For quite a while, Santa Clara was merely recognized as being one of those modern, dynamic places of Silicon Valley without any notable tourist denotation; one of those places where ideas grow and develop and where a young, committed and well connected population sets up tomorrow’s trends. But this is only true to a certain degree, Santa Clara does indeed have things to show off to visitors and it will even be more in the future.
Santa Clara is located some 70 kilometres south of San Francisco in so-called Silicon Valley and immediately borders San Jose. Three small rivers, Calabazas Creek, Saratoga Creek and San Tomas Aquino Creek, pass through town and pour into the San Francisco Bay. Before the first Europeans arrived here, the region was home to the Ohlone people, called “Costanos” by the Spanish. Beginning in the 1770s, Spanish monks began with the construction of missions of which one, Mission Santa Clara de Asis, was built in 1777. Over time, the mission building was destroyed six time and rebuilt each time. The structure found here today is located on the campus of Santa Clara University and dates back to 1929 (photo). The mission and the mission’s gardens can be visited by taking a tour of the university grounds. The main entrance to campus can be found at 500 El Camino Real.
Santa Clara received its town charter in 1852, six years after California had become a US state. At the time, the city was little more than a collection of farms and fruit plantations - even today there are many orange and lemon trees within city limits. Even half a century after being founded, the city was only home to few more than 5000 residents. Only the invention of the semiconductor in the 1950s turned the small town into the large city it is today. By now, Santa Clara is home to a number of well-known technology companies, with the likes of Intel, McAfee and Applied Materials being among them. Those companies find a population here which is of Asian descent with almost 38% and Hispanic to about 20%. The average age of residents is 32 years. Population numbers are slowly increasing thanks to the abundant job opportunities and the comfortable climate conditions, but the growth does not have the same explosive strength it had at the of the last century.
One of Santa Clara’s sights is - believe it or not - a former mental home. The Agnews Insane Asylum (4000 Lafayette Avenue) had been constructed in 1885 to allow for the treatment of the mentally ill and had been completely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, when many patients were killed. The replacement building opened in 1911 and was set up as a self-supplying institution with workshops and stables. The successor of the asylum, the Agnews Developmental Center, is located in San Jose today. A part of the property was sold in 1998 to Sun Microsystems, who set up their headquarters here and had four of the historic buildings restored in Mission Revival style; these can be visited and are listed historic buildings. Sun’s successor Oracle operates a research center on the grounds to this day, another part of the original property has been demolished to make room for residential buildings.
However, Santa Clara’s most important attraction is a decidely happier place. The amusement park California’s Great America (US 101, exit Great America Parkway) has been in business since 1976 and has over time managed to adjust to the ever-changing tastes of visitors, thanks in part to several changes in ownership. Eight rollercoasters, a number of further rides, two separate areas for kids and an additional waterpark on 40 hectares provide enough entertainment to spend an entire day. Entry to the waterpark called Boomerang Bay is included with the park ticket. Boomerang Bay has three pools, one of which is a wave pool, five water slides and also a separate play area for younger kids.
Another one of Santa Clara’s attractions, this one being higher on the list for adults, is set to open in July 2014. On an area previously used as an overflow parking lot for California’s Great America the new Santa Clara Stadium has been constructed since 2012. The stadium will be the new home for thepro football team of the San Francisco 49ers, which will keep this name despite the move into Silicon Valley. Santa Clara Stadium has 68.500 seats and will be available to a range of large-scale events apart from football.