One of the nicest (and cheapest!) things to do in San Mateo is go to Central Park.  It's in the downtown area, a nice walk to restaurants, movie studios and shops.

 Central Park has a public tennis courts, an unusually large playground (with swings!), even a small-scale railroad you can buy tickets to ride.  There are numerous grassy areas, a small outdoor stage, a Japanese cultural center, and a big baseball field, but the jewel of the park is the Japanese Garden.  Complete with a koi pond, numerous little bridges and pathways, it's beautiful any time of year.

 

San Mateo also has the Bay Meadows Racetrack and the San Mateo Fairgrounds, which features a variety of events year-round.

 

A shoreline park was recently added - -Seal Point park (with a great playground called Ryder Park).  Seal Point has beautiful paths for walking, jogging or bike-riding, right along the bay shore.  There is put-in for windsurfers, an enormous dog park and information stations that tell about the geography, history, flora and fauna of the area.

 

Speaking of flora and fauna, a trip to San Mateo must include a visit to Coyote Point Museum.  This museum features an indoor facility that has permanent and changing exhibits about the county, with an emphasis on ecology and preservation.  The outdoor exhibits are the real crowd-pleasers, with live animal displays in very natural enclosures; all local species, animals which are unreleasable or being rehabilitated.  The river otters and the bobcat are favorites.

 

San Mateo is easy to get to, not-too-big and not-too-small, has movie theatres, lots of shopping (Hillsdale Mall, Bridgepointe Shopping Center, and numerous downtown boutiques), plenty of city parks, and will have a brand-new, state-of-the-art library in September of 2006.  It's a nice place to visit, AND a wonderful place to live.