Roughly comprising the southern portion of North California's San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley – home to Intel, Google, Yahoo!, Apple and eBay, and so-named originally for the numerous silicon chip inventors and manufacturers who first set up shop here in the 1970s – encompasses the whole Santa Clara Valley along with the vibrant, historic city of San Jose. Yet there's more to the region than all things technological; close your iPad and offline your Blackberry, to experience – in your downtime – some of the Valley's alternative charms.
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Start in San Jose with a visit to the mummies and reproduction underground tomb at the highly endearing Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum then check out the 20th century West Coast art at the San Jose Museum of Art . Take a look around History Park, an open-air museum comprising lots of winsome historic houses supplanted from across the city, including an 1888 Chinese temple, a vintage print shop, the old Pacific Hotel, and a working trolley line, as well as a replica of the 1881 Electrical Light Tower originally built to supply the entire city with electrical street lights. Though the cutting-edge scheme failed spectacularly, the tower became a local landmark as well as a nod to a future brimming in more successful innovation.
A little bit of tech won't hurt
If, after a glance at the Light Tower, you can't bear to set all things high-tech completely aside, visit the Tech Museum of Innovation to brush up on microchips, genetics and alternative energy, or the Computer History Museum in Mountain View (1401 N Shoreline Blvd). Those on a tech pilgrimage should swing by the Intel Museum at the company's headquarters, where you can indulge in such pleasures as writing your name in binary code, then drive past the now-landmark Packard's Garage (367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto; not open to the public), within whose humble walls the now legendary Hewlett Packard was founded.
For something quirkier, take a trip to the Winchester Mystery House, where tragic Winchester Rifles heiress Sarah Winchester built her strange – and allegedly haunted –160-room Victorian mansion. Alternatively, rummage for treasures, from vintage comic books to antique false teeth, at the San Jose flea market (1590 Berryessa Rd), where you can also pick up a picnic lunch at its expansive Farmers' market.
It's wine time
Drive that picnic out for an open-air afternoon amongst the ancient trees of the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains, where there are around 130km of hiking trails to choose from. Take the easy Redwood Loop Trail, or hike out further to one of its several waterfalls. Later quench your thirst at one of the mountain range's many vineyards; taste Chardonnays and Sauvignons at the Byington Vineyard and the Pinot Noirs at the David Bruce Winery or sip Chardonnay and catch an open-air concert at the historic and highly picturesque Mountain Winery.
Once evening falls, head back into San Jose and out to the aptly named, lounge-bar filled SOFA, the city's entertainment central, whose initials stand for 'South of First Area,' where you'll find the heritage 1927-built California Theater (408 Almaden Blvd), home to the city's opera and symphony orchestra. Hit the clubs and lounges or – if you've more meetings in the morning – top off your day in the gentler deco surroundings of the Hotel de Anza's Hedley Club where the jazz is cool, and the drinks only as strong as your travel-alarm will allow.