20 Must-See Attractions in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley spans over 20 miles of parks, museums, culture, history, mountains, and technology. In short, there’s virtually an endless amount of things to do and see. But there are some must-see attractions throughout Silicon Valley that wouldn’t make the trip complete if you haven’t visited them. Make sure to stop by these 20 attractions during your next visit to Silicon Valley.
The Intel Museum is inside the Robert Noyce Building at Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara. This is a great place to go in Silicon Valley if you’re looking to learn about computer technology’s history and if you want to avoid lines. Not a lot of people visit the museum so there’s essentially no lines, crowds, pushing, or shoving. There’s over 10,000 square feet of exhibits that explore Intel’s culture, history, and manufacturing. How can visiting here during your Silicon Valley stay get better? The museum’s parking and admission is free, too!
Built in 1863, the Santa Clara Railroad Depot and Tower is a piece of Silicon Valley history. The area used to be heavily trafficked with railroads and trains, making the tower essential for operation. Now the tower is preserved by the South Bay Historical Railroad Society (SBHRS). The Edward Peterman Museum of Railroad History is inside the depot. One of the first computers ever installed in Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara interlocking machine, is located inside. It’s free to get in and an interesting place to learn about the railroads of Silicon Valley.
The Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, or Baylands Nature Preserve, is the largest undisturbed marshland left in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area. Come admire the vast wildlife here and the gorgeous scenery. Hike the trails, take out your kayak through the boat launch, or just sit and soak up what Mother Nature granted Silicon Valley.
Make sure to stop and grab a bite at Buck’s Restaurant. This classic diner is said to be the birthplace of Silicon Valley ideas like Hotmail and Tesla. Many entrepreneurs were known for meeting here, filling up on brain food and business ventures.
This is much more than your average Apple store you go to for repairs or to buy the latest i-technology. While this Apple store sells pretty much the same products as its other store locations, special merchandise such as Apple T-shirts, mugs, and pens can be bought here. How would a Silicon Valley visit be complete without a trip to one of the world’s most well-known tech companies? Plus, buying an “I Visited The Mother Ship” t-shirt is an absolute must.
Experience farm life at Ardenwood Historic Farm. Visitors can feed farm animals, learn about the historic farm methods still used there to this day, and even learn how to work a cow-milking machine. The farm even has volunteer workers walking around the grounds in period attire. It’s an amazing place for touring the Patterson House, built in 1857 and home to three generations of the Patterson family, or bring the kids for some family fun.
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley is the Ames Research Center. This field installation is NASA’s one of 10. It was founded as an aircraft research lab in 1939, but it wasn’t until 1958 that it became part of NASA. The research park consists of over $3 billion in equipment and 2,300 research personnel. Although the Research Center itself doesn’t offer public tours, visitors can wander around all the exhibits in the Exploration Center and the Moffett Museum, which are truly out of this world.
Castle Rock State Park is a 5,242-acre state park in Los Gatos. The park spans all across Silicon Valley; along the crest of the Santa Cruz mountains and almost entirely in Santa Cruz County, even parts extending into San Mateo and Santa Clara. Hike any number of trails to bask in scenic views of Silicon Valley. The trails here can span anything from 20 minutes to 10 hours, so plan accordingly. And make sure to remember your camera; you’re going to want to remember these views.
If you’re looking to continue the technology-detox and for a more rustic touch to your Silicon Valley adventure, make a stop at Filoli. This lovely country house sits on 16 acres of formal gardens, in the middle of a 654-acre estate. Located in Woodside, Filoli holds multiple events throughout the year such as an Autumn Festival, a Centennial Gala, Afternoon Tea, and more. Visitors get to explore the estate at their leisure, and there’s a café and gift shop.
Make a stop at the Cantor Arts Center at the Stanford Campus to see the Last Spike. Leland Stanford had the honor of driving the final spike of the transcontinental railroad, completing the construction of this pivotal icon in Silicon Valley’s railroads. Stanford donated both his Last Spike and Nevada silver spike in 1898 to this Stanford Museum. Both spikes can be seen on display at the Stanford University campus.
At 3,486 feet, Mt. Umunhum is the fourth-highest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The mountain’s summit was once home to the Almaden Air Force Station, used during the Cold War as part of the early-warning radar network. Once closed due to toxic contaminants, the site is now safe and open to the public. So take the long drive up Mount Umunhum and marvel at the beautiful views and rich Silicon Valley history.
San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House will blow your mind. Guided tours are held daily at this 160-room mansion that was under constant construction for almost four decades. Sarah Winchester bought the house in 1884 after her husband, gun manufacturer William Wirt Winchester, passed away. With her new inheritance of $20 million, Sarah just kept building on the estate. The house is also believed to be haunted.
Atmosphere:Indoors, Outdoors, Architectural Landmark, Instagrammable
Once a mercury mine in California’s Gold Rush period, the New Almaden quicksilver mine covers 4,147 acres of meadows, valleys, forests, and foothills. It’s a U.S. National Historic Landmark as well as being listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The museum is open year-round and allows visitors to explore a number of exhibits about Silicon Valley’s history of mercury mining and the New Almaden mining lifestyle.
The Peralta Adobe is the oldest surviving building in San Jose. Not only is the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s also San Jose’s Historic Landmark No.1 and California Historical Landmark No. 866. Peralta Adobe is the starting point of Silicon Valley. Tours are held here daily.
Kelley Park is a 156-acre city park located in San Jose. There’s lots to do and experience here to get a taste of Silicon Valley. Visit the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, walk the Japanese Friendship Garden and see the Portuguese Historical Museum. The rest of the park consists of picnic areas, lawns perfect for lounging, trees, and lots of walkways and paths. There’s even an 18-hole disc golf course in the nearby walnut orchard.
The Stanford Memorial Church is located in the Main Quad at the heart of the Stanford University campus. It was built as a memorial to Leland Stanford by his wife Jane during the American Renaissance. It is considered the university’s architectural crown jewel and with good reason. The gorgeous Romanesque revival architecture of the church is truly awe-inspiring. Docent-led tours are held every week.
Take a breather at the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. Over 3,500 plantings and 189 varieties virtually guarantee that there’s always something in full bloom showing stunning colors at the garden. The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is 5.5 acres of fragrant, inspiring, and gorgeous gardens. The garden has been open and providing a beautiful green space in Silicon Valley since 1937.
The Tech Museum of Innovation, also known as The Tech, is a museum in the heart of Silicon Valley. Both adults and children will have a blast here with the numerous hands-on activities. The museum includes exhibits such as a VR bird flying machine, a robot station, even an IMAX theater. Tech experts and newbies alike will have a great time learning and exploring here.
Located in Redwood City, the San Mateo County History Museum showcases the rich history of San Mateo County and Silicon Valley. The building itself is a piece of history, as the museum is inside the former San Mateo County Courthouse which was built in 1910.
When IBM’s Almaden Research Center was opened in 1986, studies were conducted that paved the way for computer science, storage systems, physical sciences, and much more groundbreaking technology. The building itself includes 557 single-person offices, 20 group offices, and 155 laboratories. Today, the Almaden’s research focuses on solving problems in subjects such as nanomedicine, services science, atomic scale storage, medical image analytics, and even food safety. This is where so much of Silicon Valley’s brilliance was born. Even the hard drive was invented here!