Situated south of the lively streets of San Francisco, Daly City is a small city worth adding to your travel bucket list.
Like its bigger neighbors, the city offers sprawling parks, a gorgeous coastline, lively markets, shopping centers, and more.
If you’re looking for the next city for your vacation or a quick day trip, check out this list of the best things to do in Daly City, California!
Marvel at the Coastal Views From Thornton State Beach
Thornton State Beach is a rugged 58-acre protected beach with a relaxing setting, providing visitors with a welcome change of scenery.
Unlike beaches in California with a lively atmosphere, the state beach is relatively remote and peaceful but is still worth visiting.
It also has a Mediterranean climate, so you may want to dress in layers as it tends to be windy, foggy, and cold throughout.
Visit Thornton State Beach and breathe in the fresh air and take in the views of the tall bluffs and rolling hills.
You can have a picnic, walk on the shore and go beachcombing, or hike for unparalleled coastline views.
Walking north along the shore will lead you to Phillip Burton Beach, while Mussel Rock Park is your next nearest destination if you walk south.
Shop at the Daly City Farmer’s Market
Check out the stalls at the Daly City Farmer's Market for fresh produce, delicious homemade food, and locally-made products.
Located at the Serramonte Center, this farmer’s market started in 1991 with only 22 farmers.
Through the support of the residents and their loyal customers, the market now features more than 50 vendors and farmers showcasing fresh harvests of the season.
Support local growers while maintaining a sustainable and healthy lifestyle and purchase fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and more at the Daly City Farmer’s Market.
Find a diverse selection of products ranging from Asian vegetables and various French, German, and Italian delicacies and products.
Bring your reusable bags should you plan on shopping at the market to help reduce plastic waste.
Explore Mussel Rock Park
Visiting Mussel Rock Park is one of the best places in Daly City, boasting a rocky coastline with panoramic ocean vistas and plenty of hiking trails.
The park got its name from Mussel Rock, a rock formation nearest the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
For adventure seekers, Mussel Rock Park is the perfect location for paragliding, letting you see the area differently.
For a more relaxing activity, you can hike along the trails, go beachcombing during the low tide, or enjoy an al fresco dining experience with a relaxing picnic.
Although the trail in the park is paved, it can be pretty steep, so wear comfortable shoes and be careful during vertical portions of the area.
Dine at Boulevard Cafe
Boulevard Cafe offers customers a family-friendly setting and elevated American comfort food from breakfast to dinner.
The restaurant has been around since 2005 and is conveniently located along John Daly Boulevard, making it a popular dining option in the city.
It’s also near places of interest like Thornton State Beach, Westlake Shopping Center, Lake Merced Golf Club, and Westlake Park.
Use sustainably sourced and raised beef, seafood, and poultry to have a memorable and satisfying dining experience at Boulevard Cafe.
Start your day with a plate of corned beef hash & eggs, buttermilk pancakes, or a breakfast sandwich, or try the burgers, sandwiches, and pasta for lunch or dinner.
Meanwhile, restaurant specialties include grilled NY steak, meatloaf, Yankee pot roast, and Greek-style grilled lamb chops.
Hit the Lanes at Classic Bowling Center
Challenge your family and friends to a friendly yet competitive bowling game at Classic Bowling Center along King Drive.
The bowling alley complex has a full-service cafe, a pro shop, a comprehensive arcade, and a sports bar.
While other bowling centers have 12 or around 20 lanes, Classic Bowling Center boasts an impressive 60 lanes, with bumper bowling lanes for kids to practice.
Enjoy a couple of bowling games and refuel with snacks like fish & chips, chicken nuggets, and tacos at the snack bar between your games.
You can also head to the arcade and play old-school games or drop by the sports bar for a drink.
The bowling complex closes late into the night, so this is an excellent option if you’re looking for last-minute and late-night entertainment in Daly City.
Shop 'til You Drop at Serramonte Mall
With hundreds of retail stores and vendors, Serramonte Mall has been Daly City’s premier shopping destination since its opening in 1969.
The mall has everything you need: clothing stores, sporting goods stores, international and local restaurant chains, and cafes.
Some establishments at Serramonte Mall include Macy’s, Target, Uniqlo, H&M, and more.
On the other hand, the dining options in the mall include Panda Express, Jamba Juice, Cinnabon, Chick-fil-A, and even international fast-food chains like Jollibee.
The mall also has several electric vehicle charging stations, so those traveling with their EVs can plug in their chargers before or after their shopping trip.
Hang Out at Palisades Park
Palisades Park is a small city park with stunning beachside views, perfect for small gatherings or a quick picnic.
The park has a vast green space, a children’s playground, picnic tables, and a fenced area where dogs can run off-leash.
You can play frisbee and catch or watch your children play and have fun at the swings, monkey bars, and slides.
If you’re traveling with your pets, bring them to Palisades Park and treat them to a day out at the small dog park.
Note that the park has little to no shade, so bring umbrellas and sunscreen to protect yourself from the heat.
Stock up at Westlake Shopping Center
Westlake Shopping Center prides itself in being one of the earliest malls in the country, opening in April 1951.
Unlike typical malls with a large indoor setup, the mall has several buildings, so you can easily spend a few hours checking out one shop to another.
It also features open-air pedestrian promenades, making it an ideal location for outdoor concerts, art shows, fairs, and other community events.
Go on a premier shopping experience at Westlake Shopping Center and check out its impressive list of retail stores.
Meanwhile, the mall offers restaurants and other dining options like Banana Island Restaurant, Safeway, Starbucks, Chipotle, and more.
Ride a Horse at Mar Vista Stables
Explore the beautiful Thornton State Beach on horseback with Mar Vista Stables, a trusted local activity provider established in 1988.
The family-owned and operated business has over 20 horses and offers a private boarding facility for owners and leasers.
Whether an experienced rider or a beginner, you should feel safe on a trail ride at Thornton State Beach and Ocean Beach.
Catch dramatic views of the coastal bluffs, rolling hills, and shoreline on horseback on an hour-long guided trail ride with Mar Vista Stables.
Along the way, you can see wildlife species such as dolphins, whales, seals, and birds.
Aside from trail rides, you can join group or private horse riding and horsemanship lessons.
Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Gellert Park
Gellert Park is one of the largest parks in Daly City, strategically located between residential and commercial areas.
You can easily visit the park during your city exploration with its location.
Sporting facilities include soccer fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and a children’s playground.
It also has a large clubhouse perfect for small gatherings and events, as it can accommodate more than a hundred guests.
Given all these fantastic facilities, Gellert Park is one of the best places to visit on a lovely afternoon.
You can picnic, walk your dog in the grassy area, play games at the courts, and watch your kids play on the slides.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Relax at San Bruno City Park
It’s only an 11-minute drive from Daly City, perfect for those who want a relaxing activity without traveling far from the city.
For fitness and sports enthusiasts, San Bruno City Park has tennis courts, a football field, and an open space to play frisbee or catch.
There’s also a walking trail for a quick run before or after a meal.
If you prefer a less physically strenuous activity, use the picnic areas, picnic shelters, and grills and have a barbecue lunch with the family.
Enjoy a Family Day at Lemos Farm
Located 23 minutes from Daly City, Lemos Farm is a farm-themed amusement park where you can take the family out for a fun day.
Go on pony, train, and hay rides at Lemos Farm, or teach your children the basics of driving at the Car Barn.
At the petting zoo, guests can also pet and feed farm animals like baby goats, sheep, rabbits, and pigs.
Other attractions include a haunted house, inflatable slides, and barn jumpers.
Visit Gray Whale Cove State Beach
Situated along the famous Highway 1, Gray Whale Cove State Beach is a relatively secluded area featuring sheltered coves and tall cliffs.
It has trails connecting to nearby parks like Montara Mountain and McNee Ranch State Park.
Although the beach isn't relatively safe for swimming, visitors can enjoy other activities like geocaching, beachcombing, surfing, and more.
If you’re lucky, you may see gray and humpback whales migrating from December to January and March to April when they return.
Gray Whale Cove State Beach is in Half Moon Bay, only a 13-minute drive from Daly City.
It’s an ideal destination for a quick trip outside the city.
Hike the Trails at San Bruno Mountain State & County Park
The 2,416-acre park is also one of the area's geologically and ecologically unique sites, serving as a habitat for the rare Mission Blue butterfly.
Go on a hike at the park and catch stunning views of San Francisco, Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, and the rest of the Bay Area.
Those with limited mobility can take the Bog Trail, while those looking for a challenge can take the Eucalyptus Loop Trail.
San Bruno Mountain State & County Park is only four minutes from Daly City, so it’s a popular choice for a quick day trip from the city.
Treat Your Kids to Coyote Point Recreation Area
With facilities and amenities such as a themed playground and science exhibit, this is one of the best places to bring your children.
The Magic Mountain Playground has a castle and dragon theme, with 11 slides, 13 swings, balance beams, and a 42-foot-tall castle that makes them feel like knights or queens.
On the other hand, let your kids have an up-close encounter with animals and satisfy their curiosity on a visit to CuriOdyssey, a science museum, and zoo.
For the grown-ups, Coyote Point Recreation Area has plenty of picnic areas to rest, recreational trails for hiking and biking, and a small beach area for sunbathing.
San Francisco and San Jose may be on everyone’s list of cities to visit in California, but one shouldn’t miss Daly City.
Its scenic coastline, large green spaces, and world-class malls offer visitors plenty of activities perfect for day trips or more extended weekend vacations.
On your way to San Francisco, consider visiting Daly City.
With this list of the best things to do in Daly City, California, you’re set for a fun getaway!