Get your geek on with a pilgrimage to California’s Silicon Valley
From Apple to Facebook and Google, see—and shop—at the cutting-edge headquarters of your favourite digital wizards, check out the famous garage where Apple co-founder Steve Jobs first tinkered with computers, and hang with the venture capitalists cutting their legendary deals over grub. Here are our top 7 reasons to visit Silicon Valley...
1. Visit Facebook HQ
Lucy HyslopWith its giant thumb greeting visitors at the beautifully nerdily named 1 Hacker Way (cue: must-take ‘Like’ photo op), Facebook is a magnet for global visitors. Pay homage to the giant societal connector at Menlo Park where its trademark blue hue dominates—including its plethora of bikes constantly hopped on by employees to get around the site. Created by architect Frank Gehry, the uber-trendy open-floor plan shouts fun throughout—heck, even one meeting room has apparently been transformed into a giant ball pit. For veritable aficionados, don’t forget to check behind the thumb sign, however; as our tour guide, Sharon Traeger, points out, you’ll find the now defunct Sun Microsystems sign and a warning nod for those who forget to keep innovating.
2. Google map the Googleplex
Lucy HyslopFrom an oversized cupcake and doughnut to a swirly lollipop and ice-cream sandwich, take a stroll among Google Android’s parade of sweet plastic statues (named for its operating systems) in its very own colourful park. You’ll spy futuristic Google Street View cars near the Google Visitor Center beta (1911 Landings Dr, Mountain View), before hitting its merchandise store that’s well stocked with Google-stamped baby outfits, high-tech torches and water bottles among many colourfully hued products. Nearby, with a nod to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s serious love of Burning Man (the first "Google Doodle" in 1998 featured its symbol to indicate they were away at the vaunted desert festival), the expansive campus also has relics of the shark fin hauled in from the site in Nevada. Peer through the windows into the headquarters' Partner Plex (where it works with other businesses), and you can see the real-time searches in a variety of language flickering on the steps of the stairs. (Trending today? That’ll be Justin Bieber…)
3. Grab lunch at Buck's
Lucy HyslopBefore all that silicon, this Santa Clara area was chiefly known as the Valley of Heart's Delight—reflecting its fruit-producing roots. Get a taste of this rural past nearby at the forested, horse-centric small residential town of Woodside in San Mateo County, where you’ll find Buck’s restaurant (3062 Woodside Road). While it’s famed for venture capitalists cutting legendary deals at these tables for Hotmail and PayPal, you’ll be too busy to notice the other diners as you check out the smorgasbord of eccentric décor: from a solid ingot of pure silicon to astronaut paraphernalia to myriad vinyl and wide-ranging artwork featuring paintings of Hollywood and redwoods. The Naked Lunch Perfect Salad (dry roasted almonds, organic kale, sunflower seed sprouts) and the Dueling Louis Armstrong, with its choice of fresh Dungeness crab or seven big shrimp (or half and half) will more than sate.
4. Stop by Apple Campus
Lucy HyslopWhen it opens in 2017, Apple Inc.’s new 2.8 million-square-foot “space station” building (complete with an underground 1,000-seater auditorium, it’s a paean to contemporary glass, wood and stone) will overshadow its current headquarters, Apple Campus, at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino. But in the meantime, take in the clean-lined splendour of its well-choreographed Apple Store and give into clean-lined temptation (the chic porcelain mugs by Japanese craft guru, Hasami, for example). While you’ll find yourself driving much on Interstates 280 and 101 between all these technology magnets, arriving at this green acreage is as relaxing as a little old chat with Siri.
5. Make the pilgrimage to Steve Jobs' home
Lucy HyslopDon’t be fooled by the suburban setting: the modest looking bungalow at 2066 Crist Drive is virtually the holy grail for all Mac aficionados. Join the throng by making the trip to the newly designated historic site of Steve Jobs’ childhood home in Los Altos and the garage where all that technical tinkering began in the '70s. Just stay on the street to snap (on your iPhone, of course), as there are warning signs to keep off the private property that is now owned by his sister Patti who runs the Jobs Trust.
6. Experience Palo Alto
Katie and TuckerThe garage theme continues at the beautifully kept, crafts-style home at 367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto, where William Hewlett and David Packard developed their first product in 1938 and gave birth to Silicon Valley. If you’re in need of coffee (the beans of choice here are the local organic Blue Bottle microroaster) or to chase that venture capital for your own digital dream among the co-working spaces, head into the nearby University Avenue in Palo Alto (which leads to Stanford University) where there are plenty of swanky shops and the neighbourhood homes of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, president of Yahoo Marissa Mayer and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Be wowed by the b8ta Store—where new Internet-related wizardry is being showcased—and the Beam Store that’s run by robots (basically, an iPad screen on wheels like a Segway). Just don’t expect any human contact: the strictly-robot-operated store is locked up at night remotely through the web, to boot.
7. Drink California wine
Testarossa Winery Round off the tour with a visit to a distinctive local winery—Testarossa Winery (300 College Ave A, Los Gatos), a neat chardonnay and pinot noir wine hub created by Rob and Diana Jensen who swapped long careers in, you guessed it, Silicon Valley for the land of Bacchus.