Just Opened: Tomatina in San Mateo

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Located in the heart of kid-friendly downtown San Mateo, this brand new Italian restaurant fits right with the existing local family favorites. Tomatina’s boistrous atmosphere, surprisingly eclectic kid’s menu and delicious grown-up fare make it a can’t-miss for your entire family. Plus, with seven locations all over the Bay Area, you won’t have to drive far to get in on the goodness, no matter where you live.

Tomatina Pizza

Photo: Tomatina

No Silent Suppers
Like any authentic Italian dinner, things can get loud—in the best way possible. The atmosphere at Tomatina is lively, a bit noisy, and totally casual—you won’t get any sideways glances when a fork (or plate, or glass of water) inevitably crashes to the ground. Best of all, the menu and service are very accommodating to families with small children, and if you’re bringing the whole brood, you’ll likely be in good company, as families with young kids are plentiful here. If it’s not insanely busy, bring your kids up to the pizza-making station, where they can watch dough being tossed around and pizzas bubbling in the giant hearth.

Tomatina Piadine

Photo: Tomatina

Choices, Choices, Choices
The menu is massive, so while ordering may not be an easy decision (for you or your bambino) it’ll be hard to mess this up, as everything is so tasty. Our advice is to just go nuts and try a little bit of everything. If you’re the lucky parent of a kid who craves crudité, start with the veggie dippers or Caesar salad from the kid’s menu to keep hungry tummies happy while the mains are being prepped. Got kids who are more into carbo-loading? Go with a round of a Tomatina’s specialty—garlic rolls—fresh baked and swimming in olive oil and fresh garlic. For your entrees, count on classics like lasagne, ravioli and spaghetti but do try what Tomatina has come to be known for: Piadine. What is a pee-yah-dee-nay? It’s basically a delicious mound of cool salad atop a fresh baked flatbread. Fold it up, eat it like a pizza, or eat it like a salad. However you eat it, it’ll be scrumptious. Also worth a mention are the oven fired pizzas. You just might want to order a large, because you’ll probably end up sharing this one with the little mouths at your table.

Tomatina Spaghetti

Photo: Tomatina

The Perks
There are even more good reasons you will want to frequent Tomatina, aside from the great atmosphere and delicious food. They have a loyalty program that’s easy to manage, and will quickly reward you for dining with them. Get one point per dollar spent, and after your first 200 points, you will automatically get $10 deducted from your next bill. No coupons necessary. Plus, every Thursday, kids eat free during dinner hours.

Tomatina Oven

Photo: Tomatina

So, make an afternoon of it. Tomatina is just a few doors down from Talbot’s Toyland, where your kids can play throughout the display of outdoor toys and race cars around their electric racetrack. Next stop, and next door, is Scribble me Happy, which offers open studio from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on Thursdays. Now, you’re only steps away from dinner. Shop, play, paint, then eat up the rest of your afternoon at Tomatina!
401 S. B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-918-5030
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Online: Tomatina.com

—Heather Rodgers

What’s your favorite thing on Tomatina’s menu? Let us know in the comments below.

Bay Area Sandboxes We Really Dig

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If it were left up to our kids, summer would probably be endless, with warm temperatures and water play every day of the year. But, with the mercury falling, it’s time to shift gears from surf to turf, and usher in a new season of sandbox fun. We’ve done the sifting for you, and have found the Bay Area’s most stupendous sandboxes. So, stock your trunk with buckets, shovels, diggers and dump trucks— and maybe a dust buster—because the parks on this list will have your little one getting down and dirty across the Bay.

Seven Seas Park, Sunnyvale

What you'll notice first is how sparkly and new this park is. But, leave it to your little one to seek out the sand, which follows the theme of the park—the sea!  This sandbox is a hidden treasure indeed, with the latest and greatest in sand play structure technology. 1010 Morse Ave. Sunnyvale, Ca 408-730-7751 Online: <a target="_blank" href="http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Departments/CommunityServices/Parks.aspx">sunnyvale.ca.gov</a&gt; <em>Photo: Heather Rodgers</em>fuck

What sandboxes do you and your little digger love to play in? Let us know in the comments below!

—Heather Rodgers

Belmont: The Most Wanted Suburb in the Bay

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Home prices are soaring on the Peninsula, and inventory is sparse. Enter real-estate hotspot Belmont. The baby boomers are moving on (read: cashing in), and leaving in their wake and influx of young families with young children. Belmont’s situated smack-dab between 101 and 280, in the middle of San Francisco and San Jose, with easy access to Hwy. 92, making it a commuter’s dream. Its average Great Schools elementary school rating of 9 make it a parent’s dream, too. Add in a small town, cozy feel and extremely friendly locals and you have a sought-after suburb on your hands.

Twin Pines

Play

Twin Pines Park
This park has a very enchanted feel throughout, starting with the gnarled, hollowed-out tree near the front entrance within which your kids can clamber, climb and peek through. Follow the path to find an enclosed playground with structures for both the littles and the bigs, plus a sandbox.  Keep following the path to the bridge that spans over babbling Belmont Creek and leads to a pavilion, picnic area and smaller playground, all of which have a very “secret hideaway” feel.  If you are feeling adventurous (and have your rain boots on-hand) explore down by the creek and splash around in the shallow stream. As if all of this isn’t entertaining enough, this park also hosts many seasonal festivals including the annual school district fundraiser, Save the Music, and the summertime Hungarian Heritage Festival.

1 Twin Pines Ln.
Belmont, Ca
650-595-7441
Online: belmont.gov

Belameda Park
This newer park was built alongside the also-newer Belmont Library, so it’s a great place to get the wiggles out before and after heading in to the library for one of their fun weekly activities like Lego Club or Imagination Playground.  Belameda Park is fully-enclosed and stays nice and clean year-round with two play structures, one for the little guys as well as one for the bigger ones, and also contains a small sandbox. Outside of the enclosed area, there is a swingset, picnic area and small meadow in which to run free, or plop down on a blanket to soak up some sun or have a picnic.

1100 Alameda De Las Pulgas
Belmont, Ca
650-591-8286
Online: smlc.org

Belmont Iceland
This ice skating rink has been open since 1966 and has a very nostalgic vibe. Join the ranks of skating greats like Brian Boitano – who has graced the ice with his blades – at one of the daily open-skate sessions. Or, send the kids off to daily or weekly Camp Freeze programs, where they’ll not only learn how to skate, but also get to ride the Zamboni, make snowmen, and take sled rides. How cool!

815 Old County Rd.
Belmont, Ca
650-592-0533
Hours: Open skate times vary, please visit website for details
Online: belmonticeland.com

Pump it Up
What do you get when you take four giant inflatable bouncers including slides, an obstacle course, a basketball “court,” add in a rock climbing wall and top it all off with a set of huge, foam building blocks?  You get a ton of fun! Pump it Up offers camps during school breaks, drop-in play times, and of course, hosts hoppin’ birthday parties.   

1309 Elmer St.
Belmont, Ca
650-352-5867
Hours:  drop-in play times vary, please visit website for details
Online: pumpitupparty.com

image3

 

Photo: Heather Rodgers

Eat

Village Host Pizza
Order your pizza, pasta, burgers and fries, grab a number and a roll of quarter from the bar, then spend your time waiting to eat in the mini arcade.  Your munchkins won’t even notice how hungry they are whilst playing on the vintage seated Ms. Pac Man game or trying their hand at The Claw.  Sure, they may run through that first roll well before your pizza is thoroughly baked, but with flat screens tuned to sports for dad and a well-stocked salad bar for mom, you won’t think twice about handing over more coins.

1017 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Belmont, Ca
650-591-6791
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Online: villagehostpizza.com

Cafe Bliss
This family run breakfast and lunch spot is delicious and quaint, with dad cooking up daily specials in the back, mom in the front-of-the-house, and daughter serving up the fresh, homemade food. Kids get the standard crayons and coloring sheets to bide their time, but it’s the food, not the dog-and-pony-show, that will keep you coming back.  The kid’s menu boasts items like hand-breaded chicken tenders, hand-pattied burgers and homemade mac-n-cheese that puts the blue box stuff to shame.

2039 Ralston Ave.
Belmont, Ca
650-595-1520
Hours: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., closed Mon.
Online: yelp.com

Lorenzo’s Sandwich Shop
If you have a kid that likes a sandwich, this is your spot!  Another family run gem, the owners, Dave and Marta, have been making sandwiches here for almost 30 years. Their special ingredient, aside from genuine love of all-things-sandwich, is their house made garlic sauce. Be ready to munch off-site, as this is a take-out joint only (and also cash-only, fyi).

911 Villa Ave.
Belmont, Ca
650-592-4321
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Closed Sun.-Mon.
Online: yelp.com

Coyote’s Mexican Cafe 
This place is FAST and has all the usual suspects to please your little niño’s palate.  Cheese quesadillas or platters overloaded with rice and beans are out in a flash, before your kids can even scarf down all the tortilla chips. The walls are adorned with bright, colorful art which kids love to check out, too.  Two doors down is Yoppi Yogurt, so be prepared for “pleeeease, mom?”

1003 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Belmont, Ca
650-595-1422
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Online:  yelp.com

Sushi Monster
Nothing scary about this monster! You’ll find lots of families with kids here, and you’ll be impressed by the chop stick skills of even the smallest of patrons. The sushi here is fantastic, and there’s even a “family meal” option, which includes a generous sampling from the Monster’s menu items. And yes, there is a kid’s menu, raw fish not included (no offense, child-foodies)!

955 Ralston Ave.
Belmont, Ca
650-595-3965
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2 p.m./5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Sunday
Online: sushi-monster.com

Whispers Cafe and Creperie 
Is it a meal, or is it dessert? Your kids might be confused when the “Whisper” crepe comes out, which houses strawberries, bananas, Nutella, cinnamon and brown sugar – yum! No matter, because this cute cafe has a little bit of everything, from eggs and bacon and all the breakfast staples, to salads, burgers and steak and salmon for dinner.  There’s an ample kid’s menu too, and, as we previously mentioned, there’s always those crepes.

390 El Camino Real
Belmont, Ca
650-594-0000
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-3 p.m./5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Online: whisperscafe.com

And for actual dessert…

Emay's

Photo:  Emay’s Sweet Shop


Emay’s Sweet Shop
 

There is candy to please every type of sweet tooth here at Emay’s. Fine Belgian chocolates, macaroons, giant cylinders filled with Jelly Bellys, and every type of gummy item known to man, including gummy fried eggs and gummy sour spiders.  Miss a chance to delight and frighten the kids all at once? Never!

1031 Alameda de Las Pulgas
Belmont, Ca
650-394-4244
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m.-7 p.m.
Online: emayssweetshop.com

Yoppi Yogurt
There’s probably nothing you haven’t seen before at this self-serve fro-yo joint, but why re-invent the wheel?  Pulling the lever to dispense your own frozen goodness never gets old, and neither does piling on toppings from the buffet of sweets.

1005 Alameda de Las Pulgas
650-598-9284
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Online: yoppiyogurt.com

Shop

Carlmont Nursery
While the word “nursery” conjures up images of babies and/or plants, you don’t necessarily think “kidstuff.”  But pop in to this nursery after lunch or dinner in bustling Carlmont Village, and you will see why it’s a kid’s delight. Meander through beautiful ornamental trees, peek through the live bamboo, and skip over the tiny bridges that run over Belmont Creek. There’s flowing water everywhere here (even a waterfall!) which is mesmerizing to young and old alike. And who knows, maybe you’ll come home with a centerpiece for your yard that doesn’t have three wheels and handlebars.

2029 Ralston Ave.
Belmont, Ca
650-591-6845
Hours:  Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wed. 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Online: carlmontnursery.com

Belmont Farmer’s Market
This market is wildly popular, and you can tell by the influx of car and foot traffic in the area each Sunday.  There’s usually live entertainment, and always a wide variety of local producers, including farms, dairies, bakeries, beekeepers, nurseries and a slew of other specialty booths. Grab some kettle corn for the kids while you shop for the week’s lunch box fillers.

Caltrain Parking Lot at El Camino Real and O’Neil St.
Belmont, Ca
Hours: Sundays, 9 a.m.-1p.m.
Online: pcfma.org

Do you have a Belmont favorite?  Let us know in the comments below.

—Heather Rodgers

San Mateo: The Peninsula’s Superburb?

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San Mateo is sprawling by Peninsula standards, with more than 16 square miles within its city limits, and around 100,000 residents, making it the most populous city on the peninsula. What to do with all that space? Build a ton of parks, develop a downtown that houses over 800 shops and restaurants, and sit back and watch the residents delight in all the family friendly places to go.

Paddock ParkPhoto: Bay Meadows

Play

Central Park 
This spacious and shady 16+ acre park, formerly of the Kohl Mansion property, is the hub of San Mateo’s major community events including the popular Summer Concert Series and springtime Eggstravaganza. Within all that acreage you’ll find aesthetics: koi swimming through the beautiful Japanese tea garden and bees buzzing about the fragrant rose garden; and playsthetics: two playgrounds, paved trails for scooting and biking, and a small electric train that runs round and around for $2 a spin.

50 E. 5th Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
650-522-7400
Hours: Electric train runs year-round Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; During summer, Mon.-Fri., 11a.m. – 3 p.m.
Online: cityofsanmateo.org

Beresford Park
In its current state, this park is aging and showing wear (there are plans in the works for a major multi-million-dollar overhaul that includes a splash pad) but kids do not seem phased by its senior status. There are two play areas here: one enclosed for the little guys and one for older kids, which boasts an old-school metal twisty slide that doubles as a human cannon—it will send your kids flying right out of its mouth! There is also a skate park for your tiny Tony Hawk, and the adjacent community center hosts all sorts of community classes and events, and is also home to the San Mateo Garden Center.

2720 Alameda de las Pulgas
San Mateo, Ca
650-522-7440
Online: cityofsanmateo.org

Ryder Park
Ryder is a standout because it offers the city’s only splash pad (currently shut off due to dry conditions), plus it’s relatively new, so it’s still sparkling and not showing much wear. This park sits along the Bay Trail, which makes it a great stop-off for those biking or hiking during summer months to enjoy a picnic and a cool-down. The playground features unique play structures, especially if you have a kid who loves to climb-or dangle!

1801 J. Hart Clinton Dr.
San Mateo, Ca
650-522-7400
Online: cityofsanmateo.org

Magic Mountain Playground
It is indeed quite magical here at this playground, with “underground” tunnel slides, a huge 2-story slide, and fun climbing structures like the big purple dragon. And, even though tot lots can sometimes feel like an afterthought, the one here is enormous, well-appointed and enclosed, too! You’ll see lots of families camped-out for the morning (the afternoon sun can get brutal) as this park holds interest longer than most due to the wide variety of playthings. It is also situated within the larger county-run Coyote Point Recreation Area, which is home to CuriOdessey, San Mateo’s only science and nature museum, as well as several beautiful hiking and biking trails and a small strip of beach in which your kids can splash and toss pebbles. Note that because this playground is within a county park, a $6 per-car entry fee is required.

1701 Coyote Point Dr.
San Mateo, Ca
650-573-2592
Cost: $6 per car
Online: smcgov.org

Paddock Park
This park is brand new and sits in the middle of the also-new Bay Meadows housing development. It’s not on the mommy radar quite yet, as it’s in the middle of a mass construction zone, but it won’t be long before it becomes super popular. For one, it’s fully enclosed. It also boasts a play structure for every age group, a great restroom (changing table!) and a clean and working water fountain. Adjacent, there is also an expansive lawn perfect for festivals and general running amuck. Each Monday from 3-5 p.m., Paddock hosts Momdays, providing live music, entertainment like magicians or puppet shows, and a great opportunity to connect with fellow parents.

28th Ave. & Paddock Way
San Mateo, Ca
650-522-7400
Online: cityofsanmateo.org

Junior Gym 
Flip off a springboard, somersault down a wedge mat, try your hand at the rings, balance on a beam, or fly through the air on the zip line. This is one super fun spot for your kids to burn off some energy and develop balance coordination in the process. Junior Gym offers drop-in play daily as well as small group classes, day camps and hosts jumpin’ birthday parties. Best of all, it’s family owned and operated and the owners lead most of the group classes.

811 S. B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-548-9901
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Online: juniorgym.com

Safari Run
Your kids will have a blast at this jungle-themed indoor play space, shooting down slides, clambering up tunnels and getting lost and found in the giant maze. There’s a separate area for toddlers, a lounge for parents, plasma TVs in every room and free wi-fi, too. All this means there’s chance your kids can burn off some steam while you catch up on e-mails. There are plenty of drop-in playtimes daily, in addition to classes and camps.

341 N. Amphlett Blvd.
San Mateo, Ca
650-342-1977
Hours: Open play times vary, please visit website for more information
Cost: $8/hr
Online: safarirun.com

Scribble Me HappyPhoto: Scribble Me Happy


Create

Scribble Me Happy 
This art studio was born as a response to budget cuts in local school based art programs, and from the love of art of two best friends. You can feel the love and the creative energy the minute you walk through their door and into this pretty, bright, pastel-accented space. One thing you’ll also notice is how spotless this place is—you won’t be afraid to have a seat in the kiddie chairs here! Register for one of their seasonally inspired classes (currently Winter Art and upcoming Valentine Art) or drop-in for the weekly Mommy and Me art class, although reservations are recommended, as this one tends to fill up. Also offered are classes taught in French that include a French-inspired art project, and sewing classes for adults. We think they should teach a class on how to keep a children’s art space looking as crisp, clean and pretty as they do!

411 S. B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-343-4119
Hours: Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Closed Mon.
Online: scribblemehappy.com

CuriOdessey

Photo: CuriOdessey

Explore 

Coyote Point Recreational Area 
This county park has lots to offer, all within the setting of a beautiful nature preserve. You can see Coyote Point as you’re coming in for a land at SFO; its green space stands out amid the concrete build-up of surrounding suburbia. You definitely feel like you’re out of the city once you enter the gates, though. Past the playgrounds and strip of beach to the left, you’ll start winding up towards CuriOdessey and through a Eucalyptus grove. Signs will direct you towards the marina, the museum, or one of seven hiking/biking trails. This rec area is also popular with windsurfers, which makes for colorful viewing on breezy days.

1701 Coyote Point Dr.
San Mateo, Ca
650-573-2592
Cost: $6 per car
Online: smcgov.org

CuriOdessey 
San Mateans are beyond blessed to have this museum in their backyard: this place is seriously cool, and so much fun for the entire family. The science exhibit is hands-on learning at its finest.  Kids can see the science behind waves, build a thingamajig at the pipes and fittings table, and work together to maneuver marbles through gears and cranks on the giant interactive marble run, then go watch honeybees coming-and-going through a clear tube connecting their clear hive to the great outdoors. Outside you’ll find an impressive collection of small wild animals, going about their business for all to see. Watch the bobcats swinging in their hammocks; the raccoons, Tilly and Pebbles, splashing around in their creek; the coyote canvassing his perimeter and the otters splashing playfully. There are lots of other animals on display here, too: owls, snakes, frogs, birds, and even a banana slug, to name a few. Outside food is allowed here, and picnics are encouraged in the designated area.

1651 Coyote Point Dr.
San Mateo, Ca
650-342-7755
Hours: Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Closed Mon.
Cost: $7/Adults, $7/children (13-17), $6/children (2-12), FREE/children 0-23 mos.; check calendar for FREE Community Days
Online: Curiodessey.org

 

Ravioli House

Photo: Heather Rodgers

Eat

Pizza My Heart 
Sure, it’s a chain, but they’ve got the whole pizza thing down, and on Tuesdays from 4-8 p.m., bring your kids in to make their very own pie, starting with fresh dough and ending with their choice of toppings. The newfangled touch-screen soda machine is a fun one, too.

140 E. 4th Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
650-344-9800
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: $7/make your own pizza including drink and T-shirt
Online: pizzamyheart.com

Pancho Villa
Sister to the San Francisco location, this taqueria was once described as “the French Laundry of taquerias.” Tacos, quesadillas, super burritos-all served out quick and fresh.  It’s also vegetarian-friendly, has a substantial salsa bar from which you san sample, and a juice bar in the back that cranks out amazing Agua Frescas. Be warned, peak lunch hours can be loco. Plan your visit accordingly.

365 B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-343-4123
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Online: smpanchovilla.com 

The Ravioli House
You can probably guess what’s the main dish here: homemade pillows of pasta, stuffed with everything from cheese, to spicy sausage, seafood and veggies. It is delicious and it is fresh, and if your kid likes pasta, you can bet he’ll like this place. One order of this perfection can feed a few kids (they’ll split one order into smaller portions, just ask), so this is one meal that won’t break the bank. Also on the menu are sky-high deli sandwiches and a cooler full of specialty sodas like ginger root beer and sarsaparilla soda. Also awesome? You can get sheets of the frozen ravs and containers of their amazing sauce to-go for a quick and restaurant-quality meal at home.

505 B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-344-7433
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Online: theraviolihouse.com

Heidi’s Pies
To call Heidi’s Pies a diner would be quite an understatement, but that’s the feel you get when you walk in and notice the classic padded bar stools and counter service. Belly up for novelty’s sake, or grab a table and prepare to be impressed when your server plunks down a kid’s menu/activity booklet that is about as fancy as any we’ve seen. There will be no issues finding fare for even the most finicky eaters here: smiley-face pancakes and chicken fingers served with milkshakes… dinner done!

1941 El Camino Real
San Mateo, Ca
650-574-0505
Hours: 24/7/365 – Yep, even on Christmas
Online: heidispies.com

Sharona's
Photo: Sharona’s Chocolates

 

Sweets

Dessert Republic 
As the name implies, this place has a fine selection of super fun desserts, some of which are designed to look like anything but. Highlights include the Cheesecake Ramen (looks just like a bowl of ramen complete with a fried “egg” on top—all sweets, all delicious) and the Tiramisu Pot (comes out as a “potted plant” a.k.a. mint, with crushed cookie dirt and pop rocks garnish). It’s just plain fun to come here and behold these creative and tasty concoctions. There’s also a full menu including dozens of rice and noodle dishes, tofu and dim sum. If your kids have any self-control (insert LOL here) let them take turns using the button at your table for beckoning your server. It never gets old buzzing for more ice cream!

138 Main St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-401-3570
Hours: Tue.-Thurs. & Sun., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Closed Mon.
Online: dessertrepublic.com

Sharona’s Chocolate Shop
Are you the parent of a chocoholic? Do you know someone who is? The confections they’re hand crafting at this chocolatier will give any sweet tooth the satisfaction it’s craving, and you won’t believe what they’re coming up with here. Think all the classics like truffles and peanut butter cups, to the following items smothered in chocolate: rice krispie treats, caramel apples, s’mores and even chocolate covered bacon and potato chips! Just try making it out of here with under a pound of SOMETHING. You can also book a fondue party. Dip, dip…horray!

128 E. 3rd Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
650-348-3128
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Online: sharonaschocolateshop.com

CREAM 
Cookies Rule Everything Around Me. This cookies-n-ice-cream franchise is popping up all over the Bay Area, and now it can call San Mateo home, too. It’s really very simple here. Select from one of 10 types of homemade cookies, then pick a flavor of ice cream in which to be sandwiched, then add some toppings. Bam! You have your own personalized ice cream sandwich. Also to try: ice cream tacos.

134 S. B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-344-2736
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 12 p.m.-12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 12 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., 12 p.m.-11 p.m.
Online: creamnation.com

Sidewalk Juice, SF, Peninsula
Photo:  Sidewalk Juice

Sip

Sidewalk Juice
This popular San Francisco juice bar can now be found at a sidewalk near you! Who needs a milkshake when there are smoothies on the menu like Chocolate Strawberry (chocolate soy milk, strawberries, Nutella, vanilla fro yo and ice)? While your kid guzzles that deliciousness down, go ahead and treat yourself to the Green Energy (spinach, parsley, kale, celery, cucumber, apple, lemon and ginger… whew!). After that powerful punch, you won’t feel guilty for sipping down the remainder of your kid’s chocolate smoothie. Why waste?

212 E. 3rd Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
650-548-5363
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
Online: sidewalk-juice.com

3 Bee’s Coffee House 
This cozy coffee house is a great place to stop in for a warm up during these chilly days of winter. Family run and family friendly, the owner, Rafat, will likely be your barista; serving up amazing lattes and chai teas, among many other specialty beverages. Warm up your wee ones with creamy hot chocolate loaded with whipped cream and select from lots of little bites for your whole crew to enjoy like bagels, cookies, muffins and pastries.
224 E. 3rd Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
650-344-2339
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sat., 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Online: 3beescoffee.com

Talbots

Photo: Heather Rodgers

Shop

Talbot’s Toyland
Toyland?  More like ToyWORLD.  Be prepared to be blown away by the size of this toy store, as well as the vast selection of kid stuff. And, while the mere idea of a trip to the toy store with tots in-tow can brew anxiety in even the most zen mama, you’ll have a shot here at a tantrum-free trip as kids are welcome to play in the outdoor cottage display, lay some tracks on the train table or cook up some imaginary edibles in the play kitchen. Head over to the hobby shop and watch your kids race mini Lamborghini around the electric track, then wind down on your way out at the wind-up toy race track, where you and your kids can test out the wacky wind-ups like classic chattering teeth and chimps banging cymbals. Before you know it, you’ve gotten everybody out the door, tears not included. Speaking of no-tears, Talbot’s will also assemble (you’re welcome, dad), deliver, gift wrap, and even store your purchased toys. Some fees may apply.

445 S. B St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-931-8100
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Online: talbotstoyland.com

Once Upon A Child 
Bay Area residents love to recycle, with no exception to baby and kid’s gear. At OUAC you can find gently used kid’s items at a fraction of the cost to buy new, ranging from clothing and toys to baby essentials like electric swings and bouncy seats. It’s also a great option for those fleeting seasonal needs like Halloween costumes, dance wear, snow gear and swimwear.

1878 S. Norfolk St.
San Mateo, Ca
650-458-3595
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Online: onceuponachild.com

Hillsdale Shopping Center
There is so much inside this mall for you and your little ones to do, see, and buy! Make sure to join their free Kid’s Club program to get offers and special invitations to events like the upcoming Chinese New Year Festival where you can watch a performance by the Red Panda Acrobats of San Francisco, try on one of their elaborate costumes, then make a Chinese lantern to take home. For some retail therapy, kid favorites include the Lego Store (your little engineers can busy themselves at the build-it station), Sanrio (Hello, Kitty!) and Build-A-Bear (the fluff machine is always fun!).

Sixty 31st Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
650-345-8222
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Online: hillsdale.com

San Mateo Farmer’s Market
There are over 100 vendors that participate in this mammoth of a market held at the College of San Mateo, and yes, you CAN do this one with kids. How? Head to the back of the market first, where the bakery is, to start off with a soft pretzel to share, then do some browsing/buying. Along the way, enjoy many free samples of everything from fruit and veggies to baked goods. Next, find the balloon artist, have him twist up a balloon minion or wiener dog, load up on more goodies, then find the kettle corn… repeat! You won’t even have to go home and scramble to make lunch, although with a tasty lineup of food trucks on site, you might want to pause for a bite. Add in live music, and this is a really fun morning out. Tip: to avoid high-traffic, show up 20 minutes early as most vendors are ready to vend by then; or show up late, when 30 minutes before closing, many fresh items are marked down for a quick sale.

1700 W. Hillsdale Blvd.
San Mateo, Ca
925-825-9090
Hours: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Online: pcfma.com

—Heather Rodgers

Where do you like to go in San Mateo? Let us know in the comments below! 

San Carlos: The City of Good Living

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San Carlos is deemed “The City of Good Living,” and through all of our in-depth reporting, we haven’t found any reason to argue. Its convenient location between San Jose and San Francisco, and easy access to Hwys. 101, 280 and Caltrain, make it a stellar option for those commuting either to the north or south. It’s also approximately one-quarter the size of San Mateo, yet manages to offer a wide variety of family friendly retail and dining options. The parks are pristine, the weather is great (average yearly daytime temps are in the 70s) and the vibe around town is lively. If you’re not already a suburbanite, a place like San Carlos could begrudgingly change your mind from “only the city life for me” to “hmmm, I could see living here.”

Crestview Park

Photo: Heather Rodgers

Play

Burton Park 
This peninsula favorite attracts families from all over, and for many good reasons. It’s recently been renovated, so the spongy turf is still in-tact and the play structures are of the newer variety. For some, the main attraction is the giant sand box, which is sunken, shaded and tiered. Other highlights include a splash pad (currently on hiatus due to dry conditions); a paved path perfect for scooting, biking and skating; a separate enclosed toddler area with its own shady sandbox, and an accessible swing set.

900 Chestnut St.
San Carlos, Ca
650-802-4382
Online: cityofsancarlos.com

Laureola Park 
Treehouse is the theme here, which will inspire lots of imaginary play. The bigger kids can climb a ladder through the trapdoor into their secret fort, then slide down a tall dugout “log” to make a quick escape. In the separate toddler area, there’s another treehouse much closer to the ground (ok, on the ground), small stumps to climb on and jump about, and tunneled out “logs” to run through and slide down. There’s also lots of paved space for ride-ons and the bathroom does have a changing table! Total winner, all around.

503 Old County Rd.
San Carlos, Ca
650-802-4382
Online: cityofsancarlos.com

Arguello Park
The setting is the highlight of this park, which lies at the bottom of a small canyon. Park at the top lot, accessible via Wellington Dr. and intro your kids to hiking on a pretty and not-too-steep trail that takes you over a bridge and down to the park below. The play structure is fun for all ages, and there’s a ball field with batting cages so bring equipment for your little slugger.

260 Wellington Dr.
San Carlos, Ca
650-802-4382
Online: cityofsancarlos.com

Crestview Park
Brand. Spanking. New! This fully renovated park opened in December and offers some fun and interesting features like the giant sandwich sculpture complete with fake ants. Odd, yes, but kids clamber all over it, and it’s a neat place to take a break, have a seat and nibble on the real thing. There’s also a trampoline, a fun (and still pristine) sandbox and great paved trails for riding around.

1000-A Crestview Dr.
San Carlos, Ca
650-802-4382
Online: cityofsancarlos.com

Rockin’ Jump
Lots of trampolines and lots of foam pits into which your kids can propel themselves. Is there anything else you need to know? Yes! There’s a great snack bar, free lockers so you can dump your diaper bag at the door and there are two little-kid jump days (Rockin’ Tots) so you have a little less to worry about as far as knocked noggins go. Tip: fill out your waivers online, in advance. Once your kids rush through the door, they will not want to wait around on mom doing paperwork!

401 Quarry Rd.
San Carlos, Ca
650-528-2036
Hours: Rockin’ Tots, Tues.-Wed., 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
Cost: $15/Adult+Child, $3/additional child
Online: sancarlos.rockinjump.com

Hiller Aviation Museum

Photo: Hiller Aviation Museum

Explore

Hiller Aviation Museum 
Overlooking San Carlos Airport, this museum is one-of-a-kind. Inside the massive hangar, the exhibit includes an impressive assortment of aircraft, from space-aged jet packs to helicopters and seaplanes, as well as the history behind each. Some of the craft are open for exploration: jump in and out of a fighter jet, “fly” a helicopter (which houses a flight simulator), and take a walk through an Albatross. Also indoors is a toddler area with a few ride-on planes, a playhouse cockpit, and some art materials. Outside, your pilot-in-training can pretend to be the real deal in the cockpit of a retired Boeing 747. Take the captain’s seat, grab ahold of the throttle, and listen to real, live air traffic chatter. Next to the plane you’ll find view of the neighboring airport’s runway, where kids can watch planes taking off and landing. There is special programming all week long, too, like the popular animal shows (birds riding bikes!) and food truck Wednesdays. Drop by the gift shop on your way out, which stocks plenty of high-quality toys and books for your little aviator.

601 Skyway Rd.
San Carlos, Ca
650-654-0200
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: $14/Adult, $9/Child, FREE/Children 4 & under
Online: hiller.org

The Reading Bug
This is one bug your kids will not run away from! Inside, you’ll feel like you are in a scene from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, with tall leaves towering above, and toadstoods as tiny seats. It’s enchanting, for sure. There’s a train table and small playhouse in the back, so they can play while you browse. There are also drop-in classes  and programs offered daily: choose from story times, crafts, prenatal fitness, adult yoga, book clubs, and opportunities to “meet the character.” On January 14, bring your kids to meet Bad Kitty!

785 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
650-591-0100
Hours: Tue.-Wed.&Fri.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Thurs., 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Online: thereadingbug.com 

Laurel Street Arts
Drop in anytime during business hours to paint your very own dish, animal figurine, vase, platter, picture frame… you get the idea! For a mere $8 studio fee, plus the cost of your chosen piece of pottery, your kid can create a masterpiece that might look best on grandma’s mantle. For mom, there are also drop-in glass fusion and mosaic classes.

733 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
650-591-1005
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 12 p.m.- 5 p.m.
Online: laurelstreetarts.com

Mi Ranchito

Photo: Heather Rodgers

Eat

Blue Line Pizza
Deep dish is the specialty here—you can even order the kid’s pizza Chicago style. The kid’s menu offers a few other surprises as well, as it’s taped to the back of a magna doodle! We bet they’ll draw the conclusion that they really like coming here.

1201 San Carlos Ave.
650-610-0200
Hours: Mon.-Thurs.& Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Online: bluelinepizza.com

Depot Cafe
This train-themed breakfast and lunch spot is located, as the name suggests, right at the San Carlos Caltrain station. It is housed in the historic landmark building underneath the tracks of Calrtrian, making it a fun place to watch all the trains coming and going, and people, too. There are plenty of menu items for kids, and the atmosphere is that of a diner, complete with the telltale “ding” of a bell when food is up. Very nostalgic, and very captivating for the train enthusiasts in your family.

599 El Camino Real
San Carlos, Ca
650-595-0555
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Online: yelp.com

Mi Ranchito Taqueria
This spot is as kid-friendly as it comes. Order at the counter (kid’s quesadilla, $2.99!), grab a table covered in a plastic (wipeable!) tablecloth, and it will not be long before everybody is happily filling their hungry tummies with cheesy goodness of some sort. The mexican rice is a crowd pleaser, the self-serve chips-n-salsa are no extra charge and the salsa is mild enough for everybody to scoop up. Don’t forget to order a round of fresh sugary churros for dessert!

660 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
650-592-0597
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Online: yelp.com

San Remo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria
So here’s the story: For 40 years, every day, San Remo’s cranked out hundreds of slices of their Italian-style thin crust pizzas to busy shoppers in the food court at Hillsdale mall. Now, San Carlos is home to their full service restaurant, which still features the same thin crust pizza, along with a full menu of Italian dishes. Rudy, the owner, likes to come by and meet and greet the families dining with him. It’s like a Tuscan fairytale inside, too; awnings and murals and very warm and cozy. Your kids will get crayons and a paper placemat on which to draw, but otherwise the main appeal here is great food and general family friendliness. Thanks, Rudy!

1152 San Carlos Ave.
San Carlos, Ca
650-654-9800
Hours: Tue.-Fri., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Mon.
Online: sanremossancarlos.com

Sweets

Zest Bakery
Sweet? Yes! Wheat? No! Everything made here is completely gluten-free. These folks even built their bakery from scratch to ensure that everything was perfectly free of gluten. Wedding cakes, muffins, donuts, cookies, bread, quiche and ravioli are just a few things you’ll find on their menu, which fluctuates daily based on local available ingredients. As they say at Zest, their food is great for Celiacs but good for everyone!  Check out their blog for humorous posts like their gluten free holiday survival guides and a guide to gluten free gift giving.

1224 Arroyo Ave.
San Carlos, Ca
650-241-9378
Hours: Tue.-Fri., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Mon., closed
Online: zestbakery.com

Susie Cakes
Brand new to Laurel Ave is this cakery that has taken California by storm with its beautiful and tasty layer cakes, cupcakes, minis and more. Grab whatever is striking your fancy and head a block South to Laurel Street Park, where you can plunk down on a shady bench and savor the sweets while the kids play around the small park and climb trees.
649 Laurel St
San Carlos, Ca
650-282-2253
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Online: susiecakes.com

Plantation Roastery

Photo: Heather Rodgers

Sip 

Plantation Coffee Roastery
Yours will be a coffee house kid in no time when you frequent this little joint, the oldest coffeehouse in San Carlos. It’s been around for 40 years, and the current owners have been running it for the last fifteen or so. They roast their own beans, and the aroma hits you from blocks away. Grab a pastry, muffin or one of their really good cinnamon rolls (ask to have it warmed just a little for max effect), and browse the cute little selection of children’s books. Have a seat to sip and read and mingle with the daily regulars. Kids are very welcome here!

668 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
650-592-3710
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 5 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 5 a.m.-12 p.m.
Online: yelp.com

—Heather Rodgers

Does your family have a San Carlos favorite that you frequent? Tell us below in the comments!