This weekend, travelers will be descending on California’s Bay Area to attend and take part in the festivities around the “big game.” And while most people are familiar with the many attractions of San Francisco – like Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the famous cable cars – fewer people are likely to know much about Santa Clara and the South Bay – where the big game is being held.

But just because the South Bay is less well-known as a tourist destination doesn’t mean that there isn’t a wide array of unique and memorable experiences just waiting to be explored. Here are five ideas for making the most out of a journey to Silicon Valley.

Vintage computer equipment on display at the Computer History Museum

Vintage computer equipment on display at the Computer History Museum: https://flic.kr/p/aw2hrY

The Computer History Museum 

Located just north of Santa Clara in Mountain View, the Computer History Museum chronicles how this area of California, which was at one time best known for agriculture, was transformed into the world epicenter of technology. Historical exhibits include mainframes, hands-on demonstrations of some of the first video games, a complete history of the internet from the early 1960’s, and even artifacts dating back 2,000 years that show that computing technology was not an invention of the 20th century.

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum has more artifacts on display than anywhere else in the Western US.

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum has more artifacts on display than anywhere else in the Western US: https://flic.kr/p/9j2RKp

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum 

In the historic Rose Garden residential district of San Jose, visitors are greeted by the incongruous sight of an obelisk and an Egyptian temple rising from in between modest turn of the century bungalows. Here, at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in the western United States can be viewed. All aspects of early Egyptian life, including religion, art, daily life, and of course, mummies, can be seen at the museum. After viewing the exhibits, the surrounding Rosicrucian Park is an idyllic spot to relax and enjoy a picnic lunch.

The Winchester Mystery House as it appears today.

The Winchester Mystery House as it appears today: https://flic.kr/p/6AjHCA

Winchester Mystery House

If a Egyptian Temple in the middle of a neighborhood isn’t quite quirky enough, then the Winchester Mystery House may be just the ticket. Also located in San Jose, this turn-of-the-century mansion was owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the inventor of the Winchester Repeating Rifle. As legend holds, Sarah Winchester believed that if construction ever ceased on the house, then her family would be subject to haunting by ghosts and spirits. So, from its start in 1884 until Sarah Winchester’s death in 1922, construction continued on the mansion around the clock – ultimately resulting in a 7 story house with 17 chimneys, 47 fireplaces, 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, and architectural oddities including stairways to nowhere.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the oldest amusement parks in the US.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the oldest amusement parks in the US: https://flic.kr/p/9dGivH

Santa Cruz 

About 30 miles south of the office towers of San Jose is funky beachside Santa Cruz. A world away from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, visitors can explore one of many state parks and beaches, enjoy some of the best known surfing spots (or learn about the area’s surfing history at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum), visit one of the country’s oldest amusement parks, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and shop local galleries on and around the Santa Cruz Wharf. Before leaving, getting a sweatshirt featuring the University of California Santa Cruz’s one-of-a-kind mascot – the Banana Slug – is a must.

Sea otters are one of the most popular residents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Sea otters are one of the most popular residents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium: https://flic.kr/p/qHZMCJ

Monterey Bay Aquarium 

About 40 miles from Santa Cruz is one of the world’s best and most recognizable aquariums – the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Some of the exhibits include octopi, hammerhead sharks, eels, a 28 foot tall kelp forest, penguins, and the ever popular sea otter exhibit. After a day of experiencing sea life, hit the unique shops and restaurants of neighboring Cannery Row.

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