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Santa Clara's Museums Focus On Art, History and Children

Santa Clara Museums and Historical Places

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Santa Clara with its meteoric rise as a technology incubator and leader has several museums and historical sites within and near the city limits. Some of the museums focus on technology and other historical sites showcase turn of the century heritage sites.

Silicon Valley is officially called the Santa Clara Valley. Geographically the valley runs from the Santa Cruz Mountains and the San Francisco Bay, from Palo Alto, through Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, down to San Jose. Parts of the valley stretch south again to the farming tracts of Gilroy. Many areas in the Silicon Valley were previously orchards and still retain a few remnant heritage fruit trees. In the days of the Ohlone, the land was used seasonally by tribes moving sites in the winter and summer. When the European settlers arrived, they converted the lands and farmed them. In recent years the aerospace industry took over and most of the land is now high tech and biotech campuses. A good resource of history and documents about life, employment, and industries in Santa Clara Valley can be found at Silicon Valley History Online.

San Jose Museum of Art

The San Jose Museum of Art showcases modern and contemporary art from the masters to recent works by young, emerging artists. The San Jose Museum of Art also offers robust arts activity for teens and serious and casual art enthusiasts. Innovative hands-on gallery activities and family programs, such as free community days, make the art accessible and engaging for visitors of all ages and interests. The Museum offers special programs for teens that are interested in the visual arts and are creatively exploring their career or hobby options. 

The Koret Gallery combines artworks from the Museum’s permanent collection with multisensory activities that show how art interpreted through dramatic play, interpretation, and creation are relevant in our daily lives.

The Tech Museum

The Tech Museum in Santa Clara is a fun, hands-on technology and science museum for people of all ages and interests. Situated in the center of Silicon Valley, the museum is one of the most accessible places for Bay Area families to explore technology and science. Programs such as The Tech Challenge, an annual team design competition for youth, and internationally renowned programs such as The Tech Awards, makes The Tech Museum a center for engaging the younger generation to innovate and expand their knowledge and interest in technology.

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House is a must-see for those who enjoy mystery, puzzles, and sheer eccentricity. The house is a lavish Victorian with rooms that wind round and round into other sections of the house. Each room is unique, each feature stranger than the next. There’s a staircase that descends seven steps and then rises 11 steps. What was Mrs. Winchester’s plan for doing this? The miles of twisting hallways have secret passageways in the walls. The story goes that Mrs. Winchester went through her house dodging and ducking into different paths to confuse any ghosts that might be following her around in this cavernous structure. Tour guides routinely warn guests not to wander off or they could be lost for hours in this baffling house.

To get discounted tickets for Winchester Mystery House, go to the city of Santa Clara’s website.

South Bay Historical Railroad Society 

The South Bay Historical Railroad Society (SBHRS) was created in 1985 to preserve the local area railroad history and provide a working museum for the community. This member-run organization works on the renovation and preservation of the Santa Clara Railroad Depot, the Santa Clara Tower and the two maintenance-of-way buildings. There are two operational HO and N scale model railroad layouts depicting various railroad eras and operations venues.

The historic Santa Clara (Caltrain) Depot was built in 1863 and is open to the public Tuesday evenings from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Historic Sites in Santa Clara

Berryessa Adobe 
Berryessa Adobe was built in the 1840s. This simple adobe home is located a mile west of Mission Santa Clara and was occupied by generations of families who immigrated to Santa Clara to labor in the fields and factories, and to start a new life. The Berryessa Adobe is one of the last adobes in the Santa Clara Valley, and is an interpretive site on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Berryessa Adobe is located at 373 Jefferson Street and is open Thursdays and Saturdays, 12 noon to 2 p.m., or by appointment. For group tours, call (408) 615-2488 or email .

Harris-Lass Historic Museum

The Harris-Lass Historic Museum is at 1889 Market Street and is the last preserved farm site in the City of Santa Clara. The property includes a large fully furnished 11-room Italianate-style home, barn, summer kitchen and a tank house. It is named after the two families who owned it and lived there for over a century.

Guided tours are available at the museum to show how life was in the early 1900s. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. To find out more about visiting, call 408-249-7905.

Headen-Inman House

The Headen-Inman House has a museum displaying photographs and items from the early 1900s and from the pioneers of Santa Clara County. The house is a classic example of the Arts and Crafts movement with fine details and expert woodwork. It is named after the two families that owned it. To visit go on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. Call 408-248-ARTS for more information.

Jamison-Brown House 
The Jamison-Brown House is a simple farmhouse built in 1866. The building was remodeled extensively by the Brown family. It is currently owned by the City of Santa Clara, it is used by the Triton Museum of Art for offices/meeting space.

A great way to learn more about the city is to take a self-guided walking tour of Santa Clara’s history called “Stroll into the Past". Banners show visitors where to go.

To find out more, visit the city of Santa Clara’s website.

Intel Museum

If you love museums and technology a trip to Santa Clara is not complete unless you visit the Intel Museum. The Intel Museum, owned and operated by Intel Corporation, exhibits Intel corporate history, innovations, technologies and branding in an interactive and educational manner. There are special exhibits and presentations, children’s programs, and interactive areas. For example, children can write their names in binary code, learn how different size files move over a network, or try on a bunny (cleanroom) suit. If you want to pick up Intel memorabilia, you can at the Intel Museum store which has a wide selection of merchandise, educational kits, and Intel branded items.

Agnews Historic Cemetery and Museum 

This museum exhibits artifacts from the Agnews Developmental Center which for 120 years housed people with mental and physical disabilities. The tours are free, but you must make an appointment. 1250 Hope Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054. (408) 615-3790

de Saisset Museum
The museum's permanent collection includes American, European, African, and Oriental art. The California History Collection exhibits artifacts of the pre-mission California Indians and relics from the original Mission Santa Clara. The museum is located at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053. (408) 554-4528

Mission Santa Clara de Asis
The eighth of 21 missions built in California, Mission Santa Clara de Asis was founded in 1777 by the Spanish Franciscans. The mission is located in Santa Clara University. (408) 554-4023

Santa Clara Woman's Club Adobe
This is one of the oldest adobes in California and is believed to have been built in 1790. This structure was originally part of a row of houses for married Indian couples. 3260 The Alameda, Santa Clara, CA 95050. (408) 246-800

Nearby Museums

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium is an educational institution that has a multidisciplinary approach to learning about the past, present, and future, with specific focus on diversity and relationships in nature and among cultures. It houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in western North America.

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum’s collection is focused on the traditions of the ancient mystery schools, including that of ancient Egypt. To find out when to visit The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium go to the website.

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