Recently, I made my way to California, and - through the world that is social media - I had many people following my journey. When I arrived home, friends asked me the normal questions such as how did my trip go, did I have fun, and where exactly was I? My first two responses – “amazing” and “absolutely” – were met with fairly normal reactions from my questioners, but when I answered the third question of my whereabouts, I always received a queried look and a response of “where did you go?”
You see, that was exactly my response before I headed to San Mateo County. I was under the impression that I’d be hovering around the San Francisco Bay area gazing at the Golden Gate, which is surely a feasible jaunt from the county, but what was in store for me was much more! So, I’m determined to turn that “where did you go” into a “why you should go,” and here are my collective thoughts on making San Mateo County part of your California travel itinerary.
Fresh Food – If you love a culinary journey, I’d say that San Mateo County has you covered! A highlight for me was Cascade Bar & Grill located at Costanoa Lodge in Pescadero. Chef Serge Marchale carefully curated the menu, and his vast experience and expertise came through in every bite.
Nestled in artsy Redwood City is LV Mar, which offers tapas style dining and delicious cocktails with the opportunity to dine al fresco or in their modern, indoor seating area. Thankfully, I visited on a gorgeous day and found a quaint table outdoors.
I do have to admit that seafood isn’t my go to for an entrée choice - no matter my proximity to the coast - but Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay changed my mind! I had a delectable lobster roll and also tested out seafood paella while there.
It’s no wonder that all 3 of these restaurants are recipients of the county’s As Fresh as it Gets award, which encourages eateries to concentrate on fresh, local ingredients.
Love for Local – Another fact that struck me during my foray into San Mateo County was the presence of local businesses. As the child of two entrepreneurs and a serial entrepreneur myself, I am especially sensitive to supporting non-chain style businesses both at home and when I travel. From shops and hotels to restaurants and wineries, I was especially impressed that the county was filled with locally owned establishments.
One such place was Traveler, a shop brimming with thoughtfully selected surf related items, including home décor and art pieces. Owned by former professional surfer Julie Cox, Traveler stands out as a place for community. Whether you are looking for gear or a home base while you surf, be sure to make this shop a part of your visit.
Variety of Landscapes – San Mateo County is far from being one note in its landscape. I experienced beaches, mountains, gardens and forests while there. Truly, you can be driving on the coast one minute and then be encompassed by stately redwoods the next. Coastlines ranged from pebbled and sandy beaches to shorelines laden with imposing bluffs, such as Devil’s Slide.
During my stay at Oceano Hotel & Spa, I woke up a bit early and was able to enjoy a walk at Pillar Point Harbor. It’s a lovely area to rent kayaks, and I personally enjoyed a stroll while reading all of the quippy boat names.
Wineries – California brings to mind wine trails surrounding Napa and Sonoma, and I live near popular Virginia wineries. But San Mateo successfully rivals both. I loved tasting wines in the region, and – my favorite part – I actually learned a lot about wine making in the process. It’s such an art, and the San Mateo County wineries have cultivated their craft.
One of my favorites was Domenico Winery, which is a family owned and run business. Their location is a beautiful indoor respite in an urbanesque setting, and I’d highly suggest the rosé!
An active vineyard, Thomas Fogarty Winery offers stunning views of both their land and the bay. Their picturesque location also allows for tastings by their extremely knowledgeable pourers.
Airport Area – When you travel to San Francisco International Airport, you actually land right in San Mateo County. And I dare say that it is the least airport-y airport area I’ve been to. I was able to experience an overnight stay at the luxurious Westin, and be sure to check out Kincaid’s restaurant (another As Fresh As It Gets award winner) for a bite to eat while you’re there.
Just a hop away is downtown Burlingame, which is filled with restaurants and specialty shops – both chain and locally owned. The presence of both BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and Caltrain make moving between the airport area and the city of San Francisco especially convenient.
Filoli – Yes, I fell in love with Filoli, so I do think it deserves its own category. Truly, I could spend all day there… actually make that multiple days. From the luxurious gardens and outbuildings to the stately home on the property, it’s definitely a must see for any traveler. Whether you are interested in botanical art or gardening, they have classes galore, so be sure to check their list of offerings here to learn something new. If you have a few hours to while away or just need a place to commune with nature and clear your head, Filoli is the perfect place. Personally, I’d love to sit with my portable watercolors or read a book on a sunny day and pretend the place is mine.
No matter what takes you to – or through – San Mateo County, be sure to plan time to explore! Whether you choose to stay, shop or eat in the county, there are plenty of stops to be made along the way.