There’s more than enough to see in Silicon Valley and the surrounding area for any tourist (Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, etc.). During the mid-20th century, the region nestled between San Francisco and San Jose that was once a rural orchard was rapidly transformed into the global hub of innovation, and a land of seemingly endless profitability.
And, it still is, with more venture capital invested here than anywhere else in the United States. Today there is a bevy of landmarks for executives of any industry to marvel at, such as the sprawling Google or Facebook campuses.
But, the true value that a visit to Silicon Valley provides, is the landmarks that showcase the humble beginnings of many of the world’s giants, the beginnings of some of the greatest leaders of the past several decades.
Some of the world’s most profound (and profitable) ideas that revolutionized entire industries were developed in some of the most unexpected places. Also, expect to see a few landmarks that demonstrate how innovative ideas result in corporate success. The following is our list of the seven Silicon Valley landmarks that every executive should visit for inspiration and gaining perspective.
1. Steve Jobs’ garage/Google garage
First on our list are actually two landmarks but that both make the same point: brilliance can come from anywhere. The two ranch-style homes each located in the quiet, suburban towns of Los Altos and Menlo Park, were where both Apple and Google were founded in meager, unassuming circumstances.
These two landmarks also set the archetype for the Silicon Valley “incubator” culture, where many startups are born and grow to success out of a simple garage or living room. As an executive, it is valuable to account for the fact that some of your brightest, most innovative applicants might be sending your their resume from mom’s garage. So, don’t always judge a book by its cover.
Steve Jobs garage: 2066 Crist Dr, Los Altos, CA 94024
Google garage: 232 Santa Margarita Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025
2.Computer History Museum
There’s little more one can say about the importance of the computer. However, you need to visit the Computer History Museum when in Silicon Valley regardless of how familiar you may think you are with modern technology. It is staggering to trace the history of the computer, from when they are the size of small houses all the way to your smartphone.
1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043
3. Android Sculpture Garden
At first glance, you may think visiting the Android Sculpture Garden is just fun for the kids, or a place to take whimsical selfies with massive Androids, but there is more to visiting the Googleplex’s statues than just amusement.
The display of oversized candies and desserts represent the branding success of Google’s Android operating system. Updating your operating system never really seemed sexy, but with their branding Google broke ground with the efficacy with which they labeled their updates. Looking forward to a “Kit-Kat” coming out in a couple months resonates better with users than the blase “Version 4.4”.
1981 Landing Drive, 1981 Landings Dr, Mountain View, CA 94043
4. The HP Garage Museum
No visit to Silicon Valley is complete without stepping foot into the HP garage. A registered National landmark, the site is dubbed the “Birthplace of Silicon Valley” as Hewlett and Packard developed their first electronic device, an audio oscillator, here in the 1930s.
Tied in with support from Stanford University, thus began the region’s rise to fame as a haven for technological advancements. Eventually the garage became the first office of HP, and the rest is history.
367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
5. Donut Wheel/Buck’s of Woodside/Chef Chu’s
While not the Facebook Campus or Apple’s headquarters, these iconic restaurants of Silicon Valley are the grounds where some of the most successful business meetings of the region have taken place, such as PayPal’s first pitch at Buck’s.
It is important for any executive to visit these three establishments to get a hands-on immersion into the culture of Silicon Valley. You can step into Donut Wheel to eavesdrop on Apple developers stopping in for a bite and a coffee, or Chef Chu’s, where Intel’s CEO used to have his own booth.
Part of Silicon Valley’s appeal is the casual culture, how you can run into a millionaire C-suite executive in a sweatshirt and jeans grabbing a burger at a hole-in-the-wall. While you can visit almost any establishment to listen in on what the future holds, these are the three spots most famous for their clientele.
Donut Wheel: 10250 N De Anza Blvd, Cupertino, CA 95014
Buck’s of Woodside: 3062 Woodside Road, Woodside, CA 94062
Chef Chu’s: 1067 N San Antonio Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022
6.Tech Museum of Innovation
If you are travelling to Silicon Valley with the kids along for the ride, make sure that you visit the Tech Museum of Innovation. While geared towards the youngsters, you might pick up a thing or two about an unfamiliar sphere of technology.
The museum allows kids to engage in activities like building robots and serves as a hands-on introduction for how technology is now a part of our everyday life. The museum even makes complex and difficult-to-grasp topics like synthetic bioengineering easy to understand for the whole family.
201 S. Market Street, San Jose, CA 95113-2008
7. Sand Hill Road
Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road is not exactly a landmark per se, but for the true executive-visiting-Silicon-Valley experience, it’s a must. Sand Hill Road’s collection of office buildings with parking lots full of Tesla’s are home to the bulk of venture capital that has fueled the innovation in Silicon Valley.
This is where the enormous VCs like Andreessen Horowitz have set up shop and choose which of the myriad startups get their funding to be the next Google. If you are planning to move your business to Silicon Valley or establish relationships with VCs or a startup, it is always helpful to know where the money comes from and who is running the show.
Sand Hill Rd, Menlo Park, CA 94025
It’s not just about the sights
It is a challenge to find any part of northern California that is not breathtakingly beautiful, and Silicon Valley is no exception. Drive from San Jose to San Francisco and you will see exactly what we mean.
However, being that Silicon Valley’s reputation as a global innovation hub has reached epic proportions, visit the above landmarks to not only get a sense of the region’s history, but also to put your ear to the ground and check out how the culture of the region has lead to such success. There is no other way to find out what makes the region tick until you get there.