Santa Clara is a city of nearly 125,000 residents that’s located in Santa Clara County, about 75 kilometers south of San Francisco.
The city was founded more than 200 years ago as a Spanish Mission. Now, it’s most well-known for its booming tech industry that’s commonly referred to around the world as Silicon Valley.
Though it’s common knowledge to most football fans, it’s a surprise to many to discover that the relatively small city is also the home of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers.
Visitors to Santa Clara have abundant activity options at their fingertips without venturing outside city limits, so staying engaged and entertained shouldn’t be an issue.
1. Levi’s Stadium
With a capacity of nearly 70,000, Levi’s Stadium on Marie P. DeBartolo Way in Santa Clara is one of the country’s premier professional football stadiums.
The 49ers play their home games here, and during the off-season, the stadium hosts a variety of annual events, including concerts featuring big names in the music industry.
Taking a family to a football game isn’t the least expensive activity option in the area, but for those who’ve never taken in a pro game, it’s an exhilarating experience that may be worth the cost.
Guided tours are also regularly available, and the bars and restaurants around the stadium are fun to visit year-round.
2. Ulistac Natural Area
Despite its large population and the overall hustle and bustle, the Bay Area features plenty of urban parks and natural areas that are convenient options for those interested in enjoying the great outdoors.
The Ulistac Natural Area is located on Lick Mill Road in Santa Clara. It is comprised of more than 40 acres that include a variety of distinct environments.
The natural area straddles the Guadalupe River and is home to an array of plants and animals that are well-suited to its riparian habitat.
A particularly popular attraction for bird watchers, it features a number of well-marked nature trails dotted with interpretive signs.
3. Santa Clara Art & Wine Festival
Californians take their art and wine seriously, and there’s no better way to combine the two than by visiting the Santa Clara Art & Wine Festival.
The event is held in the city’s Central Park and features nearly 200 vendors from across the country selling fine art and crafts, gourmet food, and a vast selection of California’s best wines.
Proceeds are donated to worthwhile causes that benefit residents in need. It all takes place in the early fall when the central California weather is perfect for outdoor activities.
Other highlights include live entertainment and lots of art-related activities for kids.
4. The de Saisset Museum
Though he’s not exactly a household name for those who don’t typically travel in West Coast art circles, Ernest de Saisset was one of the Bay Area’s most prominent artists in the 19th century.
Saisset was a French immigrant who enrolled in Santa Clara University and studied painting as a young man.
The museum that now bears his name is located on the university’s campus. It includes a collection of more than 100 of his most impressive works.
It’s as much a historical attraction as it is an art one, and it also has other works from European and American artists dating back hundreds of years.
5. Intel Museum
Intel is one of the titans of the tech world. Over the years, it has been responsible for some of the most significant technological leaps forward in computer hardware.
The Intel Museum is located on the campus of the company’s world headquarters in Santa Clara, and it’s regularly open to the public.
Even for those who don’t fall into the tech-savvy category, it’s a fascinating place that’s definitely worth an hour or two of time.
Though it may sound dry to technophobes, it’s packed with interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages, so it’s great for kids with short attention spans too.
6. Santa Clara Farmers’ Market
There’s really no better way to rub elbows with locals, enjoy pleasant weather, and have access to tons of great products you won’t find elsewhere than by visiting a farmers’ market.
The Santa Clara Farmers’ Market is open year-round and features a little bit of everything – from seasonal produce and fresh baked goods to health and body products and prepared food items.
Held on Jackson Street near the downtown area, it’s common to find different items each time you go.
Spending a few bucks is a great way to support local farmers and entrepreneurs, and don’t be shy about asking them for suggestions for things to see and do while in town.
7. California’s Great America
There’s no shortage of theme parks in the Golden State, but there’s one clear choice for those visiting Santa Clara.
California’s Great America is located on Great America Parkway just outside of town. It features tons of rides, dining options, kid’s activities, and a water park that’s a huge draw during the hot summer months.
Though Great America can really draw a crowd during peak times when kids are enjoying their summer vacations, previous guests have noted that wait times for rides weren’t overly long.
Many families choose to spend an entire day on-site to avoid wasting valuable recreational time in the car.
8. Mission Santa Clara
Mission Santa Clara is one of the city’s premier historic sites, and it’s now conveniently located on the campus of Santa Clara University.
The mission was established by Franciscans in the 1770s to spread Christianity to the area’s Native American population.
Sadly, things didn’t go according to plan; due to several natural disasters, the mission was forced to move from its original site to where it is now.
Over the years, it was also run by the Jesuits. Though it’s no longer functioning in its original role, it now doubles as a museum and chapel that are open to visitors.
9. The Triton Museum of Art
Though guests tend to visit the Triton Museum of Art for the works in its collection, its stunning contemporary architecture usually makes a big impression as well.
The museum’s collection includes works from all over the country, but its emphasis is on pieces created by Bay Area artists using local people and scenery as inspiration.
The grounds also include a sprawling outdoor sculpture garden spread over nearly seven acres, and a home from the mid-1860s that’s among the most well-preserved examples of historic American architecture in the area.
The museum is located on Warburton Avenue, and most visitors spend a few hours on-site.
10. Santa Clara Players
The Santa Clara Players traces its roots all the way back to the early ‘60s, when a group of local performers began putting on small shows for the community.
Now nearly seven decades later, they’re still going strong. Their annual performances run the gamut from dramatic theater and mystery to satire and humor.
The players are part of a community theater group staffed by talented volunteers dedicated to providing high-quality, family-friendly entertainment at a reasonable cost.
They’re located on Don Avenue in Santa Clara and offer lots of volunteer opportunities for budding actors and stagehands.
11. Central Park
Featuring lots of wide-open spaces and massive swimming and community rec centers, Santa Clara’s Central Park is a go-to destination for activity minded visitors looking to make the most of their limited vacation time without traveling to more distant attractions.
The park is centrally located on Keily Boulevard, has ample parking, and features lots of outdoor amenities and recreational activity options.
From tennis and basketball to softball, lawn bowling, and a big playground, there’s really no excuse for getting bored while on-site. For those looking to spend a relaxing afternoon, there are a lake, built-in BBQs, and public restrooms.
12. The 49ers Museum
Even for those who won’t be in Santa Clara during the regular season, the 49ers stadium and museum are fun attractions worth visiting for sports-minded visitors.
The museum is located inside Levi’s Stadium and features nearly a dozen distinct galleries that are open to the public year-round.
It’s a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. In addition to football, its exhibits touch on science, technology, and art in a way that engages and entertains young and old minds alike.
Most guests check out the introductory video in the visitor’s center before showing themselves through the impressive collection of trophies, balls, and Super Bowl memorabilia on display.
13. The Santa Clara Fire Museum
The Santa Clara Fire Department’s roots run all the way back to the 1850s when it was founded.
The museum is now located on Walsh Avenue in an unused training center behind the city’s new fire station.
It sports an impressive collection of equipment and historical memorabilia that give visitors unique insights into the lives of fire and rescue personnel in years past.
The museum’s highlights include a fully restored Model-T fire truck that served for two decades, beginning in the 1920s.
The knowledgeable local volunteer staff also offer regular programs geared at educating the public about fire safety and prevention issues.
14. Edward Peterman Museum of Railroad History
The Edward Peterman Museum of Railroad History is run by a local historical society. It is housed in the depot of a now-defunct railroad on Railroad Avenue in Santa Clara.
Like many local historical attractions, the museum is staffed by local volunteers who love answering questions and showing first-time visitors around.
The museum’s exhibits include a variety of railroad equipment and memorabilia, including signals, safety equipment, and historical photographs dating back over 100 years.
The museum is regularly open to the public. It maintains an extensive library of books relating to railroad development and local history as well.
15. Voyager Coffee
Though it has only been around since 2016, Voyager Coffee’s owner and staff are dedicated to the noble pursuit of making their customers happy.
They do this largely by providing world-class coffee, but also by offering a comfortable space in which guests have opportunities to build relationships with like-minded customers.
Many of their coffees sport internationally influenced flavors, and they’re often infused with things like orange essence and cherry blossom water.
Don’t worry if you prefer your coffee straight-up, because they’ve got more traditional brews as well.
They offer fresh pastry and baked goods, tea, and other non-coffee drinks too.