Brandon and I have a love of wandering. Before we even started dating, we would go for long night drives around southeast Wisconsin. We would get in the car, pick a direction and just start driving. Growing up in Milwaukee, I knew a lot of the areas around, but Brandon made it a goal to end up somewhere neither of us had even been. I can remember one night, I shrieked at Brandon to stop the truck. It had just started snowing so I jumped out of the car and made a snowball and threw it at him in the truck. We often laugh about that because it was so unexpected and fun!
While living in California, we often did the same thing– got in the car, picked a direction and just started driving. San Francisco was one of our favorite places to go, but we also wanted to find the hidden treasures around us.
Around the time of our first anniversary, we knew we would be working on the actual day, but we still wanted to do something special to celebrate our one year anniversary. We drove down to San Francisco for the day and wandered around. During our first trip we had done the Big Bus tour and gotten free and discounted coupons for other attractions in the city. We used these to explore Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the aquarium on the bay and the maritime museum.
During the day, we had many conversations about whether or not we would stay in San Francisco for the night. We had stayed in town previously on our first trip to San Francisco (which was also on a whim) so we knew that lodging in the city is crazy expensive. Especially for a unique place to stay for our anniversary. Brandon had found a deal for one of the more expensive hotels in the shopping district and right next to Chinatown and we were so close to booking a room, but eventually we chose to drive south and find somewhere outside of the city that would be a little more reasonable. We knew we could always drive back into the city the next day if we wanted to keep exploring.
We drove down to San Jose and looked for a hotel to stay in there. Brandon booked a hotel for us while pulled over in a parking lot. On our way to the hotel, we passed a Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurant and we FREAKED OUT! The entire time we had been in California, we had not had a single good BBQ experience and we were seriously missing it. We also found it rather fitting that we had Famous Dave’s cater our wedding so it was perfect that our anniversary meal would also be Famous Dave’s.
Funny enough, the hotel we drove to when we passed the Famous Dave’s was not actually the hotel that Brandon reserved for us. It was a previous one that he had looked up before booking. Our hotel was another 10-15 minutes away but we were NOT missing out on the BBQ! We had a great meal and then headed off to our hotel.
The next morning, we looked through the hotel’s guide book that was in our room for fun things to do in the area. One of the places we found was the Winchester Mystery House and decided that would be a cool place to go.
You guys, this place was CRAZY! We were drawn to it because it is described as an old victorian home with staircases that don’t lead anywhere and in general, just a lot of architecturally weird things. During our guided tour we learned a lot about the woman who lived there, Sarah Winchester, who was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, the son of the man that created the Winchester rifle. After the death of her daughter and husband, she turned to a medium who told her that she would need to build a house for the spirits that now haunted her due to all the lives that were taken by the Winchester rifle.
For thirty eight years, Mrs. Winchester built her mansion, with work occurring around the clock. It was truly amazing to see just how large this estate became over the many years she was building on it. The rooms and artifacts are remarkable. I specifically loved one of the first rooms on the tour which housed the many glass doors that she had all over the house. It was also really fun to walk in the hidden passages that she had and through the many many rooms within the house.
Below you will find pictures from the outside of the house (pictures inside the house are not permitted.) For anyone that finds themselves in the San Jose area, I highly recommend you visit the Winchester Mystery House.
What is one of your favorite “hidden treasures” to visit? You can suggest anywhere in the world (the more suggestions, the more places we can all add to our travel lists! 🙂 )