Silicon Valley Tour for Technology Lovers

This post will provide information about taking a tour of Silicon Valley. In addition to three fully guided options, there is also a self-guided tour you can take on your own. 

 

 


INTRODUCTION

For many, a trip through Silicon Valley is one of the best day trips to take from San Francisco.

This area of the city contains an incredible number of companies that made amazing innovations which have completely changed the world. 

There are 4 options that you could choose in order to experience Silicon Valley. Some of these experiences are going to seem expensive for most, but for some, they are worth every penny.

Most are available on Wednesdays through Saturdays.

 

Silicon Valley Tours

 


NOTE: These organized tours are not operated by Free Tours by Foot. If you have questions about any particular tour, please contact the organizers through their links.


The 1st option is called the Silicon Valley Tech tour.

This option doesn’t include as many benefits or as much access as the other options on this page. However, it’s more affordable ($139/adult and $129/child) and is offered 4x per week.

During this trip, you’ll see many sites such as the new Apple “Spaceship campus,” as well as the headquarters of Google, Uber, and Twitter.


Option 2 is the Silicon Valley Legends Tour.

This full-day tour will take you on a trip to the Googleplex (Google’s company headquarters), you’ll test out the incredible Tesla Model X, as well as the Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens.

You’ll visit the Intel Museum and the Stanford University Campus to explore the incredible engineering school there, and along the way, experience the emerging technology in Silicon Valley.

This tour costs $475/person and runs on most Fridays and Saturdays.


The 3rd option is called the Silicon Valley Insiders Tour.

Here, you get to visit five incredible companies that have changed the world. Unlike most other tours, you will go inside the headquarters of these companies and talk to the leaders working there.

You’ll get a behind-the-scenes view of the most groundbreaking companies in Silicon Valley, and you’ll meet the world-changers that are creating the technologies that we will be using in the next 5, 10, and 20 years.

This tour costs an eye-popping $1,000/person.


Finally, we have also put together a free, self-guided tour of Silicon Valley.

You’ll get to see the sites of the locations where all the incredible revolutions of the computer and electronics industry occurred.

Although you can’t enter any of the company headquarters, you can see them from the outside. There are a few places that you can visit through. 

 


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SILICON VALLEY TECH TOUR

If you’re looking for a general tour that will take you to several notable spots in Silicon Valley, this is a great option. Over the course of an entire day, you’ll visit locations such as Apple, Google, and Facebook.

During your journey, a knowledgeable guide will provide historical information about the area and its significance in the tech world.

During your trip, you’ll stop at Stanford for lunch and see one of the top universities in the country.

In addition to activities like this, you’ll also visit the Computer History Museum and learn all about how technology has advanced over the course of a generation.

Tickets

  • $139/Adults | $129/Children
  • Availability: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 am
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Purchase or learn more.

As you will see, this is actually the most affordable guided tour on our list. Considering that both lunch and admission to the Computer History Museum are included, the price is actually very reasonable.

If you’re looking for a trip that will fit the budget, the Tech tour is going to be one of your best options.

Although this is a very affordable tour of Silicon Valley, it’s important to note that you won’t receive nearly as many benefits on this outing and many tour takers seemed surprised by this.

While their competitors offer access to attractions such as the Googleplex campus and rides in the Tesla Model X, the additional activities included with this trip are far less impressive.

Keep that in mind before making your decision.

 


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SILICON VALLEY LEGENDS TOUR

This tour will take you through some of the most disruptive startups in Silicon Valley.

In a small group of people (no more than 10 people on the tour), you will get to talk to the leaders who are creating the future of computing. (see the full tour description here). This tour is designed for individuals or small groups.

 

 

Have you ever wanted to learn about robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, or virtual reality? On this tour, you will meet the people who are making it happen.

You’ll begin the tour at the Silicon Valley Innovation Center. This organization has a mission of helping new startup founders create the leading technologies of the future.

From here, you’ll experience the incredible technology of the Tesla Model X. You’ll take a test drive of the car, and experience the self-driving capabilities of Tesla’s “autopilot” abilities.

Have you ever wanted to just kick back and let your car drive itself? 

After the Tesla test drive, you’ll get to play with the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset, also known as the Microsoft Hololens. VR is undoubtedly the future of computing, and you’ll get a sneak peek at what computers of the future will look like.

 

Virtual Reality Glasses Silicon Valley Tour

 

The next stop on your tour will be Draper University. But despite its name, this is no ordinary school.

Tim Draper is one of Silicon Valley’s legendary venture capital investors, helping to create companies such as Hotmail and Skype. You’ll check out the Startup Bootcamp at Draper University and learn about its entrepreneurship program.

At this point in the tour, you should be feeling pretty hungry from all the amazing activities that you’ve been doing! As part of your ticket, you get a free lunch with your tour leaders and fellow travelers.

After lunch, you’ll trek to the Googleplex, Google’s worldwide headquarters!

This campus is extremely locked down due to security, but as part of this tour, you will get to explore the areas that only employees are typically allowed to venture.

 

Googleplex Tour

 

Have you heard of Apple Computer’s new Spaceship Campus?

Unlike general members of the public who only get to see the gift shop, you will get to explore the campus as only insiders do! You’ll check out the spaceship and all the incredible innovations of Apple.

After visiting the most valuable company in the world, we’ll head back to the Silicon Valley Innovation Center to wrap up this incredible day!

Tickets

 


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SILICON VALLEY INSIDERS TOUR

The Silicon Valley Tech Tour is an incredible tour, but if you are looking for the most amazing tour you have ever taken, you’ll want to check out the Silicon Valley Insiders Tour! (see the full tour description here).
 

 
Unlike the Tech Tour, the Legends tour is an immersive experience where you get to use the technology, but also explore the areas where the technologies are developed, and you get to meet the people actually creating the future of technology.

This tour is geared toward groups, but individuals can join the tour if space is available.

The tour begins with a speech by the CEO of the Silicon Valley Innovation Center, Andrey Kunov. He will introduce you to the disruptive technologies that are changing the world every day in the Valley.

From here, you will go straight to take a Stanford University campus tour, which will introduce you to one of the best engineering schools in the world.

Everybody who has ever used the internet has done a Google search. But on this tour, you will see the first Google computer–one machine that hosted the entire search engine! (And did you know it was made out of Legos?)

Speaking of Google, we’ll move from Stanford straight down the road to Google’s headquarters, called the Googleplex. You’ll get to experience the area like no member of the public ever would.

You’ll see the inside of the buildings, the secret areas that only employees get to see, and you’ll meet the people who are changing the world.

Have you ever wanted to be a Googler? One of the employees here will tell you how to get a job at this incredible company!

The next stop is to the Intel Museum.

Intel is one of the first companies that created Silicon Valley, and you’ll get to explore their historic innovations from the 4004 chip (which helped take us to the moon in the 1960s) to the current generation of processors, which is approximately 100 million times more powerful than the 4004!

After this stop, we will visit the new Apple Headquarters, often called the Spaceship.

This amazing building is unlike any in the entire world. While you’re there, take a look at it: there is no single pane of glass that is flat. Every single window is curved to create the “UFO” look to the building.

And aside from the amazing building itself, you’ll get to meet Apple creators that have been moving the world forward for the last 40 years.

Your final stop will be the Tesla Model X test drive.

You’ll take the Tesla out on the highway, where you can literally let the car drive itself! Take your hands off the wheel and watch as the car speeds up, slows down, changes lanes, makes turns, and even parallel parks itself.

 

Tesla Test Drive

 

There is nothing quite like it in the car industry! In addition to the test drive, you will get to chat with a Tesla engineer about the amazing technology of the car.

After that, you will head back to the Silicon Valley Innovation Center to wrap everything up, and you can decompress from one of the best and most interesting days of your life!

Tickets

  • Every Wednesday – Saturday @9 am
  • $1,000/person Early Bird Tickets (3 weeks in advance)
    • This is the price for groups of 10 or more.
  • $1,000/person 
    • This is the price for individuals (if space is available).
  • Learn more or to make a purchase

 


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SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF SILICON VALLEY


NOTE: Free Tours by Foot does not offer a guided Silicon Valley Tour.  This self-guided tour is a guide to do it yourself.  However, be sure to contact the separate campuses to see if you can get access in the planning stages of your trip.

If you need help finding each location on this tour, use the map below.

Click here for a larger interactive map.

Silicon Valley Tour Map

 


Stop 1 – Hackbright Academy

683 Sutter Street, San Francisco

Only a few blocks from Union Square, this is the largest computer programming academy in the Bay Area that is aimed specifically at women. Silicon Valley companies (as well as engineering schools all over the country) have a disappointingly small number of women working for them, which is why Hackbright Academy was created. The goal of this program is to increase the number of women in engineering and technology jobs.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 2 – Twitter Headquarters

1355 Market Street, San Francisco

Silicon Valley Tour Twitter Headquarters

Although we often refer to the technology industry as “Silicon Valley,” Twitter was one of the first companies to break that mold. They decided that, rather than build their offices in Silicon Valley, they would set up their office right in downtown San Francisco. Although you can’t go inside the offices of Twitter, you can at least drive by this place and see the bird on the building! (And, quick plug alert–this area is right next to our Market Street Tour, so if you feel like taking a walk, then come and join us!

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 3 – Facebook Like Sign

1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park

Silicon Valley Tour Facebook Like Sign

Seemingly in a heartbeat, Facebook shot up from just a school-wide network at Harvard University to the dominant social network on the planet, with over one billion people using the network EVERY DAY. And the company is still growing!

When you’re taking a Silicon Valley tour of all its technology, it’s hard not to visit one of the biggest internet companies in the world. So although this will only take a few minutes, stop by their offices in Menlo Park (you can get free valet parking!) and take a selfie with the famous Facebook Like sign. And while you’re at it, you may as well post it to Facebook or Instagram (a company owned by Facebook, of course).

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 4 – Original Hewlett Packard Garage

367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto

Silicon Valley Tour HP Garage

If you’re going to be taking a Silicon Valley tour, why not visit the place where everything started? You can easily argue that the entire Silicon Valley began right here in this tiny wooden garage. William Hewlett and David Packard had $538 to their names and used it to start the Hewlett Packard company (fun fact: the name of the company was decided by a coin flip, if the coin had come up tails, the company name would have been Packard Hewlett!)

Their first product that really launched the company was a sound oscillator that they were able to sell to the Walt Disney company for use in the movie Fantasia. They used this sale to build up the company we know today, with computers, printers, calculators, and any number of other business products. So while you’re in Silicon Valley, come to visit the little garage that is now a California historic landmark.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 5 – Stanford University

450 Serra Mall, Stanford

Silicon Valley Tour Stanford Hoover Tower

One of the biggest reasons that we keep seeing new startups pop up in Silicon Valley is because they are is continually replenished with new engineers. Where are all these new engineers coming from, you may ask? The first place to look is one of the top-rated universities in the world–Stanford University.

You can easily spend an entire day on the campus of Stanford, but for the purposes of this tour, just park your car at the Visitor Center on Galvez Avenue. From there, the entire academic campus is within a 15-minute walk. (The entire campus is far too big for a quick walk, somewhere around 12 square miles). Our suggestion would be to check out the Hoover Tower, the incredible Memorial Church, and the Engineering Quad with the Hewlett building, the Packard building, and the Bill Gates building.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 6 – Buck’s of Woodside

3062 Woodside Rd, Woodside

Silicon Valley Tour Buck's of Woodside

So, after a long first half of your Silicon Valley tour, you’re probably feeling a bit hungry. So why not stop into one of the most historic restaurants in Silicon Valley? This restaurant is basically a museum in itself.

But the history of the place doesn’t stop in the early days of the Valley–it continues to this day! Venture capitalists are constantly meeting with startup founders in this restaurant, and some of the very earliest business meetings to incorporate Paypal, Tesla Motors, Netscape and Hotmail took place right here in the restaurant.

Oh, and lest we forget to mention, the food’s pretty great too! (Try the shredded beef tacos on homemade tortillas. You won’t be sorry!)

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 7 – Nikola Tesla Statue

260 Sheridan Ave, Palo Alto

Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors and innovators of his time. Although Thomas Edison gets a great deal of the credit for a number of inventions. Nikola Tesla was doing a lot of the same work in his own lab. Tesla was particularly well known for his contributions in the field of electricity and wireless communications.

Recently, a fan of Tesla launched a Kickstarter Campaign to build a statue of Tesla in Palo Alto. The project was very quickly funded to the maximum, and they built the statue entirely out of these small, private donations. Now, the monument stands to this incredible man in downtown Palo Alto, the heart of American innovation. And because it’s in the middle of Silicon Valley, and because Tesla worked so much on wireless communications, of course, the Tesla Statue also functions as a free, public wifi hotspot!

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 8 – Android Sculpture Garden

1981 Landings Dr, Mountain View

Silicon Valley Tour Google Android Sculpture Garden

Although the iPhone dominates the smartphone market in the United States, Google Android phones are in the hands of many millions of users across the nation and around the world. Seemingly every few months, Google updates their phones to have a new Android operating system.

To go along with Google’s whimsical philosophy, the company always names their new operating system after a dessert, going in alphabetical order. Starting with version 1.5, “Cupcake,” Google quickly followed with “Donut,” “Eclair,” “Froyo,” all the way up to the current version, “Marshmallow.”

And though you can’t enter the Google buildings on your Silicon Valley tour, you can stop by the Android sculpture garden, where you can take pictures (preferably with your Android phone!) of all the sculptures of the various desserts on the front lawn of the Android building.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 9 – Computer History Museum

1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View

If you are at all interested in the history of computers, networking, and the internet (and if you’re on this Silicon Valley tour, we figure you might just be interested!), you simply MUST go to the Computer History Museum. This museum has exhibits dating back thousands (yes, thousands!) of years. You’ll have to visit to figure out why 2000 years ago was really the birth of computing.

Although they charge a bit for entry, the $15 admission ticket ($12 for students) is well worth the price. You can learn about the entire history of computing up to the present day, with one of our favorite exhibits on the auto-driving car. So make a stop here and see how this industry really developed!

This will be a long day for you, but it will also be well worth it! This Silicon Valley tour will surely be one of your most interesting and educational days in San Francisco, so check it out and let us know what you thought of it!

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 10 – Intel Museum

2200 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara

When it comes to the processors which power most of our technology, Intel is one of the biggest names in the game. They’ve been around for so long that they have a museum full of interesting and informative exhibits which detail the history of their company. This museum is free to visit every day except Sunday and on holidays, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting in.

If the Computer History Museum wasn’t enough for you, this is an excellent chance for a more in depth look at the story of just one tech giant from Silicon Valley.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 11 – Apple Visitor Center

10600 N Tantau Ave, Cupertino

Even if you can’t get into Apple Park, you may still want to stop at the nearby visitor center. In addition to an exhibition, a gift shop, a cafe and a rooftop terrace which provides excellent views of the park. Guests are welcome to visit on any day of the week and enjoy everything they have to offer without paying a dime.

Fans of Apple will definitely want to take the opportunity to see Apple Park and enjoy the exhibit/gift shop they have at this visitor center.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

Stop 12 – Tesla Store

4180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Located just a few blocks from Tesla HQ, this store is one of the biggest and most impressive owned by the company. There’s actually a tour you can take which will includes a stop at this location, and while you’re on the tour you’ll have the opportunity to test drive a Tesla Model X – or should I say the car will drive itself?

See the cutting edge of automobile technology for yourself with a stop at the Tesla Store.

Use this map for directions from anywhere in the city.

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About the author

Manager | San Francisco

Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city.

A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.