Destination: Internet City – Finding Your Inner Geek

The HP Garage by Don DeBold

The Silicon Valley is the perfect place for techno-geeks to gather, so if you love all things Internet and would get a kick out of rubbing elbows with the lovable nerdy folks, hop a plane to San Francisco. With the NASA Ames Research Center at its nexus, Silicon Valley radiates out in a motherboard of microchips.  You’ll find lines of enchanted geeksters poring over every historic invention and new innovative display about the future of technology.

A Lesson in Success

It might not be as cool as the Google offices, but the one-car HP Garage in Palo Alto (where Dave Packard and Bill Hewitt founded Hewlett-Packard) is an historic site. Again, you can’t go inside, but it’s inspiring to see how much success can grow from such down-to-earth beginnings.

The Big Ones

Google employees can lounge in decompression chambers when they feel stressed out. They can move quickly down to the floor below them by launching themselves down curvy slides or fire poles. Buffet-style dining and flat-screen TVs are as common as vending machines and highlighters at any other company. Without a special inside invitation, you’ll probably miss seeing these things anywhere but online, but it’s worth cruising by for a photo “op” outside the Google, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, Adobe, and McAfee headquarters.  It’s a geeky thing to do.



The Brains Behind it All

Many of the Silicon Valley minds graduated from Stanford University. Feel like one of them by taking a walking tour of the picturesque campus. Don’t feel intimidated by the smart students walking around. You are free to simply enjoy the beauty of the Rodin sculpture garden and the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts. You can also get a bigger perspective on it all from the top of the Hoover Observation Tower.

Stanford University by Sandip Bhattacharya

While You’re in the Neighborhood

The NASA Ames Research Center itself does not offer public tours, but visitors can learn about NASA technology and missions at the NASA Ames Exploration Center. The free museum teaches children and adults what it’s like to be an astronaut. Tourists can sit in the immersive theater, which gives viewers panoramic views of other planets and shows 3D movies on its curved screen. Awe-inspiring exhibits will amaze and inspire you.

The Environmental Education Center

When you’re feeling a little geeked out and need to get away from all the tech jargon, get out into nature at the Environmental Education Center in Aviso. Amazingly enough, this gateway to the outdoors does not appear on GPS maps or Internet mapping engines. It’s actually on the beaten path, not on the virtual one, and you won’t see a computer, but you will see local flora and wildlife. Walk along a path through the marsh, bike or stroll through miles of bay land, or visit the butterfly garden. The official name of this center—The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Environmental Education Center—is a little geeky, so the theme of your trip will not be lost.

Visiting the Silicon Valley area will either make you feel brilliant or way behind the 8-ball. Either way, you’ll appreciate the brains behind the computer-generated brawn that runs today’s world. You can visit the area in your own rental car or hire a private touring company to guide you through the area and tell you tidbits you didn’t know.

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