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Just a little over twelve square miles, Mountain View is a small city with enormous impact. A former agricultural hub, it’s now known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Heavyweight tech companies have sprawling, glossy campuses here alongside scientific outposts such as the NASA Ames Research Center — home to the world’s largest wind tunnel — and the SETI Institute, whose scientists have been searching for life beyond Earth since 1984. Despite all the money zooming around, the glitz is mostly contained to the lavish tech campuses.
Mountain View itself is a cluster of residential neighborhoods such as Monta Loma, which one particular icon of personal computing once called home, and where the streets are lined with classic mid-century ranches. Mountain View’s pedestrian-friendly downtown centered on Castro Street is the city’s dining hub, with options from burgers and beer to award-winning French cuisine packed within its boundaries. Visitors and locals alike can get plenty of exercise at Shoreline at Mountain View, a 750-acre park with a golf course, sailing lake, and a kite lot where enthusiasts get tricky with stunt kites.
San Jose International Airport (SJC) is the closest major airport, about a 20-minute drive from Mountain View. There are plenty of options for getting from the airport to your destination, including public transportation, shuttles, taxis, rideshares, and rental cars. Mountain View has numerous local public transportation options, including two free shuttles, the Mountain View Community Shuttle and the MVGo, and Valley Transportation Authority light rail and buses. The CalTrain commuter rail system connects the city to surrounding communities, including San Francisco. There are also e-bike and scooter stations around town, if you prefer a foot-powered option.
Mountain View enjoys a mild climate year-round. Summer and late fall are the warmest months, and you may have to compete for sidewalk seating downtown on balmy nights. In September, Castro Street comes alive with the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival, which features more than 500 artists, as well as live music, and fine wine and food vendors. Things cool down considerably in the winter, and January and February are the wettest months.
Geek out at this museum that celebrates the history of all things tech. The centerpiece collection on the first 2,000 years of computing includes such fascinating artifacts as analog computers made of wood and wire and a Commodore 64, the pioneering desktop cube first sold in 1982. Drop by the learning lab to see a demonstration of orchestrions — mechanical musical instruments similar to an organ.
Located in Shoreline at Mountain View Park, this circa-1867 Victorian Italianate building is the oldest house in the city. Once slated for demolition, this historic house has been lovingly restored. Inside you’ll find grand marble fireplaces, period wallpaper, and 10-foot ceilings hung with brass chandeliers. Free tours are offered throughout the week.
Mountain View is surrounded by many of Northern California’s most scenic driving routes, from the cinematic coastal Highway 1 (the seaside town of Half Moon Bay is just 30 miles to the northwest of the city) to the rural Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where a number of picturesque state parks reside. Castle Rock is a gem among these parks, offering trails that take visitors from lush forests to sweeping vistas from the surfaces of sculpted sandstone. It’s a popular destination for hikers as well as climbers who scale the namesake rock. Note that cell reception here is very spotty, so map your route before you arrive.