Your Guide to Exploring Silicon Valley, California | Restaurants, Attractions + More

|June 27, 2018

Silicon Valley has effectively taken over the South Bay, the southern end of the San Francisco Bay Area. Serving as the global headquarters for technology, venture capital, innovation, social media brands and startups, the region experienced its biggest and most significant transformation during the tech boom beginning just a couple decades ago. Larger populations, more employment opportunities, national technology conferences and brand new campuses (like Facebook and Google, for example) have encouraged more development and more local businesses to open south of the city.

But before the iPod, this little part of Northern California was largely covered in fruit orchards! Today, Silicon Valley boasts a blend of charming history with more modern developments and culture.

To kick off your exploration of the region, we’re sharing everything from its biggest attractions and best restaurants to its most exciting annual events and everything in between. Enjoy!

Major Cities

Palo Alto

Home to Stanford University and famous for its storied startup culture, Palo Alto is home to over 64,000 residents, a charming downtown community and several of Silicon Valley’s best local restaurants. The city is also still the headquarters of several innovative brands, including Hewlett-Packard, Tesla and Houzz.

Mountain View

Named for its views of the Santa Clara Mountains, this Silicon Valley city began as a stagecoach stop and has grown into one of the Bay Area’s largest suburbs with a population of around 74,000 residents. As the headquarters of the Googleplex, it is also home to one of the region’s biggest attractions and employers!

Santa Clara

Santa Clara is the ninth-most populous city at more than 110,000 residents. In the city, you’ll find Santa Clara University, the headquarters of Intel and Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.

San Jose

Referred to as the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is the largest city in Northern California and the third most populous city in the state. Home to some of the most entertaining neighborhoods, events and attractions in the region, there’s always something to do here. For more details on the city, check out The Ultimate Guide to Downtown San Jose.

Essential Restaurants

Zola | Palo Alto

565 Bryant St | Facebook

Things to do in Silicon Valley California Palo Alto Mountain View San Jose Cupertino

Photo courtesy of Zola

Inspired by French cooking and driven by Northern California ingredients, the menu at Zola fluctuates based on what excites the team most throughout the seasons. Paired with a curated wine list, this is a must-visit downtown dinner destination.

Dan Gordon’s | Palo Alto

640 Emerson St | Facebook

From the team who brought us the original Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Dan Gordon’s combines the two greatest food groups know to man: BBQ and beer. Alongside local wines and a selection of whiskeys, you can enjoy craft beer and farm-to-table food that you’ll come back for again and again.

Bird Dog | Palo Alto

420 Ramona St | Facebook

The simple techniques in the Bird Dog kitchen and fresh ingredients sourced regionally allow for a melting pot style menu, influenced by the rich cultures of Northern California, Japan and wherever else the owners and chefs have recently traveled. Stop by for lunch or dinner!

Hiroshi | Los Altos

328 Main St | Facebook

You’re going to need a reservation at Hiroshi because this private dining experience offers only one reservation per night for up to eight guests. Chef Hiroshi Kimura has been perfecting the art of wagyu steaks since the age of sixteen and now he gets to share his talents and knowledge with all the guests at Hiroshi.

Southern Kitchen | Los Gatos  

27 E Main St | Facebook

Southern Kitchen Los Gatos Bay area biscuits and gravy

Photo courtesy of Southern Kitchen

Family owned and operated for over 20 years, the team at Southern Kitchen has taken the time to perfect wholesome, quality food with a touch of southern flavor. After you fall in love with their downhome cooking, you’ll want to come back to taste all of their mouthwatering plates: from the Belgian Churro Waffle and seven Eggs Benedict dishes to their famous Biscuits and Gravy!

The Lexington House | Los Gatos

40 N Santa Cruz Ave | Facebook

This restaurant opened in 2013 in downtown Los Gatos and has been stealing the hearts of foodies ever since. The progressive menu focuses on seasonal ingredients from local farmers and the same philosophy is shared behind the bar where you can find artisan cocktails, craft beer and curated wines.

The team’s other outstanding restaurants include Black Sheep Brasserie in San Jose and Cascal in Mountain View.

Roots & Rye | San Jose

3055 Olin Ave #1005 | Facebook

Things to do in Silicon Valley California Palo Alto Mountain View San Jose Cupertino

Photo courtesy of Lillian Nguyen via Roots & Rye

Since 1987, Roots & Rye has been many locals’ go-to restaurant for its hearty food, lively atmosphere and creative cocktails. Though the food menu is centered around rustic and authentically crafted American food, we also recommend taking a look through the bespoke whiskey collection.

El Jardín | San Jose

368 Santana Row | Facebook

Often referred to as San Jose’s best Mexican restaurant, El Jardín is a lively locale with open-air seating for seasonal Mexican eats, cocktails, live bands and party vibe.

The Table | San Jose

1110 Willow St | Facebook

Focused on seasonal ingredients, hand-crafted cocktails and progressive wines, The Table is at the top of our list of the best farm-to-table fare in Silicon Valley. The neighborhood bistro believes that everyone is welcome to gather around the table and enjoy the bounty of local, Northern California farmers, fishermen and producers.

Must-visit Attractions

Apple Park Visitor Center | Cupertino

10600 N Tantau Ave | Facebook

Things to do in Silicon Valley California Palo Alto Mountain View San Jose Cupertino

An extension of Apple Park (which you can’t visit unless you know an employee), the Apple Park Visitor Center opened in 2017 as a space just for visitors to learn, explore and shop. Attractions include the Exhibition which showcases the innovative design principles of Apple Park, the store which sells exclusive Apple Park tech and merchandise, the roof terrace which offers a sweeping view of Apple Park, and the cafe which offers refreshments and views of the surrounding olive grove.

Googleplex | Mountain View

1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy | Facebook

The cream of the crop when it comes to tech campuses, Googleplex is the global headquarters of Google. Though you can’t tour the whole campus unless you know someone on the inside, you are free to sightsee around the 12 acres of outdoor campus space unescorted. Along the way, keep an eye out for the Googler’s colorful campus bikes, lifesize T-rex and jumbo cartoon figures depicting each version of the Android operating system. Be sure to take a selfie!

Facebook Campus | Menlo Park

1 Hacker Way | Facebook

Though you can’t go inside the Facebook campus without an employee, hundreds of visitors stop by all year to see the storied Menlo Park headquarters to take a photo with the Facebook Like sign.

Computer History Museum | Mountain View

1401 N Shoreline Blvd | Facebook

Things to do in Silicon Valley California Palo Alto Mountain View San Jose Cupertino

© Doug Fairbairn Photography/courtesy of the Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum explores 2,000 years of computer history (that’s right, 2,000 years!). Including the first computers from the 1940s and 1950s, the museum houses more than 1,100 historic artifacts, arcade games you can play, and multimedia exhibitions.

The Chocolate Garage | Palo Alto

654 Gilman St G | Facebook

The Chocolate Garage is the brainchild of chocolatier Sunita de Tourreil. Serving up true bean-to-bar creations from around the world, you can rest assured no chocolate in this garage-turned-tasting room was made with child labor or commodity cacao. Come by to find out what chocolate is supposed to taste like!

Winchester Mystery House | San Jose

525 S Winchester Blvd | Facebook

Perhaps Silicon Valley’s spookiest attraction, Winchester Mystery House was once the historic home of Sarah L. Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. The 160-room Victorian mansion is as beautiful as it is bizarre. It contains doors and windows that open onto walls, doors that open to a 10-foot drop into the gardens, stairs which go nowhere, and other mysteries.

Stanford University | Palo Alto

450 Serra Mall | Facebook

Things to do in Silicon Valley California Palo Alto Mountain View San Jose Cupertino

The epitome of both Silicon Valley’s revolutionary history and its technology innovations, Stanford University is one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Even the campus buildings display the beautiful combination of these important SV elements — from Richardsonian Romanesque and California Mission Revival architecture to the more modern Science and Engineering Quad.

Essential sights include Hoover Tower which offers an observation platform 285 feet above campus and The Last Spike at the Cantor Arts Center on campus which is the gold spike driven by Leland Stanford to complete the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States.

The Intel Museum | Santa Clara

2200 Mission College Blvd | Facebook

The Intel Museum is 10000 square feet of fun, interactive learning for both children and adults. Located on the Intel campus, the museum goes behind the scenes of the high-tech world of Silicon Valley and explores the history of Intel.

The Tech Museum of Innovation | San Jose

201 S Market St | Facebook

The Tech Museum of Innovation San Jose San Francisco Children's Museums Bay Area

Photo courtesy of The Tech Museum of Innovation

When you spend a day exploring and learning in The Tech Museum, you’ll discover innovations in healthcare, facts and history of the Silicon Valley, robot technology, and more! With exhibits covering various biological and technological topics, every age group can find something to learn and enjoy.

La Honda Winery | Redwood City

2645 Fair Oaks Ave | Facebook

La Honda Winery and Post & Trellis Vineyards farm over fifty private estate vineyards located in the towns of La Honda, Woodside, Hillsborough, Portola Valley, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Saratoga and Los Gatos. As a result, their small-batch wines are a must-try. Though they are not regularly open for public tastings, they do open the Redwood City winery for a monthly Open Day Wine Tasting for just $10. Get more details and dates here.

Peralta Adobe & Fallon House Historic Site | San Jose

175 W St John St | Facebook

Built in 1797, Peralta Adobe is the last remaining structure from El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe and is the oldest building in San Jose. The structure was originally built by Manuel Gonzelez, an Apache Indian, the first resident of San Jose, and the city’s second mayor. A tour of this building is quick as it only has two rooms!

Learn more about visiting Peralta Adobe and the 1850s Carmel and Thomas Fallon House here

Outdoor Adventures

Baylands Nature Preserve | Palo Alto

Get directions

Maintained by the City of Palo Alto, this 1940-acre preserve is one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland remaining in the Bay Area. As one of the best bird watching destinations along the west coast, the open space offers 15 miles of multi-use trails covering a variety of habitats including tidal and freshwater.

Castle Rock State Park | Los Gatos

Get directions

One of the Bay Area’s most popular destinations for outdoor rock climbing, Castle Rock State Park a 5,242-acre open space with 34 miles of rugged trails which connect to an extensive trail system linking the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo valleys to nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park and open space preserves on the Skyline to the Sea Trail.

Mt. Umunhum | Los Gatos

Get directions

The fourth highest peak in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Mt. Um is located in the 18000-acre Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve and stands at 3,486 feet. From the summit, you can take in 360-degree views reaching from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Nevada.

Kelley Park | San Jose

Get directions

Kelley Park is an urban park located near downtown San Jose covering 172 acres and including attractions like the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, the Japanese Friendship Garden and the History Park Museum.

Can’t-miss Events

Silicon Valley Irish Fleadh | Mountain View


Silicon Valley Irish Festival San Francisco Bay Area May 2018 events

Photo courtesy of Silicon Valley Irish Fleadh

The Gaelic word Fleadh, pronounced “Fla”, is a celebration of Irish culture and traditions that brings people together to share in the festivities, happiness and joy. The annual Silicon Valley event features traditional and modern Irish performers, Irish dancers, Irish arts and crafts, Irish food vendors, and a Kids’ Zone so everyone can join in the fun!

Los Gatos Music in the Park | Los Gatos

June – August

One of the Bay Area’s best summer concert series, Los Gatos Music in the Park hosts free concerts each Sunday beginning on Father’s Day and continuing through the end of August each year. The season concludes with the Los Gatos Park Dance at Oak Meadow Park!

Palo Alto World Music Day | Palo Alto


Palo Alto World Music Day is a decade-long tradition in Palo Alto. Every year on Father’s Day, about 50 professional and amateur musical groups take to the street corners and plazas of the city to perform in genres covering everything from jazz and blues to pop and even Balkan!

SubZERO Festival | San Jose


In collaboration with the South FIRST FRIDAYS monthly art walk, which takes place in downtown San Jose throughout the year, SubZERO is an annual event celebrating Silicon Valley culture. In addition to the month’s art walk, you can enjoy outdoor stages of entertainment plus artists, performers and musicians.

Silicon Valley Beer Week | Various locations


Things to do in Silicon Valley California Palo Alto Mountain View San Jose Cupertino

Each year, Silicon Valley Beer Week celebrates the local venues, restaurants and breweries that are passionate about craft beer. Events span eight days in various locations and include tap takeovers, food pairings, brewmaster dinners, new release nights and other exclusive events.

Silicon Valley Pride | San Jose


The annual Silicon Valley Pride celebration takes place over two summer days and includes a rally, a night festival, a parade and a day festival which includes food trucks, a beer garden and a kids zone!

Santa Clara County Fair | San Jose


This community event highlights the talents, hobbies, history and people of Santa Clara County every summer. Special exhibitions and events include car shows, animal encounters, petting zoos, competitions, races (both car and Weiner dog), arts and crafts, rides and more!

Palo Alto Festival of the Arts | Palo Alto


Hosted each year by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, this art festival literally covers the streets of downtown Palo Alto in art. Highlights include the Italian Street Painting Expo and the Kids’ Art Studio where children can make and take home arts and crafts of their own.

Mountain View Art and Wine Festival | Mountain View


Silicon Valley’s world-class arts festival includes handcrafted work by 500 of America’s top artists, live music on stage and throughout the streets of downtown Mountain View, the Soul Train Dance Party Concert, Salsa Sunday, local food, seasonal craft beer, premium wine, refreshing sangria, mimosas, fresh-fruit margaritas, the Comcast Pigskin Party Lounge with a giant screen TV, home and garden exhibits, and tons of fun and games for kids.

Christmas in the Park | San Jose

November – December  

Christmas in the Park is the Bay Area’s ultimate holiday attraction. Throughout the season, you can participate in events like Santa Run Silicon Valley, Dog Day at the Park, Santa Paws, Habitat for Humanity Playhouse Build, and more!

What do you love about Silicon Valley?  

Let us know in the comments below!

Category Community Guides, Silicon Valley

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McGuire Real Estate

McGuire Real Estate

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