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Art Museum: Anderson Collection
Stanford University, 314 Lomita Dr. (near Roth Way), Stanford, 650-721-6055
Ellsworth Kelly? Check. Josef Albers and Mark Rothko? Yep. Wayne Thiebaud and Willem de Kooning? Indeed. No, we’re not talking about the new SFMOMA; these art greats are all on display at the Anderson Collection. The two-year-old museum features more than 100 postwar American pieces acquired by the Anderson family and gifted to Stanford, all showcased in a stunning building designed by Ennead Architects. Best of all, admission is free. Don’t miss Andy Goldsworthy’s Stone River sculpture across the street.
Runner-up: San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
Tech Museum: Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. (near Pear Ave.), Mountain View, 650-810-1010
From the saga of GeoCities to the evolution of autonomous vehicles, this museum is devoted to the history of geekery ($12 to $15; free for kids). You’ll find more than 1,000 artifacts on view in the 40,000-square-foot space—but you don’t have to be a techie to appreciate it. Revisit childhood with a simulation of classic games like Pong and SpaceWar.
Runner-up: San Mateo County History Museum, Redwood City
Dinner and a Show: The Mountain Winery
14831 Pierce Rd. (near Big Basin Bay), Saratoga, 408-741-2822
At the Mountain Winery’s annual concert series, wine and live music make a boozy, dancey pairing. The schedule includes popular crowd-pleasers like the Roots, Diana Ross, and Ben Harper, but the setting feels surprisingly intimate, backed by the ivy-covered Winery Building. Fare like crepes and burgers is available onsite.
Runner-up: Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga
Playground: Magical Bridge
600 E. Meadow Rd. (near Middlefield Rd.), Palo Alto
Swing, slide, spin, and so much more. Located in Mitchell Park, the year-old Magical Bridge is billed as “the nation’s most innovative and inclusive playground.” It was devised by the Silicon Valley–based Magical Bridge Foundation to serve children with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, taking into account those with autism, hearing and visual impairments, and physical limitations. The seamless surface—there are no curbs, sand, or tanbark—allows kids (and adults) with mobility challenges to access all areas. Ramps, bridges, and even the two-story playhouse have been designed with inclusivity in mind. Tables at the playground are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Runner-up: Seven Seas Park, Sunnyvale
Kid Activity: Deer Hollow Farm
22500 Cristo Rey Dr. (near Oak Valley Rd.), Cupertino, 650-903-6430
Deer Hollow reveals a side of Cupertino that’s the polar opposite of the startup world. The 160-year-old working homestead farm in the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve is free and open to the public. Expect a barnyard of gentle animals—cows, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, and more—lush gardens, and a hands-on nature center (open the third Saturday of each month).
Runner-up: Emma Prusch Farm Park, San Jose
Gifts: Emily Joubert
3036 Woodside Rd. (near Cañada Rd.), Woodside, 650-851-3520
The patio, packed with furniture and garden accessories, would be reason enough to visit this well-stocked boutique. But there’s more: Inside, explore a giftable assortment of jewelry, ceramics, glassware, stationery, and decor from brands like Santa Maria Novella, Alex Marshall, Alice Goldsmith, and Fermob. Owner Judy Sieber also offers floral design services for pickup (from $50) or delivery on the Peninsula.
Runner-up: Atelier Gray, Los Altos
Sneakers: Premier Boutique
132 E. 3rd Ave. (near S. San Mateo Dr.), San Mateo, 650-347-6544
You know you’re a true sneaker-head when you’re a member of the Yeezy Preferred Customer Program. (The store’s contingent gets first dibs on Premier’s most hard-to-score kicks.) Beyond the sought-after Yeezys, the shelves showcase a sprawling selection of Nike, Adidas, Creative Recreation, New Balance, Asics, and more for men, women, and kids, including some limited-edition styles.
Runner-up: Sole on Ice, San Jose
Kids’ Bookstore: The Reading Bug
785 Laurel St. (near Olive St.), San Carlos, 650-591-0100
This indie bookstore is decked out like an enchanted forest, complete with plush toadstool and tree-stump seating. The Bug, as the family-owned shop is called, stocks an imagination-sparking collection of books, music, and toys. Stop by for regular in-store events like parent-and-child coloring nights, readings, and craft sessions. The private party space in the back is popular for birthdays.
Runner-up: Linden Tree Books, Los Altos
Furniture: Parkgate Home
1010 El Camino Real (near Santa Cruz Ave.), Menlo Park, 650-322-4500
Design industry veterans Cathy Ettel and Laura Pohlen fill their homey, three-year-old showroom with artfully styled mise-en-scènes, deftly melding graphic accent seating, decorative pillows, and abstract art. All the merchandise therein can be purchased off the floor or custom ordered. Want the pair to weigh in on your own home? They also offer interior design services.
Runner-up: Cisco Home, Palo Alto
Women’s Wear: The Podolls
251 Primrose Rd. (near City Hall Ln.), Burlingame, 650-389-2346
This popular boutique is the best spot south of San Francisco for casually chic fashion: Think breezy silk slip dresses, boxy, printed tops, and lightweight cotton shirtdresses designed by owners Lauren and Josh Podoll. Beyond their own collection, the couple stock a range of apparel, accessories, and footwear from similarly stylish brands like Ryan Roche, Lauren Manoogian, Chimala, and Freda Salvador.
Runner-up: Angela, Menlo Park
Jewelry Store: Earthworks
290 Main St. (near 2nd St.), Los Altos, 650-948-5141
At nearly 40 years old, this contemporary-jewelry shop is a local standby for a reason. The gleaming cases include Jill Platner’s hammered sterling silver Moonwalk collection, Todd Reed’s stackable diamond-encrusted rings, and Rebecca Overmann’s mixed-metal necklaces and earrings. The stash ranges from everyday to upscale—with price points to match. The baubles are complemented by handcrafted glassware by local artists.
Runner-up: De Novo, Palo Alto
EAT & DRINK
Buzz-Worthy Restaurant: Bird Dog
420 Ramona St. (near Lytton Ave.), Palo Alto, 650-656-8180
Palo Alto’s dining scene finally appears to be innovating with the rest of the town. Chef Robbie Wilson’s creative menu reflects his time working in the kitchens at the French Laundry, Matsuhisa, and Santa Barbara’s Mattei Tavern. Signature dishes—like the wood-grilled avocado served with ponzu and fresh wasabi—meld elements of California and Japanese cuisine. Diners can take in views of the open kitchen from sumptuous mohair banquettes.
Runner-up: The Bywater, Los Gatos
Tasting Room: Thomas Fogarty Winery
19501 Skyline Blvd. (near Rapley Ranch Rd.), Woodside, 650-851-6777
Situated on more than 300 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this scenic tasting room is beloved for its pinots and chardonnays. Splurge for the Signature Tasting ($19) to sample five limited-production estate wines before they’re released. Post-tasting, the picturesque grounds—a popular wedding destination—are open for rambling.
Runner-up: Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino
Croissant: Mademoiselle Colette
816 Santa Cruz Ave. (near Crane St.), Menlo Park, 650-644-8469
The golden crumbs scattered across tables are a good sign here, proof of the delicate croissants’ perfectly buttery, flaky consistency. Though Debora Ferrand just opened her pastry shop last fall, word got around fast: She frequently sold out of croissants and pain au chocolate within a couple of hours. (Thankfully, while demand for the freshly baked goods remains high, production has increased since.) Try the latest menu addition, a ham-and-cheese kouign amann with a lightly crispy exterior and a pillowy, savory interior ($4.50). A second Mademoiselle location is in the works in downtown Palo Alto.
Runner-up: Manresa Bread, Los Altos (newly opened) and Los Gatos
Ice Cream: Tin Pot Creamery
Palo Alto and Los Altos, tinpotcreamery.com
Tin Pot’s wide menu is triple-scoop worthy. Sure, it’s got an excellent vanilla bean, but the roasted-banana fudge ripple, Earl Grey tea, and peanut butter fudge brownie (from $3.50) are equally legendary. The flavors are churned from local and organic ingredients, and the menu changes seasonally. Craving a pint, but can’t make it into the shop? DoorDash and Postmates will deliver.
Runner-up: Scoop, Palo Alto
Brunch: Johnston’s Saltbox
1696 Laurel St. (near St. Francis Way), San Carlos, 650-592-7258
This spot’s Scandinavian design is endlessly Instagram worthy, from the slatted wood ceiling to the spoon-adorned wall. Luckily, the food is as memorable as the decor, particularly the avocado tartine ($15)—filone bread piled high with scrambled eggs and smashed avocado—and the crispy fried chicken sandwich ($14). Pair it with a red-eye, the Saltbox’s beer-and-bacon-laden spin on the Bloody Mary. Though there’s often a wait for tables, bar seating is first come, first served.
Runner-up: The Table, San Jose
Craft Cocktails: Paper Plane
72 S. 1st St. (near Post St.), San Jose, 408-713-2625
When confronted with a list of over two dozen cocktails—from the Thyme Is on My Side (tequila, farigoule liqueur, fresh thyme, lime, and egg white, $12) to the alluringly titled Costanza (bourbon, Campari, Cocchi Americano, and lemon, $11)—ordering decisions can be difficult. Helpfully, Paper Plane plots all its drinks on a handy flavor matrix, from easy sipping to spirit-forward, familiar to adventurous. In the mood for something a little fruity, a little sour? Try the gin-based Charlie Chaplin. Want something refreshingly tart? Go with the lime- and cucumber-soda-spiked Spice of Life. There’s also a selection of punches on tap, including a Pimm’s and the bourbon-spiked Don’t Tell Mom ($8 per glass; $42 per pitcher).
Runner-up: Timber & Salt, Redwood City
Beer Garden: Gourmet Haus Staudt
2615 Broadway (near El Camino Real), Redwood City, 650-364-9232
You’ll have to pass through the German-beer- and spice-stocked gourmet shop first to find the sunny backyard beer garden, where upward of 11 German brews are on tap. The selection (from $5.50) includes breweries like Bitburger and Gaffel Kölsch, as well as nine rotating California craft beers. The accompanying food menu includes a giant pretzel, a cheese and salami platter, bratwursts, and open-faced rye sandwiches. Take note: Though the shop goes dark at 5 or 6 p.m., from Tuesday through Saturday the revelry out back continues until 10 p.m.
Runner-up: Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant, Mountain View
Personal Chef: Joni Sare
Multiple locations, jonisare.com
Trained as a therapeutic chef and nutrition educator, Joni Sare can meet practically any dietary restriction—raw vegan, Paleo, macrobiotic—while still making a delicious meal. That means greens braised in homemade chicken broth; gluten- and dairy-free crepes whipped up with coconut fl our and coconut milk; and hearty, meal-worthy salads like riced cauliflower tabbouleh. Sare prepares dishes tailored to your preferences, based on a questionnaire. In addition to her personal chef services ($60 per hour), she also offers individual and group cooking lessons.
Runner-up: Chef O on the Go, Redwood City
Coworking Space: HanaHaus
456 University Ave. (near Kipling St.), Palo Alto, 650-326-1263
The brainchild of Dr. Hasso Plattner of Stanford d.school fame, this hybrid café and community workspace is an explosion of stellar design, from the Tom Dixon pendant lamps and Garza Marfa leather chairs to the Gensler-created lounges. Though the decor is modern, the building’s original 1920s columns and moldings remain. Workspaces can be reserved in advance, including small tables for two, lounge seating for groups, and conference rooms (from $15 per hour). And, as an added bonus, there’s Blue Bottle Coffee on the premises.
Runner-up: NextSpace, San Jose
Spa: Sense Spa
2825 Sand Hill Rd. (near Monte Rosa Dr.), Menlo Park, 650-561-1500
Though the Rosewood Hotel is known for putting up Silicon Valley business travelers, the spa clientele is overwhelmingly local—and loyal. With its well-manicured gardens, Sense Spa feels like a serene escape in the midst of the Valley. There are 13 treatment rooms, wet lounges, and two whirlpool-equipped courtyards; services include facials (from $165), massages (from $155), and body therapies (from $235).
Runner-up: Watercourse Way, Palo Alto
Pet-Sitting: Bay Area Pet Pals
1100 Vailwood Way (near Woodbridge Cir.), San Mateo, 650-996-6652
Rest assured, your dog or cat is in safe hands: Every staffer here receives pet CPR and first aid training, and the company maintains relationships with emergency vets. The 25-year-old service offers everything from simple walks to personalized pet-sitting, which includes playtime, feedings, and regular litter box cleanings (from $33 for 30 minutes). This being Silicon Valley, expect regular updates via photo, text, or voice message.
Runner-up: Silicon Valley Pet Nanny, San Jose
Flowers: Stanford Floral Design
141 Holland St. (near Laurel Ave.), Palo Alto, 650-462-8230
From a single dramatic bromelia (from $15) to coolly monochromatic bouquets (from $5), sixth-generation master florist Werner Rogmans creates arrangements that stand apart. The floral designer has forged relationships directly with growers across the country, cuts out middleman costs, and ensures the freshest blooms. In addition to individual arrangements, the company is sought-after for weddings and other special events.
Runner-up: La Lavande, Belmont
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco