There are two sides to California’s San Mateo County.
Comprising 470 square miles of peninsula between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, San Mateo County is home to some of the world’s most famous technology companies. But it’s also full of stunning scenery and quintessential California food culture.
“On the bay side, we have biotech in Brisbane, and Oracle’s campus in Redwood City,” said John Hutar, president and CEO of the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Then you go down to Palo Alto, and it becomes even more tech centric, with Hewlett-Packard, Facebook and Amazon. And Stanford University is a huge draw because the tech companies want to be near Stanford and recruit from there.”
This side of the county — the Silicon Valley side — is known for its brainy population and fast-paced startup culture. But on the west side of the county, the Pacific coastline offers a much more peaceful experience.
“It’s a completely different world,” Hutar said. “It’s very focused on farm-to-table agriculture. Much of the Salad Bowl of California starts on Half Moon Bay. There are farms, honey-makers and natural organic wineries that have popped up on the coast. They feed America and contribute greatly to the Greater Bay Area food scene.”
Groups visiting San Mateo County can arrange tours and tasting experiences at many of the region’s agricultural attractions. They can also enjoy the outdoor beauty of the area and the bounty of the Pacific Ocean.
“There’s a tremendous amount of activity on the coast,” Hutar said. “You can take a day fishing trip out of the bay or have an afternoon at Sam’s Chowder House, a majestic restaurant with all things fresh. There’s glamping at Costanoa resort in Pescardero. You can go from an outdoor overnight experience to rooms in their lovely lodge and from a rustic cowboy barbecue dinner on picnic tables to a farm-to-table restaurant on their premises.”
Whether you want to explore the ancestral homeland of the internet or soak up the culture of the coastline, here are four attractions and activities your groups will enjoy in San Mateo County.
Half Moon Bay
About midway down the county’s Pacific coast, Half Moon Bay is the epicenter of ocean exploration on the peninsula. Only a fraction of the size of San Francisco Bay, Half Moon Bay enjoys substantial wave activity and is home to Mavericks, one of the area’s most famous surfing competitions. Visitors can stop in surf shops in the area or don wetsuits to try the activity for themselves.
For a more relaxed experience, Half Moon Bay Coastside Tours can take groups on guided walks, kayaking excursions, horseback trail rides and other outings to enjoy the beauty and scenery of the bay.
Hiller Aviation Museum
In the 1970s, helicopter aviation pioneer Stanley Hiller Jr. began gathering rare and unique aircraft in a warehouse in Redwood City. Word of his growing collection grew, and in 1998, the Hiller Aviation Museum opened to the public.
Today, groups visiting the museum can see more than 40 memorable aircraft on display. Highlights include a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, as well as secret spy planes, NASA research aircraft and numerous prototypes of helicopters produced by Hiller’s company. The museum also has several interactive flight simulators and guided tours. Groups can opt for Invention Lab workshops to learn more about engineering and aviation science.
Computer History Museum
At the southeastern tip of San Mateo County, Mountain View is ground zero for Silicon Valley heavyweights like Google and other companies. It’s also home to the Computer History Museum, where tech lovers can learn about the evolution of the machines that power our modern world.
The museum has the world’s largest collection of computing artifacts, including hardware, software, photographs, videos and other documentation of the early days of computer development. Visitors can try hands-on demonstrations with historic computer equipment, learn the basics of coding and discover how computer engineers are breaking new ground with autonomous vehicles.
Cantor Arts Center
Not everyone can attend Stanford University. But everyone can go to Stanford to visit the Cantor Arts Center, the school’s arts museum open to the public with no admission fee. The museum collection was founded when the university opened in 1891 and has grown to encompass 38,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of history.
Visitors will find artwork in nearly every medium at the museum. But the Cantor Arts Center is best known for its collection of work by renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin. There are nearly 100 Rodin works on exhibit in the museum and accompanying sculpture garden, and the museum offers tours that highlight other Rodin works across Stanford’s campus.