Located an easy 25 minute drive from San Francisco and a mere 30 minute drive from San Jose, San Mateo is a large, bustling, centrally located suburb. Downtown San Mateo contains over 800 shops and restaurants nestled in picturesque historical buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, built side-by-side with offices, apartments and government centers. A large Caltrain station makes commuting to and from San Francisco or Palo Alto easy and convenient, while Central Park in Downtown San Mateo boasts tennis courts, a rec center, picnic areas and more to occupy your weekends.
Typical one bedroom apartments in Downtown San Mateo will rent for between $2000 and $3000, so this is definitely not one of the more affordable neighborhoods. Most apartments include a fitness center, a public swimming pool, a tennis court, free parking and on-site laundry.
Naturally, rent prices vary depending on neighborhood. San Mateo Park is the most affluent and attractive part of San Mateo, but the landscape is dominated by single family homes and apartment prices soared as a result. More affordable neighborhoods include Hillsdale, Hayward Park, Baywood and Sugarloaf, but are located in more remote areas that lack the easy access to public transportation that makes San Mateo's downtown such an attractive location.
Downtown San Mateo is littered with entertainment options. For the athletic or family-oriented, Central Park contains not only the aforementioned tennis courts but also basketball courts, baseball fields, and playgrounds. One of the best entertainment options is a large movie theater with no less than twelve screens showcasing every genre you could think of. A Japanese Tea Garden, a miniature train and a thriving farmers market all round out the Downtown San Mateo scene.
Most apartments in San Mateo allow pets, some stipulating that certain dog breeds such as pitbulls, rottweilers and mastiffs are not allowed. Everywhere that allows pets require an additional pet deposit and fee per animal. While there is no dog park located in Downtown San Mateo, a short drive out to Seal Point brings you to one of the largest and best dog parks in the San Francisco Peninsula. Downtown also has plenty of pet care options for the day, with dog boarding and walking services along with a large number of vets and emergency pet centers, ideal for your everyday needs.
The city is connected to the rest of the peninsula not only through Caltrain but also by three major freeways, while its air traffic needs are served by three airports: the San Francisco International Airport, the Oakland International Airport and the San Jose Mineta International Airport. Although cars are very common on the West Coast and are definitely the most comfortable option, you may want to avoid the cost -- not to mention the stress of rush hour traffic on El Camino -- by boarding a bus or hopping a train.
San Mateo residents are zoned for schools in the San Mateo Foster City School District and the San Mateo Union High School District. San Mateo is home to many excellent public schools and several private ones, allowing for easy transition between public and private education if so desired. High school education consists of three public schools, San Mateo, Aragon and Hillsdale, and one private all male Catholic school, Juniperro Serra.