From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Ah, the Bay Area. It’s diverse. It’s populous. It’s expensive.
It’s also well worth exploring, even if you’ve called it home for years.
Although there are many communities that make up this, one of the most famous and sought-after areas in the country, Santa Clara is easily one of the most beautiful and charming. Here are our favorite places to explore and things to do in Santa Clara.
Although the Bay Area may be best known as an urban metropolis, there’s certainly no shortage of incredible wilderness areas and outdoor recreational opportunities here, either! The following are just a few of the state parks and national preserves in the vicinity of Santa Clara, A.
The redwoods are one of the (most deserving) claims to fame in this part of the world, so Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a great option for city dwellers from around the Bay. Covering 18,000 acres and boasting a designation as a California Historical Landmark, visitors to this landscape will quickly discover how these massive trees can make you feel small and fairy-like.
A wilderness of over 5,000 acres tucked along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Castle Rock State Park is a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, wildlife enthusiasts and more. Campgrounds are also available, making this a great place to take a weekend away from the “real world.”
The best of life is created of highs and lows — and that can be said of Henry W. Coe State Park, too. From its lofty ridges to its deep, cavernous canyons and everywhere in between, this 87,000-acre preserved space is brimming with opportunities to get outside and get lost in the very best sense of the phrase.
Unlike many of the other parks listed here, Joseph D. Grant County Park is located east of Santa Clara, but still very close by — it takes less than 45 minutes to get there. Visitors will find the drive well worth it as they wind through miles of hiking trails in the scenic foothills of Santa Clara Valley, which are also open to bikers and horseback riders.
Northern California beaches have their whole own magic — and you have the opportunity to experience it at Pescadero Beach State Park, all without driving much more than an hour from Santa Clara. Enjoy the sandy coves, rocky cliffs, tide pools and other features that make these shores so beautiful and diverse.
Originally built back in 1871 to guide sailors along California’s shore, the Pigeon Point Light Station is the tallest on the west coast, and is still an active Coast Guard navigation aid. The state park that’s sprung up around it is a great place to gaze up in awe at this working piece of history as well as to spread out along the seaside.
Another option for those in search of some relaxing and rejuvenating redwood views, Portola Redwoods State Park presents a unique landscape: you’ll crest a hill which drops down into a ravine filled with these massive trees, and thus plenty of opportunities to enjoy them.
Nature is within easy reach in basically every part of California, but particularly this close to the bay area. From municipal parks to mountains, here are some of the best hiking trails in Santa Clara.
Whether you’re strapping on your hiking boots, lacing up your running shoes or straddling your bike, the San Tomas Aquino Trail to SF Bay Trail is a popular route for exercise and fresh air. With only about 50 feet of elevation gain along its 4-mile stretch, this is a solid option for many different modes of travel, and the sweeping bayside views will keep your mind occupied while your body works.
Less a “hike” than a stroll, but still well worthwhile: the Central Park Loop is a popular option for Santa Clara denizens who want to get outside without necessarily going far out of their way to do so. A little less than two miles around and with negligible elevation change, much of this route is paved and thus a great pick for those pushing wheelchairs or strollers.
A quick drive to Rancho San Antonio County Park puts you within reach of the summit of Black Mountain vai Rhus Ridge, a moderate trek that will take you a little less than 10 miles and about 2,500 feet in elevation gain all told. While not for absolute beginners, this hike is a great option for those in decent shape looking to extend their hiking know-how, all while taking in some amazing views in the process.
A 5-mile loop that offers a relatively easy and accessible option for busy city-dwellers looking to get outside in a hurry, the Lexington Reservoir Trail is frequented by families as well as solo adventurers, and is renowned for its blooms of beautiful wildflowers. Dogs are allowed, too, but make sure you keep Fido on-leash at all times!
Tucked into the vast and varied landscape of Joseph D. Grant County Park, the Avenue of the Noble Gods winds visitors past rolling hillsides and a scenic lake, and is part of a much larger and more complex network of hikeable trails in the wilderness. This particular route is popular thanks to its relative ease and the payoff you get for the work you put in: at a little over 10 miles out-and-back and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, it’s a workout, but one you won’t mind when you stop to enjoy the view.
With all the things to do and places to explore in Santa Clara, you’re going to need to be well-fueled for your journey. Good thing there are so many incredible eateries to choose from! Here are some of the best restaurants in Santa Clara, whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Indian, Mexican, or something else entirely.
Great Italian dining is about variety and satisfaction — and whether you’re looking for pasta, pizza, or just a fresh and crunchy salad, Mio Vicino is a town favorite for a reason. Using fresh ingredients and an authentic, old-world menu, this joint serves up the very best when it comes to Tuscan goodness!
When you’re in a place with a name like Santa Clara, sometimes, you’ve just gotta get some good mexican — and if that’s the mood you’re in, Puesto Santa Clara is a great place to grab a bite. Along with a broad range of lunch and dinner favorites, like tacos and ceviche, they also offer a special plant-based menu for those looking specifically for vegan-friendly eats.
Speaking of which —
There are a lot of reasons to love the Bay Area, and if you’re following any sort of restricted diet, you probably agree that the plethora of restaurant options is one of them. For those who don’t live life using animal products, Merit Vegan Restaurant is a great choice — especially if you’re interested in exotic flavors. Playing with dishes and cuisines from Indian, Thailand and China, there are plenty of new things to taste here!
There’s certainly no shortage of options for those looking for the best Asian dining in Santa Clara. But if customization is key in your eyes (and mouth), consider El Camino Mongolian BBQ, where you’ll get to put together a custom dish filled with delicious and healthful ingredients. Watch the friendly staff cook it up for you, and enjoy!
From classic curries to tandoori dishes to biryani, dosas, and so much more, Arusuvai Indian Cuisine is a Santa Clara go-to when you want something delicious, satisfying and affordable (which is to say — all of the time).
Eating and exploring the local landscape are only two of the many wonderful things to do and see in Santa Clara. Here’s some of the rest!
If you’re adventuring with your whole family, you’re in luck: there are many wonderful activities and options for Santa Clarans of all ages. For example:
No matter your political stance, you can probably agree that America is at its greatest when your kids are smiling — and that’s sure to be the case at California’s Great America, a beloved Bay Area theme park teeming with thrilling rides, delectable treats, and other traditional fair… fare. While older, eligible kids will love high-flying thrill rides and roller coasters, there are plenty of tamer options for the little ones, too!
Two words: trampoline park. Okay, actually, two more: yes, please. At Sky High Sports - Santa Clara, the kids will bounce themselves into oblivion (and a great night’s sleep, which means some quiet hours for parents!). I guess there are two more words we need here: win win.
We’ve covered some of the best things to do in Santa Clara during the daytime hours. But what about after the sun’s gone down and the moon’s come up to take its place?
So glad you asked. Here are just a few of the best things to get into in Santa Clara after dark.
Not everything about nightlife has to do with bars — though there are plenty of those in Santa Clara, too. But if you’re looking for something a bit more inventive to keep you occupied after hours, consider heading to the De Anza College Fujitsu Planetarium, which offers educational events as well as entertaining light shows and more. (This is also one of our top picks for things for couples to do in Santa Clara!)
Remember how much you loved going to the arcade as a kid? Well, how about a grown-up version that serves adult beverages on the side?
That’s exactly what you’ll find at Miniboss, which offers a full bar, delicious and inventive eats, and some classic games to keep your appetite fueled all night.
It’s true: you can experience Santa Clara without paying dearly for the privilege. In fact, at the following locations, you’ll get away darn-near scott free. (Psst: looking for actually free things to do in Santa Clara? We’ll cover those in just a moment, too!)
Is there any better way to while away a weekend morning than to meander through the ripe produce and festive sounds of a farmers market — all to say nothing of the opportunity to eat fresh and support local businesses? Santa Clara’s Farmers Market runs year round, rain or shine, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and even if you buy nothing, it’s well worth your time (though we definitely think you’ll find something to tempt you.)
The one-time home of Sarah Winchester, widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester, the Winchester Mystery House is a stunning mansion in the American Queen Anne style of architecture — and it’s open to the public for a variety of tours. Meander through the gardens or get brave and commune with the local haunts; tickets come at various prices, but all of them are fairly affordable.
As promised! Here are some of the things you can get into in Santa Clara without paying a single cent.
Intel is synonymous with innovation — and if you want an opportunity to see how this important company has continually pushed boundaries throughout the years, a trip to the Intel Museum is a great choice for a rainy afternoon. From microprocessors to motherboards and more, you’ll learn enough to be astounded, and best of all, entry is free to the public. You can even enjoy a guided tour for free, provided you call ahead.
Founded all the way back in 1777, the Mission Santa Clara de Asis has long been a centerpiece of the culture of the town, and it’s a stunning house of worship to visit or actually pray in. Add your story as a small piece of this place’s history by attending a service, or simply walk respectfully through during its open hours. Either way, you’ll leave feeling a little bit more at peace.
Santa Clara’s de Saisset Art Museum is a great opportunity for art lovers who want to experience fine work that still has its finger on the pulse of the contemporary. Showcasing important works and including an extra focus on history, this art museum is a wonderful activity for anyone in Santa Clara — and it’s always free for general public admission.
In need of some pampering? We get it! Here are some Santa Clara options.
Sometimes, some gentle — or even not-so-gentle — touch is exactly what the doctor ordered. Allee Massage is staffed with empathetic and professional therapists who will leave you feeling much better than you did when you walked in.
Maybe it’s your wedding day — or maybe you just want to get done up because it feels good. Either way, the Orange Crush Studios has you covered for all your hair care and styling needs.
Looking great is nice, but feeling great is even better. Here are some of the best gyms and yoga studios in the Santa Clara area.
It may not look like your stereotypical gym — but that means you won’t get stereotypical, ho-hum results, either. FNS Training Center offers a comprehensive, full-body community workout you won’t want to miss each day!
Your power is in your core — and your mind. Work both and get aligned at CorePower Yoga.
While you certainly won’t lack for things to do in Santa Clara, there’s also plenty to explore outside of town as well. The following suggestion is just the tip of the iceberg.
Listen: there are so many incredible spots to day-trip to from this part of California, we could barely list them all if we spent the whole article doing so. But one of the coolest parts of calling this part of the world home is your access to a wide range of stunning national parks within just a few hours’ drive. Here are a few of the options closest to Santa Clara, and our insider guide to experiencing them. Enjoy!
Note: some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Santa Clara that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Santa Clara? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.