A little while ago we got some long waited guests from my home country, Finland. My friend with her family landed in Oakland after a long journey and stepped into America for the very first time.
The first morning it was obvious that they were still tired from the trip and the time difference. Usually our guests who come from Europe wake up at 5 am. and then it is difficult for them to stay up until the evening. They all feel like they need a nap which is the worst mistake you can make when fighting the jet lag. So I decided to take our guests for sightseeing somewhere close by. That means Silicon Valley.
We began by driving over to the heart of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto. Originally Palo Alto was established around Stanford University and it is now one of the most expensive cities to live in. It has been the birth place for many tech companies and still has many company headquarters. We started our tour from Stanford University where we walked around the main campus and stopped at the chapel. Buildings there are beautiful and the campus is huge so if you want, you can easily spend the whole day there.
After visiting Stanford it was lunch time and we all started feeling a little hungry already. We drove over to downtown Palo Alto. The downtown is very nice and is known for it's great selection of upscale restaurants. University Avenue also has many boutiques, shops and cafeterias. Palo Alto is one of the many places in the Bay Area where all the foodies like to gather. The downside to that is the lack of parking and higher prices.
After lunch we drove to the birth place of Silicon Valley, the HP Garage. The very first Hewlett-Packard product was developed in this garage and that is what we count as the start of Silicon Valley. This building is protected and listed as a historical landmark. You can find it at 367 Addison Avenue.
Pretty close to the HP Garage you can also find Steve Jobs' old house. This residential area is very popular to visit during holidays or Halloween since the houses nearby are decorated beautifully. This was also my first time visiting the house even though I have often driven in this area.
We ended our Silicon Valley tour at the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. You don't have to look for the campus very long, you will see the giant sign right on the freeway. To get inside of the campus you need an invitation from an employee, but you can still park your car and take a picture with the sign like we did. Just be aware of the traffic on the freeway and park somewhere safe. I have seen all kinds of crazy parking jobs which are dangerous when people try to get their pictures with the sign.
There is of course a lot of other things to see in the valley but our guests needed some rest on their first day. So if you feel like you have seen everything in San Francisco, just head outside the city and there is so much going on and lots to see.
TIPS TO VISITING SILICON VALLEY
Head to Palo Alto for good food and trendy cafeterias. City parking garages are free but especially during the weekends are full. If you want to dine in a specific restaurant, I recommend making a reservation. Some restaurants are also closed for few hours between lunch and dinner service.
If you visit the University of Stanford you might want to familiarize yourself with the campus map beforehand. The campus is huge and it is often confusing finding places there. Carry some coins with you for parking. You can always stop at the Stanford visitor center to ask advice, to get a map or to buy some Stanford gear.
The HP Garage is at 369 Addison Avenue. It is a residential area and there is only parking on the street. This also goes for Steve Jobs' house, which can be found at 2101 Waverley St.
The Facebook campus is on 1 Hacker Way, and you will see the sign from far away. There are always people at the sign taking pictures.