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Museums, Movies, and Other Experiences Now Open in Silicon Valley

As Santa Clara County celebrates its first full week in the Red Tier, many organizations, museums, and entertainment venues can now open in Silicon Valley for limited in-person visitors. Many are also hosting a combination of virtual and in-person events.

For those who’ve been missing art and culture, here are a few Silicon Valley locations that have reopened for limited in-person visitation.

California Experience

Held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds over two, four-day weekends in summer, California Experience is the theme of the 2021 drive-through fair.

Transformed into tableaus of towering redwood forests, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other iconic California locations, ticket holders will drive through the fairgrounds and immerse themselves in a “statewide experience.” Also, part of the “experience” will be a virtual version of the popular 2019 “Heritage Exhibit” that celebrated the fair’s 75th anniversary. The “California Experience” will take place in the evening hours, which alludes to the possibility of incredible light displays.

Quintessential fair food like kettle corn, corn dogs, cotton candy, and funnel cake will be available for purchase; visitors can indulge as they drive along in their vehicles.

In the coming months, the fairgrounds will also play host to drive-in concerts and other safe, socially distanced events.

California Experience opens Thursday, July 29th through Sunday, August 1st; Thursday, August 5th through Sunday, August 8th from 4pm to 11pm.

Once available, tickets can be purchased at

Hakone Gardens

Tucked on a hillside on Big Basin Way just outside downtown Saratoga, Hakone Estate and Gardens is a place where art and nature merge seamlessly.

One of the oldest Japanese gardens in the Western Hemisphere, the grounds include various hillside gardens, historic buildings, multi-tiered waterfalls, koi ponds, strolling gardens, unique lanterns, stonework, and many other elements of Japan’s ancient civilization.

Visitors can stroll socially-distanced through grounds on weekends from 10am to 5pm for a nominal fee. Saratoga residents receive a $2 discount; County residents are free the first Tuesday of the month from March through October.

Cherry blossoms are blooming, and limited tickets are available for Hanami at Hakone Night Viewing.

Los Altos History Museum

The Los Altos History Museum opened its indoor gallery to visitors on March 6th. Multiple exhibitions are on display, including the premier traveling photo exhibit, “Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change.” Experience stunning imagery from award-winning photographers Nina Winter and Rob Badger, who’ve captured how climate change negatively impacts the Golden State’s wildflowers and natural habitats.

Also on permanent exhibit is “Crown of the Peninsula”, the craftsman-style J. Gilbert Smith House and outdoor agricultural display and gardens.

The Los Altos History Museum is open on weekends from 12pm to 4pm.

Palo Alto Art Center

The Palo Alto Art Center, located at 1313 Newell Road, is now open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

“A place to see and make art, activate your creativity, and expand your community,” the Center’s current exhibitions include “Where the Heart Is: Contemporary Art by Immigrant Artists” and “The Sanctuary City Project Residency.” Also on display is the community project, “The Butterfly Effect: Migration is Beautiful,” comprised of more than 5,000 paper butterflies collected by the Art Center.

Roaring Camp Railroad

Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton hosts drive-in movie nights every Saturday night from 7pm to 9pm (weather depending.) Enjoy family favorites surrounded by beautiful redwoods tucked in the heart of Roaring Camp. Tickets are $40 per vehicle. To make the evening complete, movie snacks are available for purchase.

Go back in time when you board the Redwood Forest Steam Train rides depart daily over trestle bridges and through ancient redwood groves. During the 75-minute journey, learn about the logging industry and life in the 1880s. The Santa Cruz Beach Train is a beautiful way to travel to the Beach Boardwalk. The Beach trains begin departing on April 3rd.

San Jose Museum of Art

Beginning today, March 12th, the San Jose Museum of Art is open for in-person visitors. Current exhibits include “Barring Freedom” and “South East North West,” works by 30 artists from 11 countries that “reflect the high-tech interests, lively cultural diversity, and innovative spirit of Silicon Valley.”

Located at 110 Market Street in Downtown San Jose, SJMA is open to the general public Fridays through Sundays from 12pm to 5pm. 11am to 12pm is dedicated to seniors, pregnant women, and those with health concerns. Purchase tickets in advance.

Here, here to the Red Tier! Silicon Valley has so much to offer in the way of art, history, and culture. As you begin to get out and explore, we recommend checking each organization’s websites for hours, admission and required health and safety protocols.

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