San Mateo County

Travel south of San Francisco to San Mateo County, and discover the pleasures of a relaxed, slower-paced California. Top activities here are fun for children and adults.

San Francisco is a popular tourist city, and San Jose’s Silicon Valley is a hub of top technological advancement and creativity (Yahoo, Facebook and more are based there). San Mateo County is between San Francisco and San Jose, but many travelers only know it as the home to the San Francisco Airport. In fact, San Mateo County, on the San Francisco Peninsula in California, has much more to offer than taxi service from the airport. Be it for children or adults, a weekend getaway or week-long family vacation in San Mateo County should have no shortage of fun activities.

Top Museums in San Mateo County, California

  • The Hiller Aviation Museum has innovative displays of the past, present, and future of aviation. Interactive displays are popular with children and adults here; people particularly crowd around the simulated flying exhibits.
  • The San Mateo County History Museum showcases exhibits spanning the historical eras of the San Francisco Peninsula. The rooms depicting the Spanish explorers, gold rush and models of whaling ships are especially well done.
  • The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia is exactly as it sounds; a collection of over 500 Pez dispensers are the featured exhibits, along with Pez toys and books on the candy’s history (it’s fun for children to see a whole museum dedicated to this whimsical brand of candy).

Top Activities and Points of Interest in San Mateo County, California

  • The Filoli Estate is a Georgian Revival mansion on a 654-acre property, with gorgeous gardens and a well-preserved interior.
  • Pillar Point Harbor is an ideal place to see migrating California Grey Whales passing through San Mateo. Boat excursions are available for fishing charters and trip to the Farallon Islands.
  • Pigeon Point Lighthouse is, at 115 feet, one of the tallest lighthouses in America. It was built in 1872. Seals are almost always lunging lazily on the rocks just offshore here, and the grounds make for lovely photo opportunities.
  • Main Street at Half Moon Bay is a charming, small downtown area with shops, art galleries, B&Bs, and a mix of the old and the new.
    Harley Farms Goat Dairy is a goat farm open for tours – the goats are friendly, and the fresh goat cheese is terrific.
  • La Nebbia Winery in Half Moon Bay hosts serveral “bottle and cork your own wine” events each year, as well as wine-tasting, private events, and a scenic picnic area.
  • Beaches and parks are easily accessible to visitors at Half Moon Bay; they are open, friendly areas perfect for families, biking, and horseback riding. Children especially love exploring the tidal pools.

A vacation in San Mateo County is different than a visitor may expect. A few miles south of San Francisco, close to the Silicon Valley, this part of California is slower and quieter than either cosmopolitan area. For a family vacation or weekend getaway, it is definitely worth the trip.