Written by Bill Zavestoski
Sometimes history is right in our midst, but unless we were lucky enough to visit on an elementary school field trip, we might not have any idea that something significant has happened in our own backyard.
Hop in the car with the family and spend a day getting to know these historic sites within easy driving distance of Silicon Valley. The best part? You can get to all these destinations on one tank of gas (or less).
15400 Montalvo Rd.
Go? It's the perfect way to blend arts with the outdoors. The Montalvo Arts Center offers
performing arts, galleries, films, and other exhibits in several
the historic villa and on the Great Lawn.
There's even art along the hiking trails and in the gardens of the
175-acre complex that retains much of the charm it had in 1930 when
former San Francisco mayor and U.S. Senator James D. Phelan, who had
the villa built in 1912, died and willed the property to the state as
a place to cultivate art.
Parking is free and there's no cost to wander the grounds, but you'll
want to see the villa, which has a $10 fee.
Visit the Italianate Garden at the base of the Front Lawn. The gated
entryway leads to the pathway to the Love Temple and other
The grounds are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday
and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday during the winter months. Gallery
hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and docent-led tours of
the villa are offered at 10 a.m. on Sundays and Tuesdays ($10 for
1650 Senter Rd.
Go? If you're a history buff and are interested in
timelines, artifacts and innovations from San Jose and the Santa
Clara Valley, this is your one-stop mecca. Well, actually three
stops: History Park within Kelley Park, a 14-acre mini-town featuring
32 original and reconstructed buildings; the Peralta Adobe-Fallon
House Historic Site in San Pedro Square that has furnished period
rooms; and the nearby Collection Center/Research Library &
Tip: View “The Way
to San Jose” at Diridon Station, an exhibit that focuses on transportation in Santa Clara Valley, from
the days of the Native Americans all the way to expansion at San Jose
International Airport, the BART extension and California’s future
high speed rail systems.
Must Do: The Peralta Adobe Plaza offers outdoor seating where you can enjoy coffee, lunch, or an evening concert with dinner or a cocktail.
The Fine Print: History Park is open to the public from 11-5 daily except on the first Monday of every month and most holidays, and is free year round, with select historic buildings open for viewing.
One Main St.
Go? Six themed galleries of
artifacts, photos, film clips and interactive exhibits tell the story of author and Salinas native son John Steinbeck and how his upbringing helped shape such classics as The Grapes of
Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and Travels
Tip: Rocinante, the actual camper
Steinbeck used in his travels with canine buddy Charley, is on
display. “If you love Steinbeck, this will not disappoint,” one
The Steinbeck House, a Victorian at 132 Central Ave. that was the
birthplace and boyhood home of Steinbeck, is a short walk away.
Scheduled tours are given only in the summer months, but there is a
restaurant and downstairs gift shop that allow public access to much
of the house and contain interesting Steinbeck family artifacts.
The Fine Print: The National Steinbeck Center is open daily (except for some holidays) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14.95 for adults ($10.95 for Monterey County residents), $8.95 for seniors (62+), students, teachers and military with ID, $7.95 for teens 13 to 17, and $5.95 for kids 6 to 12. There's no charge for preschool age children.
5401 Graham Hill Rd.
Go? Soak up the great scenery on one of the oldest and
most historic lines in California. The railway uses authentic 1880s
steam locomotives on its narrow-gauge Redwood Forest Steam Train
excursion and 1920s-era standard-gauge Beach Trains to Santa Cruz.
Passengers board at Roaring Camp, a replica of an 1880s logging town
high in the Santa Cruz mountains in Felton.
Check the schedule, since trains run less frequently on the
winter schedule and diesel engines replace the steam locomotives on
weekday trips (12:30 p.m.) up to Bear Mountain.
Make it a festive holiday season with a ride on a theme train.
Tickets for the Redwood Forest Steam Train (about a 70-minute
round-trip) are $26 for ages 13 and older and $19 for children 2
through 12. On the longer Santa Cruz Beach Train route (3 hours
round-trip), riders pay $28 and $22 respectively. Daily parking at
Roaring Camp in Felton is $8, and it's $12 at the Boardwalk in Santa