50 Perfect Hours: Santa Clara

Each week, travel writer Katie Morell will detail how to spend 50 hours in a different San Francisco Bay Area city for the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s #Perfect50 Hour Series.

On July 17, 2014, Santa Clara sprung into the minds of football fans everywhere when the home base for the San Francisco 49ers relocated to Levis® Stadium from Candlestick Park. Today, visitors are flocking to the city of just 120,000 residents (just 45 miles south of San Francisco) not only to check out the state-of-the-art stadium but also to enjoy the many other attractions the destination has to offer.

Here, we break down an ideal way to spend a 50-hour getaway in Santa Clara.

Day 1

9:00 a.m. – Start your day by waking up at the Santa Clara Marriott, a hotel situated just off US-101 and easily accessible to everything the city has to offer. Make sure everyone in your party has put on their sunscreen. Bring a hat a few bottles of water and bop over to Prolific Oven, a bakery just a mile away at 3938 Rivermark Plaza, for breakfast. Take a seat and enjoy a few pastries (the almost twists are especially tasty), eggs and coffee.

10:00 a.m. – From Prolific Oven, take Montague Expressway west, make a right on Mission College Boulevard and another right on Great America Parkway. Less than 10 minutes after you had your last swig of coffee, you and your family will have arrived at California’s Great America, one of the state’s most beloved theme parks. Open late March through early November, this spot is perfect for visitors of all ages. Youngsters will enjoy Planet Snoopy, a section dedicated to the lovable animated dog with a multitude of rides and even the opportunity to meet Snoopy himself.

Also within the sprawling complex is Boomerang Bay, a water park with slides, rides and a lazy river. Throughout the day, families can enjoy live music in a variety of venues and even a fireworks show (on specific days in May, July and August). Grab a bite to eat inside the park at one of its many dining locations. (Consider buying a dining plan to save some cash.)

5 p.m. – Wrangle up your group and drive one mile south back to the Marriott. Your group will likely be hungry, so settle into Characters Sports Bar & Grill, located right in the lobby. Characters offers the perfect place to relax, drink a beer (there are 14 on tap) and watch your favorite sports team play on large televisions before turning in for the night.

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Day 2

8:30 a.m. – Rally your troops a little earlier today and drive over to Mission City Grill on El Camino Real. This is a new local breakfast favorite, so it is best to get there early to guarantee seats for your entire party. Don’t leave without trying the French toast (ask for extra powdered sugar) and omelets.

10:00 a.m. – Drive two miles east to Santa Clara University for a walk around its beautiful campus, complete with a pedestrian mall (don’t forget your camera). Take in the architecture of the university, which opened in 1851 and is known as California’s oldest operating institution of higher education. Duck into the deSaisset Museum (open to the public Tuesday – Sunday) relish exhibits (and free docent tours) on the history of California.

12:00 p.m. – Follow the droves of students heading off campus around lunchtime. Chances are good that they are walking to Ike’s Place, a local institution known for its tasty sandwiches. You can’t go wrong with your pick (notice the funny names designated for each sandwich). Need a suggestion? Try the Spiffy Tiffy Sandwich—Halal chicken, mushrooms, avocado, pesto, provolone and pepper jack cheese.

1:00 p.m. – Load your crew into the car and drive about five miles north to the Intel Museum, another one of Santa Clara’s hot spots. Here, you can learn about the history of the microchip, Intel and even schedule a private tour (tip: call in advance to book).

3:30 p.m. – Please your entire group by going to Levi’s Stadium, located two miles north of the Intel Museum. The stadium offers tours on days when events aren’t taking place. Tours encompass the field and rooftop and cost $25 for adults and $20 for kids, seniors, military and Santa Clara residents. For an even more in-depth look at the stadium and the history of the 49ers franchise, opt for a tour bundle, which includes a guided visit of the stadium and access to the 49ers Museum. The museum has 11 galleries that cover the team’s players and history. Prices for the tour bundle range from $30-$35 per person.

5:00 p.m. – Run back to the Marriott, shower and change into your Sunday best.

6:30 p.m. – Then, circle around to where you just came from—Levi’s Stadium—and get ready to enjoy a fine dining experience at Bourbon Steak, one of Michael Mina’s restaurants. Enjoy world-class customer service as you eat Ahi tuna tartar, a romaine Caesar salad and the Maine lobster pot pie (just my recommendation).

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Day 3

9:30 a.m. – Before heading home, consider taking a jog or walk along the San Tomas Aquino/Saratoga Creek Trail. It isn’t far from the Marriott and offers a fun and healthy way to end your trip in Santa Clara.

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Katie Morell is an independent journalist based in San Francisco who writes about travel, business and social justice issues. Her work has appeared in Hemispheres, Fast Company, USA Today, Diversity Woman, BBC Travel and others. Read more of her work at www.katiemorell.com