April 13, 2015

Woodside: Filoli


101 South 

Filoli  86 CaƱada Rd., Edgewood Rd. exit off I-280, (650) 364-8300.  Tu-Sun 10am-5pm; Nov-Dec Thur-Sun only; tour at 10:30am & 1pm by reservation.  $22, 65+ $18, 5-17 $11; tour $10 additional.  No pets.

The bucolic drive in from the road here is reminiscent of arriving at an English country estate.  Only in this case it is a 529-acre American grand country garden estate that surrounds a 56-room modified Georgian Revival-style mansion built for William Bowers Bourn II in 1917 by his hunting buddy, architect Willis Polk.

exterior of mansion at Filoli in Woodside, California
exterior of 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 22 1/2-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
ballroom in mansion at Filoli in Woodside, California


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

Flowers are harvested from the gardens and displayed in the house.  A guided one-hour overview tour is included.  While here, you’ll want to stroll through  the 16-acre mature formal English Renaissance-style gardens that include such delights among its various “rooms” 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.  Also take note of the garden’s collections of camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas; its significant collection of fruiting trees, especially apples and pears; and its 1 mile of hedges.  The gardens are spectacular in February and March, when more than 200,000 daffodils bloom (24 varieties are represented); in April, when more than 70,000 tulips bloom; and in May, when the rose garden is at its peak.

Sunken Garden at Filoli in Woodside, California
Sunken Garden at Filoli in Woodside, California


roses in Chartres Cathedral Garden at Filoli in Woodside, California
roses in Chartres Cathedral Garden at Filoli in Woodside, California


detail of fountain at Filoli in Woodside, California
detail of fountain at Filoli in Woodside, California

More activities include 1-mile self-guided interpretive trail and 7 miles of hiking trails accessible through docent-led hikes.  Begin your visit with the informative 20-minute video intro in the visitor center, and end it with a visit to the exceptional Clock Tower gift shop located in the former Carriage House.  If you’re lucky, you might encounter Percy, the wild peacock who roams the grounds.  This property is owned by the National Trust and is one of its 28 sites, a California Historical Landmark, and a member of the Bay Area Historic House Museums.

giant pink tulips in bloom at Filoli in Woodside, California
giant pink tulips in bloom at Filoli in Woodside, California


orange tulips in a row at Filoli in Woodside, California
orange tulips in a row at Filoli in Woodside, California


gift shop display at Filoli in Woodside, California
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 sandwiches, salads, and soups and prepares its own pastrami and Black Forest ham.  Beer and wine are on the menu, and an afternoon tea is served from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.  Picnicking is permitted only in a designated area adjacent to the parking lot.

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


dessert array at Quail's Nest Cafe at Filoli in Woodside, California
dessert array at Quail's Nest Cafe at Filoli in Woodside, California

In December, Holidays at Filoli features artisan markets, Tuesday teas, garden lights, blooming camellias, and Santa on Saturdays; $35, 5-17 $18; afternoon tea $75.



Things to do in nearby Palo Alto.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
updated 4-18-19

11 comments:

  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.

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

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  3. So beautiful and lunch looks excellent.

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  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.

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

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

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  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!

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

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  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?

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    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.

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  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.

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