Exploring the Tech Attractions of Silicon Valley

Museums, electronics, and Fortune 500 companies dot the Silicon Valley landscape.


Stanford is a must-stop destination on a field trip to to the Santa Clara Valley.

Photo by Michael Halberstadt

Silicon Valley was born of two fathers in a Palo Alto garage. A few more of its garages later morphed into Fortune 500 companies, and its office parks now bear names the entire world knows: Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, HP, Oracle, LinkedIn. Even if you can’t work for these companies, a high-tech stroll through the region otherwise known as Santa Clara Valley still offers plenty to see and do.

The best place to start your daytrip is Stanford University’s Quad, whose archwayed and frescoed Memorial Church even atheists admire. Stanford’s Red Barn–an actual barn that’s actually red–was where cinematography got its start, when a series of photos was taken there in 1877 to determine whether a horse lifts all its feet off the ground while galloping.

Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center is free and boasts the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside Paris. You’d think it would be hotter mere steps away from Rodin’s monumental series Gates of Hell, but the appropriately named Cool CafÄ offers welcome refreshment.

Given its longstanding preponderance of intellectuals and philanthropists, it’s no wonder that Silicon Valley abounds in museums. Worth a long look, Santa Clara University’s De Saisset Museum contains a huge collection of artifacts and artworks by such notables as Albrecht Durer and William Hogarth.

Intel offers the valley’s friendliest company experience, complete with a technology museum and picture spot. NASA’s impressive visitor center right inside the gate at Moffett Field features a real moon rock.

The top spot on any tech-oriented tour, Google’s sprawling campus—dubbed the “Googleplex”—straddles several public parks, streets and bike trails; ubiquitous colorful “GBikes” are strewn across Charleston Park and parked in ornate lines throughout the acreage. On workdays, Google’s self-driving and street-view cars ply the territory as “Googlers” play soccer on their own private field. Google’s Android OS is represented by a cute green robot statue.

For a unique shopping experience, peruse decades-old computers at Weird Stuff Warehouse, whose rear shelves are stocked with oscilloscopes, modems, vintage software boxes, and dusty electronic components. Apple’s Company Store is open to the public and offers many products whose names begin with a lower-case “i.”

As a tourist, you won’t be knocking balls across a lot of foosball tables, as tech-industry employees do, or dining in company canteens with celebrity chefs. But after seeing its sights, you might end up thinking that this region’s original name, the Valley of Heart’s Delight, was more accurate than its current one.

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