In the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, surrounded by the beauty of the northern California landscape, lies an epicenter for innovation – Silicon Valley. Home to many high-profile tech giants like Facebook, Google and Apple, the Bay Area and its attractions are a magnet for technology-inspired travelers. The region teems with hot spots showcasing inventors and their transformative inventions that fascinate curious minds of all ages. From the iconic corporate campuses to interactive museums and historic landmarks, the area provides a unique opportunity to explore technology’s past, present and future in one of the world’s most dynamic and influential settings.
Apple Park, Cupertino
Apple Park is a stunning campus and highly recommended for any Apple loyalist or tech enthusiast. Otherwise known as “The Spaceship,” the headquarters of the mega tech company is an architectural vision designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and opened in 2017. It is a marvel not only of beauty but also sustainability. Solar panels and natural ventilation systems are primary energy-efficiency features key to the architectural design. The circular structure is surrounded by lush landscapes of native plants, creating a natural oasis amidst the technological hub. While access to the main campus is limited to employees and invited guests, visitors can explore the Apple Park Visitor Center. It features an augmented-reality experience, allowing you to delve into the campus virtually through an iPad. Browse the Apple Store for exclusive merchandise or unwind on the rooftop terrace with a treat from the cafe while gazing over The Spaceship.
The Tech Interactive Museum, San Jose
The Tech Interactive Museum, located in downtown San Jose, is a science and technology center that offers immersive experiences related to technology and innovation, from artistic experimentation to advances in biotechnology. The museum is particularly suited for budding scientists, with engaging learning activities that capture the imagination and target a younger audience.
Through interactive exhibits, visitors can experiment with complex subjects of biology, biotechnology and advances in health care in a fun and accessible way. The Bio Design Studio presents fascinating insights into synthetic biology, bioengineering and biological design. Guided activities include a creative bio design station where scientists assist in exploring and experimenting with biotechnology.
Children aged 6+ are encouraged to participate in The Tech Studio, either guided through a STEAM activity or by creating independently. The Tech Interactive empowers visitors to explore, dream and create in a space where cutting-edge technologies are exhibited to delight and inspire future generations.
Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos
Train your eyes upwards as the museum’s aircraft appear up, down and all around. The Hiller Aviation Museum is a treat for anyone interested in the technology and history of flight. Visitors can see over 50 aircraft on display, including early gliders, helicopters and modern drones. The interactive exhibits, including flight simulators and immersive activities, promise an exciting and educational experience for aviation enthusiasts and curious visitors alike. All ages and levels of piloting experience will be entertained with hands-on exercises, including a special play area for the youngest budding aviators. Step aboard the nose section of a Boeing 747-100 and experience the height of 1970s airline technology while listening to the San Carlos air traffic control. And when you’re finished, the small airport’s viewing platform where the whole family can enjoy plane spotting is a few steps away. The Hiller Aviation Museum is a hidden gem in an area blessed with abundant technological innovation.
Computer History Museum, Mountain View
Mountain View’s Computer History Museum offers an extensive collection of artifacts, interactive exhibits and multimedia displays. It is the world’s leading institution dedicated to preserving and exploring computing history. Here, visitors can view the world’s first commercially available computer, trace the evolution of programming languages and witness the rise of the internet. The museum’s centerpiece, “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing,” is an extensive exhibition encompassing everything from ancient abacuses to modern-day supercomputers. Whether you’re a tech enthusiast, a history buff or simply curious about the digital world that surrounds us, the Computer History Museum is an outstanding Bay Area destination to discover the remarkable innovations and visionary pioneers shaping our connected world.
Nikola Tesla Statue, Palo Alto
In the city of Palo Alto stands a tribute to one of the world’s most inspired inventors, Nikola Tesla. The bronze monument, equaling Tesla’s height of 6’2”, was constructed in 2013 to recognize this brilliant man for his invaluable contributions to electrical engineering and radio transmission. Tesla is seen gazing intently at a large, disconnected vacuum bulb, a replica of a famous picture from 1899.
The statue has two unique features, one for visitors to enjoy now and a hidden gift for later. To honor Tesla’s own vision for free energy and wireless technology, the statue is equipped with free Wi-Fi, encouraging visitors to linger and perhaps work on creative endeavors in the vicinity. And beneath the figure lies a time capsule, slated to be opened in 2043 on the 100th anniversary of Tesla’s passing, that contains a trove of information about the inventor, his works and the pioneers who followed in his footsteps. This monument is a testament to the enduring legacy of a visionary whose work continues to inspire.
Googleplex, Mountain View
This sprawling headquarters of tech giant Google is a popular tourist attraction in Silicon Valley. As you approach the iconic campus, you’ll be welcomed by the vibrantly colored Google bikes and the whimsical Android statues, symbolic of the company’s playful and innovative spirit. Here, amidst the meticulously landscaped gardens and cutting-edge architecture, you can feel the pulse of creativity that fuels this groundbreaking company. There are several attractions and photo opportunities with the many Android figures in the sculpture garden. Visitors can snap a picture with the famous cupcake, donut, ice cream sandwich, KitKat, gingerbread and honeycomb — each sugar-inspired sculpture is named for a version of Android. Take a ride on one of Google’s colorful bikes to appreciate this expansive campus, its state-of-the-art architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Hewlett-Packard Garage, Palo Alto
Referred to occasionally as the “birthplace of Silicon Valley,” the Hewlett-Packard Garage is a historic landmark where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded one of the world’s leading technology companies in 1939. With just $538 and a dream, they transformed the world of technology from this very spot. The unassuming garage nestled in an ordinary neighborhood of Palo Alto is a popular pilgrimage for tech enthusiasts. Visitors can view the exterior of the garage and the plaque dedicated to the two young entrepreneurs; however, there are no public tours. But it is a perfect location to capture a few images and reflect on how dreams and inspiration can spark anywhere and expand beyond one’s wildest imagination.
NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View
As one of NASA’s leading research centers, Ames has been at the forefront of aerospace innovation since its establishment in 1939. Visitors can explore the NASA Ames Exploration Center, which offers exhibits, interactive displays and a close-up look at some of Ames’ fascinating achievements and ongoing research. The immersive state-of-the-art computer labs simulate our universe’s mysteries and educate visitors on NASA’s robotic exploration missions that have ventured across the solar system. One can view breathtaking images of distant galaxies captured by NASA telescopes or step inside a mock-up of the International Space Station. This is a unique treat in the Bay Area and a must-visit destination. It presents a singular opportunity to glimpse the groundbreaking work of NASA and their efforts to push the boundaries of knowledge and exploration.
Intel History Museum, Santa Clara
Situated within Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara, the Intel History Museum features interactive exhibits, rare artifacts and educational displays that showcase the history and technology of microchips. With immersive displays and hands-on demonstrations, the museum offers an accessible and engaging exploration of the world of microprocessors and their transformative impact. Visitors learn about the evolution of microchips and the captivating story of Intel founder Gordon Moore. Moore was a vital figure in semiconductor technology and the creation of Silicon Valley as we know it today. As you explore the exhibits, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the technological marvels that power our world and the innovative spirit that has propelled Silicon Valley to the forefront of the global tech industry. Interactive exhibits like the augmented reality photo booth will charm younger visitors. The Intel Museum offers free admission and includes an Intel gift shop to take home lasting memorabilia from your visit.