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Hidden Gems

Silicon Valley and its surroundings hold a glittering array of things to do, but while most of the options are easily visible, others may require a little digging to find.

Here’s a short list of our favorite under-the-radar fun activities. Pick a few that take your fancy, and give them a whirl!

1. Sunsets, in Style
Looking for some swanky oceanside drinking? Surrounded by rolling golf courses, the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay is perched like a picturesque Scottish castle on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. The Scottish feel is completed by a kilt-wearing bagpiper playing Amazing Grace as the sun sets. Pick up a beverage and find a spot around one of the outdoor fire pits. Weather permitting, you might just catch a brilliant, memorable sunset. (Bagpiper on Tues and Thurs-Sun.)

2. Low-Tech Time Travel at the Movies
You’re in Silicon Valley. You’re in a state of sensory overload. One way out is to travel back in time to Hollywood’s golden age. Palo Alto’s Stanford Theatre first opened as a film palace in the 1920s. More than half a century later, the aging theater was bought by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and refurbished to restore the neoclassical Persian and Moorish architecture to its full glory. Today it specializes in film classics made between 1910 and 1970, so sit back, take in the exquisite décor, and be sure to catch the intermission show as an old-time “Mighty Wurlitzer Organ” rises majestically from the floor, pipes gleaming, to entertain you with live music.

3. Farmers’ Markets
Locals relish their shopping expeditions to weekly farmers’ markets for bountiful and beautiful produce. California supplies the vast majority of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and these freshly harvested items are whisked straight to these markets from nearby fields and orchards. If you’ve never tasted a ripe, freshly picked tomato, peach or nectarine, you owe it to yourself to try one. Each market is different, with food trucks, crafts booths, and live music also on offer. (For locations and times, check or

4. A Moveable Feast
If the thought of food trucks conjures up images of greasy, basic food, think again. Fresh, tasty, and even gourmet-quality fare can be found virtually every night of the week at mobile food markets. As many as 20 trucks at a time draw large crowds of enthusiastic locals to drink and dine. The scene is casual and convivial, and the food is always interesting—from creative interpretations of staples to unusual fusions. (For locations and dates, check for cities from Menlo Park north, and for Palo Alto to San Jose.)

5. Baseball, As It Once Was
Local baseball fans are hip to the World Series winners San Francisco Giants, but few realize a top minor-league team plays at San Jose’s cozy Municipal Stadium, just minutes from downtown. Taking in a San Jose Giants game is watching baseball the way it was in the old days, informal and close-up, but with elite players only a few stops away from the big leagues. Crowds are friendly, and box seats cost about what you’d pay for a hot dog at a major league stadium. Be sure to sample the savory morsels from Turkey Mike’s Barbecue.

6. San Pedro Square Market
Entering SPSM is like stumbling across a popular festival with street food, craft beer, specialty ice cream, and artisan coffee. All the action—and there’s plenty of it—swirls around Peralta Adobe, the oldest building in San Jose. With a mind-blowing array of options from 20 vendors, you’re guaranteed a memorable breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Grab a seat at an indoor or outdoor communal table, or hang out at the bar catching sports on TV.

7. Ridgetop Retreat
Hikers, bikers, cyclists, sports car enthusiasts, locals, and tourists all gather at Alice’s in the Santa Cruz mountains for craft beer, burgers, breakfasts, homemade pies, and spicy Bloody Marys. This all-American restaurant in Woodside is an institution that draws big crowds on the weekends; expect to find yourself in line with leather-clad bikers. The setting among the redwoods is transporting.