Levi’s Sta­dium adds to city’s theme park fun, his­tory and high-tech

Travel Guide to California - - SANTA CLARA - BY LAURA DEL ROSSO

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 san­

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.

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