People talk about Silicon Valley as though it is a concept, an intangible space inhabited only by tech companies, but the truth is that Silicon Valley very much exists in the real world.
Though the exact boundaries of Silicon Valley are hotly debated and constantly shifting thanks to the ever-expanding importance of tech, the Valley covers roughly the southern coast of the San Francisco Bay, to include smaller suburbs like Redwood City and Los Gatos as well as larger metropolises like Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Cupertino.
The undisputed capital of Silicon Valley is San Jose, which has seen explosive population growth since the beginning of the tech boom in the 1990s.
If you want to see the center of the tech revolution, you need to take a trip to Silicon Valley. Here are a few ideas for what to do when you get here.
Visit the Tech Giants
While visitors aren’t invited into the inner sancta where engineers are working in secret to manage today’s technological marvels, you can see some spaces on the campuses of giant tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook.
Apple Park, which is nicknamed “the spaceship” for its otherworldly design, is mostly off-limits, but you can walk around the Visitor Center, which has free admittance.
The center offers an augmented-reality tour of the rest of the park, exclusive Apple merchandise, snacks and a rooftop terrace view. Some days, the Visitor Center hosts events, like a photo walk with tips for improving iPhone photography.
The Googleplex itself is locked down tight, but you are welcome to walk around Google’s grounds.
Often, the campus is decorated with quirky art and statues that make for excellent photo ops. The installations change with some frequency, so there’s no telling what you might find on your walk.
Unfortunately, Facebook is the least accessible of the big tech headquarters in Silicon Valley. Located at 1 Hacker Way, the campus is secure beyond the giant “like” sign near the road.
Still, the campus does sometimes host events and festivals to which employees can bring guests, so if you have a Facebook hookup, you might be able to see more.
Get High Like the Hacker Greats
After you spend some time exploring the places that continue to define technological advancement in the 21st century, you might head to a San Jose dispensary to enjoy the pastime of almost every tech genius in history.
Some of the biggest names in tech — Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk — have been outspoken supporters of weed decriminalization and legalization for decades, so you better believe they were toking to relax as they were creating the tech-filled world we enjoy today.
San Jose has many of the same laws as the rest of California when it comes to buying and consuming cannabis: Adults over 21 can purchase and possess up to an ounce of dry flower or up to 8 grams of concentrates.
Though consuming cannabis in public is technically prohibited, most stoners in San Jose say that the authorities won’t bother you as long as you aren’t causing a scene.
Suffice it to say that it might not be wise to get high if this is your first time, but if you understand dosing and want to take the edge off during your vacation, you shouldn’t feel bad about making a dispensary pitstop.
Spend Time at Tech Museums
You won’t learn much about the past, present or future of tech by wandering around San Jose or even spending time on tech campuses. Instead, if you want to gain a better grasp on how tech works, you need to head to one of the following museums:
The Tech Interactive
Perhaps the best science and technology museum in the country, the Tech Interactive is a huge museum with plenty of hands-on experiences for all ages.
Some activities you might enjoy include building your own robot, riding in a NASA manned maneuvering unit, experiencing VR and visiting a biotech lab.
Computer History Museum
If you have a hard time wrapping your head around the progress in computing in the last half-century, you need to visit this museum. In addition to chronicling the history of computers, the Computer History Museum profiles Silicon Valley leaders, teaches coding and offers test drives of autonomous vehicles.
There is more to do in Silicon Valley than stare at your phone. In fact, you might finally feel a connection to technology after your trip into the wide world of tech.