Levi’s Stadium adds to city’s theme park fun, history and high-tech
SANTA CLARA, just an hour south of San Francisco, lies in the heart of tech capital Silicon Valley, an area firmly focused on the future but with a history that stretches back to the founding of California.
With the opening of Levi’s Stadium in 2014, and its subsequent hosting of Super Bowl 50 in 2016, Santa Clara is now in the national spotlight. Not only is the 69,900seat stadium home to the San Francisco 49ers, but it hosts college football, domestic and international soccer, concerts and other special events. Its 20,000-square-foot 49ers Museum celebrates the team’s history in 11 galleries and interactive exhibit spaces devoted to sports history, Super Bowl Championships and the Lombardi Trophies. The museum and the stadium are open for tours and visits year-round.
Theme Park Fun, Sports, Shopping & Festivals
There’s much more to see in Santa Clara. Families find entertainment and thrills at California’s only combination theme and water park, California’s Great America, which offers more than 100 acres of rides and shows. The park, open late March through October, expanded with the Planet Snoopy play area in 2016. Rides include an interactive ride aboard Snoopy’s giant skateboard, a Peanuts 500 race-car ride and Snoopy’s Space Buggies, which lifts astronauts high in the air for a lunar landing. New for 2017 will be Patriot, an exciting “floorless” roller coaster which position guests with their feet dangling high above a track.
The local dining scene is booming with four new restaurants just over a mile from
Great America at Santa Clara Square: Il Fornaio, Opa, Puesto and Fleming’s Steakhouse. Elsewhere in the city, sports fans will find plenty to cheer outside Levi’s Stadium. The city hosts major swim meets at the George F. Haines International Swim Center, and Santa Clara University holds NCAA Division 1 athletic competitions year-round.
A visit to Santa Clara wouldn’t be complete without a look into the innovative high tech giants of Silicon Valley. At the Intel Museum at corporate headquarters, visitors see how computer chips are made in an automated chip factory and how the valley’s engineers shaped and changed society.
Some of Silicon Valley’s best shopping is found at Santa Clara’s Westfield Valley Fair mall, which is across the street from the high-end Santana Row shopping district. Santa Clara also draws visitors to its Triton Museum of Art with an emphasis on Bay Area artists and popular events, including an annual Art and Wine Festival in September, Pacific International Quilt Festival and spinetingling Halloween Haunt in October, and holiday favorite Winterfest in December.
Mission Santa Clara de Asis & Santa Clara University
Santa Clara has a long history that’s closely tied with that of California. The fertile valley that became known as Santa Clara Valley and more recently, Silicon Valley, was inhabited by the Ohlone when Spain began colonizing California. Franciscan missionaries chose a spot in the valley in 1777 for their eighth California mission. They named it Mission Santa Clara de Asis after Saint Clare.
Visitors are welcome to visit the Mission Church and adjacent Mission Gardens on the beautiful campus of Santa Clara University. Founded in 1851, the university is the oldest college in California. The current Mission Church was built in 1925 after a fire destroyed the previous 19th-century building. Statues, paintings, liturgical objects, one bell and the flavor of the Spanish-style architecture remain.
Also on the Santa Clara University campus is the de Saisset Art Museum, whose most significant feature is a California history collection. Artifacts that trace Santa Clara history include a cornerstone uncovered in an archaeological excavation. The museum also houses European art from the Renaissance to the 19th century, including prints by Durer and Piranesi; modern works by Chagall, Matisse and Picasso; and prints by San Francisco Bay Area artists Arneson, Diebenkorn, Neri, Thiebaud and others.
There are several other historic sites in Santa Clara that have been transformed into museums, including the South Bay Historical Society in an 1863 train station, the Santa Clara Historic Museum in the Headen-inman House and the Harris-lass House Museum, an 1860s home that was the city’s last farm.
For trip planning, see santaclara.org.
LEVI’S STADIUM, home of the San Francisco 49ers, hosted Super Bowl 50 in 2016 and many other events, including the NHL Stadium Series, above; California’s Great America, below.
SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY, below; taking a tour of the Intel Museum, bottom.