Walk into History, Redwood City

Walk into History, Redwood City

May is National Historic Preservation Month. What better way to celebrate history than to walk a self-guided tour of the oldest city in San Mateo County, Redwood City.

Part of the information sigh and the green pavement indicating where the water used to be.One of the most interesting facts while I walked along Redwood City’s historic path was a green paving, marking the previous waterfront. I was never aware of this but you are actually walking on water!  Well, “the tidal basins have since been filled, channeled and culverted” the information signage says.

But I’m walking backwards. To see the buildings that had an impact at the time Redwood City was an up and coming logger town, you can check out the map for the self-guided walking tour from the Historic Resources Society. Or as I did, stumble upon it. Information sign of the bank of San Mateo County, with the bank in the background.

The information kiosk for the ‘Path of History’ is on the north-east corner of Broadway and Main. With four major buildings from the time period on each corner: the Diller-Chamberlain general store, the American Hotel, the Sequoia Hotel, and the Bank of San Mateo County. It is a great place to start your exploration into history. I love that the rotunda holds four signs that let you read the historic significance and then look up towards that specific building.

San Mateo County History Museum.When you walk down Broadway to go to the Courthouse Square make sure to look down and see the green pavement marking the former waterfront. Of course the San Mateo County History Museum, the old court house, is part of the tour. But did you know that this is the second court house they built? Behind it on Hamilton is the Lathrop House, a large residence even for 1863.

The Fox Theater used to be the Grammar School and the movie theater across the street was occupied by high schoolers. If you stroll down Theater Way, and no one will blame you if you stop and have a bite at the many offerings, the historic path leads you down Middlefield to the library. The library used to be Fire Station No. 1.Alhambra Theater in Redwood City

If you take a left on Main Street, you walk by the Odd Fellow House. This used to be the Alhambra Theater and with 1500 seats was a major destination between San Francisco and San Jose.

You can download the PDF for the Path of History walk here.

Or watch the YouTube video here.

Have you ever walked a historic route?

Peek Inside the Art Kiosk, Redwood City

Peek Inside the Art Kiosk, Redwood City

Blue night by Kiki Smith, with glass facade of the art kiosk.Whenever I visit Redwood City I make sure I press my nose and camera to the glass of the art kiosk on Courthouse Square. This tiny public exhibition space, a cube whose ground measures 152 by 166 feet and a height of 153 feet, gives (local) artists a space to express their connection to Redwood City.

acrylic animals hanging inside the art kioskFirst installed in 2019, this was only meant to be a 10 month collaboration between the FUNG Collaboratives and the Redwood City Improvement Association. I could not find an end date to this exceptional art display. 

The kiosk has glass on all four sides, and artists usually use the space with full efficiency. 

Fish hanging from the ceiling and a goat reflecting the outside tree.The latest installment, Blue Night by Kiki Smith, also incorporates the light that shines in through the windows. Blue and translucent acrylic sheets represent 18 animal constellations. Each animal happily deflects the sunlight, or at night spotlights help to set the tone reflecting blue lights and shadows.

Blue Night will be on display until May 15th, 2022.

The Art Kiosk is on 2208 Broadway, Redwood City.

Next installments for the Art Kiosk are:

Homero Carrillo-Leon   Not Defined                                                    May 21 – June 26

Jennifer Cannon           The Gown                                                        July 02– Aug 07

Valerie Mendoza           The Destination Cafe                                      Aug 13 – Sept 25

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov   They Are Flying                                                Oct 1 – Nov 13

Wendy Wischer            In Search of New Growth                                Nov 19 – Jan 02

(dates are for 2022)

Have you peeked inside the art kiosk?


Domini Hoskins Black History Exhibit

Hand Down Black History – Domini Hoskins Black History Museum, Redwood City

Open sign for the Domini Hoskins Black History & Learning Center. Sign reads: Black history is American history. Hand dwon the history. March1-March31 from 11 am - 5 pm, closed Mondays (Special Groups by appt only) For more infromation, contact 650-921-4191 Carolyn_Hoskins56@yahoo.com https://www.facebook.com/hbhlc

I enjoyed the article by thesixfifty about the Domini Hoskins Black History and Learning Center. Somewhat fitting for Black History month, Redwood City has enabled Carolyn Hoskins to display her collection of African American historic artifacts downtown at the former World Market. Lucky for us they are open for another month!

Part of the mural by Jose Castro, showing a black fist with the words: Power to the people.

Admission is $5 to see this vast display of what American black culture means. The volunteer at the door explained the history behind the collection. Carolyn Hoskins was asked by her grandson Domini about any other famous Black people, because he was tired of writing about Martin Luther King again. I am not sure if Carolyn suggested her late husband, Robert “Bob” Hoskins, a former 49er, as one example. Nevertheless Bob has a special place right at the entrance. 

The exhibition begins with historic figures from the slave trade, mixed in with literature references, for example Alex Haley’s Roots. There are tables with black inventors, sports legends, famous women, the first black president and the first lady. The pop culture section was designed by Carolyn’s daughter Kathy. In fact you can see Black history displayed over 22,000 square feet.

Part to the mural by Jose Castro, showing George Floyd and the words Black Lives Matter

This amazing collection of Black achievements can be seen until the end of March, 2022, at 890 Jefferson Ave. in Redwood City; or hopefully longer. It is open every day except Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friendly volunteers are on-site to answer questions. No photographs are allowed, except of the Black Lives Matter mural by Jose Castro in the back. 

MLK of course still plays a role in this museum. To dive deeper into his writings and accomplishments you might want to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Sign for the Stulsaft park in Redwood City.

Walk your Dog off leash at Stulsaft Park, Redwood City

A concrete slide for water play filled with sand.

Stulsaft Park in the hills of Redwood City is, with 42 acres, the city’s largest park. A moderate short hike with lots of shade and a little creek. We parked at Farm Hills Blvd near the playground. The play area has swings and slides and a really nice water area (from June – September). Due to drought conditions the splash zone might be adjusted, currently water flows 10:30am-12:00pm and 2:00-6:00pm daily.

Gate with a sign to the off-leash trail at Stulsaft park.

The park starts with some elevation but once you reach the off-leash dog area it is nice and mostly flat. Picnic tables are in the amphitheater near a creek. During summer months this area is used for summer camps and the off-leash dog area is reduced to the upper trails. Please follow rules on leashing up your dog when requested and, of course, always pick up after your four legged friend. There is a three dog maximum per person. 

A person walking a dog off leash at Stulsaft park, Redwood City.

Also, watch out for some art. The roadrunner near the top of a tree, for example, was an unsuspected sight. 

Roadrunner art in tree, Stulsaft park.

Overall I enjoyed the hike, seeing the dogs, and relaxing in the shade.

Stulsaft Park is located on 3737 Farm Hill Blvd in Redwood City.

What is your favorite off-leash dog park?

Another off-leash hike with your dog is Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

Neighborhood Walks

COVID has most of us homebound and with a minimal radius to explore. I thought I’ll give you some ideas to spice up your daily neighborhood walks. While most of these specific walks are for Silicon Valley, the ideas should transfer to other areas. So, grab your mask and get your steps in with these walking ideas:


Sign reads: 
Green Garden of Mountain View
Conserves Water
Reduces Waste
Provides Habitat

We are blessed in the Bay Area with a long growing season. To get inspired for your own vegetable garden you should check out the local community gardens and wander around. There are plenty of Native Plant Gardens in the area. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has a great list (https://www.cnps-scv.org/gardening/gardening-with-natives/69-public-gardens-of-native-plants-69).  In the same category, Mountain View’s Green Garden Showcase features front yards that are examples of California Native Plants, water wise gardens, and environmental friendly practices.(https://www.mountainview.gov/depts/pw/services/conserve/landscape/showcase.asp)


Rodin's thinker (part of the Gates of Hell) at Stanford University.

With all museums closed right now I admit I’m a little art deprived. 

Sculptures are great outdoor artworks you can still admire. One of the largest collections of sculptures around is on the Stanford Campus. You can limit yourself to Rodin, it’s the largest in the U.S., or go around campus and find other inspiring pieces.

The Triton Museum in Santa Clara features a sculpture garden on the premises. (https://www.santaclaraca.gov/Home/Components/ServiceDirectory/ServiceDirectory/1260/2661)

Some local towns have maps to their public art works. I found the bike racks in Los Altos a welcoming change and great for kids to try to find them all!

If you are more of a mural enthusiast I recommend San Jose, Redwood City, and Palo Alto.

Some examples of public art:

Santa Clara: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/about-santa-clara/maps/art-statues

Los Altos: https://www.losaltosca.gov/publicartscommission/page/public-sculpture

Palo Alto (map): https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1AUOuWuDvI0_jAbZYvvY_JBD9lIs&ll=37.42470074587974%2C-122.16085689067381&z=14


San Jose History Walk (Number 25)

San Jose as the first Capitol of California has a rich history to share. They compiled a history walk for downtown. No need to print out a map, you can just follow the signs. If you would rather have a digital idea or would like to print out the brochure, here is the PDF: https://www.sanjose.org/pdf/downtown-san-jose-historic-walking-tour-guide

Japantown in San Jose offers historic information on their benches.

A few other towns have  lists of historic buildings. Rich Heli has compiled three historic walking tours for Mountain View: https://rick-heli.info/mvtour/


High Delta Market a window art installation in Palo Alto.

While most shops are currently closed, most downtowns invite you for a nice evening stroll on main street. Mountain View, for example, closed off their downtown area for most car traffic. The other night I walked by an exercise class. Also window shopping is an option. My favorite non-shopping window is in Palo Alto at the Future Institute.

If you feel the need to acquire something while on a walk, check out a little free library near you or in some other neighborhood.


Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

I love the fact that we are able to walk to our neighborhood park. If you want to mix it up, why not explore another park near you? 

Canopy has  multiple self-guided tree walks: https://canopy.org/our-work/tree-walks/


Buddy the new donkey of Bol Park, Palo Alto.

Birdwatching while walking is always a great pastime. If you want to see egrets you should check out the Google campus.

Bring the kids for a peak at the donkeys in Bol Park

Do you have ideas for fun activity walks?

Dog walker and dog in rain coats.

Hike with your Dog

Dog off leash at Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

The nice thing about the Bay Area is there are a myriad of options for hiking in relatively short distances from where you live. If you are a dog owner and want to bring your pooch with you on these hiking excursion, you might find that a lot of open spaces don’t allow dogs. To find a place that has an off leash policy is even rarer. 

End of the off-leash dog area at Pulgas Ridge Preserve. Sign reads: You are leaving the off-leash dog area. All dogs must remain on a leash beyond this point.

While the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space allows dogs in 11 of it’s 24  parks, only one – the Pulgas Ridge Preserve – has an off leash dog area. The 17.5 acre area where you can let your dog roam free in is located in the middle of the Preserve and is surrounded by the Hassler Loop trail. Your dog needs to be voice controlled and you should have a leash with you. And of course, you are always asked to pick up after your dog (only leave paw prints behind). 

Group of dog walkers at Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

For discoverers, the park is the former home of the Hassler Health Home, a tuberculosis sanitarium, some remnants of the building and stairs still remain.

Where do you hike with your dog?

Did you know that Sunol had a dog as mayor?

Skeletons dancing in Redwood City.

Celebrate the Dead

Usually I try to tell you about things that you can do after reading this. For this post you have to make a note and make sure you will check this out next year. 

Stage in front of the Courthouse in Redwood City.

The Dia de los Muertos Festival in Redwood City is an annual celebration of the Mexican holiday, also known in English as the Day of the Dead. For the ninth time last Sunday, the Casa Circulo Cultural, a Redwood City Hispanic cultural organization, in collaboration with the San Mateo History Museum, the Friends of the Library, and Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation  organize one of the largest festivals of Hispanic culture in the Bay Area.

Skeleton in front of the courthouse in Redwood City.

The Dia de los Muertos was made popular outside of Mexico by the Pixar/Disney movie Coco. One of the performances at the festival sang a Coco song.

Women in traditional outfits, Redwood City.

Largely celebrated in Mexico, and by Mexicans in the US, the festivities span for three days. It is a lively event that remembers the dead and believes that in this window of time you can spend time with lost ones. 

On altars they put a picture of the ones who have passed and their favorite things and food items. The marigold seems to be the predominant flower of this day. People also wear ‘skulls’ as face paint and traditional clothing.

Altar displayed at the courthouse, Redwood City.

The Dia de los Muertos Festival has altar displays, traditional music and dances. There were food stands and  lots of gift items for sale. Each year the event seems to grow in popularity. We waited in line almost 45 minutes to see the altars in the Courthouse building!

I love this tradition for remembering the dead. 

How do you remember the dead in your life?

If you like cemeteries I can recommend Colma. The city’s population of 1792 (2010) has seventeen cemeteries – , including one for pets.



Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City

Discover the Redwood City rose garden

Fountain at the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City Sometimes by wandering around I discover the most wonderful things. The other day, while I looked around at the Red Morton Community Park  in Redwood City I was surprised by the blooming roses. A fountain in the middle with some ram heads spilling out the water. Rose petals decorating some of the water’s surface.  

Rose at the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City It is a small garden with a large variety of fragrant roses. The Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden was established in 1968. It is named after the woman who proposed developing a municipal rose garden but sadly died two years before the opening.Mosaic art work at Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City

I love the quote I found embedded in a mosaic art work:” A single rose can be my garden…A single friend my world.” by Leo Buscagila.

Have you been to the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden?


More information about Redwood City’s fascinating history of their parks can be found in the PDF:

The Story of Redwood City Parks 1937 – 1987


Storefront of The Record Man, Redwood City

Browse vinyls at The Record Man

Records and listening station at The Record Man, Redwood CityOn entering The Record Man store in Redwood City I got greeted by Gary the owner. “What brings you in today?” I replied: “I heard it is an institution.” And I was right. Not only is this a magnificent place to shop for records – they have over a million vinyls – there are ten (!) rooms to wander. Some rooms have record players to listen to your finds.

Records and DVDs at The Record Man, Redwood CityThere is also a store in the back for DVD’s, video games and even comic books. If you like a deal they have their annual parking lot sale in October where each record is $1. To be up-to-date on the parking lot sale you should join the mailing list archives@recordman.com.

Two things that are not for sale are the two paper mache dogs of Nipper, the HMV (His Masters Voice) loPaper mache Nipper at The Record Man, Redwood Citygo of the British record label.

Gary told me after 30 years of reinventing himself as The Record Man, the store has two more years in the current location.

This is indeed an institution! I hope it will survive somehow somewhere in the Bay Area.

Have you browsed records lately?


Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park Redwood City

Alley-oop in the Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park

Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park Redwood CityOkay, I cheated. I don’t really know skate lingo. I googled it and trusted the Oxford Dictionaries on a cool phrase. An alley-oop is described by the Oxford Dictionaries as follows: “If the board spins in the same direction to the skateboarder’s body but in the opposite direction to that which they are facing, this is an alley-oop, from the French allez (the imperative form of the verb aller ‘to go’). Alley-oop has been used for around a century as an exclamation in the manner of ‘get up!’ or ‘go on!’, used to encourage or draw attention to the performance of an acrobatic or other physical feat, especially one involving a leap or lift upwards.

I also never really stood on a skateboard. But this is not about me. My dear readers who might be interested in this helter-skelter activity you should check out the Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park in Redwood City.

Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park Redwood CityThe name uncovers a sad event – Phil Shao was a legend in the skating world. He grew up in Redwood City and studied English at UC Berkeley. He taught many young people the joy of skateboarding. Unfortunately his life was taken, in August 1998, by a drunk driver.

In 2003 Redwood City opened the 13,000 square foot skate park. Helmets are required and safety gear is encouraged. You can’t take your bike in (a $100 fine!).  Opening hours are from dawn to dusk, except when the sports lights are on, then the park closes at 10pm.

Have you ever done an alley-oop?