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We're planning a family vacation to the San Francisco Bay Area & Silicon Valley, and one of the highlights I don't want to miss is the Computer History Museum. However, I didn't find that listed in the free guides we got from our auto club. So:

  1. What other definitive "computer geek" attractions should we consider on our trip to the area?
  2. Are there any area travel guidebooks for folks interested in computing and its history?
  3. What other resources, online or otherwise, should we have a look at?
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10 Answers 10

Silicon Valley Guide has a listing of attractions. The guide is targeted towards tech-enthusiasts visiting Silicon Valley. It has a nice map which gives you a sense for the relative location of the attractions.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Get on meetup.com and see what meets your interests and have interesting events going on when you're there. The bay area's really about the amazing collection of people, so meet some!

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While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  Dirty-flow Jun 1 at 10:25

There is the Bay Model Visitor Center. It is a huge warehouse with a model of the bay and all water. Although the model is quite old and inaccurate by today's standards, it shows the efforts required to study the water movements prior to computer simulations.

It is controversial - I liked it, my colleague didn't. Don't expect much interaction there.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Army_Corps_of_Engineers_Bay_Model

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(Sorry for the late answer)

I've spent about 3 months over the course of a few trips (2 months on my first trip), and I had a list of places I wanted to see. Not all of them are 'attractions' or the usual, but nevertheless something as a geek that's been looking at the things going on in Silicon Valley from a far most of my life I wanted to see:

  • Computer History Museum (you've already got that one though)
  • HP Garage: 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto
  • Shockley Semiconductor: 391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View (First 'Silicon' company)
  • Googleplex and Android statues: 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
  • Apple campus and 'company store': 1 Infinite Loop
  • Weird Stuff Warehouse (I've bought several CueCats from this place from my several visits)
  • Fry's Sunnyvale ('first' Fry's in the US)
  • Samovar Tea Lounge: A few in SF (the trendy place for startup geeks like Kevin Rose)
  • TWiT Cottage (now TWiT Brick House): Petaluma
  • Yoda fountain at Lucasfilm HQ: The Presidio, 1 Letterman Drive, SF

As I said, not all are 'family attractions' (eg. electronics stores), but things myself and my girlfriend were interested in seeing. I went to the Intel Museum, and although it was somewhat interesting I wouldn't recommend it if you're already going to the CHM, it's tiny and as you can expect, just a timeline of Intel's achievements.

A lot of these are also in The Geek Atlas O'Reilly book, and you might benefit from reading/listening to Microserfs to get a feel for how things were in the early '90s, including the places they went around the area (such as Fry's).

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I'd suggest the Lucky Juju Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda. It's pricey and also loud, so if you plan to spend a few hours there, take earplugs!

If you're carrying a laptop or other Internet-enabled device, you might enjoy spending a few hours in a coworking location or hackerspace.

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I'm surprised noone mentioned the book Geek Silicon Valley

It's been a long while since I read it, and it's 5 years out of date (which is a pretty long time in valley terms), but it has a lot of the sort of thing you're looking for.

I agree with other answers, by the way - the Musee Mecanique, the Computer History Museum, and Weird Stuff are all good choices (I'm not as big a fan of the Tech Museum).

The two I'd mention are the Google Campus, and any of the Fry's outlets (though they're not as unique as they used to be, they do also feature computer history displays, like "First Transistor").

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You will definitely want to visit Weird Stuff, which is an enormous warehouse of all kinds of discarded technology located in Sunnyvale. It's a bit out there, but very worth it.

If you're interested in doing any archival research, you might also want to schedule an appointment with Stanford's Silicon Valley Archives.

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You should definitively go to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and especially check out the Stackoverflow plaque in the Computer History Museum Wall.

See also the Meta SO thread about it.

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Yep, got that on the list already - but thanks for the reminder to see the Stack Overflow plaque specifically :-) –  Chris W. Rea Jan 21 '12 at 14:49
    
Ah ok, I didn't know that you know about the Brick in the Wall ;) –  RoflcoptrException Jan 21 '12 at 14:52
    
All in all, it's just another... ;-) –  Chris W. Rea Jan 21 '12 at 16:42

If you love arcade games, you should get a bundle of quarters and go to the Musée Mécanique (Linking to yelp because their official site has auto playing music :S).

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They have a tech museum in San Jose that may be quite savvy, atleast to your tastes.

Of course, you should also visit Palo Alto, not just restricted to Stanford University; it is place known for youthful energy and budding entrepreneurship that is characteristic of the Silicon Valley.

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