As a global center of innovation and historic home of the computer and silicon-based computing technology, Silicon Valley has no shortage of family-friendly things to do for people who want to learn about science and technology. Here are some science and tech-friendly things to do in Silicon Valley.
The Tech Interactive (201 South Market St., San Jose)
The Tech Interactive in Downtown San Jose offers hands-on exhibits on the role of technology and innovation in our lives. There are exhibits on computers and tech history, environmental science, an earthquake simulator, and a space simulator that lets you see learn what it feels like to fly with a NASA jetpack. The Tech Interactive also has an IMAX Dome Theater which shows popular films and educational documentaries. Admission price varies. Hours: Open every day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Computer History Museum (1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View)
The Computer History Museum offers in-depth exhibits on the history of computing from the ancient abacus to today’s smart phones and devices. The Museum has over 1,100 historic artifacts, including some of the very first computers from the 1940s and 1950s. Admission varies. Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Intel Museum (2300 Mission College Boulevard, Santa Clara):
This company museum offers 10,000 square foot of hands-on exhibits showing how computer processors work and how they run all our computing devices. The Admission: Free. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, California):
The Bay Area NASA field center was founded in 1939 as an aircraft research laboratory and has since worked on many of NASA’s space science missions and projects. While the research center itself is not open to the public, the NASA Ames Visitor’s Center offers self-guided tours. Admission: Free. Hours: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday/Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lick Observatory (7281 Mount Hamilton Rd, Mount Hamilton)
This mountain-top observatory (founded in 1888) is an active University of California research laboratory and offers a visitor center, gift center, and dramatic views from 4,200 feet over the Santa Clara Valley. Free talks inside the dome of the observatory are given on the half hour. Admission: Free. Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Hiller Aviation Museum (601 Skyway Road, San Carlos)
Hiller Aviation Museum is an aircraft history museum founded by helicopter inventor, Stanley Hiller, Jr. The museum has more than 50 aircrafts on display and exhibits on the history of flight. Admission: Varies. Hours: Open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit Google, Facebook, Apple, and more: Several of the biggest tech headquarters offices have company stores, museums, or opportunities for a very shareable photo opp. Check out this post: Tech Headquarters You Can Visit In Silicon Valley and tips for visiting the Googleplex, Google's Headquarters in Mountain View.
Visit Tech History Landmarks: Silicon Valley is home to lots of technology “firsts.” You can drive by the “HP Garage,” where the founders of HP built their first products starting in 1939 (private residence, 367 Addison Ave., Palo Alto) and the former IBM research lab (San Jose) where the first hard drive was invented.
The Maker Movement + Sites: The Bay Area celebrates innovation and prizes the “maker movement,” honoring the people engaged in arts, crafts, engineering, science projects, or who have a general do-it-yourself (DIY) mindset. Each spring, the Maker Faire festival in San Mateo County draws thousands of inventors, tinkerers, and creative DIY lovers come to show off their creations. Downtown San Jose’s Tech Shop is a member-supported workshop where visitors can use high tech mechanical computing devices, the latest tech and building software, 3D printers, and enroll in classes teaching everything DIY: from sewing, to building, to graphic design (Day passes are available).