Hidden in Mountain View, California, few minutes walk from Castro St (downtown) is one of a kind 13,000-square-foot (1,200 m2) community center and hackerspace. It is called Hacker Dojo. Every since finding this place I have been less frequent at Red Rock and more at Hacker Dojo where I am also a member and occasional acting staff.
What is Hacker Dojo
Hacker Dojo is a community center for hackers and thinkers to meet, discuss, learn, create, build and play.
Hacker Dojo is a community center in Mountain View which is about 1/3rd coworking space, 1/3rd events venue, and 1/3rd a big social living room. In the spirit of DevHouse, a physical community space for hackers and thinkers on the Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a location for events, lectures, parties, BarCamps, DevHouses, LAN parties, hackathons, knitting circles, tinkering, brainstorming, coworking, etc. While Hacker Dojo is technically a “members only” private club, they welcome visitors to many of the lectures and classes, and invite people to use the space on a drop-in basis as well. It is not a residential space. The Dojo is a community space first and foremost – this means that the focus of the layout and activities is to lend itself to be a useful place to throw classes, host parties, brainstorm, and hang out. * Source HackerDojo
A number of reasons, but the most important one is that it’s very hard to study and tinker in an environment that is set aside for living, eating and sleeping – the home. Like they say to never study in bed since it’s used for sleeping and if you do you will disturb your sleeping pattern. Which is why libraries are effective as a study environment – not just for the quiet zone but because you are in an environment with positive energy that encourages education. Hacker Dojo is that environment with the energy and resources which encourages hacking, tinkering & learning. It just works. I’m sure there is a proper psychology explanation behind this but I’m sure you know what I mean.
Let’s look inside
Here are some snaps I took while attending a mobile development class and then later hacking in one of the private rooms. Click each photo for a full size version.
The dojo has it all for the nerd inside you
Ton of interesting and smart people either running their own startups or networking,
A kitchen with filtered water and all sorts of teas and occasional freebie snacks,
Library with a vast number of technical and business books – both new & old,
6 x private rooms with whiteboards big enough to fit a team,
Top floor sports a living room style area where you can watch movies on a projector and kick back on a couch or bean bag,
Fully ducted air condition – perfect temperature year round,
Plenty of spare LCD screens to hookup your laptop to with converters,
Laser & injet printing facility (in Savanna room),
Fiber Optic Internet – fast up and down (see below). Great for working with remote servers.
Things To Do in Silicon Valley, The Bay Area & in San Francisco.
So you decided to visit Silicon Valley and/or San Francisco and want to know where to go. Here is a hand full of places in Silicon Valley and San Francisco you can visit during your stay. Of course there is plenty more to do and see then what’s listed below, but this should be a good start for you. Don’t forget to read public transport options so you know how to get around Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Things To Do in Silicon Valley (south bay)
Silicon Valley is suburbia, sprinkled like candy with many high-tech firm and great places to eat. It is nothing what you expect and must be experienced to be enjoyed.
University Avenue & Stanford University, Downtown Palo Alto You can’t go wrong here. There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at, shops to explore and Stanford University is just round the corner (across El Camino Real).
Stanford University is enormous. There are plenty of free shuttle buses from Palo Alto CalTrain (on University Ave) which can take you directly to and around Stanford University. The University is beautifully located on a large piece of land surrounded by trees, grass lands and mountains. You can freely walk through the grounds and enjoy the Spanish-colonial style building architecture. Drop by the library and the gift shop if you want to get yourself some merchandise.
The road leading out of Stanford University is called University Avenue and heads directly into Palo Alto downtown. Downtown is full of great restaurants and shops.
Some of my favorites places to eat there:
Cheese Cake Factory – largest menu of choices you will ever see. And their cheese cake’s are like no other. Simply delicious.
Zibibbo – outstanding food & presentation and they know how to match the wine to your meal. They are a part of a larger group called Restaurant LuLu. Their San Francisco LuLu Restaurant is just as superb.
Castro Street, Downtown Mountain View This is my home town and also another great place for dining and mixing with the locals.
Red Rock Cafe – if you want to feel experience a hackers atmosphere then this is the place to be any evening during the week. Grab an Avalanche (a better version of Starbucks Frappuccino), connect to the free wi-fi on your laptop and absorb the energy in the room. You will no doubt also find me there. Check out my post on Red Rock here.
East West Bookstore – known as a spiritual bookstore, it is the source for expansive ideas, a retreat from ordinary life, and a gathering place in support of community ideals and spiritual growth. It was founded by a monk by the name of Swami Kriyananda who is the author of over 100 books and the composer of over 400 pieces of music. If you are into spiritualism then you will find this place valuable + it’s across the road from Red Rock.
Some of my favorites places to eat at Castro Street:
Gelato Classico Italian Ice Cream – you won’t look at another ice cream again after having some of these. Try the Tiramisu Gelato, there is something super tasty about it.
Tomi Sushi – this place is a must for dinner. The sushi here melts in your mouth, it’s reasonably priced ($16 dinner combination) and the atmosphere & setup is authentic Japanese. including the chefs.
Santana Row is an upscale shopping, housing, dining and entertainment complex in San Jose, California. Westfield Valley Fair is located just to its north, on the other side of Stevens Creek Boulevard, and the Winchester Mystery House just to the west, across Winchester Boulevard.
Googleplex – a must! Located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View. You will see plenty of Google bikes around which the Googlers use to move around between the campuses. Something is always buzzing around here. From the T-rex in the courtyard, outside swimming pool to the university style feel atmosphere.
If you venture a tad down the road you will come across the Android complex with the large statue of the Android robot next to a cupcake and around the corner Mozilla & LinkedIn Corporations. If you run into some sheep don’t worry, they are working for Google eating cutting down the grass.
HP (Hewlett-Packard) & Symantec – because they are right next to each other on Ellis St in Mountain View and the HP founders are famous for having kick started what is known today as the Silicon Valley.
Facebook is located on 1601 S California Ave, Palo Alto. Although there is not much to see from the outside. See my post on Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol (OGP) where I have included a picture of the building. Again not much to see but if you have it on your to-do list then why not.
Attend a Meetup
If you have the time try to go to one of the popular meetup groups. There is always a buzz in the air, plenty of energy and interesting people to connect with + score a free pizza & coke. Read my prior blog post on which meetups to attend.
Recapping the popular meetups:
Hacker Dojo: Located around the corner from my place (in Mountain View) is a place for hackers to hang out and code. Also the home of Android weekly developer meetings and monthly presentations from cloud companies et al.
Yahoo’s LAMP meetup hosted every month to share Yahoo’s engineering efforts and provide an environment to learn.
Stanford Bases: Stanford University’s entrepreneurship group is one of the largest student entrepreneurship groups in the world dedicated to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond.
San Fransisco is a city of micro climates. You can notice the difference as you drive up 101 or 280 and the weather changes from a beautiful sunny day to overcast & cloudy. So check the weather online before setting off on you trip from the valley into the city.
Lombart Street & Zig Zag Street Lombart Street is famous for having steep hills. The Russian Hill part of Lombart Street intersecting with Van Ness Ave is the start of the most steepest hill in San Francisco. It must be driven up to be experienced. As you drive look back for a second to get a glimpse of the street’s sharp inclination.
Once you reach the top, you will be greeted by the most famous “Crookedest Street in the World.” with a 40-degree slope and tight hairpin turns. It is lined with houses and beautifully manicured gardens. It’s worth walking and driving down it.
It is the northern waterfront area of San Francisco and a famous tourist location. It is best known for being the location of Pier 39 & it’s blubbery sea lions, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, Forbes Island and restaurants and stands that serve fresh seafood, most notably Dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. It is also the place where you can organize a trip to Alcatraz (ref The Rock movie with Sean Connery) – which is clearly seen from Pier 39.
Cobb’s Comedy Club
My favourite comedy club! Headliners who performed at Cobb’s Comedy Club are regular guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. Many have their own comedy specials on Comedy Central and HBO and can be seen starring in movies and on television.
More here: http://www.cobbscomedyclub.com/
Samovar Tea Lounge
Fanastic place to start your day with a nice selection of teas. There are 3 unique locations: Samovar Yerba Buena Gardens, Samovar Mission-Castro, and Samovar Hayes. Yerba Buena Gardens is my favorite for it’s atmosphere and unique location.
LuLu Restaurant – great service, reasonably priced food and always fresh and tasty.
One Market Restaurant – awarded a Michelin Star for its excellence. If you have extra cash laying around this place is worth a visit.
Burger Bar – never disappoints, if all you want is a burger. Try the Kobe Beef Burger – it comes from Wagyu cow and the Kobe beef is rich, tender and juicy and cannot be matched by any other beef.
Vessel – located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square district, Vessel represents a luxurious lounge of signature San Francisco style and elegance.
RubySkye – another club located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square district in the famed theatre district, Ruby Skye is San Francisco’s premiere Nightclub and Special Event Venue.
More Things to do in Silicon Valley?
This should keep you busy during your visit. There are also great posts by the Y Combinator team on things to do while you’re in Silicon Valley here: