A Local’s Guide on the Best Things to do in Redwood City

things to do in redwood city

Let’s be frank. If you’ve read any other posts on things to do in Redwood City… they’re pretty pathetic. Watch a movie? Go to a community park? I’m not saying Redwood City is the most interesting place in the world, but surely we can do better than that.

I’ve been living in Redwood City since September and I’ve taken the time to explore the area in search of better ways to fill the time in the peninsula’s best city. This post is the culmination of my efforts. I hope you find some great activities on this list!

Here is a little preview of what’s included on this list…

Things to do in Redwood City:

  • San Mateo County History Museum
  • Filoli Historic House & Garden
  • Pulgas Water Temple
  • Pulgas Ridge Open Space Reserve
  • Edgewood Park Natural Preserve
  • Purisima Open Space Preserve
  • Fox Theatre
  • The Dragon Theatre
  • Boutique Shops

Seasonal Things to do in Redwood City:

  • Moveis & Live Music
  • Annual Salsa Festival
  • Día de los Muertos Celebration
  • Other Seasonal Events

Where to Eat in Redwood City:

  • Vesta
  • Milagros
  • Zareens
  • Coffeebar
  • Mints & Honey
  • Mademoiselle Collete
  • Quinto Sol
  • Blacksmith
Broadway and Main Street Sign in Redwood City

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Things to do in Redwood City

Obviously, there are not as many things to do in Redwood City as there are things to do in San Francisco, but there still some fun activities and hidden gems to fill your evenings and weekends!

San Mateo County History Museum

The San Mateo County History Museum is the centrepiece of downtown Redwood City and the most distinguished building on its skyline.

The museum runs several exhibits – like Land of Opportunity and San Mateo County’s African American History – highlighting different historical and cultural events from both Redwood City and the peninsula. Admission to the museum costs $6 and can be purchased at the museum. Oh, and the museum is closed on Mondays.

I’m not a museum person, but this one is quite impressive, especially considering the size of San Mateo County. If you don’t choose to explore the museum, at least grab a coffee and sit in the courtyard in front.

San Mateo County Museum in Redwood City

Pulgas Water Temple

The Pulgas Water Temple was built in 1934 to commemorate the engineering achievement which brought water from Hetchy Hetch in the Sierras all the way to the Santa Cruz Mountains – a total distance of 160 miles. The temple was designed with fluted columns inspired by the the Greeks and Romans, as were the engineering methods used to bring water here in the first place.

During the week, the temple grounds are open from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. Oddly enough, the grounds are open to hikers, bikers and equestrians on the weekends, however, the parking lot is closed. You can read more about the grounds here.

Canada Road Trail

A great way to visit the Pulgas Water Temple on the weekends is to walk along the Canada Road Trail. The trailhead is a parking lot at the intersection of Canada Road and Edgewood Road.

From there, the trail goes north toward the Pulgas Water Temple and then along the Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir. There are a few nice views of the water and surrounding mountains.

I don’t love the trail since it follows along a bike trail and is an out-and-back hike. It’s nice, but I prefer the trails I’ve listed below.

Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve

Pulgas Ridge is one of the many open-space preserves west of Redwood City. This one has two long hiking trails, offering views of rolling hills throughout. Most of the vegetarian is small bushes, spiny trees and large succulents.

When I was last in the preserve, I hiked the Dusky Footed Woodrat and Cordilleras Trail, which is the longest trail at 3.6 miles. If you’d like something shorter, the Blue Oak and Pauli Geraci Trail is only 2.1 miles with similar views.

View of the hills in Pulgas Ridge, one of the things to do in Redwood City

Filoli Historic House & Garden

Filoli Historic House & Garden sits on 650 acres of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The estate is so large it even has its own trail, aptly named The Estate Trail. The house covers 54,000 sqft, though we should really call it a mansion because it has 54 rooms.

Constructed in 1917, each room is elegantly decorated in Roarings 20s style. The garden has been beautifully landscaped, with intricate flora and fauna arrangements, and is best viewed in the spring or at Christmas. Admission is $28 (for adults and can be purchased online in advance.

Edgewood Park Natural Preserve

Edgewood Park is adjacent to Pulgas Ridge and offers a similar scenery, but with more grasslands and fewer succulents. There are a few hiking trails, the longest being the Serpentine-Sylvan-Edgewood-Sunset Trails Loop at 3.6 miles.

Also, Edgewood has a surprising number of deer! When my friend and I were hiking the trail above, we must have seen at least a dozen of them.

Purisima Ridge Natural Preserve

Out of the preserves I’ve mentioned thus far, Purisima Ridge is my favorite. It has varied hills and ridges, and there is a clear view of the ocean – you can even see all the way to Mavericks Beach at Half Moon Bay.

There are four trailheads in Purisima Ridge – let’s call them the North, South, East and West trailheads. Despite many trailheads, the park is not that big and most of the trails connect to multiple trailheads.

When I was last at the preserve, we started at the north trailhead and hiked to the west trailhead and back via the Harkins Ridge and Purisima Creek trails.

Note: The preserve is closed 25 minutes before sunrise and 25 minutes after sunset. The park rangers are very strict on this because the area has an active mountain lion population. You won’t have any issues hiking there during the day, especially because there are always other people on the trail, but at night the mountain lions can pose a risk.

Fox Theatre

The Fox Theatre first opened its doors in 1929 and was originally named the Sequoia Theatre. Shortly after opening, it was purchased by the Fox West Coast Chain, who subsequently changed the theatre’s name. In 1993 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

At present, the Fox Theatre is used for a variety of live events and is a fixture in downtown Redwood City. In total honesty, most of the events will likely not be of interest to you. But just because you won’t have things to do inside, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a stop by its exterior while walking through downtown.

Fox Theatre sign illuminated at night in downtown Redwood City

The Dragon Theatre

The Dragon Theatre is a nonprofit in Redwood City offering entertainment to the public and training and community to aspiring playwrights.

Obviously, things are a little different right now because of you-know-what, but they’re currently offering drop-in virtual writing sessions. Each month they offer Dragon Eggs: playwrights can submit short plays and the theatre will select a few to perform. Audiences can tune in to watch the performances (admission is by donation). They also offer improv classes!

Boutique Shops

Madison Ave

Madison Ave is one of my favorite shops downtown. It’s owned by two women and features bohemian-style clothing, homewares and – my personal favorite – plants! This is where I go to buy most of my plants and pots.

The Record Man

The Record Man has an impossibly extensive vinyl record collection. For any music-lovers reading this, make sure you check it out and pick a few old classics and new materials.

Whearley & Co.

I recently discovered Whearley & Co. – this is a boutique home décor store, with beautiful blankets, pillows, kitchen items, candles and, my favorite, preserved flowers. I’ve been making bouquets out of them for my apartment (I travel a lot so regular houseplants have been tricky to maintain). Check it out!

Seasonal Things to do in Redwood City

I did not expect Redwood City to be so lively. I was expecting a sleep city-turned-suburb with minimal downtown activity. In reality, Redwood City has a vibrant downtown, specifically around the Square and Theatre District.

Since moving to the area, it seems like there is an event or festival going on every weekend. Some events are designed for families (like the circus) and others are cultural in nature (like Día de los Muertos). In general, this is a great way to experience the community and get to know people.

Movies and Live Music

Music in the Park – For eight weeks between July and September, there are bands in Stafford Park each Wednesday.

Movies on the Square – There is a movie double feature each Thursday between July to September, with the first movie being a kids’ movie and the second movie being an adults’ movie.

Music in the Square – For eight weeks between July and September, Redwood City hosts live bands at Courthouse Square each Friday.

Annual Salsa Festival

The Annual Salsa Festival is an event dedicated to all things salsa – salsa music, salsa dancing and, most deliciously, salsa tasting (there’s a professional and amateur salsa dip competition!). The festival stretches over 11 blocks of Redwood City’s downtown, on Broadway, Middlefield and the Theatre district. In addition to salsa-related things, there are other food vendors, crafts and live music.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, there’s even a tequila tasting!

Día de los Muertos Celebration

The Day of the Dead occurs on November 1st and 2nd and is a time during which Mexican American communities pay respects and celebrate the relatives who have passed on. In addition to paying respect, many communities celebrate the dead with beautiful and boisterous celebrations. During this time, the Casa Círculo Cultural and the San Mateo County History Museum host Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. There’s music, dancing, artists and traditional Mexican food.

Other Seasonal Events in Redwood City

Mardi Gras Festival – February

Oktoberfest – End of September

Zoppé Italian Family Circus – End of November

Hometown Holiday – Saturday in December

San Mateo Museum, one of the most popular things to do in Redwood City

Where to Eat in Redwood City

Okay, so there aren’t exactly a lot of things to do in Redwood City, but there are a lot of things to eat. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I do love food and hate cooking, so I’ve tried out a lot of restaurants around Redwood City, primarily in the downtown core. Here are my recommendations.

Vesta – Incredible Pizza

This is my favorite pizza place in the city. They also have a mean butternut squash soon occasionally. On my last visit there, I had the Sausage & Honey pizza at the recommendation of my waitress and it was incredible. (Tastes better than my crappy photos – sorry! Also, don’t mind my weird yellow drink. I experimented with a Hard Kombucha and it was… interesting.)

Vesta is right downtown on Broadway with plenty of outdoor seating.

Milagros – My Favorite Mexican Food

Milagros is the restaurant I go to the most often in Redwood City. The food is excellent, and the portions are very generous for the price point. I most recently had the steak fajita and was pleasantly surprised by how much steak they included! I also love the freshly made guacamole and the fish tacos.

Another great thing about Milagros is the patio – this must be the best patio in the entire city! It’s beautiful and humungous!

Zareens – Amazing India Food

I absolutely love Indian food and Zareens is the best spot I’ve tried thus far. I was actually reluctant to try it out because the decor and signage look kind of… hipster-like and I didn’t think a hipster joint could do good Indian food. Well, I finally tried Zareen and I was definitely wrong. Amazing food (especially the lamb rogan josh).

On a separate note, Zareens has the speediest takeout service I’ve ever experienced. I placed my order and hadn’t even finished checking my email before my food was ready.

Coffeebar – The Best Cafe in Redwood City

This is my favorite cafe in Redwood City. They have great espresso drinks and a solid suite of baked goods (try the cheesecake bites). The energy is what I like most about it though. It’s quiet enough to work, but there’s enough activity buzzing around to keep me alert (the double espresso shots in the latte help as well).

Coffee bar sign illuminated at night in downtown Redwood City

Mints & Honey

Technically Mints and Honey is in San Carlos, but it’s only about 20 feet from the border of Redwood City so I’m going to include it. This is an amazing breakfast/brunch/lunch/cafe. There are tons of flavorful coffees and teas, and both sweet and savory breakfast items.

My favorite order by far is the Toast Sampler, where you get four slices of toast with toppings. The last time I was there I got 1) avocado and poached egg toast, 2) strawberries and ricotta toast, 3) Nutella and berries toast and 4) smoked salmon toast.

There’s also a ton of waffles and a Waffle Sampler!

Mademoiselle Collete – Pastries

Although Coffeebar is my favorite cafe for coffee and working, I don’t really like their food. So if I want a pastry or a light meal, Mademoiselle Collete is a much better option. This French-style cafe has some incredible pastries (like the Almond Chocolate Croissant).

I haven’t tried any of their cakes yet (they’re made for 6-8 people and I haven’t had an occasion to buy one yet) but they look so good and beautifully decorated.

Quinto Sol – Magnificent Margaritas

Although Milagros is my favorite Mexican restaurant, Quinto Sol a close second. I love the restaurant itself – it’s got a fun and lively interior, but what I love is the heated patio outside. I recommend the enchiladas, the guacamole and the chicken and pulled pork tacos.

But most importantly, I recommend the margaritas. They have a full menu just for margaritas – there must be at least 15 different drinks on that list. I usually just go for the classic one, but I’ve tried a few of the others and they’re all pretty good.

Blacksmith – The Best Bar in Redwood City

I’m not much of a bar person anymore, but I do go to Blacksmith occasionally. There is a menu of yummy cocktails, as well as all the regular drinks you’d expect at a bar. I’ve only been on Friday and Saturday nights, but at those times the crowd has been a lot of fun.

Blacksmith bar sign illuminated at night in downtown Redwood City

Final Thoughts on Things to do in Redwood City

I hope you’ve found this list helpful and have added some fun things to do in Redwood City to your to-do list. I’ll update this post as I explore the city, so check back for updates!

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4 thoughts on “A Local’s Guide on the Best Things to do in Redwood City

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  2. Cayo says:

    I’ve lived in Redwood City over 50 years, why are you including places that are actually in Woodside? What about Union Cemetery and the historical homes walking tour?

    • Mikaela says:

      The purpose of the article was to give people in Redwood City some ideas of things to do that didn’t require a ton of driving. Since Woodside is so close to Redwood City, some of the activities are technically in Woodside. Also, there isn’t an obvious distinction between what is Redwood City and what is Woodside (i.e., Woodside Plaza is in Redwood City, not Woodside. Half of Edgewood Park is considered Redwood City, while half of it is Woodside). I’ll check out the historical homes walking tour though – sounds like a good addition to the list!

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