Filoli Mansion Has Great Garden Walks and More

Filoli Mansion in Woodside, which offers house and garden tours as well as cultural events, will start its nature walk program in September.

In my last column, , a charming acreage of shady trails and wind-swept meadows.  Aside from the newly restored Folger Stables, the park has a remote feel, and includes little development beyond the trail system. It’s also one of those rare parks that don’t charge for access or parking.

This week I’m changing gears, offering a possible diversion for outdoor enthusiasts hoping to mix up their summer itinerary with a little culture.  Just a few miles up the road in Woodside, you’ll find a spot offering more amenities, but with a higher price tag.

Filoli mansion and estate lies just off the I-280 in Woodside and is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Passing by on the highway, you’d never know there was a 36,000 square-foot mansion tucked away among the trees. 

From the Edgewood Road exit, head west, and turn right on Cañada Road.  You’ll soon see the sign for Filoli directing you to hang a left on a long driveway, winding its way through the “gentleman’s orchard” of apple trees. (Beyond the driveway, Cañada Road is closed on Sundays for bikes only and is a great car-free spot to bike with the family.)

Famous for being featured in the opening shot of hit TV-show Dynasty, Filoli mansion was built in 1915 by prominent San Franciscan William Bourn. The estate’s unique name was based on combining the key words of his credo: to Fight for a just cause, Love your fellow man, and Live a good life.  It was owned by just two families over the years before being donated to the trust in 1975. Now it offers tours, cultural events and educational programs.

Self-led tours of the house and grounds are offered from February through October for $15 per person (closed on Mondays).  A variety of special events are held annually, including the upcoming Autumn Festival on Saturday Oct. 1, jazz performances and an annual holiday boutique.

Although the house is stunning, and the history fascinating, the gardens alone are worth the trip. Especially famous for the spring bulb display of tulips and daffodils, it’s a beautiful and well tended place to explore all year round.  It has the feel of a European garden, with terraced lawns, fruit and olive groves and charming ivy-covered archways that jump right out of a fairy tale.

Check out a just coming into bloom during the spring.

The 16-acre garden is extensive, with fields of roses and lavender, fountains dotted with lily pads and even cooing doves. You can spend an entire afternoon exploring, and bring a pen and paper if you’re a gardener so you can take notes of the extensive floral varieties.

I wouldn’t be extolling the virtues of this spot if it didn’t also offer some hiking. Starting in September, Filoli will start up its program of docent-led nature walks in the Filoli Nature Preserve located beyond the house and gardens. This requires reservations and same-day admission prices to tour the house and gardens. 

Filoli is a beautiful place to visit, with a mix of natural beauty and cultivated gardens. Together with Wunderlich, you get two very different but wonderful opportunities to spend a day outdoors. Just a few miles from each other, they’re great examples of the wide variety of options we enjoy on the Peninsula.

Christina Syrett August 26, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Dear Robyn, On behalf of Filoli staff and over 1400 Filoli volunteers, thank you for writing this comprehensive article about Filoli and encouraging the community to visit. You have done a great job of descibing the special sense of place here and also letting people know about the wide variety of classes, nature hikes, orchard tours and special events (which are fundraisers that help keep Filoli going). Sunday, October 23 is the last day Filoli is open for the regular 2011 Season. We reopen on November 25 for our spectacular Holiday Traditions event which lasts for 9 days, ending on Dec. 3. Thank you again, Christina Syrett
Robyn Patty August 27, 2011 at 04:25 AM
Christina - I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. Many thanks to you and your volunteers for making Filoli such a fascinating place to visit! And check back tomorrow when more pictures from my trip will be posted.
Anjessello August 27, 2011 at 11:34 PM
It is very nice! I like the bricks.
Christina Syrett August 29, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Hi again Robyn, Your photos are wonderful. They really capture the beauty and wonder of Filoli. Many volunteers have seen your article and sent me emails about it. Thank you again!! Christina


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