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CITY PROFILE: SANTA CLARA

 

If you happen to glance eastward as you’re driving through Santa Clara on Highway 101, you’ll catch glimpses of a surreal horizon of roller coasters and other thrill rides rising above the tops of high-rise hotels and corporate buildings. This bizarre landscape marks the home of California’s Great America, Northern California’s largest amusement park, where exhilarating thrills include Gold Striker, Flight Deck, Demon, Drop Tower, the floorless roller coaster, Patriot, and the new Rail Blazer—a first-of-its-kind single rail steel roller coaster that features extreme drops and turns at a super low center of gravity that enables more dynamic turns and rotations than ever before.

Next door, the state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium is where thousands of football fans fill the seats during San Francisco 49ers home games during the NFL (National Football League) season from August through February.

It’s an odd juxtaposition: a sprawling theme park for lively family fun and a huge stadium for football fans surrounded by acres of buildings housing thousands of fast-paced, nose-to-the-grindstone Silicon Valley computer jockeys and software gurus. But it’s also an apt metaphor for the dual personalities shared by Santa Clara and neighboring Sunnyvale. These two cities are powered by the economic engines of many of the high-tech industry’s biggest movers and shakers—AMD, Applied Materials, Intel, National Semiconductor, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo! Yet tucked away between their imposing corporate campuses, there are plenty of fun things to do.

In addition to Great America’s vertiginously exciting rides, culture and history are also served up at local museums. If art is your passion, you’ll find it showcased at the de Saisset Museum on the Santa Clara University campus, as well as at the Triton Museum across from the Santa Clara Civic Center. Technology is the theme at the Intel Museum, set in a Santa Clara industrial park, while California history takes center stage at Mission Santa Clara—originally founded in 1777.