When groups meet in Silicon Valley, it's usually its "silicon" they're after. Which is to say: They typically choose the region as a meeting destination because it's rich with technology and talent. What groups don't always realize, however, is that Silicon Valley also is attractive for its "valley" -- a treasure trove of outdoor assets that make it an ideal destination for al-fresco meetings and events.
Take, for instance, San Jose, Silicon Valley's largest city.
"San Jose is one of the leading modern cities of the world but our best kept secret is our spanning outdoor spaces," says Frances Wong, director of communications at Visit San Jose, the city's convention and visitors bureau. "At the root of our innovative and entrepreneurial spirit is a hard-working, agricultural history where the land literally nurtured the cultural and physical development of the region. Fast-forward to today and the same can be said for our natural assets. Our expansive hiking trails, panoramic views of Silicon Valley and the fresh, open air is an accessible and surprising break from the screens, keyboards and brainstorming sessions often associated with tech."
Wong says San Jose is an ideal destination for outdoor events because its outdoor venues are accessible and diverse. "San Jose's varied geology and outdoor space just 20 minutes from downtown proper provides the innovation, change of scenery and a figurative 'rest and recharge' to cultivate ideas of the 21st century and beyond," she continues.
Still not convinced? Here are five amazing outdoor offerings in San Jose that prove Silicon Valley is as great a place to unplug from technology as it is to a place to plug into it:
• Guadalupe River Park and Gardens: Just over a mile from the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in downtown San Jose is Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, a city park that includes ample green space for sports, picnics and festivals; a community garden; public art; wildlife, including birds and beavers; and a 3-mile riverfront trail that passes by the convention center, just across the street from it.
• Emma Prusch Farm Park: Emma Prusch Farm Park in East San Jose is a "favorite local gem," according to Wong. The 43.5-acre park was donated to the City of San Jose in 1962 for the purpose of honoring and showcasing the valley's agricultural past. The park includes an animal barn that's said to be the largest wood barn in California, community gardens, a rare-fruit orchard, a vintage windwill and acres of open lawn for picnics, kite flying, games and relaxation.
• Castle Rock State Park: If groups want to experience Northern California's famous redwoods and giant firs, Castle Rock State Park is a good place to do it. Located along the Santa Cruz Mountains in Los Gatos, 20 minutes outside of San Jose, the park is a hiker's and rock climber's paradise. With trails for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels, however -- including beginners -- it's entirely approachable. And thanks to the amazing rock formations and spectacular canyon views, thoroughly beautiful, too.
• Hakone Estate and Gardens: Some of the most beautiful gardens in the world are located in Japan. Thanks to Hakone Estate and Gardens, however, groups can experience an authentic Japanese garden without crossing the Pacific. Over 100 years old, Hakone has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2013. Encompassing 18 acres in Saratoga, highlights include a tranquil koi pond and surrounding garden, a dry Zen garden for meditation viewing, a bamboo garden filled with bamboo and a "tea" garden where ceremonial tea is served.
• Ridge Vineyards: Last but not least, no visit to Northern California is complete without wine. At Ridge Vineyards' Monte Bello estate in Cupertino, groups can enjoy not only delicious California wine, but also gorgeous California scenery thanks to the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains.