Filoli 86 Cañada 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|
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|
|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|
|roses in Chartres Cathedral Garden 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|
|orange tulips in a row 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|
|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.