Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Hayward, CA

  • Published 2022/10/06

If you’re looking for an adventure from the hills to the shoreline, the City of Hayward in California is an accessible, diverse, and exceptional destination for travelers.

Known as the “Heart of the Bay,” Hayward is the sixth-largest city in the Bay Area, with around 150,000 residents.

You can find the city in Alameda County.

The city is home to California’s first Japanese gardens and has over 3,000 acres of open space and parks.

Aside from its natural attractions, Hayward offers other sites and destinations to keep you amused, thrilled, and entertained during your vacation.

Read more about the best things to do in Hayward, California, and know what makes this city extraordinary!

Go on a Hike at Garin & Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks

Hiking trail at Garin & Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks

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If you’re up for some outdoor recreation, Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks offer you a plethora of activities.

These adjoining parks were from two 19th-century ranches, where you can explore several acres of open space and miles of trails that will give you stunning views of the Bay Area.

You can also go on a picnic with your friends and families at the picnicking sites available in Garin.

Scenic view of Garin & Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks

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Learn more about the ranching and farming history of the city by checking out the artifacts and machinery featured at the Garin Red Barn Visitor Center.

On the other hand, Dry Creek features a historic cottage and garden with native and exotic plants to delight you.

You can access the Garin & Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks along Garin Avenue.

Sunset at Garin & Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks

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Unleash Your Creativity at Sun Gallery

Sun Gallery is a little gem along E Street that provides guests with a stimulating and creative experience.

The gallery organizes remarkable exhibits throughout the year on various themes while spotlighting emerging artists.

It gives space for exhibits promoting environmental protection and conservation as part of its advocacy to pique the interest of community members.

Bring a friend over to reflect and share impressions on the art pieces in the gallery, which opened its doors in 1976.

This is also perfect for families with young kids as Sun Gallery hosts bi-monthly free Art Saturdays filled with fun and creative activities.

Sun Gallery also has art parties facilitated by art educators if you want detailed and educational lessons on the art world.

Take a Swim or Enjoy Fishing at Don Castro Regional Park

You will find a 101-acre urban oasis between Hayward and Castro Valley popular among Alameda County residents.

The Don Castro Regional Park swimming lagoon is perfect for family vacations, with picnic tables, a bathhouse, and a sandy beach.

The lagoon has chlorinated and filtered water, so you can wade in clear blue waters.

Your kids can play and splash around the roped-off shallow area.

Take time to revel in the picturesque view of the park while taking a stroll or fishing at the San Lorenzo Creek Reservoir.

You may catch here a trout or catfish, among others, at Don Castro Regional Park.

Take a Peaceful Stroll at Hayward’s Japanese Gardens

Trail lined with bonsai trees at Hayward’s Japanese Gardens

Mercurywoodrose, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the must-see destinations in the city is Japanese Gardens, near the Hayward Senior Center on North 3rd Street.

The center has opened for more than 40 years.

It is the first Japanese garden in California, designed using traditional Japanese garden art principles.

The Hayward Japanese Gardens also hosted Hayward Union High School agricultural programs from 1913 until 1962, when the area was a future recreation and park site.

Observation deck at Hayward’s Japanese Gardens

Yougen Zhu, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Landscape designer Kimio Kimura constructed this 3.5-acre garden using native stone, rock, and California trees and plantings.

This quiet haven is perfect for leisure walks while enjoying the craftsmanship present in the area.

There are also pavilions and a bridge over a koi pond that is worth checking out.

Wooden bridge at Hayward’s Japanese Gardens

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Take a Breather at Kennedy Park

Kennedy Park is a famous attraction among families along Hesperian Boulevard.

It boasts several picnic sites, amusement rides, and vast play areas.

Kids will be thrilled by its playground with different swings and slides.

The Triple Pines Ranch is also a small animal farm where they can spot barnyard animals.

Other fun activities at Kennedy Park include a train ride on the bright-colored Kennedy Express that travels around the park and a ride on the merry-go-round.

Catch a Glimpse of Local History at McConaghy House

Exterior of the McConaghy House

User: (WT-shared) Mistoffeles at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Next to Kennedy Park is the McConaghy House, where you can explore some local history.

Neal McConaghy, a native of Antrim County in Ireland, built this large house for his family in 1888.

For over 84 years, the same family has owned and occupied the McConaghy House.

The Hayward Area Historical Society restored this structure into a house museum and became open for docent tours in 1976 with the help of several groups.

Likewise, the house also holds on-site self-guided tours of the first and second floors.

Buy Something Local at Hayward Farmers Market

Next to Hayward City Hall Plaza, you might want to check out Hayward Farmers Market for your local shopping experience.

The market has opened for over 20 years, providing fresh, healthy, and local produce for city residents.

Over 35 farmers, food producers, and artisans sell various items on site.

You can also find pastured eggs, baked goods, local seafood, cheese, honey, plants, and flowers at the Hayward Farmers Market.

There are also artisanal crafts and jewelry to choose from.

Take a Tour of Meek Mansion

Front view of Meek Mansion's exterior

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Another attractive historic house in the city is Meek Mansion at Boston Road.

William Meek built the mansion in 1869.

He was one of the pioneers of commercial agriculture in Alameda County.

Likewise, Meek has made several contributions to the county and participation in community services.

Learning the Meek family’s history will give you a better understanding and a more profound connection with the city and community.

Facade of Meek Mansion

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Marvel at the 150-year-old Meek Mansion rooms listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The architectural style of the mansion is not precisely defined, but most experts say it’s an Italianate-style home.

The Hayward Area Historical Society also notes it has survived earthquakes, wind, rain, and forms of artificial abuse.

Aside from the mansion tour, you can visit a park with facilities you may reserve and book for picnic dates, celebrations, and other events.

The grounds of Meek Mansion

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Find Rare Trees at Heritage Plaza

The Heritage Plaza is a recent addition to the city, which opened in 2021 and can accommodate gatherings and events.

Located at C Street, this plaza dates back to the formative days of Hayward in the 1840s.

Heritage Plaza aims to showcase and commemorate Hayward’s diverse culture and experiences.

It is perfect for short walks while you gaze at the beauty of over 40 species of rare and mature trees preserved on the site.

Some trees have stood tall for over one hundred years.

You can learn more about these trees in the placards installed as you navigate the winding “arboretum walk” paths.

Meanwhile, kids can spend time in the garden featuring nature-inspired exploration structures.

Play for Fun at Mission Hills Golf Course

If you love golf or want to experience playing one, you should head to Mission Hills Golf Course, near Industrial Parkway.

The nine-hole Hayward golf course of Mission Hills opened in 1999, promising an enjoyable game for every level of golfer.

This is a fantastic place for beginners to practice their golf swing at the lighted driving range with 45 double-decker stalls.

More importantly, the staff will help you find the right equipment and golf professionals to instruct you on your gameplay.

End your visit at the Mission Hills Café, where you can loosen up while appreciating the view of your surroundings.

Throughout the year, check out various fun events at the Mission Hills Golf Course.

Discover Charming Murals around Hayward

A mural at Hayward

John Pugh, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another remarkable aspect of Hayward is its Mural Art Program, instituted in 2009, a creative and proactive way to address the city’s surging problem of graffiti and vandalism.

As you walk the streets of Hayward, you will encounter over 200 art installations, such as murals and tile mosaics.

The largest mural installation finished in 2012 with 24-panel sections found along Jackson Street.

The beautiful and vibrant artworks from the Mural Art Program both exhibit and celebrate the diversity and stories of the community.

Some of these murals also represent the city’s picturesque landscapes, from the hills to the shoreline and local wildlife.

Learn about Local Wildlife at Sulphur Creek Nature Center

If you want to take a closer look at local wildlife, head to Sulphur Creek Nature Center near D Street.

This wildlife education and rehabilitation center are one of the two nature centers under the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (H.A.R.D.) to promote environmental awareness and stewardship.

Sulphur Creek Nature Center has local wildlife on display, educational programs, activities, and a discovery center that people of all ages can appreciate.

Connect personally with nature by hearing the stories of wild animals under rehabilitation with volunteers and staff help.

Birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles take refuge in this center tucked away in the Hayward Hills.

Connect with Nature at Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center

Exterior of Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center's building

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Another nature center of H.A.R.D. is the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, whose mission is to spark appreciation and respect for the San Francisco Bay Estuary.

Established in 1986, the center is along Breakwater Avenue, at the base of the Hayward-San Mateo bridge.

The exhibits, programs, and activities will show the estuary’s ecology, history, and significance.

Welcome sign of Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center

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After acquiring a deep knowledge of the estuary, you may visit the adjacent park and trail system known as the Hayward Regional Shoreline.

It features salt, fresh, brackish water marshes, seasonal wetlands, and public trails.

Some activities you can enjoy at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center are hiking, bird-watching, and fishing.

Salt marsh at Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center

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Sit Back and Chill at the Bistro

Visit the Bistro at B Street to taste the Hayward nightlife.

The Bistro has served a great selection of craft beer in downtown Hayward since 1994.

It also offers fine wine and appetizers made with the freshest ingredients available.

This is one of the famous places to hang out with your friends or meet new ones.

What makes it stand out is its nightly live music you can vibe on while enjoying a glass of cold beer.

The Bistro hosts various events, such as beer and music festivals for enthusiasts.

Reflect on Life at Lone Tree Cemetery

The original lone tree at Lone Tree Cemetery

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Nestled in the hills, Lone Tree Cemetery provides a quiet escape from the busy streets of Hayward.

Established in 1868, the nonsectarian cemetery was the final resting place for many pioneering and prominent figures, such as Hayward’s namesake, William Hayward.

Charlie Becker, who played the Munchkinland mayor in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, also rests in the cemetery.

The cemetery is worth visiting; it’s also a park where visitors can pay their respects, quietly reflect, and meditate simultaneously.

A memorial at Lone Tree Cemetery

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It encompasses 45 acres of groomed landscape and offers majestic views of the Bay.

Aside from historical tombstones, Lone Tree Cemetery features memorials, a mausoleum, and a theater.

It is located along Fairview Avenue.

Headstone of the first publisher of Hayward at Lone Tree Cemetery

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Final Thoughts

A weekend trip to Hayward is not enough to cover all its natural attractions, historical places, and booming art scene.

This city features outdoor activities to do as it encompasses acres of open spaces and parks, with miles of hiking trails and shorelines giving you breathtaking views of nature.

Galleries, historic houses, information centers, and other sites will allow you to dive deep into this thriving city.

Try the best things to do in Hayward, California!

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