Silicon Valley Guide

Silicon Valley, located in Northern California, is home to iconic technology companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Uber. This guide gives an overview of things to do in Silicon Valley and is intended for software engineers and programmers looking for geeky Silicon Valley points of interest. Every year, thousands of geeks visit the Silicon Valley destinations outlined in this guide.

The Silicon Valley Tour page provides more information for visitors that want a guided tour.

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Quick facts

  • Population is around 4 million
  • Highest median house prices in the US
  • Most millionaires & billionaires in the US
  • 28% of jobs are in high-tech
  • 15% more men than women

What to see

Silicon Valley covers a wide geographic area and points of interest are spread out among several cities. The following map highlights the attractions listed in this guide.

What to expect: Visitors are often surprised when they arrive in Silicon Valley. The area is mostly suburban, filled with office parks . Companies are geographically dispersed and the traffic is bad. Many companies are developing innovative technology, but the work is done in access-restricted office buildings, hidden from the public.

Menlo Park

Facebook Headquarters

Geek Appeal: ★★★★ | 15 minutes

1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, CA 94025

Facebook, the social media giant, is based in a 40,000-square-meter main campus designed by Frank Gehry.

The Good: Take a selfie next to the big thumb up sign and make it your Facebook profile picture.

The Bad: There isn't anything else to see unless you know a Facebook employee.

Fun fact: The back of the sign still has the old logo of Sun Microsystems, the previous tenant of the campus.

Tip: During warm seasons, the Facebook Farmers Market is hosted on the main parking lot.

Learn more: Facebook Menlo Park

TechShop

Geek Appeal: ★★★★★ | 20 minutes

120 Independence Dr., Menlo Park, CA 94025

The TechShop provides facilities for woodworking and metalworking for makers. They provide free tours of the facilities. There are also TechShops located in San Francisco and San Jose, but the Menlo Park location is the original and largest.

Sandhill Road

Geek Appeal: ★ | 5 minutes

Sandhill Rd, Menlo Park, CA

Sandhill Road is home to the most powerful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. Firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Accel, Benchmark Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Greylock Partners are located here. Entrepreneurs come to this area to meet venture capitalists and raise money for their start-ups.

The Bad: There isn't anything to see here except for office buildings.

Fun Facts:

  • Sand Hill Road has the most expensive office space in the United States.
  • Cougar Night was a weekly dating event previously hosted at the five-star Rosewood Sand Hill hotel. Read more at Vanity Fair.

Read more: The VC Address of Choice: Sand Hill Road.

Palo Alto

Stanford University

450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305

Geek Appeal: ★★★★ | 1 hour

Stanford University is where many of the biggest tech companies, like Google, Yahoo, and Cisco, were founded.

The Good: Beautiful campus. Very smart (and sometimes famous) students and faculty.

The Bad: Parking can be hard to find if you visit on a weekday during the school year.

Tip: Parking is easier to find on the weekend.

Learn more: YouTube

(Image CC from small-world.)

b8ta

Geek Appeal: ★★★★★ | 30 minutes

516 Bryant St., Palo Alto, CA 94301

b8ta is a brick-and-mortar retailer that sells the trendy gadgets, such as virtual reality headsets, electric fat bikes, and brain-sensing headbands. This is startup gadget heaven.

The Good: Great selection of innovative products.

The Bad: The store is small.

Tesla Motors Show Room

Geek Appeal: ★★★★ | 30 minutes

4180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306

Telsa's showrooms are open to the public. Browse and learn about their electric vehicles, even if you can't afford the cars!

Test drive: You can test drive cars for free if you are over 25 years old and have a valid US driver's license. This requires making an appointment ahead of time on the Tesla website.

The Good: Friendly staff. Sales people aren't pushy. Free test drives.

Tesla also has showrooms and stores in San Jose, Fremont, and Sunnyvale.

HP Garage

Geek Appeal: ★★ | 2 minutes

367 Addison Ave., Palo Alto, California

Hewlett Packard was founded in this garage in 1939.

The Good: Located in a pleasant Palo Alto neighborhood.

The Bad: The garage is part of a residential property and is only viewable from the street. You cannot go inside the garage.

Nikola Tesla Statue

Geek Appeal: ★★ | 2 minutes

260 Sheridan Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306

This statue of Nikola Tesla is also a free Wi-Fi access point and time capsule which will be opened in 2043. The statue was originally started as a Kickstarter project.

The Good: Tesla is relatively obscure compared to Edison, so it's nice to see him honored.

The Bad: It's just a statue.

Mountain View

Google Headquarters

Geek Appeal: ★★★★★ | 30 minutes

1911 Landings Dr., Mountain View, CA 94043

Google's headquarters, also known as the Googleplex, spans over 60 buildings in a sprawling campus in Mountain View. See this map for specific locations for taking your selfies!

The Google Visitor Center is a mini-museum of Google, hosting cultural and historical artifacts from the company's history. Unfortunately access is restricted to Google employees and their guests. The inside of the Google Visitor Center can be seen in this video.

The Android lawn statues, which consists of the iconic green robot and human-sized desserts, are a popular spot for taking selfies. Each version of Android is associated with a dessert (e.g., cupcake, donut, KitKat) that is represented by a statue.

The Google Merchandise Store sells shirts, hats, cups, and other souvenirs with Google, YouTube, and Android branding. You can also buy the same goodies online.

Throughout the Google campus, you'll find quirky decorations such as physical Google Maps markers, Google Street View car, a volleyball court, and Stan the T-Rex. Colorful bikes are scattered across campus. Employees use these bikes to quickly travel between buildings on the massive campus.

The Good: Guests are welcome to take pictures in the Android lawn statues. The Google Merchandise Store is open during the week.

The Bad: Access to the Google Visitor Center and regular offices is restricted to Google employees and their guests. The Google Merchandise Store is open to the public but is closed on the weekends.

Fun Fact: Google has nine conference bikes where teams can hold meetings while cycling.

Read more:

The Computer History Museum

Geek Appeal: ★★★★★ | 1 hour

1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA 94043

The Computer History Museum is adjacent to Google's headquarters. The museum has the world's largest collection of historical computing artifacts, spanning from ancient counting machines to autonomous vehicles.

The Good: World's largest collection of historical computing artifacts. Hosts a model Google self-driving car that you can sit inside.

Price: $17.50 (General Admission)

Tip: Groupon frequently has discounts for the Computer History Museum

(Image CC from brianjmatis on Flickr. See more.)

Shockley Semiconductor

Geek Appeal: ★★ | 2 minutes

391 San Antonio Rd., Mountain View, CA 94040

Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory was the very first company working on silicon devices. Today, a produce market occupies the space.

The Good: It's fun to say that you purchased produce from the same place the transistor was invented.

The Bad: It's a produce market.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Sunnyvale

NASA Ames

Geek Appeal: ★★★ | 30 minutes

Moffett Field, California 94035

The NASA Ames site has two parts. The first part is the NASA Exploration Center. This is a small exhibit that showcases the work done at NASA Ames. The second part is the Moffett Field Historical Museum. This contains history around the country's airships during the first half of the 20th century.

The Good: Gift shop has neat NASA gear.

The Bad: The Exploration Center and Moffett Field Historical Museum are small. Touring each will take about 30 minutes.

Weird Stuff

Geek Appeal: ★★★★ | 20 minutes

384 W. Caribbean Dr., Sunnyvale, CA 94089

WeirdStuff is a reseller of new, used, and excess goods. They have a warehouse and retail store in Sunnyvale.

The Good: You can spot some rare and interesting computer parts here.

Learn more: New York Times


Fry's Electronics

Geek Appeal: ★★★★ | 30 minutes

1077 East Arques Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94085

Fry's Electronics is a popular big-box electronics store in Silicon Valley. It's like Best Buy, except larger and cheaper. It has the decor of the Cheesecake factory with faux pillars at the entrance. Fry's open their first store at this Sunnyvale location and have now expanded to Campbell, Fremont, Palo Alto, and San Jose.

The Good: Excellent selection and reasonable prices.

The Bad: This is only fun if you like shopping.

Fun fact: Each Fry's location has a store theme. The Sunnyvale store's theme is "History of Silicon Valley" and the Palo Alto store's theme is Wild West.

Read more: Wikipedia

Cupertino

Apple Headquarters

Geek Appeal: ★★★ | 30 minutes

1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014

Apple's headquarters are located in Cupertino. They have a company store that's open to the public. The only place in the world that sells Apple logo t-shirts, caps, and accessories. The store is the only part of campus open to the public.

The Good: Headquarters of the world's largest company.

The Bad: The site really is just a collection of office buildings and access is heavily restricted.

Read more: Wikipedia

Apple Campus II (Under Construction)

Geek Appeal: ★★★ | 2 minutes

19111 Pruneridge Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014

Apple's futuristic spaceship campus is under construction.

The Good: Massive building.

The Bad: During construction, the site is fenced off, so you will not be able to see much.

Los Altos

Original Apple Garage

Geek Appeal: ★★★ | 2 minutes

2066 Crist Dr., Los Altos, CA 94024

The original garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple. It is now a historic site.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Santa Clara

Intel Museum

Geek Appeal: ★★★★ | 30 minutes

2200 Mission College Boulevard, Santa Clara, CA 95054

This corporate museum hosts the history the of the Intel Corporation. There is also a gift shop where you can by Intel schwag.

The Good: Free. This museum is unique because of its focus on semiconductors.

The Bad: Relatively small. Focuses exclusively on Intel technology.

Hacker Dojo

Geek Appeal: ★★ | 20 minutes

3350 Thomas Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95054

The Hacker Dojo is a place where computer enthusiasts can hang out, in the spirit of the Homebrew Computer Club. It was the first location in California to host a Bitcoin ATM. Check out their calendar of events.

The Good: Great community focused on technology and hacking.

Learn more: Fox News

San Jose

The Tech Museum of Innovation

Geek Appeal: ★★★ | 1 hour

201 South Market St., San Jose, CA 95113

Price: $15 for adults, $10 for kids

The Good: Unique displays that teach basic science concepts.

The Bad: This museum is targeted to kids, so you may feel out of place if you're an adult.

Read more: Yelp

Adobe Headquarters

Geek Appeal: ★ | 40 seconds

345 Park Ave., San Jose, CA

The main building of the Adobe headquarters has a puzzle atop of the building. Four discs spin in a special pattern. Read more.

AFKgg Gamer Lounge

Geek Appeal: ★★★★★ | 1 hour

163 W Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113

AFKgg Gaming Lounge is a place for casual and hardcore gamers to meet, compete, and enjoy eSports. There is a full bar and restaurant with gaming stations scattered around.

San Francisco

San Francisco is typically not considered to be part of Silicon Valley, but many hot startups have migrated to the city. Many young tech workers live in San Francisco and commute to the suburbs for work. People in the Bay Area refer to San Francisco as "the city" or "SF".

Eatsa

121 Spear St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Eatsa is an automatic restaurant with no human workers.

Yoda Fountain

Geek Appeal: ★★★ | 2 minutes

1 Letterman Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

A life-size Yoda fountain is positioned at the Lucasfilms HQ.

Learn more: Yelp

Noisebridge

2169 Mission St, 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA 94110

Noisebridge is a 5,200 square-foot space with an electronics lab, machine shop, sewing/crafting supplies, photography darkroom, and more.


Oakland

The MADE - Video Game Museum

3400 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE) is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of video game history and to educating the public as to how video games are created.

Price: $10 to play games all day

Pros: Comprehensive collection of video games and consoles.

Cons: Relatively small.

Ace Monster Toys

6050 Lowell St. Ste 214, Oakland, CA 94608

Ace Monster Toys is a hackerspace. It has a large collection of tools and machines. They also host regular events for hacking.

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