Silicon Valley and San Francisco for Nerdy Tech Teens

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San Francisco and the surrounding Silicon Valley offer many things to do for teens and their parents who are into technology and gadgets and related science or social media giants.

   

I happen to have three boys who love all things tech or engineering. We get to California at least once a year, an easy trip from Seattle.

Here is a list of 15 of our favorites we’ve already seen and places we plan to visit soon.
  

Computer, Technology, and Science Places in the Bay Area for Kids, Teens, and Parents, too!

 

Science and Engineering Museums

 

Exploratorium –  San Francisco.

In 2013 it moved to Pier 15, a new $250M location, and even more exhibits. Even at the prior spot, we found the high-quality exhibits so plentiful that even with large boisterous school groups present, our kids didn’t wait for more than a couple minutes to try their hands at science experiences.
 

Cable Car Museum –  San Francisco.

For those who love to examine how things work, the displays about the inner and under workings of cable cars are fascinating. There are giant exhibits showing the pull and breaking systems, historical equipment and tools, and the layout of early cable car lines. Multiple display panels explain the mechanisms. We spent well over an hour here, and it was much larger and more thorough than I had expected.
 

Bay Model Visitor Center

Bay Model Visitor Center

Bay Model Visitor Center –  Sausalito.

From the center’s website: “The Bay Model Visitor Center is a fully accessible education center administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which makes possible the viewing of a scientific tool: a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta System. THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD!”

While this center may not seem ‘techy’, it is pretty cool!

We took a bus there from downtown San Francisco, but there is plenty of free parking for drivers. It has hands-on exhibits and video kiosks. We enjoyed our time to just gawk at the immensity and marvel at the research efforts made capable by the model.

Additional links for photos and descriptions:

OurSausalito.com: photos and details about visiting.

HiddenSF: an enthusiastic description stating that any engineer-minded individual or kid would enjoy the model.

SFGate: a thorough description of what to see, and how “the model demonstrates in a concrete way the delicately interlinked natural and man-made systems”.

 

San-Francisco-Chabot-Space

Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space & Science Center –  Oakland.

Up tightly curving hill roadways near Oakland, this science center has plenty of hands-on exhibits, as well as thorough scientific descriptions to keep grownups interested.

I visited with my aunt, my sister and my teen son, and we all very much enjoyed our visit. We only had a couple hours, but could have happily spent a couple more. The center’s website has great photos and descriptions of exhibits.

Additional links for photos and descriptions:

Yelp: Reviews from the perspective of all ages, with photos.

TripAdvisor:  Plenty of reviews and details.

Mommy Nearest: more photos and the author states that kids of all ages will find something to enjoy here.

 

Lawrence Hall of Science earthquake exhibit

Lawrence Hall of Science

Lawrence Hall of Science –  Berkeley.

Plenty of hands-on exhibits for a few hours of exploration, and interesting for kids and grownups.

We found the paid parking to be a bit difficult to figure out. It is not as polished as some science centers, but we had a great time. My son especially liked the outdoor area with the expansive view and the display board describing the geography points.

Additional links for photos and descriptions:

Yelp: Reviews from the perspective of all ages, with photos.

TripAdvisor: Reviews and details.

 

Stanford Nanofabrication Facility Cleanroom –  Stanford.

Self guided tour – In the Paul G. Allen building at Stanford. From the website: “Our cleanroom, originally dedicated exclusively to integrated circuit (computer chip) fabrication, now provides researchers with the tools to fabricate a wide spectrum of current technologies, including nanoelectronics, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), optics, microfluidics, and biological and chemical applications.”
 

NASA Ames Research Center –  Mountain View.

The Wherever Writer: Description and photos of the author’s visit to the Ames Visitor Center.

 

Intel Museum

Intel Museum –  Santa Clara.

Tech Museum of Innovation –  San Jose.

Computer History Museum –  Mountain View.

 

Geeky Places to See

Lucasfilm Letterman Digital Arts Center gardens

Lucasfilm Letterman Digital Arts Center gardens

Yoda Statue at Lucasfilm — Letterman Digital Arts Center –  San Francisco.

Visiting here is merely a stop to see the Yoda fountain, and maybe, if the offices are open, to enter the lobby to see a few life-size Star Wars figures and a smattering of smaller memorabilia.

Takes just a half hour, tops. Follow it up with a coffee from the Starbucks on the grounds, and walk along paths through beautiful gardens.

Additional links for photos and descriptions:

Yelp: I definitely agree with one reviewer who noted it is not a visit for young children, as there isn’t anything to DO in the lobby.

SFtodo.com: the author, Maria, describes in detail her search for Yoda, and the grounds.

TheBubblyBay blog: another description with photos of a visit to Lucasfilm.

 

Googleplex, Google’s Global HQ –  Mountain View.

One cannot see inside Google’s Mountain View HQ without knowing an employee. We just drove as close as we could, in and around the parking lots to see whatever we could see.

We could imagine what’s inside, and we spotted outdoor features with the help of this tour description:

Business Insider: Julie Bort describes the exterior and portions of the inside, including great photos.

Angela the Adventurer shows us the exterior colors, features and unique items around the Google complex in this YouTube video:

 

Tesla Motors HQ –  Palo Alto.

Again, no inside tour, but it’s fun just to get close.

Evil Mad Scientist: This article will help us imagine what’s inside, with photos and description.

Tesla Factory –  Fremont. No entry, but you can drive into the parking lot and see the lobby, rows of charging stations, and showroom. Currently, tours are offered only to Tesla owners or special events.

Autoweek: Photos of a Tesla Factory tour.

 

Facebook HQ –  Menlo Park.

And again, no inside tour, so we just drove up and gawked around the exterior.

Pure Glutton: Great photos and descriptions of a Facebook tour.

   

OfficeSnapShots: On the website page, scroll down for plenty of photos of office interior and exterior.

Business Insider: Robert Johnson describes the Facebook campus, with photos.

 

Apple headquarters Company Store –  Cupertino.

There is a retail store that sells Apple clothing and electronic items at the One Infinite Loop headquarters location.

Apple has been outgrowing its One Infinite Loop headquarters, and in 2017 opened a larger headquarters, Apple Park.

Macworld: Photos and descriptions of the high-tech building, video of construction progress.

 

Further reference:

Scaruffi.com has an interesting compilation of photos from the start of Silicon Valley, such as residential garages where companies started, storefronts, and headquarters.

A Quora user has compiled a lengthy list in response to the question, “Which places should a technophile visit on a trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley?” There are links, and further responses with even more locations.

 

Click here to see a list of San Francisco hotels with large Family Rooms to accommodate 5, 6, or 7 people.

 
-Sandy Nielsen
Sleeps5.com

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