This place is absolutely outstanding and a must see for anyone in the San Fran area. From San Fran you will need a car, but it honestly would probably be worth the price of just a 1-day rental to visit this place.
My fiance and I visited in April 2012 during a trip to San Fran. The first thing I want to note is the big attraction of this place is the gardens and all the flowers. Although our trip was not planned around visiting Filoli, I think we picked an outstanding time to visit...when flowers are in bloom. So keep "blooming season" in mind for your visit.
The next piece of advice is to check the website before stopping by. They have what I would call somewhat restrictive hours and you don't want to make the trip out here and find you are too late or they are closed. I don't want to get into days open/closed and hours because they could change and I don't want to be wrong...check the website.
The drive is reasonable from San Fran...probably 35-45 minutes. My fiance and I picked up a rental from Oakland International Airport and made the drive from there and it is about the same distance. Once you pull off the main highway onto the side road, go slow and look for signs. I drove past it and had to turn around. The house sits way back off the road and you cannot really see any sign of it from the road. Parking is free and easy.
Inside the main building, where you pay and get a map, there are restrooms and a cafe. The cafe is actually pretty good. My recommendation would be to arrive here shortly after they open and eat in the cafe prior to touring the grounds and buildings. Soups, salad, sandwiches, baked goods, and miscellaneous items. Pretty good food actually.
Then head out back into the gardens. I just cannot say enough about how staggeringly beautiful this place was in April. The flowers are just endless and the color is amazing. And I don't think it is possible for them to keep the place more immaculant than they do. Be careful to stay on the walkways....I veered off into the grass and got scolded :)...very nicely though. There are some places where you will walk on the grass but if there is a concrete sidewalk....they want you staying on it.
You could walk in the gardens for hours really. And there are lots of nice little "nooks" to sit in a quite little corner and relax and take it all in. Keep walking around and make sure you don't miss anything. I probably took over 150 pics at this place. Before you head out of the gardens and into the main house, make sure to check out the gift shop near the very front of the gardens...lots of nice things to choose from.
You sort of head back towards the area you entered to tour the main house....don't forget about it!! Very old and historic mansion...hard to find places like this anymore. You can only tour the bottom floor (at least when we were there) but it is well worth the extra time. There are restrooms just inside the doors to the main house as well as near the cafe in the "entrance" building.
If you are anywhere near the Filoli house you must find a way to see the place, particularly if it is "in bloom". I would probably rate it among the very top of must see attractions in San Fran. You will not be disapponited and hopefully you will feel refreshed by the country air. If you drive out here, do some research and find a hike nearby. After visiting this place my fiance and I took an outstanding hike that was relatively in the vicinity.
If you are visiting San Fran or even Napa Valley, find a way to visit this place. You will not be disappointed! Give yourself 2-3 hours, maybe a little more if you want to do lunch/brunch in the cafe.
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