April 13, 2015

Woodside: Filoli

101 South 

Filoli  86 CaƱada Rd., Edgewood Rd. exit off I-280, (650) 364-8300.  Tu-Sat 10-3:30, Sun 11-3:30; tour at 10:30am & 1pm by reservation; closed Nov-mid-Feb.  $20, 65+ $17, 5-17 $10.  No pets.  The bucolic drive in here is reminiscent of arriving at an English country estate.  Only in this case it is a 654-acre American grand country garden estate that surrounds a 43-room modified Georgian mansion built for William Bowers Bourn II in 1917 by his hunting buddy, architect Willis Polk.  

mansion at Filoli in Woodside, California

Named for the family motto--“Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; and Live a good life”—the mansion features a water-green ballroom with a 21-foot-high ceiling and gold leaf gilding extracted from Bourn’s Empire Mine in Grass Valley.  It is the property’s crown jewel.  (The mansion is the setting for the 1978 film "Heaven Can Wait" and is seen as the exterior of the Carrington home shown at the beginning of TV’s "Dynasty.")  The mansion has 4½-foot-thick walls that allow servants to go room to room unseen, English-style, and is surrounded by Irish yews and gigantic, very old oaks.

ballroom in mansion at Filoli in Woodside, California

men's after-dinner drawing room in mansion at Filoli in Woodside, California

Guided two-hour tours of the house and 16-acre mature formal English Renaissance garden include such delights as two manicured English knot gardens, a garden designed to resemble a stained-glass window in Chartres Cathedral in France, a practical cutting garden used for mansion floral arrangements, and a sunken garden replicated after one on the Ireland estate the Bourns bought for their daughter.  Note that self-guided tours are also an option.

Sunken Garden at Filoli in Woodside, California

Chartres Cathedral Garden at Filoli in Woodside, California

detail of fountain at Filoli in Woodside, California

The gardens are spectacular in February and March, when more than 200,000 daffodils bloom; in April, when more than 70,000 tulips bloom; and in May, when the rose garden is at its peak.

giant pink tulips in bloom at Filoli in Woodside, California

orange tulips in a row at Filoli in Woodside, California

Begin your visit with an informative 10-minute video intro in the visitor center, and end it with a visit to the exceptional gift shop.

gift shop display at Filoli in Woodside, California

In between, allow time for lunch or a snack in the Quail's Nest Cafe, which dispenses housemade wraps, paninis, salads, and soups and makes its own pastrami and Black Forest ham; picnicking is not permitted.

pastrami sandwich at Crystal Springs Cafe at Filoli in Woodside, California

dessert array at Crystal Springs Cafe at Filoli in Woodside, California

Things to do in nearby Palo Alto. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.  
images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


  1. After looking at your pictures, I can see why you said Fililo is reminiscent of an English country estate. I'd love to take the tour of this place.

  2. Those gardens are beautiful. Love the pink tulips. Lunch looks delicious, too!

  3. So beautiful and lunch looks excellent.

  4. Gosh, it is fun to see the entry facade again and be transported back to the 80's when Dynasty was on TV. What a wonderful visit this would be.

  5. What a fab house and gardens. I'd love to visit. This is my kind of place

  6. Great photos! So nice to see that spring has sprung.

  7. What a beautiful destination! I'd love to spend the time enjoying the garden and roaming around the mansion pretending to be one of the Carrington's!

  8. Wow, what a great find, the gardens look amazing.

  9. I would definitely want to visit this place in March when the daffodils are in bloom! What a gorgeous place...love yellow!!! How did you find this place?

    1. I've know about this place for many years and have written about it before. Have visited several times and will go again, I hope.

  10. These gardens are spectacular! 200,000 daffodils - wow! And that's why it looked familiar - Dynasty used to be one my favorite shows :-) Gorgeous place and the food looks divine - thanks for sharing.