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The Inland Peninsula
Driving south of San Francisco along the San Mateo coast, it's hard to believe that inland, behind the rolling hills, is Silicon Valley. And while the high-tech hub is known more for its semiconductors and Fortune 500 companies than its sightseeing, it does have a few highlights worth stopping for—especially if you're already driving through on I–280.
Stanford University. Adorable Palo Alto and its intellectual neighbor, Stanford University, are about 35 miles south of San Francisco. Stanford's gorgeous grounds are home to a primordial-looking cactus garden, a stone sculpture by Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy, aboriginal artworks from Papua New Guinea, and an excellent art museum—The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts—open from Wednesday to Sunday, whose lawn is planted with bronze works by Rodin. Free one-hour walking tours of the campus leave daily at 11 and 3:15 from the visitor center in the front hall of Memorial Auditorium. Main Quad, 450 Serra Mall, at Palm Dr., south off El Camino Real, Stanford, CA, 94305. 650/723–2300. www.stanford.edu.
Mission Santa Clara de Asis. In the center of Santa Clara University's campus is the Mission Santa Clara. The roof tiles of the current building, a reproduction of the original, were salvaged from earlier structures, which dated from the 1790s and 1820s. Early adobe walls and a spectacular garden with 4,500 roses remain intact as well. 500 El Camino Real, Pescadero, CA. 408/554–4023. www.scu.edu/visitors/missionchurch. Free. Self-guided tours daily 6 am–8 pm.
At the southern end of Silicon Valley, San Jose is home to several good museums.
San Jose Museum of Art. The permanent collection focuses on 20th- and 21st-century works by cutting-edge West Coast and Latino artists. 110 S. Market St., at W. Fernando St., San Jose, CA, 95113. 408/271–6840. www.sjmusart.org. $8. Tues.–Sun. 11–5, until 8 the 3rd Thurs. of the month.
Tech Museum of Innovation. At this hands-on, high-tech science museum for kids, they can grow jellyfish DNA, attempt to steer themselves in a vehicle like ones astronauts use for forays outside the space station, experience earthquakes of different magnitudes, and design and ride their own virtual roller coasters. The on-site IMAX domed theater shows a mix of nature programs and Hollywood blockbusters. 201 S. Market St., at Park Ave., San Jose, CA, 95113. 408/294–8324. www.thetech.org. $15, IMAX films $10–$12, museum–IMAX combo $20. Daily 10–5.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Walk through a tunnel to reach a hidden burial chamber lined with murals; see a mummy more than 2,500 years old; try to figure out which animal mummies aren't what they appear to be; and see games ancient Egyptian children played at this fascinating though dated museum that showcases an exquisite collection of Egyptian and other antiquities. 1660 Park Ave., at Naglee Ave., San Jose, CA, 95191. 408/947–3635. www.egyptianmuseum.org. $9. Wed.–Fri. 9–5, weekends 10–6.
Southwest of San Jose are the pretty village of Saratoga and the ritzy town of Los Gatos, nestled in the foothills of the Coastal Range.
Manresa. Los Gatos is home to one of the country's finest restaurants, Manresa, which has an exclusive agreement with a neighboring farm to produce ingredients for its exquisite Northern California cuisine. 320 Village La., Los Gatos, CA, 95030. 408/354–4330. www.manresarestaurant.com. Closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch.
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