Santa Clara County “Staycations”

After literally traveling to the end of the earth on my last vacation (Kaktovik, Alaska), my next few vacations probably will be closer to home. On that topic, the Mercury News ran a special feature this weekend on Santa Clara County as a tourist destination for locals (a “staycation”). Santa Clara County gets a little overshadowed by some of its showier neighbors (e.g., Monterey, Santa Cruz, the San Mateo Coast, the Pinnacles, Berkeley and of course San Francisco) but there’s still a lot of neat things to investigate:

* South Bay ‘staycations’: Keeping it local

* Staying home? There’s still plenty to do

* More suggestions from readers

* Checklist

From my perspective, a newcomer wanting to explore Santa Clara County should try all of the following:

* hike in the chaparral, the redwoods and the marshlands

* tour one of our educational institutions. Stanford is the most logical choice and has plenty to do and see, but Santa Clara University’s campus is nice too (especially the old Mission)

* tour the Silicon Valley technology community. Because there’s no “there” in the Silicon Valley, the Computer History Museum is a good place to start. A drive around the Googleplex, just around the corner from the museum, is a good supplement.

* eat. Check out how many of the reader-supplied suggestions relate to the fact that we have really good food here. With these culinary attractions, it would not be improper to organize a vacation around your lunch and dinner destinations, with other activities to fill in the gaps. Personally, I think any Santa Clara County gastronomic tour is incomplete unless it includes a stop at an ethnic restaurant on El Camino Real/the Alameda/Santa Clara Street (my favorite is Udupi Palace in Sunnyvale–get a dosa or the thali). The tour also has to include (1) a meal in one of the small suburbs’ downtowns–there are hidden gems in each, (2) a stop at one of the local farmers’ markets, and (3) a visit to one of the ethnic grocery stores, such as the Asian markets.

I guess you could also try to go to one of the more overt tourist traps, such as Great America, the Winchester House, the Gilroy Gardens or the Egyptian Museum. I’ve never been to the latter three, and I don’t think most locals are attracted to places like the Winchester House.

Some of the places mentioned in the Mercury News articles that I haven’t been but would like to go:

* Moffett Field hangar

* the Hanna House

* Hakone Gardens

* Mt. Hamilton, especially right after a snowstorm

For many years, I have also wanted to tour SLAC, but unfortunately the tours are on hiatus.