15 Free Things to Do in Mountain View, CA

Free Things to Do in Mountain View, CA
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You may have known Mountain View, California, as the headquarters of major American tech businesses.

However, this city in Santa Clara County has much more to offer.

Mountain View, so-called for its sweeping vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains, played a pivotal role in the development of Silicon Valley.

Today, it is home to several cutting-edge technology firms.

Some of the world's top technology companies here are Google and Alphabet Inc., Intuit, the NASA Ames research facility, and the Unicode Consortium.

Microsoft, 23andMe, LinkedIn, Symantec, Synopsys, and Samsung also have primary administrative offices here.

But these aren't the only things that make Mountain View worth seeing.

Outdoorsy types may enjoy the city's parks and trails, while history buffs can learn about the city's heritage at no cost at museums and exhibits.

It's simple to get away from the city's hectic pace and into the tranquility of one of its numerous parks.

Take advantage of this list of free things to do in Mountain View, California, for a fun yet budget-friendly solo or group vacation.

Retrace the Beginnings of Silicon Valley at the Shockley Semiconductor

Exterior of Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory
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At 391 San Antonio Road in Mountain View, California, Silicon Valley began.

In 1956, William Shockley established the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View as the region's pioneering research and manufacturing facility for silicon-based semiconductors.

This period was brief, but it provided the basis for the valley to produce game-changing innovations in the following decades.

Sculptures in front of Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory
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However, until very recently, the former lab was instead used as an international grocery shop, with a modest sign and plaque marking the spot as a historical landmark.

The land is now home to an upmarket office and retail complex with a modest monument embedded into its pavement.

You may access the site of Shockley Semiconductor without leaving the walkway.

The parking lot on the other side of the building is available for your use (temporarily) at no cost.

Spot the Wildlife at the Stevens Creek Trail

Daytime view of Stevens Creek Trail
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Start at Shoreline Park and finish at Heatherstone Way and Dale Avenue intersection if you want to complete the Stevens Creek Trail, a multi-use path that follows the creek corridor.

The picturesque walk crosses Stevens Creek and travels through natural riparian habitats and tidal marshlands, home to a wide variety of native Californian flora and fauna.

If you're lucky, you can spot raccoons, opossums, and various bird species.

An egret at Stevens Creek Trail
Hank Shiffman / Shutterstock.com

People in the area frequent the Stevens Creek Trail for various recreational purposes, including walking, jogging, cycling, skating, bird watching, and dog walking.

Guided tours, stream clean-up days, and native plant planting are just a few educational possibilities available to school groups at Stevens Creek.

Footbridge at Stevens Creek Trail
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Spot Birds at Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Area

Bring your binoculars and head to Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Area if bird watching is your thing.

Those interested in birdwatching will find Stevens Creek Shoreline Nature Study Area a haven.

The preserve has many birds year-round but comes alive during spring and fall migrations.

Visit the 55-acre coastal preserve next to Mountain View's Shoreline Park to see shorebirds and waterfowl, including mallards, great and snowy egrets, black-necked stilts, great blue herons, pintails, and cormorants.

The Ridgway's rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse rely on the safety of marshland plants for survival.

Hike the Permanente Creek Trail

Bicycle ride along Permanente Creek Trail
Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock.com

The Permanente Creek Trail is a paved path from Shoreline at Mountain View to Rock Street and then south to Middlefield Road.

This track is highly recommended for all hikers, regardless of skill, as it is beautiful and has many interesting sights.

The afternoon hikes are excellent for turtle watching and white egret seeing.

The view from Permanente Creek Trail
Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock.com

Even at night, it's worthwhile since it illuminates walkways.

You may even spot many Google offices along Permanente Creek Trail. Wear walking shoes, bring water, and ensure your phone has enough juice.

Signage of Permanente Creek Trail
Runner1928, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Play at Rengstorff Park

Welcome sign of Rengstorff Park
Baltakatei, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This area around Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View was part of the 8,800-acre Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas (Rancho of the Ewe/Lamb Pasture).

It was a land grant given to Francisco Estrada by the newly formed Mexican government in 1842.

Rengstroff Park took its name from Henry Rengstorff, a German pioneer who lived in the house that has since been restored and is now a city museum.

The park features a large playground, skate park, barbecue area, baseball/softball field, volleyball court, basketball court, and swimming pool with a giant tube slide on the park's 23 acres.

You could spend all day at Rengstroff Park since it's so lovely.

People fill the park at night, strolling, chatting, and lounging on benches.

Swimming pool at Rengstorff Park
Baltakatei, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a Picnic at Pioneer Memorial Park

The city's green oasis, Pioneer Memorial Park, is a place of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Shade is abundant because of the presence of tall, established trees.

Although relatively tiny, this park offers a wide variety of exciting activities.

You and your loved one can go for a walk, or you and the kids can play catch.

Then, you and the family can have a picnic, and you can all spend some quality time in the great outdoors.

Considering the area's calm and serene, the Pioneer Memorial Park is perfect for group yoga or meditation.

Take Photos of the Google Bay View Campus

Exterior of Google Bay View Campus
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Google Bay View Campus spans over 42 acres at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, with its three buildings totaling 1.1 million square feet.

It includes 20 acres of open space, two workspace buildings, an event center that can hold 1,000 people, and 240 temporary employee housing units.

All three structures follow a lightweight canopy design that maximizes natural light, exterior views, teamwork, and experiences.

Interior of Google Bay View Campus
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As part of its goal to be the first big firm to run on carbon-free energy around the clock by the year 2030, Google is constructing three new buildings in Bay View.

Even though you couldn't go inside, driving about and taking pictures of the exciting buildings at the Google Bay View Campus is still a lot of fun.

The grounds of Google Bay View Campus
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Check Out the Displays at Mountain View Farmers' Market

Tents at Mountain View Farmers' Market
Haha169, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For over 20 years, the Mountain View Farmers Market has served the neighborhood with locally grown produce and handmade arts and crafts.

On display every Sunday, approximately 80 local farmers and food purveyors bring their goods to the Mountain View Farmers Market.

The market is the third largest in California and received national attention when it placed fifth in the American Farmland Trusts' Favorite Farmers' Market Contest.

While organic fruits, vegetables, and baked products make up the bulk of the store's inventory, non-food items like cut flowers are also available.

Even though you have no budget to spare, you can freely look at the products featured in this community market.

Visitors can park free along Hope Street or use one of two nearby parking facilities on Bryant Street or W Evelyn Avenue.

Check Out Pieces of History at the Berlin Wall Slabs

German-born real estate developer Frank Golzen brought two eight-foot-tall sections of the Berlin Wall to California.

He displayed them at one of his Silicon Valley business plazas, calling them "A Tribute to American Resolve."

Google bought the property and told Golzen's family to remove the Wall.

The Golzen family generously donated a piece of the Berlin Wall to Mountain View as a memorial commemorating the end of the Cold War.

Since 2013, the Berlin Wall Slabs have become a mainstay in front of the public library.

Graffiti reading "Wir Lieben dich" (roughly translated as "We love you") covers most of the Berlin Wall Slabs.

Catch Live Performances at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival

Musician at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival
Mo M / Shutterstock.com

The Mountain View Art & Wine Festival is a must-visit as a genuine, on-the-go art and wine extravaganza.

Castro Street's laid-back, multiethnic vibe adds a unique flair to the event.

This spectacularly fun celebration of life features 300 of America's finest artists and craft makers displaying exceptional handmade wares.

Jewelry for sale at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival
Mo M / Shutterstock.com

There are also phenomenal live music performances throughout downtown.

You can also enter the Xfinity Pigskin Party Lounge broadcasting sports on the giant TV.

Likewise, enjoy the fabulously curated meals and drinks like premium wines, signature cocktails, seasonal craft beer, artisan gourmet food makers, stunning exhibits, and much more.

While some activities require a minimal fee, you can always enjoy the vibe by strolling and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Enjoy the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival.

People at the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival
Mo M / Shutterstock.com

Drive through Mountain View Tech Companies

Several well-known international IT businesses have their headquarters in Mountain View.

Given the global stature of many computer businesses, several corporate offices have become architectural wonders in their own right.

Their modern architecture and culture intrigue visitors.

Even if you can't get inside, you can snap some shots of their facades as souvenirs.

La Avenida Sreet is home to the Microsoft Silicon Valley Campus.

Amphitheatre Parkway is where Google operates.

Marine Way is where Intuit headquarters stand.

East Middlefield Road is where you'll find Synopsys.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

South of Mountain View, Sunnyvale is another California city you shouldn't miss.

This city is only a nine-minute drive from Mountain View and offers a wide variety of free attractions, including museums, the arts, friendly locals, and more.

Here are other free things to do near Mountain View.

Take Photos of Libby's Water Tower

Daytime view of Libby's Water Tower
Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

All that's left of what was once the largest cannery in the world is a gigantic fruit cocktail can.

The Chicago meatpacking firm of Libby, McNeil & Libby established its first fruit-packing plant in Sunnyvale in 1906.

By 1922, Libby's had become the largest cannery in the world and provided significant employment in Sunnyvale.

It served as the cannery's main supply of potable water.

Top part of Libby's Water Tower
Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com

Libby's Water Tower mimicked Libby's fruit can and underwent a regular makeover to reflect changes in product packaging.

Once a thriving manufacturing center, the facility shut down in 1985.

Libby's Water Tower is an exceptionally colorful and one-of-a-kind landmark that's genuinely Sunnyvale, ten minutes from Mountain View.

Explore Sunnyvale Public Art

The city of Sunnyvale is also notable for its extensive public art collection.

Visitors mostly fall in love with a town with more than a hundred works of public art dispersed among its neighborhoods and streets.

El Paseo de Los Suenos is another exciting feature among Sunnyvale Public Art.

That bronze sculpture made by skilled artisans is triangular.

Also, there are the Meadow Flowers.

Exquisitely wrought, this structure features 14 metal flowers of all sizes and shapes.

Using a map, you may stroll across the city in search of the entire piece, allowing you to be more thorough.

Stroll along Murphy Avenue

Entrance arch of Murphy Avenue
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The heart of Sunnyvale's commercial center is Murphy Avenue.

The city named the avenue after Martin Murphy Jr., an early settler and orchard grower of Sunnyvale.

It's a little town, yet despite appearances, there's always something happening there.

Vibrant nightlife spots, restaurants, vintage cafés, and boutiques have kept their historic structures, contributing to the area's preservation.

In addition, you may watch free live shows.

Located 11 minutes from Mountain View, the Historic Murphy Avenue should be high on your itinerary if you want to explore this city.

Learn Local History at Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum

Exterior of Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum
Yngvadottir, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum is a must if you want to learn more about the city's rich social and cultural past.

It's also one of the most incredible things to do in Sunnyvale.

The Sunnyvale Historical Society currently runs the museum, which features static and interactive displays that allow visitors to engage with the past.

The museum followed the Murphy family home's design during its construction in the 1850s.

Even though the museum suffered degradation in 1961, it underwent reconstruction in 2002 to preserve the history and legacy of one of the area's original inhabitants.

Here you can see objects from Sunnyvale's cultural past.

Outside the museum, you'll find an apricot orchard and a barn.

Visitors may enter the museum for free.

Final Thoughts

Mountain View may be in the heart of Silicon Valley, but that hasn't stopped it from providing many non-tech options for residents and visitors.

Instead, there are family-friendly attractions like museums and parks to visit.

Take a break from your busy schedule and enjoy the free things to do in Mountain View, California.

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