exploring San Mateo County

Like many travellers, I’d flown into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) several times, but had always headed north from there into Fog City, and one time into Oakland, versus heading southwest to explore the San Francisco Peninsula and all that San Mateo County has to offer.


This map of San Mateo County shows that San Francisco International Airport is actually just south of the northern boundary of San Mateo County.

exploring san mateo county

An invitation to speak at the first annual International Chocolate Festival at the San Mateo Event Center April 21-22, 2018, gave me the opportunity to “stay and play by the bay” as the locals like to say. The chocolate festival was great, with 15,000 people attending over its two-day run.


Don’t miss a visit to Draeger’s in San Mateo City. They have a great selection of culinary treats including chocolate and fresh pastries in addition to a huge assortment of fresh-cut flowers.

San Mateo County is a terrific destination for foodies like me as it grows a lot of food crops that are shipped across the state and abroad. I learned that Brussels sprouts is one of the main crops grown here, and that the micro-climates of the region also make it a great place for growing grapes, almonds, giant pumpkins, and a huge assortment of flowering plants. I’ll have a future post on some of the culinary treats I enjoyed while exploring San Mateo County, as well as a post on the fabulous Filoli Historic House and Garden.


Take time to enjoy the natural beauty of the Filoli Historic House and Garden while visiting San Mateo County. The purple flowers pictured are the Filoli favourite Wisteria. Some of the plants are 100 years old!


The Hiller Aviation Museum is a must-see for all visitors to San Mateo County.

I learned to take the advice of the locals and make time for a visit to some of the remarkable attractions like the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. Even though I didn’t think I’d really enjoy the aviation museum, I sure did.


Pacifica Beach on the northwestern tip of San Mateo County is a great place to watch surfers catch the waves.

And I realized that because I’m from the Prairies, a visit to the beach will always be a highlight of any coastal trip for me. I loved watching the surfers at Pacifica Beach, and wish I’d had more time to hang out with them. But at least I got there and happily filled my lungs with the fresh sea air during the course of my walk along the beach.


Even though San Mateo County is known as Silicon Valley because of the abundance of high-tech companies (like facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Visa, and others) that are based here, it is a gorgeous region with plenty of green space, hiking trails, beaches, and attractions to please just about any traveller who finds themselves in and around San Francisco Bay.





Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

65 Responses

  1. david says:

    San Mateo County sounds to be a beautiful and must visited place. I have bookmarked it for future references. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Amazing click. I definitely visit the San Mateo area of California.

  3. Fahad says:

    Really enjoy your post thank’s for sharing detailed content on san mateo country

  4. I read your blog post and enjoyed it. There has been much information about San Mateo county. After reading your post I think it’s really a wonderful place and there have many enjoyable and funny things that can create a tour perfectly. I want to go there for a trip.

  5. Denny George says:

    This is a corner of the world I know near to nothing about. Now thanks to you I know a little bit. San Mateo county does look intriguing.

  6. Chocolate Force produces this five- star International Chocolate Festival of Silicon Valley, the most highly rated artisan chocolate event in the world. Exhibitors welcome, participate in this.

  7. Lydia says:

    This is the first time I am reading a post about San Mateo County and your post provoked the travel bug to itch me, Doreen. This really seems like an exceptional place worth the visit. How many days would you recommend staying in San Mateo County?

  8. Da op cau thang says:

    Looks like a nice place which is not surprising since so is San Francisco. Glad you could combine it with a chocolate festival.

  9. Sue Reddel says:

    The Chocolate Festival that sounds like so much fun. They certainly did their homework inviting you to speak. I don’t know of anyone more qualified to speak on chocolate. San Mateo County sounds like a lovely part of California to explore.

  10. OMG! Those lilacs in the sun are amazing~

  11. Anusha says:

    Great post, Thank you for sharing this information about San Mateo County.

  12. San Mateo County is indeed a revelation. The fact that there are so many IT companies gives the impression that the place is full of glass buildings and modern structures only, but it seems to be a natural paradise. The Hiller Aviation Museum seems to be an exciting place to visit and the beach too looks calm and secluded. Interested in the Chocolate festival and waiting to read your post about it.

  13. Shaily says:

    San Mateo County looks amazing with a variety of experiences that cater to various types of travellers. Despite being called Silicon Valley with all the effects of modernisation, the place is bestowed with rich natural beauty and resources. Draeger’s sounds like a foodie’s paradise. I would love to try their chocolate and fresh pastries. The view of the California poppy is a treat to the eyes. Thanks for sharing these lovely photographs.

  14. Kemkem says:

    San Mateo County looks pretty awesome. You had me at foodie! I would like to visit for sure and eat my way through. Something to consider on our next trip stateside. Thanks for sharing, and congrats!

  15. San Mateo looks Like a really Great place to Visit…keeping it on my wish list…

  16. I’ve never been south from San Francisco but I can see from your post that San Mateo would be a great place to visit. All that lovely fresh food!

  17. That looks like a ton of fun, the photos of the flowers are spectacular… increases my desire to play in the yard. Congratulations on being part of this inaugural event. You are a perfect choice as speaker.

  18. San Mateo County certainly does sound like a great destination for foodies as well as beach lovers! And, how awesome you were asked to speak at the International Chocolate Festival!! Congratulations!

  19. Sandeep Goswami says:

    This part of California is just awesome. I loved your article. Many thanks for sharing with us. Looking forward to read more of your articles.

  20. I love the California poppies – they just lift your spirits. I’m looking forward to reading more about San Mateo and the chocolate festival.

  21. Cindy says:

    I love this part of California and, like you, the highlight is always the beach. Although I have to admit that Filoli is also pretty high on the list! Congrats on the conference. Looking forward to more photos.

  22. You picked some of my favorites here, especially gorgeous Filoli–a don’t miss for sure.

  23. noel says:

    San Mateo county is quiet beautiful once you get out of the 101 corridor and head to the Pacific hills and ocean area which is natural with little communities to explore. I’ve never been to that festival, looks wonderful

  24. My daughter has moved to Livermore which is about 50 minutes from San Francisco. So I am sure I will have the time to visit Filoli Historic House and Garden, the fields of the California poppy, and other SFO sights. But I will also visit the tech companies!!!

  25. What gorgeous photos, Doreen. I haven’t been to this area of California. So glad they recognized your stature as the queen of chocolate and invited you to speak. Many more people will know about you now. Can’t wait for future posts about your trip.

  26. What a fun-filled visit to San Mateo County. We are glad they offered you an opprtunity to speak at the conference, and that you imparted some of your chocolate knowledge on the crowd. Looks like you got some great weather while there. Thanks for sharing.

  27. We occasionally fly into the States via San Francisco. There are only a few cities you can arrive at from Australia. I don’t think we have ever explored San Mateo County but it looks like we should.

  28. Claire says:

    Woah, International Chocolate Festival sounds fun! And I am glad it’s not all work but that you managed to have some fun exploring interesting places as well! πŸ™‚

    • Doreen Pendgracs says:

      HI Claire. I really try to ensure that my visit to any destination includes some inclusions on things that I’m passionate about. I write much better when it’s from the heart!

  29. Phoenicia says:

    What a privilege you had in speaking at the International Chocolate Festival. Another opportunity to share your knowledge. San Fransisco is certainly on my ‘places to visit’ list. I dream of being on the famous bridge and taking hundreds of photographs. One day soon!

  30. I also grew up on the prairies, so I know what you mean about the chance to drink in some of the sea air. Looks like a great trip, when you combine a chocolate festival with all that gorgeous scenery, not to mention the brussels sprouts.

  31. Jim Jones says:

    Funny, I’ve been to and through SFO a lot, but never stopped in San Mateo County to check it out. Next time I’m there, I definitely will! Great story and you really piqued my interest.

  32. Beverly says:

    Congratulations on the invitation to speak at the Chocolate Festival. I am glad that it was so well attended. I love the photograph of the California poppies and the photograph has inspired to perhaps plant some in my yard this year. I would love to read more about Filoli House and Gardens.

  33. I’ll admit to knowing very little about Northern California. I had three brief years in southern Cal and never ventured farther north than King’s Canyon National Park. San Mateo looks awesome. Congratulations on the invitation to speak–they kicked off their first event in style.

    Ditto on the beach and smelling that sea air.

    • Thanks, Rose. It sure looks like they have great quality of life there. It comes at a price (housing costs are atrocious!) but the possibility to enjoy there outdoors all year long seems very worth it. Cheers, and thx for stopping by.

  34. Janet May-Hewson says:

    It looks like a beautiful area to visit. I look forward to hearing more about it.

  35. Catarina says:

    Looks like a nice place which is not surprising since so is San Francisco. Glad you could combine it with a chocolate festival.

  36. Linda says:

    Congrats on being invited to speak at the International Chocolate Festival. Sounds like quite an honor. That entire San Francisco region is wonderful. I haven’t been there in a long time. But your last photo of the California Poppies made me laugh. Years ago, after having visited California and fallen in love with those flowers, I bought a little packed of seeds and scattered them in a flower bed. It was only after that, that I understood that California Poppies should be called California Dandies! Those things proliferated and spread to all parts of my large yard, migrating from the back yard to the front yard and coming up in the grass and between the cracks of the sidewalk! Still, they’re pretty. And easy to grow. lol

    • Thx for sharing that story, Linda! Yes, I could see the California Poppy being a propagator like the common dandelion. They are both beautiful in their own way. πŸ™‚ And that for the kudos re the Int’l Chocolate Fest. It was so much fun speaking with chocolate lovers on the wonderful world of chocolate.
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