The last time I spent a weekend in Menlo Park, I got sunburnt. Yes, it might come as a surprise that the birthplace of Google Glass can also be a hip travel destination with plenty of chances to catch glimpses of the blazing California sun, but the area is shedding its dorky backstory and emerging as one of the hippest getaway spots on the left coast.
For years, Silicon Valley — the region of the San Francisco bay peninsula that stretches from Palo Alto to San Jose, and where Facebook, Google, Apple, YouTube, eBay, and Yahoo are all headquartered — didn’t have a town square, a physical epicenter where the new breed of hip-to-be-square wealthy wunderkinds could gather, gush about Steve Jobs, and gloat about IPOs.
That all changed after the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park started attracting entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The local tech elite come to the Rosewood to mingle with like-minded power players. Its ideal location in the center of Silicon Valley makes the hotel the perfect place to have a lunch meeting, host a conference, or just to catch some fresh air away from the office. Yet it’s still close enough to the neighboring tech headquarters as to not risk getting stuck in commuter traffic.
Surrounded by drab businesses hotels (even the Four Seasons in nearby Palo Alto is rather bland), the Rosewood is a sight for sore eyes and can really make an impression for more boastful affairs. The picturesque pool area is the go-to hotspot for exclusive cocktail parties, and other industry-only elegant soirees have lured the millionaires (and billionaires) in the area.
Want to check out one of these parties to pitch your next great app idea (Grindr for pot dealers? Pandora for music videos?) but didn’t get an invitation because you’re not the founder of Instagram? Don’t worry. Most of these things just advertise themselves as invite-only. No one is there checking names or, god-forbid, Twitter followers. If anyone stops you to ask questions while in the hotel’s bibliotheca-style lobby bar, just tell them your name is Dave Morin. You invented Path. And as for dress code: make sure you wear a hoodie.
But beware looking too much like a fresh-faced, tech-savvy executive, especially on Thursday nights, when the Rosewood welcomes matchmakers for their stylish and popular, yet unofficial, “Cougar Night.”
The only women you should be mingling with are Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. But how to “lean in” and start a conversation with the first ladies of tech? Tell Sheryl that her TED Talk made you proud to be an unemployed stay-at-home dad (a.k.a. trophy husband) and remind Marissa that she looked flawless in Alexander McQueen. They may be powerful feminists, but they still like to receive compliments.
For those visiting Silicon Valley on business to secure the next billion dollar deal, there’s even more incentives to choose a stay at the Rosewood Sand Hill. The hotel also offers private two and three-bedroom villas, ideal for out-of-town businessmen working remotely during an extended stay.
Soon, Silicon Valley might become a travel destination for more than just geeks with startups. Architecture and design enthusiasts will be interested to see the truly spectacular buildings being planned to drastically reinvent the Silicon Valley skyline.
The new Googleplex in Menlo Park will be made up of several bent buildings connected by bridges. Nearby in Menlo Park, Facebook has hired iconic architect Frank Gehry to design its headquarters expansion. And in Cupertino, Apple is planning to land a spaceship-like structure that has been dubbed the “Death Star” because of the project’s outlandishly sci-fi delusions of grandeur.
So next time you’re in Northern California looking to meet Mark Zuckerberg while admiring one-of-a-kind architecture, take the Cal Train to Silicon Valley. Just remember to apply sunscreen.
[BlackBook San Francisco Guide; Listing for Rosewood Sand Hill; More by Oscar Raymundo]