Touring Silicon Valley’s Larger Corporate HQ Sites

Photo adapted from “San Jose State University Tower Hall” by David Sawyer (Flickr, Creative Commons).

Well, this article is aging now (it all happened in 2012), but I wanted to give it a new home here on, as I still find it rather amusing and also somewhat enlightening. The story here offers an unusual tale of two tech guys who traveled to Silicon Valley for a conference and wondered what it would be like to go visit some tech-giant HQs while there. I imagine the experience would be almost exactly the same today.

Yesterday, my colleague Ben Sandberg and I had a few free hours after attending a tech conference in Silicon Valley. We figured we’d spend the extra time doing some sightseeing that only true Internet fanatics might appreciate.

I know this article can’t be technically counted as true qualifications when it comes to Internet savviness or Internet Marketing. But, when you’re selecting a web developer or an Internet marketer, maybe it does actually make sense to hire someone who is enthusiastic enough to do something like… well, this:

I think we have to start with Google in Mountain View, CA, as it’s the behemoth of all behemoths, Internetly speaking. Google doesn’t just have one corporate HQ building, or even many buildings; rather, it’s an entire city in and of itself. I think it even has its own climate, and perhaps even its own government.

I’ll leave out much more than a quick description here but, for anyone interested, it’s worth poking around on the Internet to learn about all of the various amenities and aspects of the Google campus — flamingo-eating dinosaurs, Google bikes, gardens, Android-character sculptures, athletic fields… It’s tough to encapsulate it all in a brief snippet.

And, while Google was probably among the more welcoming of any I’ll show here, I did sort-of almost get us kicked out at one point. When asked to show our badges, I simply couldn’t resist replying that “we don’t need no stinking badges.” The Google security guard wasn’t amused…

Facebook is definitely not interested in welcoming nerdy tourists at their corporate HQ in Menlo Park, CA. But, you can generally get away with driving around in the parking lot for a while. We got some suspicious looks. But, then again, perhaps running around a parking lot with a suitcase and a camera isn’t considered polite. (We needed the suitcase to serve as an ad hoc tripod, btw.)

The FB campus reminds me of a giant suburban mall. It’s about 3 stories tall, and about a half-mile long, made up of distinct huge-box office buildings. All very nice, and encircled, btw, by a road called “Hacker Way.”

We spent the most time at eBay / Paypal in San Jose, CA, as it was the gracious host of the conference we attended. Above is eBay, and here’s a picture of Paypal:

I’d have initially imagined that Paypal would be tougher to get into than a bank. But, in truth, we sort of waltzed into the Town Hall (eBay) prior to the conference, and milled about for a while, without anyone seeming to care too much. There was even a buffet going on for something or other, and I almost felt that we could have helped ourselves to a plate. (Not that we did, of course.)

I don’t advise that anyone visit high-tech corporate HQ locations and walk into any buildings that seem private, though. For example, here is one that basically told us to go away:

Yep, that’s Yahoo, which had for years served as my own home page. I guess there really isn’t any reason for a person to visit a corporate HQ of a famous web site. But, we figured for some reason that many such companies would welcome geek tourists. Heck, we ran into others out taking similar photos.

For this one at Yahoo, though, we had to run across the street & just sort of put Yahoo in the background as best we could. We talked a lot about how so many Silicon Valley tech companies would be 10x cooler if they were more welcoming of in-person connections with their loyal fan bases.

Of course, there’s one major stand-out to that, which I’ll show next:

Apple of course has its own retail store at its HQ location, so yes they officially welcome the public. Unfortunately, they were closed when we visited (it being the week of Thanksgiving at the time).

Whether Apple’s “1 Infinite Loop” is cooler than Facebook’s “1 Hacker Way” is a matter of personal taste, I suppose.

Jim Dee heads up Array Web Development, LLC in Portland, OR. He’s the editor of “Web Designer | Web Developer” magazine and a contributor to many online publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at]