While you’ll have three airports to select from on the peninsula, positioned between San Francisco and San Jose, you’ll find the largest airport, the home of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The other two include San Carlos (SQL) and San Jose (SJI).
Thank you to the San Francisco Peninsula for hosting my stay.
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Brisbane is known as the “City of Stars” because residents and businesses add illuminated stars on the “downhill” side of their homes and offices during the winter holidays. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the 12 miles of hiking at San Bruno Mountain State & County Park. You can reach the 1,314-foot summit on foot or by car. But, no matter how you get to the peak, it’s an excellent place for the mountain views of the entire Bay Area. It will be worth your effort. While exploring, you may even spot some of the native Mission Blue butterflies.
Dog-friendly parks include the Fire Hydrant Plug Reserve, Firth Park, and Brisbane Dog Park.
Piper’s Pro Planning: San Bruno Mountain borders Brisbane, Daly City, South San Francisco, and Colma. You can easily access the park from Highways 280 and 101.
Located next to SFO, San Bruno is about 12 miles from downtown San Francisco, which you can access via the San Bruno BART station. For those seeking out high-tech experiences, you’ll find YouTube headquarters. Shoppers will discover Tanforan, a major shopping center.
South San Francisco
Located north of San Francisco International Airport, bordering the San Francisco Bay, South San Francisco is called the Biotech Capital of the World. Biotech companies such as Genentech have a home in this town.
Take a San Francisco Wine School class for those interested in wine. I experienced one from Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator David Glancy while in the area. What’s impressive is there are only 12 people in the world with these credentials! Glancy founded the San Francisco Wine School, where guests of all levels can learn about the nuances of wine tasting and wine and food pairing. I highly recommend one of these classes.
Piper’s Pro Planning: You can access BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) at the South San Francisco Station and Ferry Service at the Oyster Point Marina.
California is the largest agricultural producer in the United States. The San Francisco Peninsula grows the region’s greatest quantities of Brussels sprouts. Look for them in various dishes at restaurants around the peninsula. Located in San Mateo County, downtown Burlingame is a walkable setting with many shops and restaurants. The one to try here is Twelvemonth, a vegan restaurant where owner Bob Trahan believes everyone can play a role in imagining a healthy, more sustainable world. Check out my article here to learn more about my experience at Twelvemonth. And yes, I had Brussel sprouts in a chopped salad. They were thinly shaved and served as the base of the salad.
Foster City is a water sports lover’s paradise, featuring 12 residential islands, 223 acres of waterways, and 13 miles of shoreline. You can participate in various water sports, from paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, boating, and windsurfing.
If you’re more of a landlubber who enjoys walking, running, skating, and cycling, they haveatrail that goes all the way to Coyote Point in Burlingame.
Millbrae is an excellent place to learn about the region’s history. The Millbrae History Museum features furniture, photos, and documents of the area’s bygone era. Even the museum itself is in a historic home. Another museum in the area is the Southern Pacific Train Depot, depicting the history of the region’s railroads.
Central Park is an excellent stop for the kids to blow off steam after lunch.
Piper’s Pro Planning: The Millbrae History Museum is only open on Saturday afternoons. The Southern Pacific Train Museum is only open on Saturdays.
You can experience numerous festivals and special events in the San Francisco Peninsula, including the San Mateo County Fair. Other festivals include the Grand National Rodeo, Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, the Great Christmas Dicken’s Fair, and Foodieland.
Read the article, The San Francisco Peninsula: A Coast Side Day Trip, for more details on the San Francisco Peninsula coast side experiences.
The Peninsula has two lighthouses— Point Montara Lighthouse in Montara and Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero.
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay, 30 miles from San Francisco, is a charming town known for beaches and surfing. The Maverick’s Competition in Half Moon Bay attracts the most skilled surfers in the world to ride massive ways. To check it out, Maverick’s Beach is the place to be.
If surfing caused you to work up an appetite, stop by Frattore e Mare for lunch or dinner you won’t find anywhere else.
Situated on the coast side of San Mateo County, Moss Beach is about 10 minutes from Half Moon Bay. Spend some time discovering the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a marine sanctuary. Stop by the historic and some say haunted Moss Beach Distillery and throw back a cold one.
Montara is 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco and home to a California state park, Point Montara Lighthouse. The town has a popular recreation area that includes Montara State Beach. The nearly mile-long stretch of sand falls off abruptly into the ocean, making it hazardous for swimming. It is, however, a popular surfing destination for experienced surfers. Ten to more than 15-foot waves can occur during winter storm swells.
Pacifica, located 12 miles from San Francisco, features six miles of sandy beaches. Known for getting back to nature, Pacifica has numerous hiking trails, including the famous Devil’s Slide Trail. In addition to Rosalind Bakery, Pacific is renowned for being the place where Jack Cheese was invented.
About 14.4 miles south of Half Moon Bay, east of Highway 1 and Pescadero State Beach, you’ll encounter Pescadero. The town of Pescadero is home to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Pescadero is also a top-rated weekend destination during the summer for its beaches, Memorial, and Butano State Parks.
Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Peninsula is the birthplace of high-tech.
Located on the Bayside of the peninsula, halfway between San Francisco and San Jose, Belmont offers the Ralston Hall Mansion. The mansion is now part of Notre Dame de Namur University. Initially, William Chapman Ralston, a San Francisco financier and founder of the Bank of California, built the mansion in 1867. Today, the mansion is included on the National Register for Historic Places and provides insight into the 19th-century lifestyle.
For those traveling with Rover, the Waterdog Lake Park is a locally recommended place to explore.
East Palo Alto
East Palo Alto is within five miles of Palo Alto. Palo Alto is part of Silicon Valley in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. The city is also home to Stanford University. Art lovers will want to check out Cantor Arts Center’s collection on campus, which includes an outstanding group of Rodin sculptures.
Located southwest of Palo Alto, the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve is a 3,137-acre preserve with panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains. Here’s a preserve map that offers hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.
Redwood City offers a combination of daytime outdoor activities and nightlife choices. Yes, you’ll find redwoods in Redwood City. With 5,412 acres at the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, you can hike through the groves of the giants. While this was once an area hit with extensive logging activities, some old-growth trees are still standing. Second-growth trees grow along the creeks and ravines.
In the evening, you could catch a concert at the Fox Theater, a movie theater built in 1929. The ornate theater is on the National Register of Historic Places.
San Carlos is home to the San Carlos Airport (SQL), one of three on the peninsula. Located at the airport, you’ll find the Hiller Aviation Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate. Stanley Hiller, Jr., helicopter designer and inventor, opened the museum in 1998. The museum contains over 50 aircraft that span more than 100 years of aviation history.
The town also has several wineries, including Russian Ridge Winery, Flying Suitcase Winery, Cuvee Wine Cellars, and Domenico Winery. The wineries are generally within short distances of each other and make an excellent selection for a day trip of wine tasting in San Carlos.
Filoli Mansion and Gardens offer the scenic beauty of a 654-acre garden estate on the slopes of coastal California. Located in Woodside, California, these are the ancestral lands of Ramytush Ohlone. Built in 1917, the estate features a more than 54,000 square-foot Georgian revival-style mansion, 16 acres of English Renaissance gardens, and a 6.8-acre gentleman’s orchard. The natural lands have a one-mile Estate Trail and five distinct ecosystems.
Woodside Vineyards, the oldest operating winery in San Mateo County, makes wines that reflect the Santa Cruz Mountains terroir. The grapes used to create the wine at Woodside Vineyards come from Woodside, Portola Valley, and Los Altos Hills. Some of these vines are over 100 years old.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the weather like in the San Francisco Peninsula?
The year-round average temperature in the San Francisco Peninsula is sunny and mild, at 68 degrees. The winter lows are in the mid-50s, and in the summer months, the highs are 80 degrees. The average rainfall is 20 inches and occurs primarily in the winter.
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While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.