A part of the San Francisco Bay area just south of San Francisco, Santa Clara County, California, is most popularly known as being the primary location for much of the famed Silicon Valley. It has a population of around 1.7 million, and the county seat is San Jose. The largest cities in the county include Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Cupertino. The southern part of the county is home to the infamous San Andreas Fault, and the Santa Cruz Mountains pass through much of the county. Santa Clara County real estate is some of the priciest in the region, and San Jose saw the highest increase in real estate prices during the boom years, with values rising over the 25-year period beginning in 1976 by nearly 1,000%. Santa Clara County homes' values have nonetheless fallen since the onset of the U.S. financial crisis, though they are still in the higher range on a national scale.
To get about the county, transportation options are abundant, with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority operating a light-rail system and a large number of bus routes, the Caltrain commuter rail service, and the ACE Train system, which runs between San Jose and Stockton. Amtrak also makes stops here and connects passengers with other cities throughout California or in the West. The county is served by the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport. The county park system includes 27 parks covering more than 50,000 acres, including Almaden Quicksilver County Park, Grant Ranch Park, Henry W. Coe State Park, Sanborn Park and Vasona Park. It is home to professional soccer and minor-league baseball teams, and the San Jose Sharks, the only professional ice-hockey team in Northern California.
There are 33 public school districts in Santa Clara County as well as a number of private institutions. The county is home to such famed colleges as Stanford University, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University, as well as a number of top-ranking community colleges. As home of Silicon Valley, the county is host to the headquarters of a number of high-profile companies, like Apple, Intel, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems Inc., plus a number of smaller companies and venture capital-funded firms. Santa Clara Valley Medical Center serves residents' medical needs here. There are a number of museums, with subjects covering technology to children's interests to art. Theaters, concerts, opera, symphonies and more dot the county, offering visitors and residents to enjoy. Vineyards populate the area and are popular stop-overs. Other attractions in the county include Paramount''s Great America, Bonfante Gardens, Raging Waters, and the Santa Clara County Fair.