23 Best & Fun Things to Do in San Mateo (CA)

In search of the best and fun things to do in San Mateo, CA? This city sure has some cool attractions for a fun exploration.

San Mateo is an amazing city located in San Mateo County, California. This city is filled with many beautiful attractions and adventures.

The city truly describes how spectacular nature is, being blessed with many natural attractions.

If you’re a lover of nature, San Mateo should be your next destination as there are lots of opportunities to partake in adventurous outdoor activities.

 San Mateo has many things to offer, starting from recreational parks, restaurants, museums, and many others. For a fun time, here are the top things to do in San Mateo, CA.

Things to Do in San Mateo

1. Do not miss a visit to Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden
Credits: Jack N. Mohr / Shutterstock
Japanese Garden

One of the top things to do in San Mateo is visiting the Japanese Garden, where you get close up with nature.

Japanese Garden is a sixteen-acre green land entirely designed by a Japanese landscape architect who had gained immense experience working at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The garden is located in the city’s Central Park and was once tagged the estate of a wealthy mariner.

Japanese Garden, which has been in existence since the 1920s, is characterized by bonsai & cherry trees, majestic multi-tiered granite pagoda, waterfalls, and koi ponds.

The garden is clean and well maintained, perfect for a date or quiet walk alone, far from the crowds while enjoying the beautiful scenery. It is open all day of the week from 10am-4pm.

 Address: Fifth Ave., San Mateo, CA 94401-4107 United States

2. Ryptic Room Escape

Ryptic Room Escape
Credits: Michal Durinik/ Shutterstock

Amongst the fun things to do in San Mateo is playing a game at Ryptic Room Escape with your family and friends.

Ryptic Room Escape is open for all ages, and it is played by a minimum of four and a maximum of twelve people.

In each of the rooms you and your group pick, you will be haunted by a mysterious spirit and have only sixty minutes to find clues, ideas, keys and solve puzzles to help you escape the room in time.

The games played at Ryptic Room Escape are ideal for couples or family and friends to help test their ability to work together as a team.

Ryptic Room Escape hosts several events, including birthday parties, tea parties, and other large events for groups up to five hundred.

The rooms are usually upgraded with an addition of something new, fun, and more exciting, so you do not know what to expect; Ryptic Room Escape staff is friendly and helpful, offering outstanding services.

Address:205 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401, United States

3. Hillsdale Shopping Center

Hillsdale Shopping Center
Credits: Piece of Cake / Shutterstock

Shopping is one of the unique things to do in San Mateo; visit Hillsdale Shopping Center for a wonderful shopping experience.

Hillsdale Shopping Center is one of the largest shopping centers in the city, with over one hundred retailers.

This center is one of the best places to quench your burning desires for great entertainment and unique dining services.

Hillsdale Shopping Center consists of approximately one hundred and twenty stores, offering great deals on home furnishings & accessories, luxury & lifestyle fashions, electronic tech inventions, and beauty products.

Some stores offer vast options for dining and entertainment, such as The cheesecake factory, Cinepolis Movie Complex, Belcampo Restaurant, Pinstripes bowling bocco bistro, Shake Shack, Palette Tea, and so on.

Hillsdale Shopping Center also features renowned retailers such as Nordstorm, Macy’s, H&M, and many more. The restaurants offer a wide selection of delicious burgers, gourmet coffee, California-style pizza, fresh baked goods, and more.

The shopping center is open from Monday through Saturday from 10am-9pm, and Sunday from 11am-7pm.

Address:60 31st Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

4. Bel Mateo Bowl

Bel Mateo Bowl
Credits: Artbox /Shutterstock

Bowling is one of the fun things to do in San Mateo; visit Bel Mateo Bowl for a remarkable fun bowling experience.

Bel Mateo Bowl is highly recommended for a family hang out with friends; they organize bowling leagues and other friendly competitions.

The facility has several lanes and a full-service bar that serves different drinks and complimentary coffee.

Bel Mateo Bowl offers their delicious signature pizzas to compliment the drinks for the visitors to enjoy.

There is a cozy seating area for the visitors to sit and relax; they also host private parties, including birthday parties for kids and more.

Bel Mateo Bowl is clean and well maintained, with great staff always willing to attend to the guests and ensure they are all comfortable.

Address:4330 Olympic Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403-5173 United States

5. Coyote Point Recreation Area

Coyote Point Recreation Area
Credits: Viktoriia Pletska2020 / Shutterstock

For an amazing, fun time with friends and family in San Mateo, Coyote Point Recreation Area is the right place for you.

Coyote Point Recreation Area is a seven hundred-acre area located on the eastern shore of San Francisco bay.

This recreational area offers different outdoor activities, which explains why it is usually crowded with locals and tourists.

Coyote Point Recreation Area is an excellent place for biking, swimming, bird watching, windsurfing, and fishing.

It features a gigantic playground with a medieval theme and innovative exhibits that focus on interactive topics like ecology and the animal kingdom.

You can decide to go on a picnic with your friends and family or take a long walk along the beach or the trail.

Coyote Point Recreation Area also contains a golf course, museum, open grass fields, barbecue spots.

Address:1701 Coyote Point Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401-1001 United States

6. Neal’s Coffee Shop

Neal’s Coffee Shop
Credits: Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock

If you’re a coffee-lover, Neal’s Coffee Shop is one of the best coffee shops in San Mateo, which is highly recommended to visitors.

Neal’s Coffee Shop is located in two regions, on De Anza Boulevard in San Mateo and Burlingame. The coffee is served hot and tasty with a twist to it and for a reasonable price.

This coffee store has been serving the public for many years, since 1996; they offer lots of healthy entrées and other options for those on a diet or counting their calories.

Aside from coffee, Neal’s Coffee Shop also serves delightful meals such as burgers, fresh salads, waffles, gyros, fried chicken, Salmon Fillet, chicken breast, Linguica Sausage, and Eggs, Veggie Patty and Eggs, pancakes, French toast, Swedish and lots more.

Neal’s Coffee also offers a menu for kids which includes Child’s Breakfast Plate, Child’s Mickey Sand, Child’s Mickey Mouse Pancake, Child’s Chocolate Chip Cake, Child’s Grilled Cheese, Child’s Soda, Child’s Chocolate Milk, Child’s Juice, Child’s Hot Chocolate and more.

Address:114 De Anza Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402, United States

7. Magic Mountain Playground

Magic Mountain Playground
Credits: noBorders – Brayden Howie / Shutterstock

Magic Mountain Playground is one of the coolest playgrounds in San Mateo, especially for the little ones to have a fantastic time.

The playground is located in the Coyote Point Recreation Area, well equipped with many exciting amenities for kids.

Magic Mountain Playground features thirteen swings and one of the longest or tallest slides in the Bay area.

The playground contains monsters and dragons in the ground for kids to climb on; it also includes three separate areas aside from the Castle.

Magic Mountain Playground is a dog-friendly park with reserved areas for dogs to run around; the site is open to the public for an entrance fee of $6.

Address:12 Airport Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94401-1006 United States

8. Junípero Serra Statue

Junípero Serra Statue
Credits: Theron Trowbridge / Flickr
Junípero Serra Statue

 Junípero Serra Statue is one of the best places to visit in San Mateo; it is worth a stop, though it won’t take you much time to check it out.

This statue has been in existence since the mid-70s; it stands as a form of remembrance of Junípero Serra.

Junípero Serra is a priest who played a major role in bringing Catholicism to Western Mexico and California dating back to the 18th century.

The statue comprises a memorial plaque displaying the mission he founded; Junípero Serra made sure he accomplished his laid-out missions from the Baja Peninsula to San Francisco.

Junípero Serra Statue is a nice spot to sit & relax while enjoying the scenic views and quietness of the environment.

Address:San Mateo, CA 94402, United States

Planning a California road trip, check out our guide on things to do in Irvine , things to do in Truckee and things to do in Corona for a memorable trip.

9. Par 3 at Poplar Creek

Par 3 at Poplar Creek
Credits: Par 3 Restaurant at Poplar Creek / Facebook
Par 3 at Poplar Creek

Visiting Par 3 at Poplar Creek is one of the best things to do in San Mateo for a wonderful dining experience.

Par 3 at Poplar Creek is a beautiful restaurant located among the trees and evergreen grass; it serves delectable meals.

They serve meals like Coastal Fry Calamari, Caesar salad, burger, breakfast sandwiches, Cubano sandwiches, Chilaquiles Con Huevo, chicken wings, Wild Mushroom, and Italian Sausage Pizza hamburger with fries & cheeses, Bacon Bitz GF, and many more.

Par 3 at Poplar Creek also offers an impressive list of drinks, including craft & bottled beers, wines, and artisan cocktails.

They are open from Tuesday to Thursday from 10am-9pm, Friday & Saturday from 9am-7pm, and Monday from 10am-7pm.

Address:1700 Coyote Point Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401, United States

10. The San Mateo County History Museum

San Mateo County History Museum
Credits: Ed Bierman / Flickr
San Mateo County History Museum

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of San Mateo, the San Mateo County History Museum is the place you should visit.

San Mateo County History Museum is located in the county’s former courthouse that has been in existence for more than a century.

The museum is operated by the local historical society, which houses a wide selection of historical artifacts and memorabilia that focus on the city’s foundation, economy, and culture.

San Mateo County History Museum also displays artifacts that emphasize the history of Spanish explorers, dairy farms, the Victorian era of great estates, pioneer logging, the Ohlone Indians, agriculture, and the ranchos.

The museum aims to enlighten the public on cultural and natural history of the County of San Mateo; the museum contains a public building on the entire west coast which features the biggest stained glass.

San Mateo County History Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-4pm (closed on Monday).

Address:2200 Broadway, Redwood City, CA 94063, United States

11. CuriOdyssey

CuriOdyssey
Credits: ArtMediaFactory /Shutterstock

A visit to CuriOdyssey is one of the best things to do in San Mateo; it is open for everyone, including children and adults.

CuriOdyssey is a zoo and science play area perfect for many families to hang out where they get the opportunity to see different species of wildlife.

The animals found here are those who cannot survive and were rescued from native wildlife; some of the animals include eagles, river otters, owls, bobcats, fox, opossums, etc.

Curia Odyssey provides a play area for the little ones to have fun with scientific manifestations such as reflections, physical forces, backyard science, patterns in nature, and perceptions.

The organization tries to bring kids closer to nature through educational programs and daily public animal feedings. Curia Odyssey is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am-5pm( closed Monday and Tuesday).

Address:1651 Coyote Point Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401, United States

12. Sawyer Camp Trail

Sawyer Camp Trail
Credits: antstang / Shutterstock

Explore the Sawyer Camp Trail, it is a popular trail for for anyone looking to explore the area.

Sawyer Camp Trail is a six-mile paved trail, making it one of the largest urban centers in the state, which offers visitors with medium changes in peak and scenic views of the surrounding.

The trail is surrounded by natural amenities consisting of many wildlife such as waterfowl, fox, woodpeckers, deer, and rabbits.

Sawyer Camp Trail is filled with beautiful trees, making it the favorite destination for walkers, joggers, and bikers.

Sawyer Camp Trail is managed by San Mateo County and is open from 7:30am-8:30pm. When visiting make sure you go with a camera and take beautiful pictures, which will serve as a form of remembrance.

Address:San Francisco Peninsula, California, Millbrae, CA 94030, United States

13. Seal Point Park

Seal Point Park
Credits: Joy Brown / Shutterstock

Visiting Seal Point Park is one of the fun things to do in San Mateo for a memorable experience with your friends and family.

Seal Point Park is a moderately trafficked loop trail of 1.6 kilometers; the trail is perfect for running, hiking, bird watching, and walking.

The park features a three-acre dog park, and dogs can also use the trail, although there are set down rules and regulations.

A nice water system is available, and the park is easily accessible, incredibly clean, and properly maintained.

Seal Point Park offers spectacular views; although it is sometimes crowded, but also a great place to have an alone time.

Address:1901 J Hart Clinton Dr, San Mateo, CA 94401 United States

14. Old Downtown San Mateo

Old Downtown San Mateo
Credits: Vicki Moore [CC BY-SA 2.0], Wikimedia Commons
Old Downtown San Mateo
One of the best things to do in San Mateo, CA, is visiting Old Downtown San Mateo, which stands as the heart and soul of the city.

Old Downtown San Mateo is filled with history, starting from tech startups and renovated historical buildings built in the 20s & 30s, such as art deco theatres & churches.

This is the first place that should come to mind if you’re looking for the best restaurants and new culinary adventure in San Mateo.

Over the years, Old Downtown San Mateo has undergone several renovations transformed into a remarkable neighborhood great place for foodies and drinkers.

A day at Old Downtown San Mateo is a day well spent, don’t forget to visit some of the eateries and try out some of their best meals.

15. Laurelwood Park

Laurelwood Park
Credits: FOTO Eak / Shutterstock

Laurelwood Park is a beautiful park to spend time with your family and friends, filled with fun activities.

The park has a picnic area with picnic tables and shades, where you can grab a snack or meal with your loved ones while enjoying the incredible scenery.

Laurelwood Park also features a lawn area and a play area that comprises bridges, climbing walls, swings, slides, and more for the little ones to explore and have fun.

The park’s lawn is spacious, making it a perfect place for baseball or football; you can test your soccer skills and practice new moves here.

Laurelwood Park has a designated area great for educational or corporate meetings, including clean restrooms packed with toiletries.

Address:3471 Glendora Dr, San Mateo, CA 94403-3945 United States

Are you considering more exploration of California, here is our list of things to do in Beverly Hills , things to do in Fort Bragg and things to do in Eureka, and  for a fun vacation

16. Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake
Credits: Tim Ereneta / Flickr
Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the area.

Horseshoe Lake features several short trails excellent for hiking, which are also partially handicapped accessible.

The lake is surrounded with beautiful wildflowers, you might also get to see some orchids around the lake, and there are few benches available.

Horseshoe Lake is rarely busy, which makes it a wonderful place to relax and have a peaceful time while also enjoying the lovely sweeping views of the lake.

The lake also features clean and conducive restrooms; the parking garage is spacious and open for free.

Address:Horseshoe Lake, California 95033, United States

17. San Mateo County Event Center

San Mateo County Event Center
Credits: County of San Mateo / Flickr
San Mateo County Event Center

One of the fun things to do in San Mateo is visiting the San Mateo County Event Center for a day filled with fun and entertainment.

San Mateo County Event Center is the home of the annual STEM Fair, which has been held in San Mateo for more than three decades.

STEM Fair event is basically about increasing the interest of students who live and study in the city in different aspects like technology, maths, engineering, and science.

Although many tourists do not well acknowledge the event, it is a great innovative opportunity for those who want to learn more from locals and dedicated kids who put so much work into their projects.

San Mateo County Event Center is the venue for many annual festivals, expos, meetings, sporting events, trade events, corporate events, and other events all year round.

There is a snack bar that serves delicious foods and flavorful drinks; the center is beautifully decorated and serves as the one of all the venues that serve all of the major population centers in the Bay Area through freeways.

San Mateo County Event Center is open from Monday to Friday from 8:30am-5pm ( closed Saturday & Sunday).

Address:1346 Saratoga Dr, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

18. The Swingin’ Door

Swingin' Door
Credits: Nicky Burton ph / Shutterstock

A wonderful place where you and your buddies can relax, chill and chat in San Mateo is the Swingin’ Door pub.

Swingin’ Door is a multi-pub that offers you all you need to make you groove all night long without any dull moment.

The pub was listed as the ” hottest nightspot in San Mateo,” established in 1955, and it’s located in an ancient Kehoe building built in the 1940s before it was later converted to a bar.

Swingin’ Door is a beautifully decorated pub with eleven large Tv screens for sports and an outdoor heated patio.

The pub offers fish & chips and burgers with a comprehensive drink menu; you also enjoy live music and partake in their karaoke section.

Swingin’ Door also features pianos for entertainment and is open all day of the week from 11:30am-2am.

Address:106 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

19. Central Park

Central Park
Credits: Dan Thornberg / Shutterstock

Central Park is a fun-filled attraction in San Mateo located on East 5th Avenue, if you’re ready for a great outdoor experience, this is the place for you.

The Park has all a family needs to have a memorable moment; it contains several shaded picnic areas perfect for couples and families.

Central Park also consists of tennis courts, baseball fields, and a large playground for the little ones to explore.

The park provides a mini-train that takes the children around the park to browse through the oversized sculptures, Japanese tea garden, and other places for relaxation and meditation.

Central Park has a large space for a volleyball game and trails for biking or strolling; there are clean bathrooms that are conducive for use.

The park is a good venue for different kinds of events, including Easter and other live music concerts.

Address:50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401-4107 United States

20. Little Shanghai Restaurant

Little Shanghai Restaurant
Credits: Just One Cookbook / Facebook
Little Shanghai Restaurant

If you’re craving for a delicious Chinese meal in San Mateo, Little Shanghai Restaurant is the perfect place for you.

Little Shanghai Restaurant offers an impressive food menu, with the meals being served fresh and tasty with local ingredients.

Some of the meals served include smoked fish, five-spice stewed duck, dry cooked string beans, curry beef, cashew nut chicken, cabbage beef stew hot plate, Shanghai traditional dishes, Jiang Nan reminiscent dishes, vegetables, noodles & rice, soup, and many more.

Little Shanghai Restaurant also serves delightful drinks like red wines, beers, fruit juice, soft drinks, and others.

The staff is super friendly and polite when taking orders from the visitors, creating a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy their meals.

Address:17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403, United States

21. Baking Arts

Baking Arts
Credits: Fedorovacz / Shutterstock

 If you have always wanted to learn something new or improve your cooking skills, Baking Arts in San Mateo is the perfect place for you.

Baking Arts is a combination of a cooking Academy and a retailer shop focused on baking, confectionery, and decorating arts.

They offer different classes for groups and couples, including a thorough two hours class on mastering the art of baking.

 Baking Arts have experienced and knowledgeable instructors; they teach you all you need to know about baking and help you master your skill.

They are open from Tuesday to Friday from 10am-6pm, and Saturday & Sunday from 10am-5pm. Make sure you visit, and don’t forget to take home a passle of sweet French Macarons.

Address:18 E. 3rd Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401 United States

22. San Mateo Farmers’ Market

San Mateo Farmers' Market
Credits: Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

A market in San Mateo where you can get the best food products is the San Mateo Farmers’ Market.

San Mateo Farmers’ Market offers various food products starting from vegetables, flowers, meats to artisan bread.

San Mateo Farmers’ Market contains many stores with local vendors offering farm products like potatoes, winter squash, root veggies, baked foods, and many more.

You will also find different kinds of Artisan olive oils, herbs, fruits, cheeses, gourmet foods, and local honey.

The items sold here are freshly picked with great quality; there are many flavors of breads and docks seafood.

San Mateo Farmers’ Market provides a lively and welcoming atmosphere with lots of jazz musicians and guitarists at almost every market corner.

You meet with many locals, learn how to prepare different traditional meals in San Mateo, and buy fresh food products for a reasonable price.

Address:1700 W Hillsdale Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402, United States

23. Create Mix and Mingle

Create Mix and Mingle
Credits: Di Studio / Shutterstock

One of the best things to do in San Mateo is visiting Create Mix and Mingle with your friends and family for an awesome experience.

Create Mix and Mingle is open to everyone, both beginners and professionals in painting. There is a professional art instructor to guide you through.

The instructors are well experienced and friendly; they help you create your masterpiece, thereby bringing your imagination to life.

Create Mix and Mingle is also an excellent venue for different events with a large space that can accommodate more than a hundred persons.

They also offer beers, wines, beverages, and other snacks as refreshments to enjoy. Create Mix and Mingle is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am-10pm, and Sunday from 11am-5pm.

Address:1888 S Norfolk St, San Mateo, CA 94403-1102 United States.

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Plan your Trip to San Mateo

San Mateo is known for its natural beauty and active cultural and historical legacy; it is a home of art, creating a platform for local artists to showcase their work.

The city is an place to visit with your friends and family as there is something to do and places to visit for everyone.

San Mateo should be your next stop; make sure you explore all the places mentioned above and get ready to have a memorable vacation.