Today, I’m going to share my experience at Filoli Gardens, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Woodside, California.

Filoli’s name is derived from its original owner, William Bourn’s credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”

Just a short 30-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area, located at the southern end of Crystal Springs Reservoir on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains, this historic estate offers a serene escape into nature and history.

As I strolled through the beautifully manicured gardens, explored the grand historic house, a California Historical Landmark, and enjoyed the vibrant blooms, I was captivated by the charm and tranquility of this hidden gem.

Join me as I recount my delightful day at Filoli with my family, a perfect Bay Area day trip filled with beauty, history, and peace.

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A Glimpse into History: Filoli’s Rich Legacy

The estate’s legacy is as grand as its architecture. Let’s delve into a brief history of Filoli.

Brief History of Filoli

Filoli, built between 1915 and 1917, was the residence of William Bowers Bourn II, owner of one of California’s richest gold mines, a prominent San Francisco businessman, and his wife, Agnes.

The estate, designed by Willis Polk and inspired by the Georgian style, spans 654 acres, including 16 acres of formal gardens.

Interesting Facts about the Historic House and Its Significance

  • One of the most fascinating aspects of Filoli’s history is its connection to the California Gold Rush. William Bourn II’s wealth was largely derived from the Empire Mine, one of the state’s richest gold mines.
  • The estate features an extensive collection of art, antiques, and historical artifacts.
  • After Bourn’s death, the Roth family purchased Filoli in 1937 and maintained its grandeur.
  • Filoli has been featured in several films and TV shows, most notably as the Carrington mansion in the 1980s TV series “Dynasty.”

Filoli stands as a testament to early 20th-century luxury and California’s rich history, offering visitors a glimpse into the opulence and elegance of a bygone era.

If you’re planning a visit, be sure to book your tickets in advance, as this hidden gem fills up quickly!

Exploring the Gardens: A Visual Feast

As I stepped into the gardens, I felt like I was entering a living work of art.

Filoli’s gardens are a masterpiece of horticultural artistry, a symphony of colors, textures, and scents that change with the seasons. The sheer scale and meticulous design took my breath away.

The Pool Lawn: A Tranquil Oasis

Upon arriving at Filoli, my first stop was the Pool Lawn, a serene and picturesque area that immediately captivated me.

The tranquil setting, complete with comfortable seating areas, invites visitors to unwind and soak in the beauty of their surroundings.

The Pool Pavilion Lawn: A Peaceful Retreat

Adjacent to the Pool Lawn lies the Pool Pavilion Lawn, a secluded sanctuary where I found a peaceful retreat under the canopy of a magnificent tree with emerald green leaves leaves.

This towering tree provided welcome shade from the sun, and its leaves rustled softly in the breeze, creating a soothing ambiance.

This intimate space became a haven of joy for my family, etching a special place in our hearts.

As we stepped onto the lawn, my 2-year-old son’s eyes lit up with pure delight. The sight of a bright and beautiful tree sparked an instant connection, and he eagerly reached for its leaves, his giggles filling the air.

The lawn transformed into his personal playground, a space where he could freely explore and revel in the wonders of nature.

Meanwhile, my daughter, adorned in a beautiful purple gown, transformed the lawn into her runway.

She gracefully strolled along the manicured grass, striking poses with a radiant smile for her camera-obsessed (or perhaps memory-obsessed) mother.

Each click of the camera captured not just a moment but the essence of her joy and carefree spirit.

Amidst the laughter and playfulness, my husband, Siddhartha, found solace in the tranquility of the Pool Pavilion Lawn. Lulled to sleep by the gentle rustling of leaves and the soothing sounds of nature, he rested peacefully beneath the tree’s protective canopy.

As a mother, witnessing the unbridled joy and contentment of my family in this natural setting was truly heartwarming.

The Pool Pavilion Lawn became more than just a scenic spot; it transformed into a cherished memory, a testament to the power of nature to nurture and unite families.

The experience was both soothing and invigorating, reminding me of the simple joys of life and the importance of creating lasting memories with loved ones.

The Walled Garden: A Secret Paradise

The Walled Garden, roughly an acre in size and enclosed within 10-foot-high brick walls, felt like a secret paradise.

Clipped hedges separated it into many smaller, ornamental garden rooms, each intended to be enjoyed as an individual experience.

I especially loved the lotus pond, which brought back many childhood memories from India.

An Orchard’s Bounty and a Rose Garden’s Embrace: A Sensory Delight

Leaving the walled oasis behind, I wandered into the Garden Orchard and Rose Garden, a space that radiated both tranquility and vibrant life.

The orchard, a symphony of green, was filled with rows upon rows of pear trees laden with ripening fruit. The sight of the heavy pears, their skin glowing with a warm golden hue, was a feast for the eyes.

The sweet scent of the ripening fruit filled the air, mingling with the earthy fragrance of the soil. I couldn’t resist reaching out to gently touch a pear, marveling at its smooth skin and imagining its juicy sweetness.

The Knot Garden: A Whimsical Tapestry of Color and Joy

I absolutely loved the colorful Knot Garden at Filoli. It’s almost magical in its design and vibrancy. The intricate patterns created by the meticulously maintained hedges and vibrant flowers are a visual delight.

No matter how one’s mood is, this place will quickly bring a smile. Walking through this enchanting garden, I felt a sense of joy and wonder.

The harmonious blend of colors and the garden’s symmetrical elegance make it a perfect spot to lift your spirits and appreciate the artistry of nature.

Step back in time at Filoli Gardens, a hidden gem in Woodside, CA. Explore stunning gardens and a historic mansion, & create cherished memories with loved ones. #Filoli #TravelCalifornia Share on X

The Sunken Garden: A Hidden Sanctuary of Tranquility

Descending a set of stone steps, I found myself in the enchanting Sunken Garden, a hidden oasis tucked away from the rest of the estate.

The change in elevation created a sense of intimacy as if I had stumbled upon a secret world known only to a select few.

A small stream trickled through the center of the garden, its gentle murmur adding to the tranquil atmosphere. The air was cool and damp, a refreshing contrast to the warm sunshine above.

The Sunken Garden was a place of quiet contemplation, a sanctuary where I could escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As I sat there, surrounded by nature’s beauty, a sense of peace and tranquility washed over me. It was a moment of pure bliss.

Filoli Historic House

Stepping into Filoli’s historic house felt like embarking on a journey back in time. Built between 1915 and 1917, this Georgian Revival mansion exudes elegance and grandeur.

As I wandered through its opulent rooms adorned with ornate woodwork, marble fireplaces, and exquisite furnishings, I was transported to an era of refined luxury.

It reminded me of Chaplin’s House in Switzerland. Each room tells a story of the estate’s rich history, and as I wandered through them, I felt like I was stepping into the pages of a historical novel.

The house is not just a museum but a living testament to early 20th-century opulence and California’s storied past.

Each room held a story, each object a memory. It was a journey back in time, a glimpse into the lives of those who had come before, and a reminder of the enduring power of beauty and craftsmanship.

If you’re planning a visit, be sure to book your tickets in advance, as this hidden gem fills up quickly!

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Travel Realizations

With a final, wistful glance back at the sprawling estate, we piled into the car, our hearts brimming with the magic of Filoli.

The Bay Area, known for its tech-driven landscape, had revealed a hidden treasure – a world of vibrant colors, soothing scents, and timeless beauty.

Spending a day with my family surrounded by flowers, fountains, trees, and an elegantly designed house was truly rejuvenating.

The drive home buzzed with excited chatter as we recounted our favorite moments.

My son’s laughter echoed as he recalled seeing pears hanging heavy on the branches, vibrant raspberries nestled amongst the leaves, and the surprising beauty of the artichoke flowers in the orchard.

My daughter recounted her impromptu photo shoot in the rose garden, each pose more elegant than the last.

And my husband fondly remembered his peaceful nap under the ancient oak, the gentle rustling of leaves lulling him into a state of pure relaxation.

One thing was unanimous—we all wanted to return!

Filoli offered us a refreshing escape, blending history, nature, and cherished family moments, making it an unforgettable outing.

If you’re planning a visit, be sure to book your tickets in advance, as this hidden gem fills up quickly!


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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.