A short half-hour drive south of San Francisco, nested between San Mateo to the north and Redwood City to the south, is Belmont, California. This affluent Bay Area city allows its residents the convenience of lively San Francisco close by while still providing a slower paced reprieve from the city. There is a strong sense of community in Belmont as locals pride themselves on the unique and small-town feel of their city.
Typical for northern California, Belmont is predominantly a mix of Caucasian and Asian populations. It is the perfect place for young families who want to move into the suburbs but don't want to completely throw away their city life. There a number of outdoor activities such as mountain biking and rock climbing availing in the area.
What Belmont is perhaps best known for, however, is the anti-smoking ordnance that was passed in 2009. Having been described as one of the strictest in the nation, the Belmont smoking ordnance bans smoking in all businesses, apartments and condos.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Local eateries and cafes are what you'll find in Belmont. Dining caters to locals and favors small mom and pop shops rather than fine dining or chain restaurants.
While most restaurants are located off El Camino Real, the main thoroughfare through the city, locals know to head west up Ralston Ave to Lorenzo’s Sandwich Shop. There's no flash or glitz here, just awesome sandwiches. Best known for its pastrami and garlic sauce, Lorenzo's is straight from American nostalgia. Remember to bring cash.
For some coffee and breakfast, head to Jimmy’s Cafe, basically across the street from Lorenzo's on Alameda De Las Pulgas. Their breakfast bagels are what get customers to keep coming back. Vegetarians will be especially drawn to Jimmy's Cafe as their Mediterranean touch results in a lot of fresh and delicious sandwiches and salads like their feta and spinach panini. Grab some food, order a latte, and sit back for a while in the charming little cafe.
Nightlife in Belmont is headlined by the local bar and grill McGraw’s. McGraw’s Bar & Grill, located just off El Camino Real, is covered in Bay Area sports memorabilia and offers up a fun night out with darts, pool, and shuffleboard. It's no nightclub by any means; a fun hangout with a laid-back atmosphere, Grab a few friends and enjoy the bacon cheeseburgers, chicken wings, chili cheese fries, and one of their many beers on tap.
History & Culture
Originally a part of the Spanish land grant, Rancho de las Pulgas, Belmont became an incorporated town in 1926. A prominent figure in Belmont's history is William Chapman Ralston, the founder of the Bank of California. In his namesake, the Ralston Hall Mansion was built in 1868 and remains a focal point of the city to this day. It has also since been listed as a National and California Historic Landmark.
In 1915, to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canel, the Panama–Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco. Part of the building that housed the expo still exists in Belmont. E.D. Swift, a prominent land owner in Belmont, transported the building from San Francisco to Belmont Ave where it still sits today.
To further develop the sense of community, Belmont hosts annual events such as the Father-Daughter Dance and the Egg Adventure Hunt.
Getting in and out of Belmont is easiest done via the Caltrain at Belmont Station. This train runs all throughout the Bay Area, from San Francisco up north to Gilroy down south. From Ralston Avenue, drivers can also reach US-101 and US-92 very easily.
Within the city, SamTrans is the local bus company. Public transportation could not be easier with a number of stops all around town, and the convenience of the reloadable Clipper Card. Your Clipper Card is accepted on Caltrain as well. The vast majority of Belmont residents simply drive, however. Personal vehicles are much more common in this town than public transport.
For those looking to get way out of town, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is the most convenient as it's only a short 15 minutes drive away. Oakland International Airport (OAK) and San Jose International Airport (SJC) are also options but not as ideal.
At close to 50 percent higher than California's national average, the cost of living in Belmont is almost twice as much as the national average. A one-bedroom apartment will run you close to $2,500 a month. Locals should expect to pay over $10 for a meal at most restaurants and no less than $5 a beer unless it's happy hour.
As you might expect, transportation can get a bit pricey. In Belmont, gas runs around 17 percent higher than the national average. A one-way ticket on the SamTrans buses cost $2.25, but you can get a monthly pass for $70.
The Carlmont Village Shopping Center is the epicenter of shopping in Belmont. Stock up on groceries at Lunardi's, indulge in some ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, buy mulch at Tyler's Carlmont Nursery, or get your fill of salsa at Hola Mexican Restaurant. Carlmont also has your full range of services, from UPS and nail salons (try Bella Nails) to optometrists and banks.
The Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe is an all-day American and European hot spot that also serves bakery items and Danish pastries. For lunch, choose the classic burger made to your specific tastes or try a heaping portion of homemade pasta. Martial-arts enthusiasts can also register for lessons at the United Studios of Self Defense.
Organic- and natural-produce lovers need not worry, as this is Northern California after all. The Belmont Farmers Market is a fantastic place for fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. There is even a wide variety of freshly baked breads and pastries and fresh flowers. The market opens up every Sunday morning at the CalTrain Parking Lot at El Camino Real and O'Neill Street.
Belmont has a great selection of parks and green spaces. All told, there are 14 developed parks on 31 acres in addition to 337 acres of open space in Belmont. Twin Pines Park, Semeria Park, and Davey Glen Park are the big three, however. Great for BBQs and picnic, Twin Pines is a local favorite. There is also a historical photo tour that the city's newcomers will love. With tons of open space and a playground for the kids, Twin Pines is a ideal weekend hangout.
Water Dog Park on Lyall Way just off Ralston is a nice little park with a lake in the middle. It's a great place for hiking and mountain biking. As the name would suggest, it's also very dog friendly. All these parks are free, dog and kid-friendly, and offer much in way of hiking, running and bike riding.