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Silicon Valley is a huge, amorphous area that spreads from San Francisco, through its heart in Palo Alto and across San Jose, Cupertino and beyond. Humankind’s future is shaped here daily at some of the world’s most innovative companies, from Google and Apple to Facebook and Intel. You’ll need several days to get around to see them all but here are 9 essential things you need to check out in Silicon Valley.

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Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Hewlett Packard Garage: Palo Alto

Where it all started, and also called the birthplace of Silicon Valley, the Hewlett Packard Garage in Palo Alto is in a pleasant residential neighborhood just a few blocks from downtown. The simple stand-alone, one-car garage is where, in 1939, Stanford graduates William Hewlett and David Packard tinkered away at developing an audio oscillator. Now a California Historical Landmark, both the garage and house are owned and beautifully maintained by Hewlett Packard. Many consider the birthplace of Apple Computers to be Steve Job’s Garage, at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos and that’s been declared a city historic landmark. The two Steves—Jobs and Wozniak—did hang there back in the day, but they built the first Macintosh computer elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Apple Headquarters: Cupertino

The new Apple headquarters building in Cupertino is already famous for looking like a spaceship. It takes up a huge square block and features forested terrain in its center ring. Though not open to visitors, the Apple Park Visitor Center is positioned just across the street to satisfy the desire to get close. The center even includes a spiffier-than-most Apple store, a chic cafe that uses iPad minis as menus (and sells mostly espressos and chocolates) and an exhibit room with a model of the famous circular building and iPad minis you can borrow to see the interior in augmented reality.

Flickr CC: Don Debold

The Computer History Museum: Mountain View

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View displays the world’s largest collection of computing artifacts. That includes hardware and software, as well as photos and videos. Among the collection’s gems are the first Apple computer, a WW II ENIGMA encryption/decryption device and a 1980 Sharp calculator with abacus (designed for those who didn’t really trust the calculator).

Buck’s of Woodside: Woodside

Local computer execs (think bigwigs from companies like Hotmail, PayPal and Facebook) reputedly gather frequently at comfy Buck’s in Woodside for power breakfasts of buckwheat pancakes and huevos rancheros. It is sort of like an updated old-time coffee shop, but with a full bar. And it’s said that many a deal has been made over a meal here . Don’t forget to check out the mishmash of curiosities lining the walls, and keep your ears open for possible venture capital secrets.

Flickr CC: Intel Free Press

Intel Museum: Santa Clara

Situated just off the headquarters lobby of the world’s largest semiconductor company, the Intel Museum in Santa Clara shows how computer chips are produced and used in everyday life. The chip-fabrication facility is viewed via video, and hands-on educational exhibits change regularly. Kids aren’t left out—they can try on “bunny suits” like the ones workers wear in the computer chip factories.

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Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

The Tech Museum: San Jose

Offering a top-notch experience in a cheery, mango-colored building, The Tech Museum in San Jose is aimed at all ages. Exhibits focus on innovation and encourages visitors to use technology to solve problems in everyday life. Visitors can make a colorful mix of DNA as well as play and create with AR/VR and immersive media. One of the most popular exhibits is Social Robots, which teaches elements of coding and circuitry through robot construction. Northern California’s largest dome IMAX is part of the complex.


The Children’s Discovery Museum: San Jose

Also in San Jose and also inside a colorful building—this one is Casino Purple—the Children’s Discovery Museum aims its exhibits at ages 0 through 10. Funded originally by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and others, it is one of the largest children’s museums in the West. Multi-disciplinary interactive exhibits include a climb-aboard fire engine, an area where kids can create giant bubbles, and a farmers’ market where they have fun learning about healthy foods and eating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables.

San Hill Road: Menlo Park

Located just south of the Stanford campus, Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park is the main artery passing through the world’s highest concentration of venture capital companies. You won’t see much actual tech, but you will be amid the firms that are credited with funding most of today’s big name Silicon Valley companies. Property here was the most expensive in the world during the dot-com boom of the late ’90s, and office space is still the world’s most expensive.


Photo courtesy of Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Clement Hotel: Palo Alto

Life is a dream at the boutique Clement Hotel in Palo Alto, located just across the street from Stanford University. It is all-inclusive, but not in the usual way. Though it has only 23 rooms, luxurious amenities include all meals—cooked to order, of course—and a 24-hour Guest Pantry stocked with items such as ice cream, fruit plates and mini Bundt cakes. Alcoholic beverages are included and delivered to the pool or guest room upon request. Plus, each guest room has two 65-inch TVs, as well as a 20-incher in the bathroom mirror.

Tagged: California, San Francisco

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Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Carole is a Berkeley-based travel writer who most especially enjoys cultural and culinary travel. She contributes to an assortment of publications and is the author of 18 books. Carole oversees two websites, and, and she blogs at
Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Carole Terwilliger Meyers; freelance travel writer, website publisher, and blogger

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