Silicon Valley: Eat, Drink, Sleep, Do

Facebook sign in Silicon Valley

I can get used to being pleasantly surprised. I’ve found myself wanting to discover more of my home country and I’m tickled pink every time I find hidden gems and fab destinations in the most random of places. When I was invited by the San Mateo/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to come and check it out, I was curious to say the least. In the land of Google, Facebook, and Electronic Arts, what else could possibly be the draw to Silicon Valley? It turns out, a lot of things.

Like, my previous Girlie Weekend in Plano, I bring you a guide to Silicon Valley/San Mateo County: Eat, Drink, Sleep, and Do (or, in other words, things Erica really freaking enjoyed)


Where to eat Silicon Valley 1

Donato Enoteca: By far my favorite restaurant of the trip, Chef Donato Scotti brings you some of the best Italian food found this side of the pond. Using seasonal produce, he creates homemade pastas, fresh meats, and artisanal products.  The calamari was fresh and delicious; the veal, perfection; and some of the most amazing pasta I’ve had in my life. Did I mention I got to try black volcanic salt for the first time? *swoon*

How to get there: CalTrain Redwood City: .3 miles

Nick’s Seafood Restaurant: Something has to be said about an establishment that has been around for 85 years. Sitting in an amazing cove with a hell of a sunset view, Nick’s is a divey little place that you will love (and everyone should know my love for dive bars). Notice the distinct ambiance and decor as you walk in – it is like heading into a time machine where you are stuck in the mid-1960s. Make sure to order their signature drink, aptly named the Spanking, to accompany their well-known Grilled Crab Sandwich. Crispy buttery bread and delicious crab… nomnomnomnom. Gotta love local, family establishments.

How to get there: Car needed

Where to Eat in Silicon Valley 2

Coconuts Caribbean: Anyone who lets me gush about the Caribbean knows that it is my happy place. What better way to bring me back than to have Chef Robert prepare us a pitcher of Pineapple Express mojito along with a spread of jerk chicken, curried goat,  jerk salmon, braised oxtail, baked eggplant and lentils, plantains, and collard greens. Yes, I ate them all.

How to get there: Public Transportation: CalTrain Palo Alto .4 miles

Coconut Bay Thai Restaurant and Bar: I’m no expert with Thai food (I can count how many times I’ve eaten it on one hand) but this place was freaking awesome. After Mike and I nearly burned half of our tastebuds off with their raw prawns, we devoured the rest of the food on the table. Some of my favorites included their yellow curry and their “Legendary Pad Thai”. One thing that really stuck with me was their nearby street cafe that keeps it as real as you can imagine with Thai food. If you weren’t keeping up with our #playbythebay hashtag, you missed these gems:

How to get there: CalTrain Burlingame


What to do in Silicon Valley Drink 1

Straits: This Singaporean inspired bar/restaurant won me over with a simple drink – The Lychee Martini. Infused in-house, this drink wowed my taste buds with a sweet, syrupy beginning and a surprisingly fresh finish. Add on their Chicken “Lollipops” and Fresh Spring Rolls to accompany your lemongrass mojito and you have one happy lady – me.

How to get there: CalTrain Burlingame

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay: While I don’t normally suggest hotels as places to get your drink on, this one rocked my face (full post coming soon). With a gorgeous view off a rocky bluff, perfect sea breezes, champagne AND s’mores, you have one hell of an afternoon.

How to get there: Car needed

Thomas Fogarty Winery: Not only did Dr. Fogarty come up with life saving medical devices, but the man also has a winery in San Mateo County. At 2000 feet above sea level, this vineyard puts out delicious Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Merlots, and Cabernets. The view from this place is outstanding overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The wedding photographer in me completely geeked out at their spaces.

How to get there: Car needed

What to do in Silicon Valley Drink

AutoVino: It cracks me up to hear about how some businesses that came along. Buff, the owner of AutoVino loved cars, bought a garage, and combined it with his love of wine, making it the home of Woodside Vineyards. Grab your glass of wine as you drool over the very heavy collection of rare, vintage, and sports cars in his 20,000ft showroom. I couldn’t choose my favorite from a 1955 Chevy Bel Air and an old roadster that made me swoon.

How to get there: Car needed


Great Hotels in Silicon Valley

Sofitel San Francisco Bay: Inspired from the Provence region in France, Sofitel is all about the details. From their lavender scented hotel lobby to their daily candle ritual (lighting the candles like lamposts in old Paris), this hotel oozes sophistication. My favorite part? Their oversized showerhead makes it one of the best hotel showers I have taken. Also, when the sun sets, head out to the pool area for a gorgeous, colorful display over the pines.

How to get there: Shuttle from airport or CalTrain Belmont: 1.4 miles (30 minute walk)

Larkspur Landing: There is nothing quite like coming home to a freshly baked cookie and some cold milk awaiting you in your kitchenette. The home-y feeling of this hotel and the fact it had two of my favorite hotel details (an iPod dock and a really soft blanket) really won me over. If you have a moment, hop on over to San Francisco on the South San Francisco ferry (within walking distance of the hotel).

Aloft: If you’re looking for a social scene, this may be the hotel from you. From the pumping music in the elevator to their swanky bar complete with live music and colorful pool table, you don’t have to go far to ‘go out’. While it may be on the small size (it does take after a loft), the layout of the room makes it seem a little more spacious. If you’re there on business you can also connect all your gear and goods to the TV (ask for HMDIs and such downstairs). Right on!


Things to do in Silicon Valley 2
Costanoa Lodge and Camp: If you’re looking for an escape from the technological part of Silicon Valley, head down to Costanoa. Beautiful cabins and great hiking await you along with one of the largest Elephant Seal populations just down the street. With mountain biking, horseback riding, music, art, and spa facilities, you’re looking at a nice, long, relaxing weekend.

How to get there: Car needed

Harley Farms Goat Dairy: Did you know that coastal breezes can flavor the cheese coming from San Mateo County? It is no wonder that Harley Farms is an 8 year winner at the America Cheese Society Awards. Get a tour of the facilities and make sure to stuff your face with this glorious goat cheese.

How to get there: Car needed

Filoli Center: This 654 acre estate built in 1915 by one of the richest gold mine families has 16 acres of gardens that makes you feel like you’re living The Secret Garden. After making your way through the 36,000 foot home with a knowledgeable docent (and holy cow are there some amazing rooms!), you meander your way through the well manicured greenery outside. I couldn’t help but imagine what it could have been like. *dreamy sigh*

How to get there: Car needed

What to do in Silicon Valley copy

California Canoe & Kayak: If you would have asked me previously if I would like to head out to the beach to kayak when it was under 70 degrees I would have given you a hearty, “Hell naw!” But with a little patience and some great instructing, my partner Michelle and I rapidly became accustomed to our 2 (wo)man kayak. With aprons, jackets, and lifejackets, we were super warm and our competitive side quickly came out. Not only did we get to learn about the nature of the area but we got a detailed low down on the famous “Mavericks” wave that the area is known for.

How to get there: Car needed

I have learned once again not to have preconceived notions on what a location will be like. Not only was I delighted by many of the experiences I had, but I’m now curious about how many other locations I’ve looked over. Silicon Valley/San Mateo County, you have surprised me with your green living, fresh produce, fab food, even more delicious cocktails, and plethora of other things to do that have nothing to do with the tech industry.

I left a little sad that I won’t be able to experience the Pumpkin Festival.

Have you been to this part of California? What did you love about this part of the country?

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Silicon Valley San Mateo County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau however all opinions are my own.


35 Responses to “Silicon Valley: Eat, Drink, Sleep, Do”

  1. Randy Kalp September 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I’d like to thank you for breaking my heart tonight! I left it in the Bay Area a few years ago, and this post has just opened up the wound all over again. 🙂 In those days, I didn’t spend a lot time in Silicon Valley, except for a few days in Mountain View here and there for concerts at Shoreline Amphitheater, but if I would have had this guide, I can guarantee you I would have taken the train down a lot more often.

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:52 am #

      AWWW! Yeah, it is interesting that we don’t know what is in our own backyards. I was highly skeptical of a lot of things but in the end very happy I went. <3

  2. Michael September 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    mmm worms!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:53 am #


      The thought of the smell of the sauce makes me gag still.

  3. TammyOnTheMove September 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    That sounds like my trip from heaven. All that food. Looks so yummy! I have never been to California, but would love to visit one day.

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      YES. FOOD. I ate and ate and ate… luckily I wasn’t on a diet at that point!

  4. Kenin Bassart September 5, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Love California, need to spend more time up north though. Looks like a wonderful trip!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Most of my experience in California has definitely been with SoCal but I love NoCal very much! The weather drives me a bit batty though.

  5. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    The food looks absolutely amazing!!! What a beautiful hotel room too!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      The hotel was dreamy! I sat on me bed with a glass of champagne in their fuzzy robes.

  6. Andrew September 6, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Never been to that part of Cali, but looks neat. The one thing that hit me especially was the “Car Needed” by so many things on how to get there. Quite American. 🙂 And yet plenty with some form of public transport access. We are learning slowly.

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      Yes. I thought the same thing as they were zipping us around. Honestly, most of the things in Cali require cars so I wasn’t too surprised. I was more stoked about all the things you CAN do on public transport.

  7. Maria September 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Oh living the good life and love your takeaway of having overlooked it before but no more!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      It definitely was the good life. Those tech execs have it made!

  8. Carmen September 7, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Great photos! Especially the foodie ones. We are headed to Silicon Valley in a few week’s time and I will certainly try out some of those restaurants. Looks like you had a ball… and thanks for showing me that Silicon Valley has more to offer than just tech stuff!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Of course! If you ever find yourself in San Fran, take a day trip down. The towns are super cute.

  9. Hogga September 10, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    everything looks so fancy!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      It was. Fancy like me.

  10. Alex September 11, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Wow your photography in this post is amazing! I love the look of all the restaurants and bars, and I really do love the Aloft chain — not many I can say that about!

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks lady. I’ve really stepped up my game (and my new lens is the most amazing thing ever). Now to get more trips…

  11. Pete September 12, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    Interesting. I was most intrigued with the activities nearby. To be honest, I never even thought this area was near the coast. How long by car did it take you to get to Costanoa? That would be the kind of place I could chill at for a while…

    • Erica September 12, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      I think everything is about 30-45 minutes away from the bay itself. Not too far! I felt the same way about Costanoa. I wanted to stay there longer to really take it all in. That and I wanted to watch the surfers longer. Talk about ZEN!

  12. Annette | Bucket List Journey September 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Yum! Right now I am extremely happy to be living close to Silicon Valley so I can indulge in some of that deliciousness!

    • Erica September 19, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      A little jealous, I’ll admit.

  13. Federico September 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    What a trip! I haven’t been in the area for a long time and can’t wait to see the surf at Half Moon Bay. The food looks delicious by the way!

    • Erica September 19, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      SO GOOD – also, ask around for the Mavericks location. It obviously isn’t crazy all the time but is still consistent.

  14. Juno September 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    All I knew about Silicon Valley is their techy-businesses! 🙂 I need to explore California more.

    • Erica September 19, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      YES! I love visiting Cali for sure – no way I would ever live there but it is such a beautiful place.

  15. Noel - Stories On Travel September 17, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Silicon Valley is one of my dream destinations. It will be a great experience walking around its neighborhood. Thanks Erica for sharing more of Silicon Valley.

    • Erica September 19, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      I think you’re the first person that I’ve ever heard say that it is a dream destination! What draws you to it?

      • Noel - Stories On Travel September 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

        Because Silicon Valley is home to the famous people who are innovators, inventors and developers of computer technology.

  16. Stephanie - The Travel Chica September 18, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    That looks like a fun trip. So much good food, and then you can kayak to burn it off 🙂

    • Erica September 19, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      YUP! And I think I’ve gained a small addiction to kayaking. It was really fun in those kinds. I think I’ve only been in cheap ones that hurt my back. I could have done this for hours.

  17. Camino Inn and Suites November 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Too bad you did not mention our great budget hotel 🙁

    • Erica November 2, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      Hey guys – we were with the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB so they are the ones that showed us around!

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