Silicon Valley is known around the globe as the home of some of the world’s largest and most innovative technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Google. Extending roughly from Belmont in San Mateo County (also known as the San Francisco Peninsula) down to San Jose around the south end of San Francisco Bay, with many vibrant cities in between, Silicon Valley is equally renowned for its upscale shopping and refined dining spots. But look beyond the region’s high-tech heart and you’ll find lush gardens, hidden wineries, and under-the-radar restaurants to satisfy your every craving. Here are 13 ways to experience a whole new side of this region.
History Park, San Jose
Learn about Santa Clara Valley’s rich history as you stroll through History Park, a 14-acre “town” that includes 32 original and replica buildings, along with cultural museums and exhibits. Take a ride on the free trolley and, on weekends, sample sweet treats at O’Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Shop, a re-creation of San Jose’s oldest ice cream shop.
Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, Palo Alto
The 1,940-acre Baylands Preserve is one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland in the San Francisco Bay Area, and still unknown to many locals. A lovely place for a walk or a run, the Palo Alto preserve features more than 50 miles of multi-use trails and is one of the best bird-watching spots on the West Coast.
Canyon Ranch Wellness Retreat, Woodside
Tucked away in a beautiful 16-acre redwood forest, Canyon Ranch is a high-end retreat for burned-out tech workers and weekend wellness seekers. Sign up for a curated stay packed with wellness activities, or enjoy hiking trails, spa treatments, and fitness classes at your leisure. Lodging options include luxurious glass-walled treehouses set 50 feet into the forest’s canopy.
Arizona Garden, Redwood City
Off the beaten track from the rest of Stanford University's main tourist attractions, the Arizona Garden presents a fascinating array of beautiful and unusual cacti and succulents. Boasting more than 17,000 square feet of green space, the garden was designed in the 1880s by acclaimed landscape gardener Rudolph Ulrich.
Pulgas Water Temple, Redwood City
Built in 1938, the Pulgas Water Temple commemorates the completion of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, which brings water to the area from the Sierras 150 miles away. Lined with dagger-shaped cypress trees, the lawn and reflecting pool are picture-perfect photo spots. If possible, try to visit in the late summer, when lavender blooms in the surround the area.
Rosicrucian Park, San Jose
Rosicrucian Park is the headquarters for a community of mystics whose members have a particular fascination with ancient Egypt. Spanning a city block, the park includes an Egyptian peace garden, a Grand Temple, a planetarium (currently closed for renovations), and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, home to the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in western North America.
Hacienda Cemetery, San Jose
San Jose’s New Almaden neighborhood was once home to a large population of miners who toiled in the nearby quicksilver mines. Many of those workers now reside in Hacienda Cemetery, where individual picket fences surround roughly 50 tombstones. The spooky boneyard’s most interesting inhabitant is the left arm of one Bert Barrett, who lost the appendage in 1898 but lived on for another 61 years.
Filoli Historic House & Garden, Woodside
Transport yourself to an English country estate just minutes from Silicon Valley. Along with a stately Georgian Revival home and manicured gardens, Filoli features a nature preserve filled with birds, wildlife, and seasonal wildflowers. Drop by the onsite nursery to purchase flowers, plants, and veggies grown in the estate greenhouses; visit their events page to see their calendar of goings-on, including the Stories in Bloom series that celebrates the art of storytelling through poetry, short stories, visual arts, and flower arranging.
Eating & Drinking
San Pedro Square Market, San Jose
A combination public market and gourmet food court, San Pedro Square Market is a great place to meet friends, indoors or out, for a nosh and a drink. Among the market’s diverse food offerings are Anchors Fish & Chips and Seafood Grill, Jora Peruvian Food, and Nepali dumpling purveyor Urban MoMo. While you’re there, pop across the street to Moment Shops, a cool collection of rotating mini-stores run by local artisans.
Danbi Korean Restaurant, San Jose
This humble restaurant a few miles north of downtown serves consistently delicious and authentic Korean dishes. Among Danbi’s customer favorites are steaming tofu soups, bulgogi and seafood-studded pancakes. Decor is clean and simple, service is speedy, and the staff is always friendly.
State of Mind Public House & Pizzeria, Los Altos
Inspired by the Golden State’s agricultural bounty, this pizzeria wows neighborhood locals with mind-blowing pies like Eat Your Brussels Sprouts, Heirloom Goat, and The Ultimate, adorned with mushrooms and truffle zest. Be sure to check out State of Mind’s craft beer lineup, and the mini-arcade—complete with pinball machines—at the back of the restaurant.
Euro Grill, Santa Clara
If you’ve never tried Bosnian food, this restaurant in Santa Clara is the place to do it. Casual and welcoming, Euro Grill attracts homesick Bosnians and local converts with its delicious cevapi—finger-sized sausages stuffed into soft bread with red pepper spread and raw onions on the side—and burek, a flaky pastry filled with meat, cheese, or spinach.
Lightpost Winery Tasting Room, Morgan Hill
Few would expect to find a winery tasting room in a Morgan Hill industrial park, but Lightpost is worth the detour. The winery features terrific regional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines crafted by veteran winemaker Christian Roguenant, formerly of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery and Tangent Wines in the Central Coast. This being Silicon Valley, customers can even pay with cryptocurrency.