Welcome to Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County is a wonderful mix of urban sophistication and small town charm. It has beautiful weather and a lovely setting. County residents live, work, and play in a valley surrounded by picturesque hills. The area has rich cultural offerings and recreational options. The county attracts residents from all over the world, and the communities reflect that diversity in the quality of the local dining and cultural options as well as the educational and artistic offerings within the area.
Santa Clara County is often referred to as Silicon Valley, a name first coined in 1971. The county has a long, storied history in technology and innovation. Hewlett-Packard and IBM came to the area in 1939 and 1943, respectively, decades before companies such as Apple and Oracle arrived. The tech industry is king in the county. However, other industries continue to thrive, including agriculture, hospitality, healthcare, biotech, military and defense, research and development, and transportation. The county’s location is excellent for commuters who can choose to remain in the county or head up either side of the bay.
The lay of the land
Santa Clara County rests at the base of the San Francisco Bay, where several highways come together. It sits below San Mateo County to the northwest, and Alameda County to the northeast. The Santa Cruz Mountains run along the western edge of the county, while the Diablo Mountains march up the eastern side, creating a wide valley in between. Most people live along the flat part of the Santa Clara Valley, which extends from the Bay down to Gilroy.
Santa Clara County has the largest population in the San Francisco Bay Area, with 1,894,605 residents (according to the U.S. Census’ 2014 estimate), led by population growth in San Jose. It is the second largest county in the Bay Area, with 1,290 square miles. San Jose is the largest city and serves as the county seat.
Santa Clara County is intersected by a network of freeways and highways (280, 101, 880, 680, 237, 17, and 85 are the main ones). Residents have access to quite a few Public Transportation providers, including trains and buses provided by AC Transit, Altamont Commuter Service (ACE), Caltrain, SamTrans, and Santa Clara VTA. In addition to the Mineta San Jose International Airport, the San Francisco and Oakland Airports aren’t far away.
The award-winning Santa Clara schools are organized into 32 school districts managing 432 public schools with 276,000 students. A wide variety of parochial, Catholic, secular, and independent private schools offer K-12 educational options as well.
Higher education options include Stanford University, Santa Clara University, San Jose State, two community colleges, including Foothill in Los Altos Hills and De Anza Community College in Cupertino, and a variety of technical and business schools.
Sports enthusiasts can find plenty to cheer about, from the hometown San Jose Earthquakes and San Jose Sharks to other Bay Area fan favorites, including the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland As, the Golden State Warriors, and the San Francisco Giants. As of 2014, the San Francisco 49ers are headquartered in the newly built Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
For family fun, head to California’s Great America in Santa Clara and Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy offer a variety of amusement park attractions and rides. Nearby Raging Waters in San Jose is a water park with water slides and a wave pool.
For the history lovers, 105 spots in Santa Clara are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, too many to list here. A few highlights include: The Civic Art Gallery in San Jose, De Anza Hotel in San Jose, Green Gables, one of the subdivisions developed by Joseph Eichler, the Hewlett-Packard House and Garage, Le Petit Trianon in Cupertino, James Lick Mill in Santa Clara, Malaguerra Winery in Morgan Hill, Picchetti Brothers Winery in Cupertino, the Mountain View Adobe, the John Steinbeck House in Monte Sereno, the Winchester House in San Jose, and the Yung See San Fong House in Los Gatos.
Museum choices include the Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Tech Museum of Innovation in Santa Clara, the Los Altos History Museum, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, and the Digital Game Museum in Santa Clara.
Live music lovers have a variety of venues to choose from, including Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the SAP Center (formerly known as the HP Pavilion) in San Jose, the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, The Mountain Winery and Villa Montalvo in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Santa Clara is a center for technology and innovation. Two local spots that highlight some of the work going on include Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton and Moffett Field in Mountain View.
Although smaller shopping districts are scattered throughout local towns such as Los Gatos and Palo Alto, Santana Row in San Jose and the Stanford Shopping Mall are two favorite larger destinations with a wide array of shops and restaurants.
For the garden lovers, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden and Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, a Japanese retreat and gardens, are nice options.
Local theater options can be found in several smaller communities throughout the region. Theatreworks in Palo Alto continues to produce excellent productions. San Jose State is in talks to take over the former San Jose Repertory Theatre, and will add that to their performing arts offerings.
Wineries in the area include Picchetti Brothers in the Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve, Ridge Vineyards, Mountain Winery, and many more in the hills above Cupertino and the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The great outdoors
The Santa Clara County has an impressive amount of open space, including state and regional parks, open space, watershed, and protected lands. The options are many. Here are a few highlights:
Almaden Quicksilver County Park has hiking, biking, and riding trails at the site of a former mercury mine in Almaden.
Alum Rock Park is located in Alum Rock Canyon in the Diablo Range foothills. It is one of California’s oldest municipal parks, dating back to 1872, when it was a health spa with its own railroad line from San Jose, offering locals therapeutic dips in the mineral springs. Today visitors can hike, go horseback riding, cycle, and picnic.
El Sereno Open Space Preserve is another Los Gatos area park, but this one is up in the hills with biking and hiking trails.
Fremont Older Preserve in Cupertino is a great spot for hiking. Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve—great for hiking with views of Silicon Valley near Los Altos.
Henry W. Coe State Park sits on the southeastern side of Santa Clara County. It is a remote park with more than 87,000 acres in which to hike, camp, and explore.
The Nature Conservancy’s has helped conserve a lot of land at Mount Hamilton in the Diablo Range, including an area where Tule elk were relocated.
Santa Teresa County Park provides hiking and multiuse paths in the southwestern Almaden side of San Jose.
Shoreline Park in Mountain View has paddle boats and kayaks, an area for flying kites, paths for walking, running, and cycling, and spots for picnicking, along with nice views of the surrounding areas.
Stevens Creek County Park in Cupertino is a hidden gem with miles of trails for hiking, running, and biking in the foothills of Cupertino. It’s a surprisingly beautiful spot that feels very remote. The park even has archery ranges.
Vasona Park is a small lakeside park in Los Gatos with grounds for picnics and walks. There’s a little train for kids to ride, and a lake for fishing.
Cities Located in Santa Clara County
- Los Altos
- Los Altos Hills
- Los Gatos
- Monte Sereno
- Morgan Hill
- Mountain View
- Palo Alto
- San Jose
- San Martin
- Santa Clara
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