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Sightseeing in Silicon Valley: Go Beyond San Francisco

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The tech community is at CES, so there is no better time to explore Silcone Valley without the crowds. In honor of Huell Howser and his love of the Golden State, here is Dena Roché look at an unsung California community rich in history, art, adventure.

If you’ve already left your heart in San Francisco and taxed your liver in Napa and Sonoma it’s time to experience the Bay area in a totally new way with a visit to Silicon Valley and the coastal towns of the San Francisco Peninsula.

Sure, some might call you crazy to travel to this area and never set foot in San Francisco, but intrepid travelers will be rewarded with unique activities, outdoor adventures, culinary treats, luxury accommodations and an undiscovered wine region.  Here are five of our favorites to tempt your fancy.

Step Back in Time

It’s only 30 minutes out of San Francisco in Woodside, but Filoli is about a century away, representing one of the best remaining early 20th century estates in the country.  While the 36,000-square-foot home is impressive, it’s the 654 acres with a 16-acre English Renaissance Garden and a 6.8 acre Gentlemen’s Orchard that are the stars of the show.  Take a bite of a fresh-picked nectarine or peach and your taste buds will be devoted to Filoli for life.  The orchard is the largest private orchard of heirloom fruits in the United States, and includes a cornucopia of stone and pome fruits, as well as 136 table grapes, figs and persimmons.  Some trees on the property may be the only of their kind left in existence anywhere in the world.  Admission includes a house and garden tour.  Orchard tours and guided hikes are available on select days.

French Art in a California Institution

Palo Alto is synonymous with Stanford University, but visit The Cantor Arts Center  on the university campus and you’ll be treated to one of the largest collections of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris.  Nearly 200 works of this iconic artist grace several indoor galleries and a large outdoor sculpture garden, featuring 20 of Rodin’s major works including the Thinker and The Gates of Hell.  Admission to the Arts Center is free, and the sculpture Garden is open 24-hours a day.

Wine Country

Napa and Sonoma get the acclaim and the tourists, but the Santa Cruz Mountains are home to over 70 wineries growing a diverse selection of grapes and producing high-quality, small-batch wines that will win you over.  One of the best and most beautiful wineries to visit is Thomas Fogarty.  Situated 2,000 feet above sea level, it  gives visitors great views of the Bay area and the wine great terroir.  The winery was founded over 30 years ago by Dr. Thomas Fogarty, a cardiologist who invented the balloon catheter, and produces some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the region.  To tour several wineries consider booking a wine tour with The Santa Cruz Experience.

Coastal Cuisine

Everyone knows San Francisco is a foodie Mecca, but the talent has spilled over into the Peninsula.  Tucked between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, Michelin Star Peruvian restaurant La Costanera is a coastal standout.  Chef Carlos Altamirano puts a contemporary spin on authentic Peruvian dishes that delight the taste buds.  Pair them with Peru’s classic Pisco Sour cocktail and the experience is complete.  For more fun head to Half Moon Bay and Cameron’s Pub.  This irreverent English Pub and Inn on Highway 1 serves up traditional British fare along with some American standards, pairing each with 20 beers on tap and over 65 in the bottle.  Outside the pub you’ll find an iconic London Black Cab, a British phone booth and the World’s Only Double Decker Smoking Bus (owner Cameron Palmer’s solution to the restaurant smoking ban).  Like a traditional British pub, it also functions as an Inn offering up a unique B&B concept of Bed and Beverage (Only liquid breakfast is available here!)   For an ethnic spin, head to Coconuts in Palo Alto, which has Jamaican cuisine cooked up by Chef Emmanuel Garba.  For some entertainment, Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City which offers live performances ranging from jazz to opera to theater every evening.

Work it Off

After sampling all the good eats and seductive sips, it’s imperative that you incorporate some fun physical activity into your visit.  In Palo Alto take a local’s favorite hike called The Dish.  The paved trail starts out a bit steep, but levels into an easy hike pretty quickly.  The trail got its name because it takes walkers past The Stanford Dish, a radio telescope that is a major landmark on the campus.  Rewards for making it to the top include sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, Stanford and the foothills.  If golf is more your thing, tee off at The Half Moon Bay Golf Links, which is often compared to Pebble Beach because of its amazing oceanfront vistas on two award winning courses.

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By Dena Roché for Dena Braun-Roché, aka, The Fitglobetrotter, covers luxury, wellness and spa travel worldwide. Her work has appeared in Spa Magazine, Robb Report, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, and Bridal Guide. Follow her travels and travel tips on Twitter @fitglobetrotter