By Margaret Flores May 21, 2019
Home to the world-famous Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County is a global economic powerhouse for technology and has the third highest GDP per capita in the world (preceded only by Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway). Due to the booming tech industry, the county has become the most affluent on the West Coast and one of the wealthiest places in the United States. Santa Clara County is also now the most populous county in Northern California.
Santa Clara County’s transformation from a quiet agricultural region into a densely populated tech hub is largely due to the number of enterprises that got their start there and eventually grew to become some of the largest tech companies in the world. In fact, the city of Palo Alto is considered to be the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley,” as pioneering company Hewlett-Packard (HP) was founded there in a one-car garage by Bill Hewlett and David Packard, who had recently graduated from the prestigious Stanford University (also in Palo Alto). The HP Garage is now a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bordering Palo Alto, Mountain View is another techie hot spot, growing from its origins as a stagecoach stop into a large suburb that’s home to such multinational tech companies as Google, Mozilla, and Intuit. Mountain View is also where the first 50 Apple I computers were sold and where William Shockley started the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, the first company to develop silicon semiconductor devices (hence, the name Silicon Valley). Numerous prominent companies are headquartered in the city of Santa Clara, too, including Intel, which has an interactive museum for visitors who want to explore the world of tech. Santa Clara is also where Levi’s Stadium—the home of the San Francisco 49ers football team—the esteemed Triton Museum of Art, and California’s Great America theme park are located.
While the tech industry is Santa Clara County’s claim to fame, visitors can find several notable attractions throughout the region. San Jose, the county seat and the heart of Silicon Valley, is California's third most populous city. Santana Row is arguably the city’s premier destination, offering more than 70 shops—plus a variety of restaurants, spas, movie theaters, and fitness centers. San Jose also features a bustling downtown with beer and cocktail bars, first-rate restaurants, historic buildings, art museums, and theaters showcasing Broadway shows. Outdoor enthusiasts can also find plenty of entertainment in this global metropolis, between the sprawling Sunol Regional Wilderness, towering Mission Peak, and sweeping Alum Rock Park.
In nearby Los Gatos—a charming enclave tucked in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains—visitors will find superb shopping on North Santa Cruz Avenue, cultural attractions such as the New Museum Los Gatos, and kid-friendly spots like Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. There are also top-notch food and wine destinations, including Manresa—a three-Michelin-star restaurant serving edible works of art that highlight locally sourced ingredients. A short drive from this fine-dining mecca, the family-owned Testarossa Winery pours acclaimed wines in a historic Jesuit seminary.
Another prosperous city worth visiting is Morgan Hill. The city offers luxury accommodations, gourmet eateries, a plethora of wineries, and numerous parks—including Anderson Lake County Park and Henry W. Coe State Park, the second-largest state park in California. Morgan Hill is also part of the Santa Clara Valley American Viticultural Area, along with the towns of Saratoga, San Martin, and Gilroy.
The rural, agricultural community of Gilroy is best known as the “Garlic Capital of the World” and, unsurprisingly, hosts an annual Garlic Festival in July. But the town also draws visitors with its expansive Gilroy Premium Outlets shopping mall; Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, which offers 21 rides, 27 attractions, and 6 gardens; and award-winning parks such as the Uvas Creek Park Preserve, a 125-acre open space with various trails and an interpretive center.
No matter what you desire—whether it’s exploring the campuses of leading tech companies, discovering the great outdoors, savoring acclaimed food and wine, or learning a bit of history—you’ll find it in Santa Clara County.