San Bruno is a quiet family-friendly suburb in the greater Bay Area.
With great scenic hotspots in every direction, head to the coast or one of the many scenic hillside parks to soak up the rugged splendour of the Bay.
In addition to Bruno’s many sites of natural beauty, the city has great links to the museums, galleries, and shopping districts that this region of California is praised for.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around San Bruno, California.
1. Hike San Bruno Mountain
Looming over hilly San Bruno, this mountain in the midst of San Francisco is a popular hiking spot that gives its visitors a 360-degree panorama over the Pacific Ocean. The area around San Bruno is notorious for its ocean fog, and from the peak of this lofty mountain, the blanket of ethereal mist below looks quite magical.
Follow the hiking trails here for swathes of wildflowers, rare plants, and pickable fruit, or bring a bike to traverse the hilly peaks and take in fresh sea breezes that make a welcome break from the city traffic below.
2. Try the Slide at Junipero Serra Park
Despite its location in the midst of a large patch of urban sprawl, San Bruno is blessed with many great green spaces. Junipero Serra, named for the Spanish Friar, “the Apostle of California” who found this hilly spot in the 18th century, is one of the best.
The hills here rise up above San Francisco, providing great views over the bay, and the creek and woodland constitute a well-protected wildlife zone.
Wander amongst the ancient trees, or find the infamous mega-long slides in the playground here, much loved by kids and adults alike.
3. Race at the K1 Go-karting Track
Located just north of San Bruno, this popular racetrack is a super-fun, highspeed way to spend an afternoon.
With comfy carts and cool helmets, you’re sure to feel like a professional race-car driver. You’ll even get to stand on a podium to collect the trophy if you win.
Try one of their sprint run races for a high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled experience, or take an endurance test if you want a real challenge
When you’re done racing, hit the café for snacks and drinks, or try out the little arcade area for extra games.
4. Visit the SFO Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum
Located next to San Francisco Airport, this great museum and library is located in what was once the old passenger lobby in the 1930s. The building itself is a wonderful piece of retro architecture, and it’s worth a visit just to explore.
You’ll find a forest of model planes all over this little museum, and there are lots of cute exhibits to explore. Discover the fascinating history of commercial flights, or visit the library to find aviation-based tomes to peruse at your leisure.
Finally check out the aviation-themed art section, one of the museum’s best features.
5. Stroll Along Pacifica Pier
Located just west of San Bruno, take a day trip to the coast and visit this 400-meter-long pier and fishing spot.
Once used to disperse sewage into the Pacific Ocean, this pier has completely transformed into a spot for sunbathers and ice-cream eaters, as well as local fishermen. Many people come here in rough weather, to watch enormous waves come hurtling over the pier.
The area around the Pacifica is also famous for its great natural beauty, and the rough headland here is frequently bright with wildflowers and makes for great hiking.
Before you leave, be sure to stroll along the adjoining beach, or sip on a coffee at one of the local cafes while you watch the sun sink into the ocean.
6. Swim at the Orange Memorial Park
Another of San Bruno’s great local parks, Orange Park has all the amenities you could possibly want. Aside from its great baseball, basketball, and soccer fields, this park is full of visitors in hot weather because of its lovely indoor swimming pool.
If you’re here with family, take the kids to the adventure playground here or settle down for a BBQ at one of the grill pits.
This green space is a hub for community events and hosts a local farmers’ market at regular intervals. Check the dates to pick up some wonderful organic produce and local handicrafts.
7. Take a Tour of Sam’s Castle
San Bruno is just minutes from one of the Bay Area’s most unusual buildings, Sam’s Castle in Pacifica.
This mysterious manor house is modeled on a medieval castle and is filled with fantastic antique objects. Its many eccentric owners have added layers of history to the building, and the castle has a long and peculiar history. It has served as an illegal abortion clinic, a speakeasy during the prohibition era, and a coastguard station during WWII.
Come here for some high tea among the battlements and soak up this quirky gem’s odd history.
8. Take a Trip to the Peninsula Art Museum
Just ten minutes south of San Bruno, this great museum is both a performing arts centre and a local gallery. The museum specializes in art made by local artists, and it rotates its exhibits each month.
Set in a local manor house, the museum and its grounds have a welcoming and friendly feel. You can visit the adjoining studios where a bohemian community of artists has set up camp.
If you get the chance, stay for the evening to receive professional tuition from world-class painters and sculptors.
9. Do a day trip Mussel Rock Park
One of the Bay Area’s top attractions, head to the coast to experience the wealth of activities available at this popular local landmark. The park here is named after a large rock formation in the Pacific which makes for great photo opportunities if you can get close enough between crashing waves.
This moody, often foggy, and rugged landscape is popular with those who like to clamber as well as those who enjoy wind and watersports.
From the cliffs, you can watch colourful paragliders glide across the bay — alternatively, why not don a suit and try it out yourself?
10. Experience some Fine Dining at JC Bruno’s
This popular local restaurant is one of San Bruno’s best, and its chefs serve up fantastic modern-Mediterranean, French, and American classics to a very high standard.
JC’s has a quality of service and culinary excellence you would normally have to travel into downtown San Francisco to experience.
Particularly well-loved for their range of fresh, lobster-based dishes as well as their great Italian desserts such as Tiramisu and Pancotta, JC’s has remained consistently top-notch since it first opened.
Bring a bottle of wine or some beer, and enjoy the best of San Bruno’s local gastronomy.
11. Play a Game at the Artichoke Joe’s Casino
This old casino in the heart of San Bruno dates back to 1916 when it first opened as a pool hall. The building became a hub for gambling when the area was still surrounded by farmland. When the proprietor was asked how he’d pay off the debt if the house lost, he replied “in artichoke leaves”. So it was that Joe’s Artichoke Casino was born.
Nowadays, the building is much grander than it was when it was a pool hall in the 1920s, but it still has a cosy, community feel, and it is a friendly place to play a hand of blackjack or poker with the locals.
Come here for the onsite steak restaurant, or stay to drink at the bar while the professionals play their hands.
12. Pay your Respects at the Golden Gate National Cemetery
One of the biggest war cemeteries in California, many people make the pilgrimage here to learn more about US history and pay homage to the dead.
Rows upon rows of little white tombstones stand in silent memorial here to the legions of Americans who died in World War Two. Many who come here find the sheer scale of the graveyard deeply moving.
Pop in just to look, or do some research to find some of the more famous graves here.
13. Check Out the South San Francisco Museum
The South San Francisco Historical Society runs various small branches across the area including at Chestnut Avenue just north of San Bruno.
Curated by a group of enthusiastic locals, this museum is dedicated to promoting the area’s little-known history.
You’ll find lots of artifacts and documents here which explore how the Spanish settled the bay, and how it developed into a thriving urban centre.
Check out the oral histories for some great local stories.
14. Walk Out to San Bruno Point Park
If you do a walking tour of the city, you will eventually end up at this lovely little oceanfront park to the east of the city.
Located next to San Francisco airport, lots of people come to this quiet oasis of nature to get away from the noise of the heavily industrialized area beyond.
Follow the grassy hiking trails to the park’s furthest extent which gives you great views over the glassy waters of San Francisco bay.
15. Take a Trip to the Shelldance Orchard Gardens
This orchard garden overlooking the Pacific Ocean makes for a lovely day trip from nearby San Bruno. Many clifftop hiking trails in the area will inevitably lead you to this garden centre and popular rest stop.
Notoriously difficult to grow, the orchards on show here thrive in this well-tended local garden, and there are many unusual species are on display here for plant enthusiasts to examine.
If you are green-fingered enough to handle the demands of raising an orchard yourself, pick up one of your own in the adjoining gift shop.