strawberry-picking_half_moonbayCharming farms, as-fresh-as-it-gets produce, lighthouses, whale watching, surfing, dining, unparalleled shopping, beach, mountains, and wildlife…San Mateo is one of the west coast’s most diversely rich and plentiful counties. No better location exists for a coastal family vacation just a one tank getaway from Sacramento.

Frugal Family Vacation Fun

When you tire of horseback riding on the beach, hiking the coastline, or flying kites overlooking breathtaking vistas, try a Coastal Elegance Bicycle Tour along estuaries and inlets filled with herons, geese and coastal wildlife. Stop pedaling long enough to explore vibrant coastal tide pools and marshes, while snacking on organic fruits and snacks as your knowledgeable guides educate and inspire you about local flora and fauna. Our family loved every second of the adventure.

San Mateo County is situated on a peninsula fifty miles in length, immediately south of San Francisco and is bordered on the east by San Francisco Bay and on the west side by the Pacific Ocean, and finally on the south by Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

The Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos is a wonderful must see stop for plane buffs and for kids of all ages where hands on exhibits, historical memorabilia and more, make this museum one of the best of its kind in the state and a favorite of our entire family.

Half Moon Bay with its bountiful harvests of flowers, berries pumpkins, gourds, and artichokes is an absolute have-to stop where you can experience generations-old farms and even try a hand at berry picking. The tiny charming town of Pescadero is an important place to stop and soak in the little coastal town’s many charms if for nothing else than to try some world famous artichoke bread or melt-in-your-mouth ollaliberry muffins or cobbler. It’s a highlight on all our jaunts to the area.

The Harley Farms Goat Dairy is our favorite educational experience and any trip to San Mateo County simply would not be complete lacking a few hours to appreciate this unique and beautiful working dairy farm where cheeses are much more than delicious but rather a true art form. Our kids love the tasting room as much as mom and dad.

Accommodations to fit all preferences and pocket books abound in San Mateo County.

Where to Stay and Where to Eat for Vacationing Families

Stay at the Inn at Maverick’s for unsurpassed views of the entire coastline and privacy in your own little ocean front piece of heaven.

SanMateo_photo courtesy of Nicole BrandonFor a fun and casual sea side dining experience, enjoy the Moss Beach Distillery for homemade specialties, a breathtaking view of the coast, along with a hair-raising history.

The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has some of the state’s best beers and world class surfers from around the world congregate there for the food, the beer, and some of the world’s best waves nearby at the annual Maverick. Chef Gaston Alfaro’s Yucatan-Asian influenced food is truly outstanding in our family’s view. 

If relaxing deck side next to a blazing bonfire overlooking the sea sounds enticing, then Sam’s Chowder House is in order. Every painstakingly homemade sauce, salad, entrée, and dessert is bursting with freshness. They are even famous for their lobster rolls that we found to be even better than the Maine version.

More San Mateo County Fun for Families

When it comes to family fun, San Mateo County has it covered any time of year whether you time your stay for a special festival or simply choose to take in an unusual spectacle like the Pez Museum or the San Mateo County Historical Museum.

San Mateo County knows how to throw festivities and one of its most famous is the annual World Championship Pumpkin Weigh off and Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival where locals and out-of-towners compete to win a share of $20,000 in prize money for top gourds often weighing more than half a ton. The Mavericks yearly surfing phenomenon, the Pacific Coast Fog Fest, and Pacific Coast Dream Machines are just a few more San Mateo County events that draw folks from all over the world.

Nature loving families like us, can’t miss the environmental wonders at Coyote Point, Ano Nuevo, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, or Filoli Gardens. San Mateo County is also famous for boasting some of the state’s cleanest beaches. With breathtaking scenery, mild climate, redwoods, beaches, and diverse marine life, families will find San Mateo County a treasure to behold during any season as well as one of California’s best kept secrets.