Silicon Valley is known as a hotbed of high-tech innovation, and rightfully so. Apple, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Tesla, Facebook, Twitter, and Google are all headquartered there. The computer you’re reading this on was probably designed or manufactured there. For tech aficionados, the southern part of California’s Bay Area is a veritable mecca. But what about everyone else?
Fortunately, Silicon Valley has no shortage of must-see attractions for every member of the family, even if they can’t the difference between a flash drive and a flash mob.
Winchester Mystery House
Imagine looking up houses for sale in San Jose and finding this listing: Victorian-style mansion with 40 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 2 ballrooms, 2 basements, 47 fireplaces, 47 staircases, 3 elevators, 17 chimneys, and 10,000 windows. Sadly you can’t buy this sprawling, labyrinthine estate, but you can take a tour. Construction of the historic Winchester Mystery House began in 1884 and continued ‘round the clock for 38 years. Reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in America, it is said that the owner built the house as a maze to confuse its many ghosts.
Wish you could travel to a whole new country without leaving California? San Francisco’s Japantown packs 100 years of Japanese culture into six city blocks. Visit the Peace Plaza pagoda, a 5-story monument gifted from Osaka in 1968. Treat yourself to an authentic Japanese dinner at OzaOza. Belt out some of your favorite tunes at the Playground karaoke bar. Unwind at Kabuki Spring and Spa, a traditional Japanese bathhouse. Explore a centuries-old legacy at the National Japanese American Historical Society museum. Last but not least, don’t forget to get your picture taken, kawaii-style, at the Pika Pika photo-booth shop.
Looking to get your geek on? Lucky you, Silicon Valley is home to one of the biggest, best, and oldest science fiction and fantasy conventions in California, BayCon. Held annually in the city of San Mateo every Memorial Day, this event brings together fans and celebrity guests, such as Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin or award-winning sci-fi novelist Orson Scott Card, for three days of autograph signings, Q&A panels, art shows, costume contests, shopping, and more.
While Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs are constantly looking towards the future, it’s important to remember the past. Few attractions provide a more immersive way to do that than History San Jose’s History Park, a 14-acre miniature town made up of 32 homes, business, and landmarks that perfectly preserve a bygone era. Take a ride on one of the fully functional street trolleys as you adventure through a 19th-century blacksmith’s shed, fire station, doctor’s office, farm, stables, antique steam engine, art gallery, and more. Live demonstrations bring the experience to life, and an old-fashioned ice cream and candy shop sweeten the deal, literally.
The Tech Interactive
Don’t worry, tech-heads, we didn’t forget about you. A huge, one-of-a-kind tribute to Silicon Valley’s countless innovations, The Tech Interactive offers three floors full of exhibits that are both educational and entertaining. Visitors are invited not simply to observe, but to get hands-on experience designing and building working robots, discovering the secrets beneath their own skin via augmented reality touchscreen stations, riding in a simulated jetpack chair modeled after real equipment used by NASA astronauts, and plugging into state-of-the-art VR headsets. There’s no better way to see Silicon Valley’s revolutionary marvels all together under one roof.