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Local Treasures

Gift of Experience | Local Treasures | Gifting, IRL

GROWTH INDUSTRY: Before microchips and the internet of things, Silicon Valley had a different major export—stone fruit.

While many of the destinations outlined in 111 Places in Silicon Valley You Must Not Miss would be difficult to gift (for anyone other than Carmen Sandiego), they offer plenty of food for thought. Here are just a few ideas inspired by the book.

Andy's Orchard
1615 Half Road, Morgan Hill
Anyone older than Steve Wozniak's original Apple-1 is vulnerable to nostalgia about the era when Silicon Valley was known by a different name: The Valley of Heart's Delight. Local oldtimers who get misty talking about figs and apricots might enjoy a trip to Andy's Orchard in Morgan Hill, a throwback to the age when ag, not tech, dominated the valley. Andy's has tons of dried fruit—the stone fruit are all grown on the premises. And if a trip to Morgan Hill is not workable, check out California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley by former KRON-TV reporter Robin Chapman, a deep history of the Valley of Heart's Delight, dating back to the days of the Spanish padres. For something a bit kitchen-friendly, there's also Lisa Price Newman's beautiful cookbook For the Love of Apricots: Recipes & Memories of the Santa Clara Valley.

Birding on Bair
Bird-watching is trending these days because first, searching for a bar-tailed godwit sounds a lot more fun than just going for a hike, and second, climate change has given a lot of people a mission—albeit a melancholy one—to witness the wonders of nature before it's too late. In Silicon Valley, Bair Island—near Redwood City about halfway between the San Mateo and Dunbarton bridges—is an ideal place to go for anyone wanting to distinguish a plover from a cormorant. Just south of Bair Island is another sweet spot, Bedwell Bayfront Park, which boasts more than 200 species of birds. Don't go, however, without the indispensable tool of all birders: a good pair of field glasses. Top-of-the-line binocs can cost well north of $2,000, but there are plenty of good options under $500. Cheap binoculars are only going to lead to frustration. The best work in low light, with fast focusing, and with or without eyeglasses. To get started on learning how to buy binoculars, check out the Audubon Society's website.

Exit Through the Gift Shop
A great starting point for holiday shopping is museum gift shops, and Silicon Valley has a lot to choose from in that category. First and foremost is Mountain View's supercool Computer History Museum for anyone looking for robot hand puppets or plush-toy emojis (aren't we all?). The underrated Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara has a lot of one-of-a-kind finds in its gift shop. A great way to connect with local artists is through the gift shop at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in the SoFA neighborhood downtown. For the ambitious, there's always the gift shop at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton to find that special thing for the person whose head in always in the stars. And, for something a little offbeat, check out the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, whose store has DVDs of locally filmed silent movies that allow us moderns to peer back in time to see what the Bay Area looked like a hundred years ago.