Situated in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, travel enthusiasts will find plenty of sights to see and things to do in Silicon Valley, which spans 20 miles of Northern California. Set against the backdrop of the Santa Cruz mountains, the area encompasses the counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo and is known for its mix of old-world Spanish charm and big tech influence. It’s home to some of the most famous technology companies in the world.
Of course, we can’t talk about Silicon Valley without mentioning just how close it is to San Francisco. The city is less than an hour drive away and around a two-hour train journey (depending on where you’re staying), making a day trip to see iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz more than possible. While a visit to SF is definitely encouraged, we think you’ll be surprised by how much there is to see and do. Let’s take a look at the top things to do in Silicon Valley.
For a place named after the key ingredient in computer chips, it should come as no surprise that Silicon Valley has become the stomping ground for some of the biggest names in technology. Not only that, but it continues to be a hub of innovation for organisations like NASA and IBM, both of which have active research labs based in the valley.
Exploring this nerve centre of technology is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Silicon Valley. There are several options for a bit of tech tourism, where your group can visit the famous campuses of companies like Apple, Google and Facebook before stepping back in time at the Computer History Museum.
If you really want to spring for the luxury experience, you can also find private tours (though these come with a premium price tag). Take your camera to get a few snaps of Google’s quirky Android statues, which are regularly updated and have been spotted hoarding jelly beans and holding giant lollipops to celebrate the latest versions of the mobile OS.
The Bay Area isn’t just known for its technology and urban spaces but also for its outstanding natural beauty. Places like Yosemite, with its giant redwoods, are often high on every traveller’s must-see list, but one spot that often gets overlooked is the Palo Alto Baylands, which is the largest undisturbed marshland in Silicon Valley.
There are plenty of ways to get around its 1,940 acres of sunny wilderness and open waters. You can hike or cycle through its trails or hire a kayak and paddle out over the waterways. Palo Alto is home to all sorts of wildlife, including the gray fox and endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, so have your binoculars at the ready. It’s known as one of the best birdwatching spots on the West Coast and is also a great place to spend a lazy afternoon fishing.
Silicon Valley is full of impressive architecture to marvel at like the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, but nothing is quite as iconic as the Stanford Memorial Church, with its stunning Romanesque mural and stained glass windows inspired by churches in Venice. You’ll find this Byzantine gem on the main quad of the Stanford University campus, where it was built by Jane Stanford as a memorial to her husband, Leland, who founded the prestigious institution.
There’s some interesting history to uncover here too: it’s the oldest non-denominal church on the West Coast and has survived not one, but two major earthquakes. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to climb Hoover Tower for some panoramic views and another dose of Stanford history.
Speaking of architecture, the Winchester mystery house in San Jose is unlike anything else in the world. This bizarre and spooky labyrinth of a mansion was constructed over 38 years and has 160 rooms with several odd features such as staircases that don’t lead anywhere, secret passages and trapdoors. It’s appeared in novels and TV shows, and inspired The Haunted Mansion at Disney theme parks.
The otherworldly vibe of the house is popular with all sorts of tourists, and exploring its corridors remains one of the most fascinating things to do in Silicon Valley. Legend goes that Sarah Winchester, widow and heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, was haunted by the victims of the company’s rifles and built the mansion to appease the spectres, never halting its construction as she strived to build a home for them all. Whether or not there’s any truth to the ghost story, the strangely beautiful house has got to be seen to be believed.
For a romantic evening stroll or a relaxing afternoon, you can head over to the Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose. Considered a historic landmark, the garden has been a breath of fresh air in the city since the late 1930s and features over five acres of plants, with 189 different varieties in all shades and colours. You’ll find trickling fountains and neat rows of manicured flowers at one end of the gardens, and grassy fields lined with redwoods at the other.
If you’re up for a slightly more strenuous interaction with nature, Castle Rock offers breathtaking views of the undisturbed forests around San Mateo and Santa Clara. The state park spans over 5,000 acres, meaning you can cover some serious ground if you’re an avid hiker — though be prepared to bring a trekking pole or two for the steeper sections.
The park is especially popular with rock climbers due to the unique formations found there (hence the name), but if you’re more of a casual hiker, there are some relaxed trails along the crest of the Santa Cruz mountains that are probably more your pace. There are also campgrounds for overnight backpackers and designated trails for horseback riding.
Silicon Valley is home to a number of fascinating museums relating to technology and the area’s history. If you’re not in a hurry, we recommend you see them all; but if you only have a few days to squeeze them into your schedule, there are two you shouldn’t miss.
If you haven’t had your fill of technology, The Tech Interactive is one of the most hands-on things to do in Silicon Valley. Based in downtown San Jose, it features family-friendly activities and experimental labs. It was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2015. Looking in the other direction, the San Mateo County History Museum features a wide array of exhibits, covering topics such as the area’s Native American culture, to its Spanish colonisation, and even the history of baseball. It’s based in the old county courthouse in Redwood City.
Above are a few things to do in silicon valley, in short, it's a great place to visit for both general people and technophiles, pack up your gear and visit silicon valley this summer. Make your travel experience more memorizing by shopping for the best travel gadgets through travel coupons.