The Google Campus
If you're looking for the best Instagram spots in Silicon Valley, California, here are 20 landmarks on Instagram. Share photos of these places with relevant destination hashtags (#siliconvalley, #bayarea, #sanjose, etc.) and you're sure to get lots of likes.
Google Headquarters, 1600 Amphitheater Parkway, Mountain View
Number one on the list has to be the "Googleplex". The Google campus in Mountain View seems to have been designed for viral social sharing. The open campus has colorful decor, quirky artwork, and bizarre statues.
You'll find the most photo opportunities on the main campus, in front of building #43. This includes rows of colorful bikes provided for Google employees ("Googlers") to get around campus, modern architecture, and a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton draped with plastic flamingos.
After visiting the main campus, walk a few blocks over to 1981 Landings Drive to see the giant Android statues, jumbo cartoon figures representing each version of the Android operating system.
The Facebook Campus
Facebook Headquarters, 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park
Facebook's security does not allow visitors to roam the campus like Google does, but they won't stop you from taking a photo at their made-for-social sharing campus entrance.
The Facebook "Like" Sign is an iconic image of Silicon Valley. Park in one of the few visitor parking spots and walk back to the sign. Have someone take a photo of you in front of the sign. For bonus points:
- Make the "thumbs up" symbol in your shot
- Share that photo on Facebook--and tag Facebook!
Beach Scenes on the Silicon Valley Coast
Few things do better on Instagram than a beach and the San Mateo County coast has some gorgeous ones!
You can't go wrong by stopping at any photogenic vista you see while driving the coast, but here are a few that I like. Dunes Beach and Poplar Beach feature stunning windblown sand dunes and steep cliffs. Point Montara State Beach has lovely views of a rugged, rocky point and loads of surfers. The Devil's Slide Trail has some really interesting views from an old section of California Highway 1-turned clifftop hiking trail.
Lighthouses on the Silicon Valley Coast
Historic lighthouses are popular images on Instagram. We're lucky to have two gorgeous lighthouses on the Silicon Valley Coast, Point Montara Lighthouse (16th Street and Highway 1, Montara, CA) and the Pigeon Point Lighthouse (210 Pigeon Point Road, Pescadero, CA).
Tips & Inspiration: Visit during the late afternoon "golden hour" for warm light on the tower and for a chance to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, visit on a cloudy day for a more moody shot.
Tag your photos with #lighthouse, #lighthouse_captures, and #lighthouse_lovers to share them with other #lighthouse_lovers!
Alviso Slough & the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Alviso Marina County Park is an 18.9-acre park along the Alviso Slough on the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay just north of San Jose. Photogenic features are the salt ponds, marshes, and birdlife on the southern gateway to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Our Golden (and Sometimes Green!) Hills
The San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with gorgeous rolling hills, many protected from sprawling development by land trusts and public open space districts.
The best wild vistas are along the 280 freeway, and in the county and city parks that stretch from Fremont in the north to Gilroy in the south. Alum Rock Park is a popular vantage point for views over Downtown San Jose. I captured this photo (pictured) at Arastradero Park in Palo Alto.
Tips & Inspiration: Seek out seasonal wildflowers and old twisted oak trees to add color and shape. Our rainy season is fleeting so be sure to capture the hills when the grass is green!
Redwood Groves in the Santa Cruz Mountains
The ancient redwood groves are a photogenic natural feature of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Two parks to try are Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Portola Redwoods State Park.
Tips & Inspiration: The low-light on these trails can be hard for smartphones to capture so consider bringing your camera. You'll need a tripod to capture long exposures and soften waterfalls.
The Stanford Dish
The Stanford Dish is a 150-ft diameter radiotelescope perched on a hill above the Stanford Campus. The Dish trail is a popular recreational area for hiking and jogging and is open to the public from approximately sunrise to sunset throughout the year.
The Stanford University campus has lots of interesting and photogenic vistas like Hoover Tower, the mosaic face of Memorial Church, the Rodin sculpture garden, and the Papua New Guinea Totem Garden,
Unique Local Treats
Many Instagrammers have a sweet tooth and love to see unique foods, so indulge us by sharing your favorite local treats. Photograph the colorful macarons at Chantal Guillon, the neon green pandan-flavored waffles (pictured) in San Jose's "Little Saigon", the creme brulee cappuccino at Chromatic Coffee, the Mint Mojito coffee at Philz, and the "Mangonada" fresh mango/chile/ice cream sundae from various Mexican sweets shops.
The Pulgas Water Temple
The Pulgas Water Temple (86 Cañada Road, Woodside) is an elaborate columned monument that looks like something you would see in Ancient Greece. The temple was built by the San Francisco Water Department to celebrate the 1934 completion of the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct. The monument stands at the end of the aqueduct.
Tips & Inspiration: The property is only accessible during the SF Water Department work week, business hours Monday through Friday.
Filoli Gardens (86 Cañada Road, Woodside) is a lovely historic estate with lots of beautiful scenes to photograph including gardens, formal English-inspired landscaping, and the historic home.
San Pedro Square Market
The San Pedro Square Market is a popular Downtown San Jose food market and entertainment space with lots of restaurants, food stands, and bars.
Tips & Inspiration: Capture shots of the vintage-inspired neon sign (pictured), shots of the popular outdoor patio flanked by the historic Peralta Adobe, and, of course, your food.
The San Jose Sharks
Local sports fans love to see Instagram photos of the Bay Area's NHL hockey team, the San Jose Sharks especially home turf captures at the so-called "Shark Tank" (SAP Center).
Tips & Inspiration: Look for photos of the Sharks players skating out onto the ice through a giant shark mouth and Sharkie, the team's lovable mascot. Tag your photos with the popular team hashtags #SJsharks #bleedteal and #turnupinteal
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is our local gateway to most long-distance and international flights so it's easy to find interesting things to photograph--think planes landing over the Bay, exotic airlines, and the airport's modern architecture.
Tips & Inspiration: Stay on the right side of the TSA and avoid taking pictures in the security line. Also, you might want to think twice before Instagramming your boarding pass.
Santana Row's European-inspired design and fashionable shops make a popular place to be seen -- and Instagram.
Tips & Inspiration: Look for unusual events like this one (pictured), an outdoor yoga class captured on the park lawn. Use the mall's official hashtag #LifeOntheRow for a chance to be featured and win a $50 Santana Row gift card.
San Jose Diridon Station
San Jose's historic downtown rail depot dates back to 1935. Today it's San Jose's main transit gateway for Caltrain and Amtrak.
Tips & Inspiration: Be sure to check out the WPA-era tilework and wooden roof in the main depot and the vintage railway signs on the train platforms
Street Art in San Jose
Local artists are taking their brushes to the streets and creating some interesting street art in San Jose. The best areas of the city to find street art are in SOFA, the South First Arts District (pictured), and in and around Japantown.
Japantown San Jose
There are lots of interesting things to photograph in San Jose's historic Japantown. The lively Japantown business district, the San Jose Buddhist Betsuin Temple (pictured), the neon lights of Prayer Garden church, Japanese-influenced street art, and quirky things to buy in the local shops and restaurants.
Teslas & The Google Self-Driving Car
Teslas are everywhere in the Bay Area, there's no better symbol of Silicon Valley wealth and homegrown tech than Tesla's luxe electric cars (pictured above).
When in Mountain View, look for Google's self-driving car taking to the streets and capture a picture if you can. That's a unique only-in-Silicon Valley capture--for now!