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15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Fremont, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Jul 26, 2022

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Fremont is a bustling city in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay area, across the Dumbarton Bridge from Silicon Valley. It's one of the largest cities in the Bay Area, and the community does well to combine its rich historical attractions and stunning landscapes with many things to do. From the recreated Mission San Jose to the railroad history highlighted at the Niles Canyon Railway, the legacy of Fremont is on full display.

Nature is also on full display in Fremont. Stunning places to hike or catch the sunset surround the city. These postcard landscapes include places like Coyote Hills, Quarry Lakes, and Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The city's long summers enable all sorts of adventures throughout the year, though visitors need to prepare for hot summer temperatures.

Other top attractions in Fremont include central parks, arboretums, and relics from the region's silent-film era. Plan your sightseeing with our list things to do in Fremont, California.

1. Coyote Hills Regional Park

Coyote Hills Regional Park
Coyote Hills Regional Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Coyote Hills Regional Park encompasses over 1,200 acres along the East Bay, on the other side of the Dumbarton Bridge from Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. It's a popular place to visit for recreation and bird-watching, and comprises a marshland habitat with rolling, grassy hills.

Popular things to do at Coyote Hills include hiking, bicycling, bird-watching, and photography. The Coyote Hills Visitor Center is a good first stop when visiting, and special guided tours of the recreated Tuibun Ohlone Village Site are available by reservation. But most visitors opt for the flat-grade Bayview Trail that borders the marshland.

It costs $5 to bring a car into Coyote Hills Regional Park. Bicyclists and pedestrians enter the park for free. Public transportation is available to the entrance gate off Paseo Padre Parkway.

Address: 8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont, California

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/coyote_hills/

2. Mission Peak Regional Preserve

Mission Peak Regional Preserve
Mission Peak Regional Preserve | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Mission Peak is a popular regional preserve east of Fremont encompassing over 3,000 acres. Alongside a mountainous backdrop to the city, the peak provides a challenging summit hike for residents and visitors alike.

Visitors can access summit trailheads from either Ohlone College or a parking area on Stanford Avenue, where parking is scarce. Both trailheads lead to the top of Mission Peak with a challenging three to four-mile hike, usually taking at least five hours to complete.

No water sources exist along the trail, and the combination of steep hiking and high temperatures often proves challenging. Early morning starts are nearly mandatory for exploring Mission Peak Regional Preserve in the summer.

Viewpoint in Mission Peak Regional Preserve
Viewpoint in Mission Peak Regional Preserve | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

the terminus of the 29-mile Ohlone Wilderness Trail is at the preserve, offering longer adventures to explore. This extended route connects to the adjacent Sunol and Ohlone Regional Wilderness areas.

Address: 43600 Mission Boulevard, Fremont, California

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/mission/default.htm

3. Central Park

Central Park and Lake Elizabeth
Central Park and Lake Elizabeth | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This popular city park is a hub of attraction centered around the 80-acre Lake Elizabeth and backdropped by the Mission Peak Hills. A two-mile paved pedestrian trail circumnavigates the entire lake, lined with great views. And several other park amenities surround the lake, offering plenty of free and fun things to do.

The park is popular for lunch breaks, birthday parties, and family time outside. The seasonal Aqua Adventure Water Park within Central Park is a hot spot to visit during the summer, and several picnic areas line the west side of the park. The Central Park Dog Park is popular with pet owners, and the Fremont Skate Park is frequented by adults and kids alike.

For those interested in getting on the water, the park features a boat ramp and concessionaire with paddleboat rentals by the hour.

Address: 40000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, California

4. Alameda Creek Regional Trail

Alameda Creek Regional Trail at sunset
Alameda Creek Regional Trail at sunset | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This 12-mile paved pedestrian path connects many of the most scenic areas in Alameda County. The Almeda Creek Regional Trail stretches from the mouth of Niles Canyon to the shoreline of Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. It's popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists, with two trails spanning both sides of Alameda Creek.

The North and South Alameda Creek Trail connect with other great natural spaces in Fremont, including Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area and Coyote Hills Regional Park. Day-use-only motor vehicles are not allowed on the trail.

Address: Alameda Creek Trail, Fremont, California

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/trails/alameda_creek/default.htm

5. Ardenwood Historic Farm

Patterson Mansion, Ardenwood Historic Farm
Patterson Mansion, Ardenwood Historic Farm

East Bay Regional Park District operates this living-history farm depicting an 1800s working ranch. The centerpiece attraction of this historical landmark is the Victorian mansion once belonging to the pioneering Patterson family. Garbed in proper 1800s attire, costumed staff guide visitors through this country estate, as well as demonstrate period-authentic chores and ways of living.

A Victorian garden is found on the property, as well as friendly farmyard animals. And the on-site Farmyard Cafe serves up a fresh fare on the weekend. An extra appeal is found at the on-site Railroad Museum and train rides, and the wildflowers at Ardenwood tend to draw a crowd in the spring, as do migrating butterflies come winter.

Address: 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, Fremont, California

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/ardenwood/

6. Old Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Founded in 1797 by a Franciscan missionary, the Mission San Jose was first constructed on land inhabited by indigenous Ohlone people. Today, Mission San Jose offers a family-friendly thing to do in Fremont, with street parking available.

An 1868 earthquake destroyed much of the original church and structures of Mission San Jose, but community efforts in the 1980s reconstructed the Old Mission to appear as it would have during its 1800s heyday.

Thousands of 4th graders visit the Mission San Jose each year as part of a regional education program, and anyone is welcome to come check out the mission and museum any day of the week. For a small price of admission, interested tourists take a self-guided tour of eight rooms within the mission, filled with artifacts and exhibits. The chapel of Mission San Jose is the most ornate area of this historical landmark and offers weekday mass in the mornings.

Address: 43300 Mission Boulevard, Fremont, California

Official site: http://missionsanjose.org/

7. Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area

Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area
Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Hiking trails and outdoor attractions line this regional recreation area centered around a collection of mid-19th-century gravel quarries. These historic quarries are now filled with vital groundwater recharge, and recreation is abundant in this scenic public space. Everyday activities include swimming, hiking, and having a picnic by the shore.

Swimming is allowed at the designated beach near the park entrance and is a popular free summer activity. Bird-watchers will want to bring their binoculars, as the landscape is frequently visited by migrating species. And the roughly six-mile trail that circumnavigates the quarries is a great place to catch the sunset in Fremont.

Address: 2100 Isherwood Way, Fremont, California

Official site: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/quarry_lakes/default.htm

8. Niles Canyon Railway

Niles Canyon Railway
Niles Canyon Railway | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Niles Canyon Railway is a locomotive living history museum dedicated to preserving the railroad culture of the Pacific Coast between 1910 and 1960. The museum houses a growing collection of train cars, including motorcars, passenger cars, and cabooses.

The real appeal of this historic attraction is the actual train rides offered through Niles Canyon. These family-friendly rides transport visitors through the history of the region, guided by costumed characters. Trips in 2022 include weekend rides behind the diesel engine within their fleet. Advanced reservations are recommended.

Niles Canyon Railway is one of nine historical and cultural destinations in Fremont where tourists can collect a special stamp as part of the Passport to Adventure program.

Address: 6 Kilkare Road, Sunol, California

Official site: https://www.ncry.org/

9. Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

In the historic Niles District of Fremont, this unique museum preserves and presents many artifacts of the silent-film era, including the movies themselves. The museum displays numerous posters, cameras, and authentic memorabilia from the silent-film era.

Charlie Chaplin is well represented at the museum, in part because of the movies he filmed in Fremont. Other notable silent film stars represented include Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardie, Broncho Billy, and Lillian Gish.

The museum's building is a historic landmark itself, once belonging to the prominent Niles Essanay Studios. Across the street from the Silent Film Museum, the Niles Canyon Railway and Depot allows tourists to explore another prominent industry of Fremont's past.

Address: 37417 Niles Boulevard, Fremont, California

Official site: http://nilesfilmmuseum.org

10. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This dynamic landscape and wildlife haven are on the southern end of San Francisco Bay, and on the other side of the iconic Dumbarton Bridge from Fremont. It encompasses over 30,000 acres of vital natural terrain and a variety of habitats. A sampling of the landscapes includes marshes, mudflats, ponds, and vernal pools.

Free things to do at the refuge include fishing, photography, and utilizing the 30 miles of trails that span the area. The chances of spotting wildlife are high, including numerous species of migratory birds. Bring binoculars or a zoom lens for the best view.

Address: 2 Marshlands Road, Fremont, California

Official site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/don_edwards_san_francisco_bay/

11. Vargas Plateau Regional Park

Vargas Plateau Regional Park
Vargas Plateau Regional Park | btwashburn / photo modified

This stunning outdoor space is in the Fremont Hills above the city. It offers a tremendous view across the South Bay at approximately 1,000 feet above the streets of Fremont. The regional park encompasses over 1,200 acres and more than six miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the region-spanning Bay Area Ridge Trail.

The main access point for the regional park is off Morrison Canyon Road. Much of the elevation is gained on the drive up to the park, and from the staging area, the Golden Eagle Trail enters the pastoral uplands. Visitors will want to pack in their own drinking water, as none is available at the trailhead or along the trails.

It's a beautiful scene at Vargas Plateau, with a few landscapes, including massive boulders among the undulating terrain. This and the wildlife make Vargas a popular place to visit for photography enthusiasts, especially come sunset. The plateau is also home to a vibrant display of wildflowers come spring.

12. Visit the Stanford Campus

Stanford University
Stanford University | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The prestigious Stanford University, founded in 1885 and affectionately known as "The Farm," is just across the Dumbarton Bridge in Palo Alto. It's not easy to get accepted to this world-famous academic institution, but the public is welcome to stroll the scenic campus throughout the year.

The historic Main Quad at Stanford is of visitor interest. Alongside a deep-seated scholarly appeal, this part of the campus also displays stunning California Mission Revival architecture. The historic Hoover Tower is also nearby, easily posing for pictures.

The Stanford Dish Area offers the university's most popular hiking area. This part of campus is home to a radio telescope used for academic purposes. However, the approximately 3.6-mile loop surrounding the dish is more popular for recreation and exploring outside.

The Stanford campus is only a small part of all the fun things to do in Palo Alto. Other notable attractions include the Baylands Nature Preserve and a charming downtown district.

13. Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum

Shinn Historical Park Japanese Garden
Shinn Historical Park Japanese Garden | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum is a secret gem of natural space just north of downtown, providing a quick escape into a relaxed environment. It encompasses 4.5 acres bounded by a fence line and the park's gardens feature a wide variety of plants from around the world.

Tours of the 1876 Big House on the property are available twice a month through the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation. The entire park and arboretum can be rented out, with space for up to 200 people.

Address: 1251 Peralta Boulevard, Fremont, California

14. Dumbarton Bridge

Dumbarton Bridge
Dumbarton Bridge

Dumbarton Bridge is the southernmost bridge crossing San Francisco Bay. It connects Fremont with the tech-savvy city of Palo Alto, and farther north, San Francisco. The bridge also lends access to Coyote Hills Regional Park and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge

Dumbarton is a heavily used thoroughfare during rush hour and a true marvel of engineering no matter the time of day. Thousands of vehicles cross the bridge every day and driving across Dumbarton can be a fun experience for tourists coming from outside of the area.

15. Day Trip to San Jose

Santana Row, San Jose
Santana Row, San Jose | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The largest city in the Bay Area, San Jose is a short drive south of Fremont. It's less than a 20-mile drive to reach some of the San Jose's top things to do, like the Municipal Rose Garden and Santana Row. Public transportation is available. This proximity opens a whole world of other things to do when visiting the Bay Area.

San Jose hosts a whole range of attractions. From professional hockey and soccer games to a downtown district filled with museums and restaurants, San Jose really deserves its own weekend visit. If you're just traveling for the day, places like Plaza de Cesar Chavez or the San Jose Flea Market offer a full dose of culture in a quick amount of time.

Where to Stay in Fremont, California for Sightseeing

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The centrally located Best Western Plus Garden Court Inn is a popular choice for all types of travel. This dependable hotel sits on three acres of landscaped property, with easy access to all the East Bay offers. The property is within walking distance to many area restaurants and attractions and has easy access to the interstate. Rooms and suites are available, some with private balconies.
  • Hyatt Place Fremont/Silicon Valley caters to business travel and extended stays on the south side of town. Close to many of the region's corporate headquarters, it provides a relaxing stay between work. Each spacious guest room features separate sitting and sleeping areas with modern, plush furnishings. The hotel also offers useful resources like high-speed internet, a 24/7 business center, and meeting rooms.
  • The Hampton Inn Fremont near Interstate-880 and the center of town offers an enticing mix of comfort, cleanliness, and value. It's a popular spot for business and casual trips alike, with easy access to the area's industries and the outdoors. Free breakfast and fast Wi-Fi add to the Hampton Inn's convenience, and a 24-hour front desk ensures the entire stay is stress-free and easy.
  • The Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley on the south side of town offers upscale accommodations at a more affordable price. The property features beautiful landscaping and an array of guest rooms and suites. Other on-site amenities include an indoor pool, fitness center, and coin-operated laundry machines. The hotel also features a very delicious breakfast buffet in the mornings for an extra fee, including items like made-to-order omelets.

Budget Hotels:

  • On the south side of town, the Good Nite Inn Fremont offers among the best value in the entire Bay Area. What makes the property such a good deal is the cleanliness, comfort, and customer service received for a startlingly low rate. It offers standard rooms with queen or king-sized beds, with complimentary Wi-Fi and basic cable. Guests are also welcome to free coffee and tea in the lobby every morning.
  • Another great stay with a low overnight rate is available at Days Inn by Wyndham Fremont. It's conveniently located south of town, surrounded by several restaurants, with free parking available. The quiet nature of the hotel and neighborhood, plus the affordable overnight rates, make it a popular spot for family travel. Complimentary continental breakfast is offered each morning off the lobby, and coffee makers are in each room. Other hotel amenities include free Wi-Fi and a multilingual cable package.
  • Also on the south side of town, the Extended Stay America - Fremont - Warm Springs is a top spot for extended travel at a discounted price. Every room at this budget-friendly hotel features a fully equipped kitchen with a full-size fridge, stovetop, microwave, and dishes. Every room also features clean and comfortable decor, and the hotel has built an excellent reputation for customer service. Pet-friendly rooms are available.

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