Filoli 86 Cañada 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Things to do in nearby Palo Alto.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers