live music, food, and games. In addition to permanent exhibits, seasonal ones are always rotating out, offering new topics for kids to get excited about.

Fine dining

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There’s no shortage of fine dining in San Mateo, and there are options to satisfy every craving. For Japanese, nothing beats Sushi Yoshizumi, a highly exclusive upscale eatery with chef’s choice tasting menus and limited seating. Wakuriya is another option that’s loved for its moody atmosphere and flavorful multicourse meals. All Spice is the place to go for delicious Indian fusion options in a bright, colorful setting, while Espetus is a traditional Brazilian steakhouse complete with all the trimmings. For Italian, there’s Vivace, and for American fare, there’s Broadway Grill. Finally, for the freshest seafood in San Mateo, Kincaid’s is one not to miss.
If San Mateo is calling your name, work with a top real estate agent to find your own place in the city to put down roots. Martin Quintana is passionate about San Mateo and helping clients discover all that makes it a great place to live. When you work with Martin, you’re working with a professional who’s knowledgeable about the San Mateo market and dedicated to helping you meet your goals. When you’re ready to start the process, reach out to Martin Quintana.

*Header photo courtesy of Unsplash

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